Mental health support for Class of 2020

Mental Health Open Days focussing on anxiety

With thousands of Central Coast students sitting HSC exams over the next two weeks, the NSW Mental Health Commission has reminded families to be mindful of their mental health.

As students cope with the amplified stress of final exams and COVID-19, mental health supports for young people is a partnership between families, educators and specialist service providers, the commission said.

It said extensive consultations with young people as part of the development of the NSW Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention (2018-2023) identified exams as a time of heightened stress for students.

“The strategy identified that prevention needs to be targeted, and community connection is vital, as is maintaining a focus on wellbeing,” NSW Mental Health Commissioner, Catherine Lourey, said.

“Young people want more opportunities to talk about mental health and related issues with their peers, teachers and parents, and they want detailed, practical information about what to do if a friend confides in them that they are having a difficult time.

“HSC students, their parents and their teachers need to be assured there are many resources available to them, and a lot of support in the community to ensure their wellbeing and future success.

“Resources such as the Being Supported Mental Health Peer Support Line offer support from people with a lived experience of mental health issues and caring for people in distress, including young people and families.

“We need to remind ourselves, and Year 12 students, that the HSC is one step on a journey, it is not what defines them for the rest of their lives.

“It has been a difficult year for young people, with the cumulative impact of bushfires, drought, COVID (and) a tough job market, combining to create a sense that everything is harder than it should be.”

Giving parents the skills and confidence to support their child and start a conversation if they suspected their child was experiencing distress, was critically important, Lourey said.

“The students who take their HSC exams in 2020 will emerge as some of the most resourceful and resilient young people in our community”, she said.

Parents were given five guidelines for supporting their children’s mental health during the exam period.

Let them know your concerns: If you suspect a young person may be experiencing a tough time, it is important to let them know that you are aware of the changes you have noticed in them.

Listen to them: Take the time to listen to them and to understand their experiences. Check that you have understood them by asking questions.

Offer support: Let your young person know that they don’t have to go through things on their own and that you are there to help and support them.

Practise patience: If the young person denies there is a problem, try to be patient. Some people need time or space before they feel ready to accept help.

Learn more: Learning more about mental health stress will help you to understand what your young person is going though and how you can help support them.

Help is available through a number of agencies, including the Being Supported Mental Health Peer Support Line (1800 151 151), headspace (1800 650 890) and the Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).

Media release, Oct 19
NSW Mental Health Commission