Survey says COVID, mental health and environment are top concerns for Geraldton youth

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton student Tahlia Dalle, 15, says enviornmental issues are her biggest concern.
Camera IconGeraldton student Tahlia Dalle, 15, says enviornmental issues are her biggest concern. Credit: Pictures: Phoebe Pin

Almost two years on from the start of the pandemic that changed the world, Mid West youth say COVID remains the biggest issue affecting their future.

Figures revealed on Wednesday in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report 2021 show almost half of local participants picked COVID as the main concern for young people aged 15-19 in the region.

Geraldton student Tahlia Dalle is among the 37.7 per cent of teens in the region who are most concerned about environmental issues.

The 15-year-old said she had always been interested in learning about how her behaviour affected the world around her and the prevalence of plastic pollution in the community worried her the most.

“Pollution is a very big problem in our oceans, so I try to talk to people about it and reduce my impact and my family’s impact as well,” she said.

Tahlia said teenagers were passionate about this topic because they were the ones facing a “devastating future” if solutions to climate and environmental challenges were not prioritised.

“Young people are the next generation, so we will be the ones going through the bad impacts and the bad consequences of climate change and we will be the ones having to deal with all the weather problems and all the pollution,” she said.

A focus of the 20th annual Mission Australia survey was to ask youth how COVID had changed their lives, with Mid West youth saying the pandemic had affected the way they participated in activities, education and their home life.

Tahlia agreed the pandemic had posed some challenges, but said daily life in Geraldton remained largely unchanged by COVID.

“I think it has been a good year, especially living in Geraldton because we are really lucky to have not too much COVID,” she said.

“We still have opportunities, even though some are limited because of COVID.”

Top concerns

49.1 per cent COVID-19

48.1 per cent Mental health

37.7 per cent The environment

Top three areas negatively affected by COVID-19

56.6 per cent Participation in activities

39.8 per cent Education

37.2 per cent Family

Top three areas of personal concern

42.5 per cent Coping with stress

41.1 per cent School or study problems

36.3 per cent Body image

Students march down the Geraldton foreshore for the climate strike
Camera IconStudents march down the Geraldton foreshore for the climate strike Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Survey results also showed mental health issues were front of mind for 48.7 per cent of local teens, with 36.3 per cent of Mid West youth reporting body image issues compared with the State average of 30 per cent.

Tahlia said it was almost inevitable for young people to experience mental health challenges, but thought Geraldton had a strong support network in place for those in need of help.

“I have experienced those (mental health issues) and I think everyone has to go through it to a certain degree in their lifetime,” she said.

“I think it is really good that we have people to support us and I was also very lucky because my parents were very supportive. I think that is also very important, too.”

Mission Australia State director WA Jo Sadler said it was critical people in power listened and acted on what teenagers such as Tahlia said.

“Young people are telling us they’re aware of and care about social and personal issues affecting themselves, their peers and their country,” she said.

“Young people have the answers. It’s a matter of ensuring they are genuinely listened to, included in decision-making processes and their concerns acted upon. It’s the brightest way forward for us all.”

Survey results will be shared with governments, non-government organisations, schools and the media to inform the debate around the circumstances of young people in Australia and to support the development of policies, services and programs.

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