Whilst we are all focused on a much needed seasonal break, we can’t help but reflect on the year that was. As a mother of school aged children joining Raise Foundation, this year has brought home to me to the severity of the impact that the pandemic has had on young people.
I was most concerned to see the alarming data being reported around the country. NSW reported that emergency department visits resulting from mental health presentations in those under 18 is up 26%. To July 2021, there has been a 31% increase in the number of young people visiting emergency departments due to self-harm and suicide ideation, compared to the same time last year (a staggering 49% increase on 2019).
In VIC, by the end of May this year, the increase for such admissions is up 88%.
A survey of Headspace service users showed that 74% experienced worsened mental health since the onset of the pandemic, and 86% reported negative effects on their wellbeing, mood and sleeping habits.
What we’ve seen this year at Raise
Having worked directly with more than 2,000 teens aged 13 -15 across Australia this year, our staff and mentors have seen the negative impacts first hand.
In states and regions experiencing COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, we saw significant reductions in engagement of our mentees.
The Program Counsellors who lead our programs also reported that students are displaying significantly lower moods and increased fatigue.
Similar trends have been reported by the schools that host our programs. School staff in locked down regions are battling student disengagement and poor attendance in general. Some schools noticed an increase in cyber bullying during the shift to online learning.
Problems with technology are particularly rife in rural and regional areas as well as access to technology in disadvantaged and large households. These factors are compounding the disadvantage these students already face.
How Raise is part of the solution
Now more than ever young people in Australia need your help. More than half of mental health struggles begin before the age of 14 (Colizzi, Lasalvia and Ruggeri, 2020), so solutions that get in early and support young people at the right time are critical. Our mentoring program is designed to do just that.
We know through evaluation that Raise mentoring helps young people and leads to positive impact in the areas that will help young people navigate the impact of COVID-19 disruptions:
Help seeking – young people have more capability in asking for help, knowing where to seek help and a stronger likelihood of accepting help through mentoring
Hope – with higher levels of hope, young people improve socially and academically. Hope is a buffer against suicide ideation.
Resilience – mentoring improves a young person’s ability to bounce back after stress and enhances recovery.
School belonging – when young people value education, their social and physical wellbeing increases as well as their academic achievement
Relationships – stronger relationships with family, friends and teachers promote self-esteem, belonging and social skills
The difference you can make as a mentor
In my role at Raise, I am passionate about qualitative and quantitative data, however the stories I hear from our mentors are often the most moving methods of sharing real stories of impact.
Through its philanthropic Foundation, Origin volunteers are playing a leading role in listening, guiding, and helping young people prepare for what comes next.
Mikolay ‘Mik’ Podgorski is grateful for having had access to a good education and supportive role models in his own life but knows this isn’t the case for many young people, even in his own community. This, together with the flexibility of working from home, drove Mik to sign up as Raise mentor this year through the Origin Energy Foundation's employee volunteering program.
For two terms Mik spent an hour a week face-to-face with his mentee, a year 9 boy from Wavell High School in Brisbane. The program is mentee-led which means sometimes they worked through the planned activities together, and at other times they just talked about sport and music. It all builds trust and Mik believes his mentee didn't have anyone else who was genuinely interested in his life, who asked questions and would listen without judgement. “I found the experience so rewarding” he says, “although it was surreal going back to high school after all these years!”
Young people need our help more than ever
Great mentors come from all walks of life. Anyone can become a mentor. You’ll be fully trained and equipped to support a Year 8 student in a school near you – all you need is the passion to make a difference. Find out more.