“There is no shortage of reasons for pessimism in the world today: Climate change, the pandemic, poverty and inequality, rising distrust, and growing nationalism. But here is a reason for optimism: Children and young people refuse to see the world through the bleak lens of adults. Compared to older generations, the world’s young people remain hopeful, much more globally minded, and determined to make the world a better place. Today’s young people have concerns for the future but see themselves as part of the solution.”
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. Read the Changing Childhood Project HERE
2019 to 2022 were undoubtedly challenging years for everyone around the globe. Recently, the world has taken numerous hits in all shapes and sizes and battled it all. Statista reported that between October 2019 and February 2020, New South Wales and the ACT had over 13 million hectares of land burned in devastating fires that swept across the country. In addition, La Niña brought Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales over a year's worth of rainfall in 1 week and, along with it, some of the worst floods in Australian history.
In the US, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was recorded as the third-most active Atlantic hurricane season on global record, with 21 named storms. It became the second season in a row—and third overall— in which the agreed 21-name list of storm names was thoroughly exhausted.
2021 was also a year of extreme weather and natural disasters for Europe, from heat waves to flooding and droughts. Eastern Europe experienced intense wildfires, and at the same time, sea ice retreated to its 12th lowest since 1979.
Every year around the world, millions of people are impacted by both human-caused and natural disasters. Disasters take the form of earthquakes, floods, war, hurricanes, explosions, tornados, and wildfires, as discussed. An unfortunately common thread through all these various types of disasters is that people face the danger of death or physical injury. People also lose their homes, belongings, and their communities. Such stressors also put people at great risk for physical and emotional health problems.
Emotional instability, stress reactions, anxiety, trauma and other psychological symptoms commonly impact humans after experiencing disasters and other traumatic experiences. Such psychological effects significantly impact people at an individual level and in communities.
And throughout all the natural disasters that the world experienced between 2019 and 2022 that climate change has brought about, the world was also united in facing a new and even deadlier foe. A spiky microscopic protein that brought the entire globe to a grinding halt with significant health impacts, international lockdowns, and vaccine mandates.
However, the news wasn’t all doom and gloom during this era. Even in the toughest of pandemic times, people banded together. Whether gathering (while socially distanced) to sing in chorus from rooftops and balconies, organising Netflix group viewing parties to binge the Tiger King series or arranging virtual get-togethers on Zoom for a spot of trivia or games nights, people found new ways to socialise and stay sane. It was a time of connection, leveraging technology instead of proximity to remain sociable, with video platform usage increasing by 265%.
Australians across the nation turned to the Arts to stay entertained. Our time spent watching TV and movies increased by up to 51%, with young people under 30 spending a whopping 68% increased time tuning in. After this, our second most popular activity was arts and crafts, with baking being a particular favourite.
With people being shut away in their homes during the peak of Covid, nature began to reclaim and reset the world around us. Air quality levels rose, with air pollution across Europe dropping significantly while the world was in various states of lockdown. While sightings of dolphins reclaiming the Venice canal systems turned out to be false news, wildlife was still thriving again while we were all stuck indoors during lockdowns. The thus named "anthropause"—the dramatic dwindling of human activity instigated by the pandemic—did provide real natural opportunities for scientific study on animal behavioural change and actual photographic sightings of wildlife (urban jackals and southern otters) wandering around in spaces typically overrun with humans.
Author: Conservation Chat UK
These images of hope during the difficult times were not just because of the pandemic. The rare pink flannel flower, dormant in the ground for years, sprung up for the first time to cover the Blue Mountains in a sea of pink after the Bush fires ravaged the landscape, in an event described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence.
Credit: Margaret Sky/iNaturalist, CC BY-NC
Citation: Sky, M. (n.d.). Pink Flannel Flowers
So, what lessons can we learn from these global events? How can natural disasters and pandemics shape us? What is the trait that shines through from people, animals, and the planet? Resilience. Together, we can see that even the darkest clouds have a silver lining and that we can weather any storm if we stay steady. But how do we stay steady in a world that constantly throws you curveballs? Well, we need to take extra care and look after our mental health and well-being.
The Sustainable Development Goal 3 and 2030 Agenda aim to ensure our global population can lead physically healthy lives by promoting well-being for all ages across the spectrum. Poor health prevents children from their right to access education and limits employment and economic opportunities for men and women. It only increases levels of poverty within communities and countries all around the world.
In addition to being a driver of poverty, poor health and well-being is also directly impacted by poverty and strongly interconnected to other components of sustainable development, including access to clean water and sanitation, improving gender equality, tackling climate change and improving general peace and stability.
SDG 3 recognises that (before the pandemic) the world had made great strides in progression against the cause of death and the diseases still rife across the globe. In addition, significant medical advancements have been made to increase life expectancy and reduce some common killers typically associated with child and maternal mortality.
