Queensland’s children and young people have reached out for help during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Queensland Kids Helpline reporting spikes in contacts about mental health, emotional wellbeing, sexual abuse and suicide attempts.
yourtown Chief Executive Officer Tracy Adams said data from its Kids Helpline service indicated Queensland’s children were feeling the impacts of the pandemic as much as their interstate counterparts.
“During 2021, Kids Helpline counsellors responded to 18,419 children and young people aged 5 to 25 years who contacted the helpline from Queensland, with 299 of these raising COVID-19 related concerns,” Ms Adams said.
“More than two thirds of all COVID-19-related contacts were associated with mental health concerns or emotional wellbeing.
“In the first eight months of 2021, we’ve answered 44 per cent more contacts from Queensland children and young people about sexual abuse, when compared with the same period in 2020, and 40 per cent more contacts about sexual assault.
“Distressingly, between 1 January 2021 and 31 August 2021, we recorded an 80 per cent increase in duty of care interventions enacted by Kids Helpline on behalf of Queensland children and young people, with 31 per cent of those in response to suicide attempts and 37 per cent for child abuse.
“This data tells us the pandemic is contributing to an increase in child vulnerability, with factors possibly including more intense stressors in family households, more opportunities for abuse to occur and fewer opportunities for detection, immense disruption to daily routines, limited social interaction with friends, and worries about exams and education.
“But the data is also telling us that children and young people are proactively seeking help and doing all the right things to self-care, and I commend them for their courage in reaching out during immensely challenging times,” concluded Ms Adams.
Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said the perspectives of children must be considered in the broader strategy around managing the pandemic.
“Children and young people are experiencing adversity throughout this pandemic as much as adults are, and their views should not be diminished or ignored in the broader conversation about how the community is navigating the pandemic,” Ms Vardon said.
“Children and young people will respond very differently to the pandemic’s challenges depending on the stage of their emotional, psychological, social and physical development, which is why it is vital we acutely tune in to their needs and listen to what they have to say.
“The QFCC will soon conduct a study of Queensland’s children and young people to capture their experiences over the past two years and their views on the effects of the pandemic.
“The QFCC will analyse the survey’s responses and develop a roadmap to help inform decisions about the pandemic that may affect the lives and wellbeing of children and young people.”
Act for Kids Chief Executive Officer Dr Katrina Lines encouraged parents and carers to keep a close eye on children and young people, observe their behaviour and check in with them regularly.
“Parents and carers need to remember that their reactions in these uncertain times can negatively influence the feelings and emotions of children and young people around them,” Dr Lines said.
“We encourage adults to model positive behaviours around children and young people. It is also important to invest in your own mental wellbeing including minimising exposure to reports about the pandemic and making sure you’re talking about COVID-19 in a calm manner and an age-appropriate way with your kids.
“We also recommend monitoring children and young people as they spend more time on technology to connect with their friends. While connection is important to reduce feelings of isolation, parents should be aware of who their child is talking to online.”
Kirstine O’Donnell – QFCC
Phone: 0404 971 164
Maree Reason-Cain – yourtown
Phone: 0423 843 786
Jess Mumme – Act For Kids
Phone: 0427 794 666