Christmas stress levels

Depressed student in stairwell
Depressed student in stairwell Pixland

FAMILY tensions over the festive season are responsible for anxiety and depression amongst many young people, according to a recent youth mental health survey.

The National Youth Mental Health Foundation, or headspace, has revealed that 65% of young people in a survey of 500 were finding the holiday season difficult to handle due to increased family tensions.

The survey showed that the Christmas season was experienced as "depressing" for almost a quarter of young people, and felt "worse than usual" for a third.

Byron Bay teen Lily Smith said she enjoyed the Christmas holiday season, but a close friend had recently experienced the sudden break up of her parents and was struggling during the usually happy time.

"She's really affected by it... breaks down in tears sometimes... and it's happened really quickly," Lily said.

Even when separated parents have already worked out their custody issues, the holiday season can be a challenge, according to headspace CEO Chris Tanti.

"Kids having to spend Christmas Eve with their mother and then Christmas with their father and wanting the whole family to be together is obviously very stressful for young people," Mr Tanti said.

"The most important thing that parents can do is keep their kids in mind and try to put their differences aside so kids have a fairly straightforward holiday... often that doesn't occur so the kids are right in the middle of the squabbling."

"And so parents need to be really mindful of how that gets played out with the children... and if they find the child is withdrawing or tearful, then offer them support."

"These things are not insurmountable problems, but if people aren't talking about them then they develop a life of themselves," Mr Tanti said.

The survey also revealed 62% of young people used social media to escape family tensions during the holiday season and 54% used it to help them feel less lonely.

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