Since the creation and announcement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, there have already been historic breakthroughs in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and making further major advances in treatments for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. Here are just a few top astounding statistics that demonstrate the positive momentum:
Beyond the pandemic, the global life expectancy for the world in 2022 is 72.98 years, which sees a 0.24 increase since 2021. In 2010, the average global life expectancy was just 69.70 years. Twelve years on, and the positive upwards trend is only expected to continue into the future.
From improving reproductive health, maternal and newborn health, through childhood and adolescence and beyond, the SDG 3 recognises the interconnectedness between living a healthy life and sustainable development.
And yet, there continues to be major disparity and significant challenges to overcome across the globe. The difference in health statistics between developed and developing countries is dramatic. In Hong Kong, the average life expectancy (for both sexes) is 85.29; by comparison, in the Central African Republic, it is 54.36. Globally, women and girls continue to lack access to sexual and reproductive health care; HIV and AIDS are not yet eradicated, with new cases of HIV/AIDS still occurring daily, and billions of people cannot access essential medicines.
To compound these harrowing facts, millions of adults and children will all suffer from undernourishment. The amount of waste that the global population creates is also estimated to triple, a factor that causes health concerns due to the increased pollution of the environment.
Mobility and political instability also significantly affect health and well-being too. In May 2022, 15 million Ukrainians fled their homes due to the war with Russia. These are displaced people who have had to leave their homes and everything behind in a bid to escape. Such displacement is traumatising and gives rise to new health challenges and risks, including the need for urgent protection and psychosocial support.
The Good Health and Wellbeing Goal highlights the need to strengthen the capability to respond to health issues for all countries, particularly for developing countries. To ensure that countries can better react to early warnings of illness, make significant risk reductions on issues and factors that threaten good health, and improve the management of national and global health risks. The SDG 3 aims to substantially reduce the deaths and illnesses caused by hazardous chemicals and air created by pollution and contamination. The SDG 3 calls for even more understanding of diseases, accessibility to good health coverage, and the ability to safely acquire life-saving vaccines and medicines.
The major focus of the Good Health and Well-Being Goal though is in how to manage preventable diseases from spreading and put an end to premature deaths by prioritising disregarded and neglected groups and areas in countries across the world. The United Nations believes that if governmental bodies put more into funding and the development of important research, these goals can be achieved.
On January 1st 2016, the 17 SDGs took effect, shining a light on what the global community needed to do in order to achieve a more equal and sustainable world for us to live in. The 17 goals were broken down into smaller targets within each goal. Governments across the world agreed to work together to create better living conditions, more equality and better opportunities for people.
So how are the SDG 3 goals tracking across the globe? An example of good progress is Target 3.2, which is to reduce child mortality to less than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births per year across all countries. Pre-Covid, child mortality rates had significantly dropped. These numbers show that with education and focus, the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.
Life expectancy has doubled over the past 2 decades, which shows that global good health and well being is on the rise. However, the fight is not over yet. Post covid, some countries have been set back further, through lack of access to quality health care and lack of education around key health issues. This is why it is important that we understand the fundamentals of SDG 3 and that we work together to be change makers to achieve the 2030 goals.
The United Nations plan is that good health and well-being are accessible to all across the globe. The UN explains, "Significant strides have been made in increasing life expectancy and reducing some of the common killers responsible for child and maternal mortality.
Major progress has also been made on increasing access to clean water and sanitation, reducing malaria, tuberculosis, polio and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
However, many more efforts are needed to control a wide range of diseases and address many different persistent and emerging health issues."
Yet, despite these positive steps forward, challenges still remain that prevent this goal from being achieved.
Many children across the globe are unable to access health services or affordable care. Therefore, UNICEF has identified the following key asks designed to motivate governments to:
Physical activity is any bodily activity produced by muscles that burn energy. Low physical activity levels are a significant risk factor for future chronic health conditions. For example, people who are not active enough stand a greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia. In addition, being physically active is linked to improving a person’s immune system, musculoskeletal health, and mental well-being, as well as a significant factor in reducing other issues such as being overweight and obese, or having high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Being physically active can also improve symptoms and/or delay the progression of several medical conditions and the onset of diseases and health complications.
Take a walk down any Aussie beach and you will see swimmers, joggers, outdoor HIIT classes. The high streets are teaming with plant based cafes, health food stores and numerous other ways to look after your exterior. But what is it about movement that benefits our minds?
To start with, exercise regulates peoples’ moods. How? By releasing ‘happy hormones’. More specifically, endorphins and serotonin. These cheery little messengers, known as neurotransmitters, race through the bloodstream and help to spread positive vibes to the rest of the body. They are most commonly associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness.
