Based on conversations with her friends about their experiences during isolation, Jedda suggested a panel discussion about youth mental health. Experts from youth support service ReachOut and LGBTIQ organisation Twenty10 will join Jedda and fellow youth leader Kira Spencer on the panel as they take questions from teens around the state.
“Everything I was looking forward to this year has just been scrapped,” Jedda says. “Spending a lot of time by yourself with not much social interaction is not fun.”
As students return to the classroom full-time, mental health is on everyone’s mind. Two weeks ago, the federal government appointed a new deputy chief medical officer for mental health and committed $48 million for support services.
The lockdown has caused anxiety for Jedda’s friends who worry about their friends, family, education and their future beyond school. A recent survey by UNICEF Australia found that almost half of young people report that COVID-19 has increased their stress and anxiety, with teenage girls more likely than boys to feel the loss of social connection. The Kids Helpline received unprecedented numbers of calls in March – 9000 a week or one every minute
The panel discussion will be timely to ensure young people know how to get help.
“I think we should discuss coping mechanisms and ways that you can cope with what’s going on,” Jedda says.
Asked what success would look like on the night, Jedda pauses.
“We would never know but hopefully people walking away with some idea with how to… not completely pull themselves out, but just comfort themselves or comfort their friends.”
Fellow panellist Kira says to “stay social and be creative”.
“Art is a very good outlet in terms of releasing emotions. It’s a good break from having to sit down and stare at a laptop all day and type.
Jedda says focusing on art has helped her through this period of uncertainty.
“I think it’s really important to distract yourself from everything that’s going on and just focus on the thing right in front of you and what you’re feeling and expressing.”
Doing school at home has its advantages, Jedda says, including not having to sit through boring classes. But home learning hasn’t been easy especially for practical subjects such as art. “For a lot of things it’s really hard to find the motivation and teach yourself.”
Other online activities on Sunday night include a hip-hop dance class with the Sydney Dance Company; an AUSLAN visual storytelling workshop with hearing-impaired youth committee member Amy Wright; a plaster painting workshop; live dance and music performances from young Australian artists; and a fashion contest for the best isolation costume.
Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.