BY EMILY LOWE
The mental health of young Australians is worsening, and students need more strategies to understand their emotions and cope with the stresses of high school, university, and beyond, according to neuroscientist and positive psychologist, Sue Langley.
A recent study from the Black Dog Institute found that in 2018, 24.2 per cent of young people experienced mental distress, an increase from 18.7 per cent in 2012.
Sue Langley, CEO and founder of the Langley group spoke with students from all over Australia today at the Integrity 20 Schools’ program about the hard work of happiness, the reality and the myths about it.
“It’s essential to teach these strategies to young people, and we’re starting to do it more in schools, but I work with a lot of people who are well into adulthood and they know none of this stuff,” Sue said.
Mental health experts do not understand why these rates are getting worse and are calling for further action.
Year 12 Downlands College student Kate Neale says more workshops such as Sue’s would help her fellow students with the pressures and stresses they face.
“Sue didn’t place happiness as an abstract quality that you had to look for, it was about goal setting and tangible steps you can take to achieve something,” Kate said.
“You can’t just be happy and content, you need the tools to achieve that state which is really important.”
Kate also said the move for Queensland students away from OP’s and into the ATAR system for their final grades has been stressful for her younger peers.
“There’s a lot of feelings of uncertainty and that they’re not being prepared well going into uni and leaving school,” she said.
“There’s a fear of failure and adversity, and so having the ability to put things in perspective, to know that failing a subject is not the end of the world, like Sue suggests is good for kids’ mental health.
“Students would definitely benefit from talks like Sue’s, hearing from the expert adds a personal touch and helps to see what you can be with the skills she talks about.”
Sue Langley says teaching these skills is crucial for young people’s wellbeing in the future.
“I really wish for all of these students to learn more about this because this is the stuff that will help them when they get into adulthood when they are under huge amounts of pressure even more than they are now, or they are unhappy because they’re under no pressure,” she says.
“It’s about putting tools in their toolkit now so they don’t end up needing a clinical psychologist when they’re 40.”