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General News, Mental Health

New research highlights mental health struggles among Australian primary schoolers and their families

HCF 3 mins read

THURSDAY, 4 APRIL 2024: New research commissioned by HCF, Australia's largest not-for-profit health fund, has provided a nationally representative snapshot of the challenges faced by primary school-aged children and their families, revealing some concerning findings.

Over half (53%) of parents surveyed reported that their primary schooler had displayed mental health challenges in the past 12 months, and approximately one in three parents (37%) stated that their child had been formally diagnosed with a mental health or neurodevelopmental condition, with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and anxiety being among the most common diagnoses.

The study also highlighted gaps in accessing mental health support, with over a third (35%) of parents admitting to not seeking any form of assistance for their child.

"These statistics underscore the critical need for proactive measures to support the mental health of children and their families,” said Kirrilie Smout, clinical child psychologist and founder of Calm Kid Central.

Calm Kid Central is an online program designed to assist children dealing with emotional, social, or life challenges through interactive lessons, games, and access to an online forum of child psychologists to support parents and caregivers.

"Research suggests early intervention is linked with better outcomes for children later in life," said Ms Smout.

More than eight in ten (85%) parents surveyed said their child’s mental health challenges had impacted their family’s daily life, citing strain on parent-child relationships, difficulty balancing caregiving responsibilities, changes in daily routines or activities, and financial implications.

"By providing comprehensive support systems encompassing mental health services and family support, we can empower families to navigate these challenges effectively," said Linda Opie, HCF's Head of Health & Wellbeing.

Alarmingly, six in ten (61%) parents surveyed reported personally facing mental health challenges in the past 12 months because of their primary schooler’s mental health issues, with one in eight (12%) saying they hadn’t sought any support for themselves.

“Everyone’s mental health journey is different, and often finding where to go for support for yourself or your loved ones can be challenging,” Linda said.

The availability of professionally led and science-backed digital mental health services that can be used independently or in combination with in-person support to assist families in need, continues to grow.

For example, This Way Up, a not-for-profit initiative developed by experienced psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, offers a range of evidence-based online health programs and practical resources. Digital platform PSYCH2U provides convenient access to online cognitive behavioural therapy and mental health check-ins with psychologists.

Access to Calm Kid Central is free for HCF members with children aged 4 to 11. Eligible HCF members can also access one free mental health check-in annually with a PSYCH2U psychologist, as well as rebates on This Way Up programs using their extras cover.

“Almost all of us will face stress, anxiety or depression at some point in our lives, and we know mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing,” Linda said.

“By reaching out for help, parents can take the first step towards supporting their child's and their own mental wellbeing," said Linda.

If you need someone to talk to, call:

 

ENDS

EDITOR’S NOTE:
The study was conducted online by YouGov in collaboration with HCF, comprising a nationally representative sample of 523 Australian parents with at least one primary school-aged child at home. Data was weighted by age, gender, and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates. All statistical data is subject to margins of error associated with sample-based information.


Key Facts:

1 in 2 parents surveyed reported their primary schooler had displayed mental health challenges in the past 12 months.

1 in 3 parents said their child had been formally diagnosed with a mental health or neurodevelopmental condition.

3 in 5 parents surveyed reported personally facing mental health challenges in the past 12 months because of their primary schooler’s mental health issues.

4 in 5 parents surveyed said their child’s mental health challenges had impacted their family’s daily life.


About us:

ABOUT HCF

HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers almost 2 million members with health and life insurance, and travel and pet insurance. HCF has been awarded Outstanding Value Health Insurance by Canstar eight years in a row from 2016-2023. On average over the last ten years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. To learn more about HCF go to hcf.com.au/about-us


Contact details:

Media enquiries to: Joni Thomes 0475 576 738 or jthomes@hcf.com.au

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