University of Southern Queensland researchers have seen a sharp increase in the number of young people seeking help for anxiety since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
Psychologist Professor Sonja March said two to four times more children and adolescents had signed up for the BRAVE Program, an online platform to help manage anxiety, since the pandemic started.
“Much of this increase seems to be coming from school-based referrals,” she said.
Professor March and her team (including Jeremy Russell, Arlen Rowe and Kirsty Zieschank) are involved in two major studies focused on COVID-19 and child mental health.
“We are working with an international group of researchers from Oxford University to examine how children across the world are managing the pandemic,” Professor March said.
“Nationally, we’re involved in a new study to understand exactly what is happening for young Australians during the crisis, working alongside Griffith University and University of Queensland.”
The Australia-specific study is currently surveying parents of young people (aged 6 to 17) to understand the emotional impact of COVID-19 and the related restrictions.
Early results are already in based on hundreds of parents which has highlighted the different ways in which families are being affected.
“So far, the data tells us almost one third of young people are experiencing interfering emotional problems according to their parents; 13 percent face clinical levels of depression; and nine percent are dealing with clinical levels of anxiety,” Professor March said.
“Almost two-thirds of children have told their parents about fears that they or someone close to them might be infected with COVID-19.
“Half of the parents surveyed said their families had experienced some financial difficulties as a result of the crisis and 41 percent of young people were worried about the long-term impact.”
Professor March said the results so far showed the importance of the research.
“We’re calling for more participants to complete the survey to help us support Australian families with this and future crisis situations.”
If you have a child between the ages of 6 and 17 and are interested in participating, visit this link.