Homehealth & wellbeingmental healthhow has covid impacted mental health?

How has COVID impacted mental health?

If you were affected by the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, you might remember lengthy times spent at home, disruptions to school and family life, and numerous other challenges that came with it all. 

The pandemic wasn’t an easy time, but it also came with surprising benefits for some. Either way, COVID has definitely had a huge impact on our lives, particularly our mental health. These effects are still being felt today, and are predicted to do so for a long time. 

What does the research say? 

Did you notice changes in your mental health during and/or after COVID? If so, this is quite common and you’re not alone. 

Researchers are finding that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health of young people. While youth mental health was a growing problem before COVID, studies show that the pandemic made it an even bigger problem. 

According to a recent survey of youth aged 16-24 in Australia

  • 42% said their mental health issues had become worse due to the pandemic, and 11% said they were directly caused by impacts of the pandemic
  • 1 in 4 young Australians thought about suicide over the past two years, and 15% attempted self-harm.  
  • Young women were particularly affected — Kids Helpline saw a dramatic increase in calls from teenage girls during lockdowns, who reported distress, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and concerns for family. 

If you struggled during lockdown and continue to feel the impacts on your mental health, remember that help and support is always available. 

Rosie’s research

In 2022, the Rosie team did some of our own research into how COVID has affected young people. We chatted with young women and gender diverse people in Naarm/Melbourne and across the country, as well as parents, teachers, youth workers, and past contributors of Rosie. From all the amazing, insightful conversations we had, we learnt that experiences of COVID varied for young people depending on their own unique situations, but there are many shared experiences.  

Some common difficulties experienced include:
  • Feeling lonely and isolated
  • Difficulties adjusting to online learning, especially for those with limited access to technology 
  • Housing complications, like cramped housing situations and having to share learning/working spaces with family members
  • Tensions at home
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Lack of confidence
  • Missing and feeling disconnected from friends
  • Missing out on important events and experiences, like school formals
  • Social anxiety 

It wasn’t all negative though. Some young people shared positive experiences and learnings from COVID, though we noticed that the difficulties far outweighed them. 

Some positive outcomes that were shared included: 
  • Having more time to discover individual passions and identities
  • Ability to interact with peers at one’s own pace, e.g. for some neurodivergent people, online learning was better suited to their needs 
  • Making new connections and friendships with people online, e.g. forums for young LGBTQIA+ people allowed for a sense of community
A young person lying on the floor, looking pensive.
What are the long-term impacts of COVID on mental health? 

It’s been a few years now since COVID first came about, but it continues to have a significant impact on our lives. It’s totally normal to feel like you were a different person before COVID, and that you have changed. Since things have more or less returned to ‘normal’, it’s common to still experience social anxiety, a lack of confidence and motivation, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

If you are struggling with your mental health since COVID, it’s important to see a GP and seek professional help. If you need to talk to someone immediately, support is available. 

Where to get help

Navigating everyday aspects of life like friendship, family, and returning to school/university/work in person after spending so much time in lockdown isn’t easy. For some helpful advice on managing everyday life, we recommend checking out our pages on social anxiety, boundaries, perfectionism, and healthy ways of engaging with social media.

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues you should talk about it to an adult you trust. 

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which Rosie has been created, the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation, and pay our respects to elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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