“When I was young it would have really helped me if people had been more open about mental illness. Back then, when I first became ill, it wasn't really talked about or recognised. I didn't understand what I was experiencing or what was happening to me. It's a lot better now.”
Between the ages of 12 and 18 it’s likely you will experience a lot of changes in your life—school, family, friendships, hobbies, relationships, among many others. At the same time, you may be starting to develop your own beliefs and values as you try to figure out your place in the world.
With so many things going on, it's natural to have ups and downs. To better manage all these changes, it's important to learn more about looking after yourself and staying healthy. It's equally important to be able to recognise when you are going through something particularly difficult—it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for support.
After my daughter became sick, it was a complete eye-opener. I have never learnt anything so much as I have learnt since then.
When my daughter first became unwell, we didn’t recognise it. We just thought she was a regular teenage girl: locking herself in her room, not talking to her parents. We didn’t think there was anything unusual. Now we know what to look out for.
My daughter’s school rang and said that she was very distressed. Shortly after, she was in a mental health facility for seven weeks.
Learning how to look after yourself and stay healthy, in mind and body, is essential. By keeping active, eating well, learning relaxation techniques and getting enough sleep, you are taking positive steps to manage your mental health and wellbeing.
This self-care improves your resilience and ability to manage life events, experiences and situations. Good mental health and wellbeing is a positive step to enabling you to navigate the many changes that will come your way during these years.
If you feel that you need to talk to someone about what you're going through, it's okay to reach out for help. Asking for support from a family member, friend, or anyone you trust is a positive first step. You may find this information on seeking support helpful. The resources on this page have ideas on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
“Mentally, I wasn't present at school. One of my teachers noticed and asked if I wanted to see the school counsellor, which I did. They helped me get through, but after I graduated, I was on my own again. So I decided it was time to get help. I couldn't do it all on my own.”
Supporting another person
Young people go through changes in many areas of life, especially between the ages of 12 and 18. Balancing school, family, friendships, relationships, and other activities while also trying to find their identity can be a lot to deal with.
Noticing the signs early on can make all the difference. Schools are a great starting point for noticing behaviours. If you are concerned speak with the school counsellor. You can also reach out to other key people who regularly interact with the young person and check in on how they have been behaving.
If you're concerned that a young person in your life is experiencing mental health issues, there are things you can do right away. We have resources below with information on how to look after a young person in your life.
In supporting a young person, it is important to look after yourself as well. Take a look at our pages on support for carers and how to support someone.
A closer look
You can get support at school
Your school can be a good source of support if something is worrying you. Every year, around 1 in 10 students use a school-based service (like seeing a school counsellor) and 1 in 5 choose to talk with a staff member they trust. Your school counsellor has been trained to help you work through problems. If you don’t feel like you can talk to a counsellor, they can help you find someone else who can help. (Source)
Technology use can make sleeping more difficult
Did you know that many young people don’t get enough sleep, and technology use might be part of the problem? A review of 67 studies published from 1999 to early 2014 found a strong link between screen time and increased sleep problems in 90% of the studies. The review advises that reducing your screen time—especially before going to bed—can have a positive effect on your sleep. (Source)
What things concern young Australians?
Many young people in Australia share similar concerns, and it can be helpful to understand that others may have similar experiences to you. A 2016 Mission Australia Youth survey shows that concerns of young people include coping with stress, school or study problems, body image, and depression. Other concerns are family conflict, personal safety, and bullying or emotional abuse. (Source)
Behaviour changes in young people are natural
It can be hard to tell what is natural behaviour of a young person adjusting to change, and what behaviours may be signs of changes in mental health. Examples of typical behaviours for people in this age group are risk-taking, sleeping extra hours, exploring one’s identity, social experimenting, self-centeredness, needing to fit in with peers, and making decisions based on emotion. (Source)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).