What would you do to ‘protect’ your child from a mental health disorder?

What if you could ‘protect’ your child from growing up to become one of the 750,000 young Australians who have a mental health disorder? The key could be as simple as leading by example and boosting your own positive mental health.

“Researchers at QUT have launched an Australian-first study that needs young people aged 16 to 25 – and their parents – to take part in a national survey.”

With half of all Australians likely to face anxiety or depression at some stage of their lifetime, lead QUT researcher Olivia Fisher said the study aimed to find out if parents and their children shared similar traits that helped or hindered their mental health.

It will specifically look at three key protective factors that can keep our thoughts healthy – belonging, optimism and emotion management.

“We want to see if there’s an inter-generational relationship between these protective factors and any depression and anxiety disorder symptoms of young people and their parents,” Ms Fisher said.

“Identifying such a relationship could open up avenues to work with parents to potentially protect their kids’ mental health by enhancing their own protective factors first.”

The anonymous 15-minute online survey is open to all Australian residents aged 16 to 25 and also needs to be completed by their parents.  (It doesn’t matter who does it first – parent or child.)

Researchers want at least 350 families to take part by the end of July and are seeking people who have not had mental health issues, as well as those who have.  Participation involves completing a brief survey (15-20 minutes) online then forwarding a survey link to family members

Ms Fisher said the survey was targeting young people as they were most at risk – and the most in need of protective strategies.

“We already know that if you’re going to get a mental health disorder you’re most likely to start to show symptoms between the ages of 12 and 25,” she said.

“Many young people experience problems earlier but it’s often not until high school or later that these problems are really picked up.”

The survey is a central part of Ms Fisher’s PhD (Health) study with QUT’s Faculty of Health, which she is completing with the help of an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship and the assistance of Dr Julie-Anne Carroll and Professor Ian Shochet.

Ms Fisher worked in mental health for 15 years prior to her QUT research, first as an occupational therapist in acute psychiatric facilities and community services, and then as the Queensland coordinator of the world-renowned Mind Matters prevention-based project for high schools.

Media contacts:
– Mechelle McMahon, QUT Media, media@qut.edu.au
– (After hours) Rose Trapnell, QUT Media team leader, 0407 585 901