Melbourne has now chalked up the unfortunate milestone of 200 days in lockdown. Early in the crisis, much was made of people’s mental health due to the demands of balancing work and child supervision, loneliness or financial troubles. More recently, the focus has shifted to youth mental health, and even we discussed this topic in a recent blog.
But it is really clear to us that we are entering a new phase of mental health challenges for the adult population.
Almost a quarter of parents are highly distressed
Being a parent has never been an easy task, but during the lockdowns, parenting has become even more challenging.
According to the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey conducted by the University of Melbourne, nearly 1.5 million Australians are working parents of a child aged 5 to 11 and more than a quarter of them are currently experiencing high mental distress.
“Of the close to 5 million parents with children under 18 in Australia, 24% have reported high rates of mental distress since the start of the pandemic. This has persisted well beyond the end of local lockdowns. Pre-pandemic, 8% of parents reported experiencing high levels of mental distress. During the pandemic, this rate has tripled, reaching 24%. While mental distress has increased across all populations in Australia in 2020.”
The burden of balancing family and work during lockdowns
The pandemic has resulted in two major sources of mental distress: financial stress and the stress caused by work-family conflict.
“Having a job used to be a very strong predictor of being in good mental health, but now, employed parents are about as likely to be distressed as parents who are not employed. Especially striking is the increase in mental distress of employed parents who have primary school-aged children.” – According to the TTPN survey.
Early findings from the Families in Australia survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, showed that restrictions like working from home, school closures and stringent rules on childcare and school attendance have increased work-family conflict greatly.
This brings with it great risks for parents’ long-term productivity, their capacity to stay employed and their ability to create a safe and healthy environment in which their children can thrive.
If you or anyone you know needs help or support:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Headspace on 1800 650 890
QLife on 1800 184 527