But these happy little chappy’s are not the only thing that boost your brain power when you are working out. Exercise also:
With the evolution of technology, there is now an abundance of ways and advice on how to stay physically active available wherever you look on the internet. There are online fitness apps available for a whole range of activity types: yoga, high-intensity training, callisthenics, Zumba, aerobics, boxing, TRX, running, cycling, trail hiking, and more. These apps include everything from training, complete workouts and coaching capabilities to complementary features on nutrition, motivation and data analytics to track progress.
It's easy to say that getting up and getting out can help improve your fitness levels and your overall mood, but what happens when you can’t motivate yourself to make that initial step? With all of the choices available to everyone nowadays, the hardest thing for many people in improving physical fitness is getting over the barriers to start being active.
According to Physiopedia, “With technological advances and conveniences, people’s lives have in many ways become increasingly easier, as well as less active. In addition, people have many personal reasons or explanations for being inactive. The most common reasons adults don’t adopt more physically active lifestyles are cited as:
At Action4Agriculture, we understand the need to be physically fit, but we want to shine a light on the need to improve your mental interior as well. Despite all the tried and tested methods of staying physically healthy, it is clear that there is still something missing. Mission Australia designed an online survey exclusively for young Australians that shared that 51.5% of the youths completing the survey in 2021 reported their mental health was a ‘barrier to achieving their study or work goals’.
Further to this, studies by ReachOut.com reported that *56% of students reported poor mental health or well-being as a result of study stress in September 2021 — this has doubled from 25% in December 2020.
Action4Agriculture is keen to find out precisely what is keeping our young Aussies up at night? It is important to make progress for us to get a better understanding of what is being done to ensure the next generation grows up with positive mental health strategies and what we can do more to help. How are we showing kindness and acceptance to our fellow humans?
As a result, we are approaching this Sustainable Development Goal a little differently. This work-in-progress page is designed to be an interactive resource, reaching out to communities across Australia. We want to hear from you, the people on the ground, experiencing life’s challenges and achievements.
Take the time to share the answers with us to the following questions:
Share your answers, anecdotes, photos and videos in this online whiteboard tool here:
Online PADLET or other interactive sharing tool? https://padlet.com/
According to the Australian Department of Health, almost half of all Australian adults will face mental ill-health during their lives. Suicide was the main cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 49 years in 2019. What can be done to address these issues? We shine a light on some of the incredible organisations and Australians who are stepping into the ring to combat these issues.
Author: Dr Sood
ReachOut is an organisation designed to help with the challenges being faced by young people and parents in Australia every day.
The organisation's dedicated team of researchers and professionals create services for the mental health of our younger generation, harnessing the power of the internet as a tool for support. The levelled approach that ReachOut takes means there is something for everyone, no matter the extent of the issue.
CITATION: Range of options for young people aged 12–25 offered by ReachOut. (n.d.).
ReachOut has created an easy-to-navigate website that is packed to the brim with professionally researched and highly developed resources. Examples of this are the organisation’s ‘Topics’ page which covers a wide range of issues, such as Bullying, Identity, and Coronavirus Support. As well as this, the ‘Explore Articles’ page is regularly updated with articles written by various contributors that give helpful and relatable advice.
ReachOut’s NextStep feature is an interactive tool that offers personalised support to 18-25-year-olds in a simple 3-step process. As well as this, the organisation has a dedicated ‘Tools and Apps’ page that showcases over 50 different free and paid mental and physical health apps.
Want free, 24/7 anonymous support aimed at 14-25-year-olds? Then look no further than ReachOut’s huge Online Community, a safe space for young people to talk to each other, seek and offer advice and host events.
In 2020-21, 15% of Australians aged 16-85 years experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress.
CITATION: First insights from the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2020–21 - Psychological distress. (2021, December 8). [Graphic]. Abs.Gov.Au.
Black Dog Institute is an Australian-based medical research institution that aims to tackle these issues. The organisation seeks to support mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar through diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The team at Black Dog offer a range of helpful resources to help alleviate and support Australians struggling with mental health concerns. The website’s useful Digital Tools and Apps page suggests a plethora of self-help tools that span across age ranges and cultural backgrounds.
Some highlights are:
Author: Black Dog Institute
This Australian harm prevention charity was founded by Gavin Larkin, who wanted to raise awareness and encourage families, friends and work places to be connected by conversation even through the toughest of times. His vision is to secure relationships and bonds with meaningful conversations about mental health in order to prevent those struggling from feeling alone.
RUOK has a host of materials and practical advice on how to make those usually awkward conversations a little easier and . Their annual RUOK? Day, held in September each year, is designed to create connections in schools, workplaces and communities across Australia.
