Regional jobs, futures driving exam stress

Young people in regional Australia are incredibly stressed about exams. More than half of them are showing worrying levels of stress at exam time.

It’s different than the stress city students are going through. Regional students are putting even more pressure on themselves than their city counterparts.

At the core of it is worry about their futures. They don’t know what jobs they can get in their town.

They’re concerned about having to move hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away from their friends, family, and the community they love.

They’re even trying to seek help more than city students.

One in four regional students who seek help for exam stress also turn to their GP or a mental health professional – twice as likely as metropolitan students – and they rely more on support from their teachers.

The issue is bigger than stress: mental health issues are more common outside of cities, too.

Compared to those in major cities, young people living in regional and remote areas show greater psychological distress.

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are twice as prevalent in remote areas as they are in cities.

Young people are doing it really tough in Australian towns.

But there’s a crisis of access to mental health services in regional Australia.

We’ve spoken with young people and services all throughout Australia, and getting an appointment is only part of the issue: there are other massive barriers to seeking help.

Young people are worried about what others will think and say if they’re seen walking into the chaplain’s office.

And they don’t have the time to drive up to five hours (each way) to a psychiatrist appointment.

There are services in these towns that are doing a great job of engaging young people, but the demand for these services far outstrips the supply.

We don’t want to see so many young people doing it tough, let alone finding it so hard to get help.

We’re working on new ways to help one million more Australians, including those in regional Australia.

Whether you’re a student or a parent dealing with exam stress, ReachOut.com is here to help – it’s available for free anytime and pretty much anywhere, so it’s perfect for people living in the regions.

Regional parents have a big part to play in helping alleviate exam stress, so we’ve created a dedicated toolkit on ReachOut.com to support them and their teenagers.

If your teenager is having problems sleeping, is increasingly irritated or having trouble concentrating, finding it hard to connect with others, or feeling depressed, panicky or anxious, then they could be overly stressed and it might be time to do something.

Importantly, reflect on your own expectations: are you on the same page as your child? Teens can feel stressed and worthless when they’ve tried but failed to meet expectations.

Encouraging your child to be honest about how they feel, and accepting and acknowledging their effort can be really helpful to you both.

We can help teenagers plan life after exams as well, so if you’re still feeling unsure about what the future holds after the final school bell rings, we’re only a click away, anytime.

Jono Nicholas is chief executive of ReachOut Australia. Visit au.reachout.com