New beginnings for young people but many feel increasingly isolated

headspace Onkaparinga is offering tips to support young people and families for the return to school.


New research released today by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation has found young people in critical age groups (12 to 14 and 18 to 21) are reporting significant increases in feelings of isolation[1].  

The findings – revealing a substantial uplift since the data was last recorded in 2018 – come as young people in these age groups enter into major transition periods in their lives from next week with return to school, study and work.

Many young people ages 12 to 14 will be starting secondary school for the first time, while those ages 18 to 21 may be starting the shift into further study or work.

Vikki Ryall, Executive Director, Clinical Practice at headspace said young people in these age groups may need additional support from parents and carers, as the impacts of COVID-19 are still keenly felt.

“We know transition periods can be a time of high risk for young people. The move to secondary school from primary or from school into further study or the workforce can feel quite daunting for young people in any instance and COVID has now added extra complexity."

“It’s worrying to see young people in these age groups recording increased feelings of isolation. It’s likely that 2020 caused major disruptions to their year with these young people feeling disconnected from newly formed friendships or new ways of life. In addition, the usual support structures that schools, workplaces, and further education have in place were compromised during 2020 due to COVID, leaving young people with fewer opportunities to access support when they might’ve needed it.”

“We can’t underestimate how the pandemic has and continues to impact all young people, but particularly those experiencing major shifts to their usual routine and moving to a new phase of life."

“We’re encouraging families to tune into how their young person might be coping during this time."

“Families play such an important role in preparing and supporting young people to make positive transitions and they can really equip their young person through this time."

“Things such as planning and helping your young person get organised can be helpful. It also might be helpful to run through some ‘what ifs’ and work through different scenarios together."

“If families are noticing changes with their young person, it’s important to check in and let them know that you’re available if they want to talk to you. You can also let them know that this is a significant change that may take some time to adjust to."

“Young people are resilient and with the right support can get through challenging periods in their lives,” Ms Ryall said.

Kathryn, headspace Onkaparinga Centre Manager says, “The research released today is consistent with what we have been hearing from young people accessing our services and highlights the impact that the COVID pandemic has had on young people feeling more isolated. At headspace Onkaparinga we are steadfast in our ongoing commitment to connect with and support young people as they need us during this period and we would ask them to reach out to us if they need help now and in the future”.

If you or your young person are in need of further support, you can visit eheadspace (online and phone support), contact your nearest headspace centre or talk to your GP about options for family counselling. 

headspace has also designed a series of online Interactive Activities that young people can check out to source practical tips for connecting with othersgoal setting and problem solving.


If you, or someone you know, is going through a tough time, you can contact headspace Onkaparinga on (08) 8186 8600.


Tips for families to support their young person through transition periods:

Families play an important role in preparing and supporting young people to make positive transitions. You can help equip your young person for the transition to secondary school by: 

  • planning and getting organised
  • visiting the school and encouraging your child to go to any secondary school orientation days/programs 
  • doing a trial run with travelling to school, including taking public transport and using a travel card 
  • inviting older siblings or friends to share information about the school system ie. timetable, changing classrooms 
  • practising ‘what if?’ scenarios 
  • establishing routines including relaxing and fun activities 
  • Stay connected and interested in your young person’s learning 


Tips for families if they feel their young person needs further support:

It is affirming for your young person to know that you believe they have the resources and capabilities to manage challenging situations in life and that it’s OK for them to ask for help. If they need extra support, you can: 

  • normalise and validate their feelings and maybe share your own memories of thoughts and feelings at this age going to secondary school 
  • acknowledge your young person’s strengths – maintain opportunities to do things that come easily to them 
  • include your young person in decision-making in a ‘side-by-side’ way 
  • encourage your young person to maintain connections with their primary school friends as well as making new friends 
  • problem solve together in a ‘you and me vs the problem’ way 
  • set goals together by breaking things down into manageable chunks



[1] headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey 2020