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New app in Australia to help parents support their children's mental wellbeing

The Australian Government has unveiled a new mobile application that helps parents support their children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Raising Healthy Children app by federal government-backed Raising Children Network provides parents with children aged 12 and below with information on their child’s health, development and wellbeing. It guides parents, carers and professionals in ensuring their own mental health as well.

Developed by a panel of 85 parents and 21 child health experts, the free mobile app – now available on the Google Play store and Apple App store – covers subjects such as anxiety, stress, work-life balance, bullying, temperament, grief and loss, gender identity, shyness, depression, bonding and exercise. More than 30 topics are currently listed on the app, with more to come later.

In the event of toddler tantrums, for instance, the app can guide users in handling their child by providing tips to manage tantrums, such as identifying triggers and reducing stress. It also directs them on when and how to seek further professional help.

Why it matters

In Australia, over 300,000 children each year are experiencing mental disorders, Health Minister Greg Hunt noted in a media release. Based on the 2015 government-commissioned report on the mental health of children and adolescents in the country, one in seven children aged 4-17 experienced mental illnesses with ADHD as the most commonplace disorder.

It was also pointed out in the draft National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy that a fifth of 10 to 11-year-old children have five or more risk factors in developing mental illness.

Given this, Minister Hunt emphasised the “crucial” role of parents in the early diagnosis and treatment of their child’s mental illness. Equipping parents and carers with information about child development and wellbeing can help them raise “confident, resilient kids, who become confident, resilient adults,” Raising Children Network said in a separate statement.

“This is particularly important given that, left unaddressed, social and emotional difficulties emerging in childhood can become continuing mental health issues later in life,” it added.

The larger context

The launch of this latest app is part of Raising Children Network’s programme to support parents’ mental health literacy; the government has funded this with A$1.5 million over three years. The app complements existing digital resources on children’s mental health on the organisation’s website.

Meanwhile, the federal government is due to finalise this month the National Children’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy, which has been undergoing development by the National Mental Health Commission since 2019. A part of its long-term National Health Plan, the strategy outlines the “requirements for an effective system of care for children” and provides a framework guiding investments in children and families.

On the record

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the mental health and wellbeing of young children and their parents, and this app is a resource families can use to recognise warning signs and seek support,” said David Coleman, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

“Raising Healthy Minds is designed to give clear and concise help wherever and whenever it is needed. It can be tailored to the needs of each child and adult user, including how parents can take care of themselves, and know where to go for additional support if they need it,” Raising Children Network Director Derek McCormack stated.

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