Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, children and their families have experienced unparalleled disruptions to their daily lives. Although the pandemic is far from over, it is important that we understand how children have dealt with these changes and ensure that policy and decision making moving forward can minimise negative impacts.
In 2021, the National Mental Health Commission asked Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds, to examine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children. The NMHC specifically asked the Commissioner to examine:
To capture these experiences felt by children and their families, the National Children’s Commissioner launched a national online survey for children and their parents/guardians and grandparents.
The survey gathered 4,559 responses from children aged 9-17 years and 2,796 responses from parents/guardians and grandparents. The respondents told us that:
Children across Australia experienced the pandemic in different ways, with variations in experiences of restrictions and levels of community infections across states and territories.
In addition to the survey, the National Children’s Commissioner also engaged with stakeholders and held two roundtables with experts and stakeholders from key service providers to explore their experiences and knowledge of how children and families felt during the pandemic, and to discuss the findings of the survey.
This report captures these experiences and provides recommendations for the meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Each recommendation related to the priority areas of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan as well as to issues raised in the report.
The recommendations seek to make systemic changes in our approach towards children’s mental health and wellbeing in Australia, both in emergency situations and in post-pandemic Australia. What emerges clearly from this work (and that of others) is that children’s mental health and wellbeing was already a significant concern in Australia well before the pandemic.