November 3rd, 2021.
October was Mental Health Awareness month, an opportunity to train a spotlight on Australia’s mental health landscape. This year, world’s leaders in the pre-emptive mental health space, Smiling Mind championed a conversation about the importance of taking a positive and proactive approach to support mental health, particularly for children and young people who have been doing it tough during the pandemic. Now in its third year, their State of Mind survey is an annual check-in on the mental health and well-being of Australians.
The Smiling Mind State of Mind survey is a comprehensive analysis of Australia’s collective wellbeing during this extraordinary moment, and a demonstration of how our national psyche has changed over the past twelve months.
What is revealed in the survey is that, after the most disrupted, isolated and uncertain year most Australians have ever experienced, we are more depressed, anxious and stressed than at the same time in 2020. Significantly, findings indicate 78% of Australians experienced poor mental health over the past year.
The Whitepaper report articulates the “hidden epidemic” of mental ill-health, consistently forecast by experts during the pandemic, which disproportionately impacts women, First Nations Peoples and LGBTQI+ Australians, who are experiencing higher levels of psychological distress when compared to the broader population.
Most concerning of all is that children and young Australians are facing significant mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. The
State of Mind survey finds 41% of parents believe the pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of their children, with 43% of young Australians (18-25) also indicating declining mental health as a result of the pandemic. While nearly nine in ten parents (87%) agreed that their child’s mental health was just as important as their physical health, fewer felt confident in addressing their children’s mental health needs (64%) and even less found it easy to access resources (52%).
There is a “silver lining”, however. Awareness of the importance of maintaining good mental health is at an all-time high: mental health is
the country’s top non-COVID-19 health concern, with Australians overwhelmingly considering it to be as important as physical health (89%) and 4 in 5 adults applying at least one strategy to proactively improve their mental health and wellbeing (81%). There remains much work to be done, but these results indicate a willingness to develop skills that maintain good mental health are at an all-time high.
Most encouragingly, those who reported developing skills like working on their strengths, developing emotional awareness and practicing mindfulness meditation, also achieved a higher overall wellbeing score (7.1) relative to the general population (5.7).
Further, with the overwhelming majority of people who developed skills that improve their mental health also achieving positive health benefits (92%), including sleeping better, feeling more relaxed and more calm, we have an opportunity to improve resilience so that people are better prepared to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic and for any and all challenges that lie ahead by immediately engaging Australians in strategies and interventions to improve their mental health.
Read the full report here.
Images and words courtesy of Smiling Mind.