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New research reveals what most concerns parents and carers

A new report by mental health service ReachOut identifies the most common issues of concern for parents and carers across Australia.

It also reveals the issues that are having the greatest mental health impacts on their young people and where parents and carers are turning for support.

Based on a nationally representative survey of more than 630 parents and carers, caring for more than 920 young people aged 12-18 (April 2023), the report found the following key issues of concern for parents and carers:

  • social media (59 per cent)
  • the future (56 per cent)
  • school, study and exam stress (52 per cent)
  • mental health (50 per cent)

Other parents and carer concerns included their young person’s sleep, diet and exercise (43 per cent), smoking or vaping (24 per cent) and drug or alcohol use (20 per cent).

The issues reported to have the greatest impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing (although less frequently experienced by families) were:

  • domestic violence (61 per cent who selected this as a top issue reported it having ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person)
  • change in the family – such as death or divorce (60 per cent who selected this as a top issue reported that it had ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person)
  • neurodiversity (60 per cent who selected this as a top issue reported that it had ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person)

Loneliness was also viewed as a leading negative influence on the wellbeing of young people – 81 per cent of parents and carers who reported this as a top issue reported it had ‘a lot’ or ‘quite a bit’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person.

When it comes to seeking support for the issues impacting their young people, the report found that parents and carers are turning to their friends and other parents (51 per cent) and the internet (43 per cent) more than GPs or doctors (38 per cent).

And, despite needing support, more than 80 per cent of parents and carers reported that their support needs weren’t completely met in the last 12 months.

Parents and carers expressed a need for greater access to quality, trusted information and increased knowledge about how to get support for the young people they care for. Greater access to professional advice and services was also identified by parents and carers as a key support need.

Interim CEO of ReachOut, Ms Jackie Hallan, said the new report provides important insights into the issues that families are facing and the support that they need.

“Parents and carers play a critical role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people as they navigate challenges in their lives such as social media, study stress, mental health and family issues. However, ReachOut’s new research identifies a gap between what parents need and the support they are accessing,” she said.

“It’s vital that we let parents and carers know that support is available and easy to access. We want to encourage parents and carers to access ReachOut Parents free services, including expert parenting advice and parenting coaching. ReachOut Parents also provides pathways to further support for families if they need it.”

ReachOut Parents provides valuable information, resources and one-on-one coaching to help parents and carers to better understand the young people in their lives and to play an active role in their wellbeing. The service is accessed by more than 400,000 parents and carers each year.

For information and support, parents and carers can visit ReachOut.com/Parents and young people can visit ReachOut.com.

ReachOut Parents is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Key findings

Social media

  • 59 per cent of parents and carers said their young person’s social media use was a concern to them.
  • 35 per cent said it was a top issue of concern. Social media use was the most frequently selected issue of concern for parents and carers in this study.
  • 55 per cent of parents and carers who were concerned about social media said it had ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on their young person’s wellbeing.

Young people’s future

  • 56 per cent of parents and carers said they were concerned about the future of the young people they care for.
  • 33 per cent of parents and carers said this was a top issue of concern.
  • 49 per cent of parents and carers who indicated that the future of their young person was a top issue for them, believed it has ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on their wellbeing.

School, study and exam stress

  • 52 per cent of parents and carers said that school, study and exam stress experienced by the young person they care for was of concern to them.
  • 29 per cent of parents and carers said it was a top issue of concern.
  • 70 per cent of parents and carers who selected ‘school, study and exam stress’ as a top issue said that it has ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of the young person they care for.

Mental health

  • 50 per cent of parents and carers said that their young person’s mental health was a concern for them.
  • 39 per cent of parents and carers said this was a top issue of concern.
  • Mental health was the issue most frequently selected as a top concern for the families in this study.
  • Of those who selected mental health as a top concern in relation to their young person, 82% said that it was having ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on the young person’s wellbeing.

Lifestyle

  • 43 per cent of parents and carers said they had concerns about their young persons’ sleep, diet and exercise.
  • 24 per cent said smoking or vaping by young people was an issue of concern.
  • 20 per cent said drug or alcohol use by their young people was concerning.

Wellbeing impacts

  • 61 per cent of parents and carers who selected domestic violence as a top issue reported it having ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person.
  • 60 per cent of parents and carers who selected a change in the family (such as death or divorce) as a top issue reported that it had ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person.
  • 81 per cent of parents and carers who reported loneliness as a top issue reported it had ‘a lot’ or ‘quite a bit’ of impact on the wellbeing of their young person.

Support for parents and carers

  • 51 per cent of parents and carers turned to friends/other parents for support when it came to issues with their young person
  • 43 per cent of parents and carers turned to the internet when it came to issues with their young person.
  • More than 80 per cent of parents and carers reported that their support needs weren’t completely met in the last 12 months.

About ReachOut

ReachOut is the leading online mental health service in Australia supporting young people during tough times.

ReachOut helps young people feel better about today and the future, no matter what challenge they’re facing. They provide a safe place where young people can openly express themselves, explore what’s happening in their lives, connect with people who understand their situation, and find the resources to help them manage their challenges now and in the future.

Anonymous, free and 100 per cent online, ReachOut has been designed specifically for – and with – young people. From one-to-one support from experienced peer workers, to online forums, as well as tips, stories and resources, ReachOut offers a wide range of support options that allow young people to engage in the ways they want to, when they want to, and has been doing so for more than 20 years.

And, ReachOut Parents and ReachOut Schools provide valuable information, resources and advice to help parents, carers and educators to better understand the young people in their lives and to play an active role in their wellbeing.

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