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2023 was tough for many young people, but headspace research shows they are resilient

Mental wellbeing

As 2023 draws to a close and pressure mounts to make ambitious resolutions for the year ahead, headspace is encouraging young people to reflect on and be proud of their achievements this year.

During a time of ongoing global conflict, a cost-of-living crisis and continued fallout from climate events, it’s fair to say 2023 was a tough time for many young people. But new research released shows young people’s enormous capacity for resilience.

The headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey reveals three in five young people feel they tend to bounce back quickly after hard times (61%). Asked to respond to the statement, “It does not take long to recover from a stressful event,” 52 per cent agreed or strongly agreed. Overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of young people surveyed were found to have normal and high levels of resilience.

While many young people felt confident in their ability to get through tough times, the research also revealed that some didn’t feel as resilient compared to their peers; one-third agreed it’s hard for them to snap back when something bad happens (33%), and that they tend to take a long time to get over setbacks in their life (31%).

Young women (39%) and young people identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community (52%) were among those most likely to report having a hard time making it through stressful events.

headspace National Clinical Advisor Rupert Saunders said: “We know that 2023 has been a challenging year for many young Australians, and it’s not always easy getting back to feeling like your best self after a difficult period. “Some young people may feel tempted to focus on things they didn’t achieve in 2023, or to compare their achievements to others. However it’s important young people give themselves credit for what they have managed to overcome.

“Everyone is on their own journey, and each young person is presented with unique challenges. Getting through the school year, working on relationships, finding work and keeping active might sound like small steps to some, but for many of us these are really important victories that ought to be celebrated.

“This sort of resilience is a skill that can be worked on. Helpful habits such as staying active, doing things we enjoy, connecting with our family and friends, eating well, getting enough sleep and cutting back on alcohol and other drugs are all things you can do to help be ready for, and to navigate, tough times.

“This year, we also saw young people get through tough times by channeling their discomfort into activism or community response efforts – a really purposeful and powerful contribution to their communities.

“As we enter a new year, we’re going to see a lot of commentary online and in the media about the wonderful things people have done this year, or really exciting plans they have for the future. Try not to compare yourself to what you see on social media. Instead, take a moment to reflect on what you’re proud of and what fulfilled you this year, and celebrate where you are now. And remember, there are always people to support you on your journey ahead.”

Leaning on a support system to get through tough times can be a positive way to cope. Young people aged 12 to 25, as well as their family and friends can visit a headspace centre for support.

Support is also available via phone and online counselling service eheadspace seven days a week between 9am–1am (AEST). The number is 1800 650 890. If you’re looking for someone to talk to immediately, Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) are available to talk 24/7.

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