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Youth Mental Health

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Mr Petterson for this very important motion. During the last assembly, I served on a committee that undertook an inquiry into Youth Mental Health in the ACT. Our final report makes 66 recommendations, some of which are reflected in this motion today.

There is no doubt that there is an ongoing mental health crisis affecting young people, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened this crisis in many ways. Each extension of lockdown has increased anxiety and stress for many youth. Three weeks ago, when year 12 students were told by Ms Berry that they would be returning to school for the beginning of term 4, there was widespread rejoicing. Sadly, this assurance proved to be misleading, with only some year 12 students returning to school this week and next for a very limited number of activities. Students not included in those activities are still waiting.

People deal well with clearly explained expectations, but they don’t deal well with having their expectations raised and then dashed, as happened for many of Canberra’s year 12 students this week. This situation will only add to the mental health burdens that many of our young people are already carrying.

These are young adults, many of whom are already 18. The Minister for Education should have been straight with them from the start. In our current environment, she should be careful not to play with young people’s emotions when making statements about education and going back to school to learn, to socialise, and to grow. Young people are intelligent, resilient, and capable of dealing with reality, and they deserve our respect.

Thank you.


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