New research highlights mental health struggles among Australian primary schoolers and their families


New research commissioned by HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, has provided a nationally representative snapshot of the challenges faced by primary school-aged children and their families, revealing some concerning findings.

Over half (53%) of parents surveyed reported that their primary schooler had displayed mental health challenges in the past 12 months, and approximately one in three parents (37%) stated that their child had been formally diagnosed with a mental health or neurodevelopmental condition, with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and anxiety being among the most common diagnoses.

The study also highlighted gaps in accessing mental health support, with over a third (35%) of parents admitting to not seeking any form of assistance for their child.

“These statistics underscore the critical need for proactive measures to support the mental health of children and their families,” said Kirrilie Smout, clinical child psychologist and founder of Calm Kid Central.

Calm Kid Central is an online program designed to assist children dealing with emotional, social, or life challenges through interactive lessons, games, and access to an online forum of child psychologists to support parents and caregivers.

“Research suggests early intervention is linked with better outcomes for children later in life,” said Ms Smout.

More than eight in ten (85%) parents surveyed said their child’s mental health challenges had impacted their family’s daily life, citing strain on parent-child relationships, difficulty balancing caregiving responsibilities, changes in daily routines or activities, and financial implications.

“By providing comprehensive support systems encompassing mental health services and family support, we can empower families to navigate these challenges effectively,” said Linda Opie, HCF’s Head of Health & Wellbeing.

Alarmingly, six in ten (61%) parents surveyed reported personally facing mental health challenges in the past 12 months because of their primary schooler’s mental health issues, with one in eight (12%) saying they hadn’t sought any support for themselves.

“Everyone’s mental health journey is different, and often finding where to go for support for yourself or your loved ones can be challenging,” Linda said.

The availability of professionally led and science-backed digital mental health services that can be used independently or in combination with in-person support to assist families in need, continues to grow.

For example, This Way Up, a not-for-profit initiative developed by experienced psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, offers a range of evidence-based online health programs and practical resources. Digital platform PSYCH2U provides convenient access to online cognitive behavioural therapy and mental health check-ins with psychologists.

Access to Calm Kid Central is free for HCF members with children aged 4 to 11. Eligible HCF members can also access one free mental health check-in annually with a PSYCH2U psychologist, as well as rebates on This Way Up programs using their extras cover.

“Almost all of us will face stress, anxiety or depression at some point in our lives, and we know mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing,” Linda said.

“By reaching out for help, parents can take the first step towards supporting their child’s and their own mental wellbeing,” said Linda.

If you need someone to talk to, call:

/Public Release.