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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 8 October 2021) . . Page.. 3049 ..

(f) continue to fund youth mental health services appropriately and adequately, including ongoing commitment to delivering eating disorder programs.

I rise today to speak about the youth mental health crisis that we are currently experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of young people across the world but also here in Canberra. It truly is a generation-defining experience. In normal times, young people would be at school with their friends, participating in the arts, sport and community activities. They would be applying for their first jobs, celebrating graduations and formals. They would be exploring their neighbourhoods, their cities and the world for the very first time.

However, COVID-19 has meant that, for many young people in Australia, these formative years have been spent in isolation and at home, and when they are outside their home they have kept away from people and must consider the possibility of an outbreak at any time. We do not yet fully know the long-term effects of this pandemic on young people’s mental health, but we can predict that the mental health problems that have been sparked by the pandemic are likely to have long-term lingering effects.

Young people have disproportionately suffered the consequences of the ongoing pandemic. Missed education opportunities, loss of income, economic instability and immediate health concerns can create a spiral of negative feelings. Most young people who are employed are employed as casual workers, and many in hospitality, tourism, entertainment, the arts and the service industry have lost their jobs due to the insecure nature of their employment. Those who did not lose work were often frontline workers. I am nervous whenever I have to venture out of the house and go to the supermarket. I cannot even imagine the feelings of a teenager who has been assigned as the COVID-19 marshal of a large supermarket or the cashier of a busy takeaway cafe.

I have heard from lots of young people since the pandemic started. They have shared with me their stories, like the nerve-wracking work experiences I mentioned just before. But more often I hear stories from young people who feel uncertain about their future, and they are upset that they are not getting the normal experiences that we all remember from our youth. These anecdotes that I hear, that likely all of us are hearing, are supported by the statistics.

According to the 2020 headspace national youth mental health survey, 34 per cent of young people aged between 12 and 25 reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. Furthermore, 40 per cent of young Australians reported that they are not coping or dealing with life well. These are deeply troubling statistics. We, as legislators, have a responsibility to acknowledge this problem and take actions to fix it.

I do not qualify as a young person anymore, so I cannot speak directly to their experiences. However, I am closer in age than most in this place, so I feel somewhat aware of the challenges that young people face today that previous generations have not had to struggle with. That is why I am so proud to be part of a government that

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