Monash project aims to address post-pandemic mental health challenges of teenagers

A Monash University project will look at reducing the long-term risk of adolescent mental health problems by enhancing parents’ ability to support their children throughout the pandemic.

A digital mental health project led by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and the Faculty of Information Technology, received a 2020 COVID-19 Mental Health Research Grant from the Medical Research Future Fund to support parents of adolescents.

Drawing upon evidence-based parenting practice, the project aims to address the challenges that parents and teens face during the global pandemic, and other unforeseen events.

The researchers hope this project will empower parents and enhance their capacity to safeguard their child’s mental health and wellbeing during disruptive events in the future.

While young people are largely spared from the direct negative effects of COVID-19 on physical health, they do have an increased risk of mental health issues as a result of disruptions to their normal social development, education and family life.

Moreover, the financial, social and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on parents can significantly compromise their ability to provide appropriate care, further aggravating potential mental health issues in their children.

Project lead, Associate Professor of Psychology Marie Yap from the Turner Institute, says in order to provide preventive interventions for parents that are low cost, scalable and self-sustaining, direct input from parents is needed.

This research will collect insights from parents through online peer support interactions to help inform and apply an extension to an existing evidence-based parenting program, Partners in Parenting (PiP), which has already been proven to reduce the risk of common mental health problems in adolescents. By rapidly adapting content and providing peer support to respond to the context-specific needs of COVID-19, the adapted program PiP-Plus has the potential to reduce the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on many Australian families.”

Marie Yap, Project lead, Associate Professor of Psychology, Turner Institute

This project will provide the necessary support to parents with context-responsive, rigorously-developed COVID-relevant parenting advice and integrated online peer support, delivered via the PiP-Plus platform.

Professor Patrick Olivier, from the Action Lab, Faculty of IT, says this research aligns with the Federal Government’s mental health reform agenda on empowering families and carers who support youth living with or at risk of mental health issues.

This project offers an adaptable and rapidly responsive service to address the emerging mental health challenges currently experienced as a result of COVID-19. By establishing a mechanism to collect data on mental health challenges currently experienced by parents and rapidly responding to these through PiP-Plus, the project is developing an approach that continuously adapts to the experiences and needs of parents and children. The digital delivery of the platform also facilitates broader outreach and care to particularly vulnerable groups of parents with adolescent children, such as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those located in rural and remote communities.”

Patrick Olivier, Professor, Action Lab

This research will also have further applications in other traumatic or disaster events across the globe, in which psychological distress can be impacted.

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