Child mental health is declining, and only one in two parents feel confident meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of their child.
Australia’s mental health crisis is rippling into younger and younger demographics, and Smiling Mind’s most recent pulse survey reveals parents’ concerns—not only in children’s declining mental health, but in their ability to support their child in navigating them.
The survey data was drawn from the general population and broadly represents the demographics of Australia (sample size 371). The results showed that Australian parents of dependents aged between 0-17 have observed a significant decline in their children’s mental health.
- Two in three (67%) parents are concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of their child.
- One in two (49%) parents have observed a decline in their children’s mental health in the last 12 months
The statistics also reveal holes in the accessibility of resources and services that children need in order to develop positive mental wellbeing tools. These holes are equally prevalent in parents’ access to trusted resources which would allow them to support their child in developing these tools.
- Over one in five (22%) parents find it difficult to find resources and information they trust about their children’s mental health.
- Over one in three (37%) parents find it difficult accessing mental health and wellbeing support for their child
This decline in children’s mental health, coupled with low availability of resources and already clear gaps in mental health service accessibility, paint a clear picture around why many parents feel unsure about their ability to support their child’s mental health and wellbeing.
- One in two (53%) parents feel confident meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of their child.
- 27% of parents are not confident about meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of their child.
The lowered confidence felt by Australian parents is difficult to navigate with limited access to support and services. Smiling Mind is advocating for the needs of children to be prioritised in federal policy, and for children's health and wellbeing to be a national priority, with the appointment of a federal Minister for Children.
Rising rates of children experiencing mental illness have accentuated existing problems in access and equity when it comes to addressing the needs of families looking for professional help.
There is a gap in scalable and accessible approaches to supporting children to develop the protective factors that will improve their mental wellbeing and ability to cope with the challenges of our increasingly complex world. Parents need and deserve to have trustworthy resources at their fingertips to recognise and address mental ill-health symptoms in children.
Supporting this parental knowledge ensures children can get the right help at the time they need it. It could also enhance confidence in managing these symptoms at home, with the goal to reduce the severity and duration.
Areas of mental health and wellbeing that parents want more support in
There are a range of skillsets that can support wellbeing and resilience in both children and adults. As part of Smiling Mind’s Pulse Survey parents were asked which of these skillsets they would like to have more support in helping their child build.
The survey shed light on two skillsets in particular that parents are seeking trustworthy resources for.
The skillset that came out on top, with a response from close to 80% of parents, is flexible thinking (79%). It covers skills including emotional management, mindsets, adaptability, and the ability to reflect on and respond to challenges in a positive manner.
This was followed closely by mindfulness (63%), which is underpinned by skills in attention, awareness of thoughts and feelings, and attitudes of openness, curiosity and non-judgement.
Smiling Mind’s Resilient Families Program is made up of these skillsets, and provides accessible digital resources designed to help learn and grow the skills that underpin positive mental wellbeing.
Designed for children and their families by psychologists, this program offers a range of engaging activities and lessons where children can practise and develop emotional regulation, coping strategies, social skills and more.
Parents and carers can support kids to build resilience and wellbeing through this free, evidence-led program.