Do parents really know what their children are thinking?

New research by the national youth mental health organisation, headspace, has uncovered a disconnect between the concerns parents have for young people and the issues young people say they are most likely to be facing. The findings mark the launch of a new campaign designed to raise awareness among parents, to recognise the early warning signs that their son or daughter may need support for a mental health problem.

When asked to rate their level of concern for 12 to 25 year olds on 12 topical issues, parents said they are most concerned about drugs, emotional abuse/bullying, depression, suicide and alcohol.

This is a marked contrast to the top issues of concern for young people, highlighted in Mission Australia's 2014 report, which include dealing with stress, problems at school or with their studies and body image. While alcohol and drugs were amongst the biggest concerns of parents for their children, they were among the bottom three issues of concern for the young people themselves.

As a result, headspace is urging parents to communicate with their children and learn how they can support them and understand what is most important to them - before their issues escalate.

headspace CEO Chris Tanti said of these findings and the new campaign: "It's no surprise parents are most worried about alcohol, drugs and suicide, while these concerns shouldn't be dismissed, it's imperative for parents to gain a better understanding of what is actually going on in the lives of their children each day so they can act as a more relevant support network. Parents don't need to be able to solve all the problems, but knowing the signs something is wrong and how to have the conversation is vital."

"We know, through the survey, and our headspace centres that body image is a particularly increasing concern for young people. Parents should be aware of the associated signs like changes in eating habits and obsession with weight and exercise - in both females and males."

With one in five young people aged between 12 and 25 likely to experience some kind of mental ill health, it's important for parents to understand the early warning signs that their young person might be suffering. headspace is the national organisation dedicated to supporting young people and their families with mental health and wellbeing.

The headspace campaign shows it can be difficult to recognise mental health problems in teenagers, however parents are in a good position to notice mood and behaviour changes that indicate something might be wrong.

Mr Tanti added, "It's tricky to know everything that is going on in your son or daughter's life but parents often notice when something is not quite right with their child. Adolescence can be a difficult time, so having a bad day or week is normal, but it's when young people are no longer able to cope with day to day stresses, more serious problems can start to emerge," Mr Tanti said.

headspace tips for parents:

  • Talk openly and honestly with them, and let them know that you are concerned 
  • Reassure them that you will be there for them, and ask what they need from you 
  • Let them know that there is lots of help available. They will be able to talk to health professionals in private if that is what they prefer 
  • Help find an appropriate service, such as a headspace centre and support them in attending 

For media enquiries, please contact:


Carly Wright - 0413 025 385

Notes to editors: All stories about youth mental health should include youth-specific help-seeking information: For direct services and support go to or call 1800 650 890.

About headspace

headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing services tailored to 12 - 25 year olds, through its network of 70 centres (soon to be 100) and its online and telephone mental health support service. headspace. The organisation has supported more than 120,000 young Australians dealing with personal issues like depression, anxiety and stress.

headspace was established and funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia in 2006.