In the wake of ever increasing natural disasters and emergencies, RUOK? Has created the Mateship Manual, a downloadable manual packed full of information about how to support your friend, family member, neighbour or colleague in their time of need. With helpful hints on how to spot a friend in need of support and solutions to how to help throughout their journey, this is a fabulously practical resource.
Founded in 2006 by sisters Rosie and Lucy Thomas, Project Rockit was created to give young Aussies a voice and the opportunity to tackle the world of cyberbullying. Their mission is simple, empower students to lead the change with ‘kindness and respect thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice’.
Author: Project Rockit
Project Rockit's three-pronged approach is relatable to students in school. First, it gives students a chance to engage in positive narratives with their peers about navigating bullying in its many forms. They hold face-to-face and online workshops for schools that are run by their team of young professionals. In addition, It allows students to be an active part of the conversation about the problems they face online.
As well as this, PRTV is a dedicated channel that opens up about issues that are not always covered in school, such as toxic relationships, body image and how to use tech to support mental health. Now in its third season, the channel is free and available on their YouTube channel, PROJECT ROCKIT.
In the darkest depths of depression, it is hard to feel like anyone else has ever felt the way you are feeling. It can be difficult to battle through depression, especially if you do not have a good support network around you. In those tough times, social connection and face-to-face time can be vital to get you out the other side.
Then, the world goes into lockdown. All of your usual routines, getting up, getting out of the house, seeing your friends, it all goes out of the window. Suddenly, you are stuck indoors. And then your depression really hits home.
This is the illustrated story of Jack, an Australian student in Year Ten who experienced lockdown with severe depression. He takes us on his journey of depression during quarantine and shows us why it is so important to share how you are feeling with your family and friends so that they can be there to lend a helping hand when you are finding it hard to help yourself.
AUTHOR: Jewel Topsfield and Matt Davidson
If you want to learn more about Jack’s story, you can listen as he shares his story as part of the podcast series Enough.
Listener discretion is advised as the episode discusses self-harm, suicide and sexual assault.
Jillian is a highly accomplished Visual Arts teacher, working at Henry Lawson High School in Grenfall, NSW. In this role, Jillian has seen a dramatic increase in the need for well being initiatives for young people. Students today are growing up more and more under the scrutiny and judgement of social media. The unspoken pressure to live stream their every thought, action, and outfit; the need to keep up with latest trends; the changing political landscape which is having a more direct impact; the constant threat of climate change; it can be tough to be an adult navigating this world, let alone to do it as teenager. As a result of this, her school has replaced the existing position of ‘Boys and Girls Supervisors’ with a newly created ‘Well Being Supervisor’ role. Working alongside the school's student support officer, as part of the government’s new initiative, these jobs work together in supporting students. This initiative might mean connecting the students with external support when necessary or within the community to provide any help they need to navigate the pressures of modern life.
It is clear that Jillian is a passionate teacher who cares deeply about the students she works with. From the hours spent working with individual students to being part of initiatives such as The Archibull Prize.
You can see for yourself how much she connects with this work on an emotional level. This isn’t just a job to Jillian. It is a passion, a way to make a difference, to make a positive impact on the next generation. Over the years, she believes her work within the arts has helped to cultivate a safe and open space for students to express themselves and share their emotions. Jillian shares that for the past few years, students have naturally gravitated towards exploring issues around mental health, LGBTQI+ and other socially trending topics that affect them directly.
Jillian attributes a shift towards technology and social media as playing a large role in the impact on student mental health for the increasing need for well being initiatives such as has been created for Henry Lawson High. While social media is a wonderful tool for creating social connection and sharing ideas, it can also have a hugely damaging effect on the developing mind. A recent Australian Psychological Association (2017) survey found that teenagers can spend over 3.3 hours a day on social media. Logging on so frequently though has been linked with low self-esteem, with many teenagers feeling the pressure of constantly looking good. Poor body image, lack of content control, and always feeling the need to compete for likes can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. With these problems on the rise, students need a safe place to switch off and show their authentic selves, without judgement.
Freedom of expression and psychologically safe spaces, off screen, are exactly what Jillian loves to foster in her art classrooms and studios. Creating artwork, whether through visual, musical or written outlets can be a vital tool for improving positive mental health and well being. Yes, art can be a fun subject to study, but the benefits of the subject do not stop there. Jillian also believes that in Art, students are gaining constructive opportunities to problem solve, collaborate, create connections, and nurture friendships in a manner that social media does not support positively. The act of wrestling with these big concepts while creating their art allows students to build a wealth of skills and self expression, and Jillian is all too happy to facilitate that in her classroom.
Meet Dr Danila Marini (they/them), award-winning animal behaviour and welfare scientist. From a young age, they wanted to work with animals but were not sure where to begin, until a visit to an agricultural college opened their eyes to a future in animal science.
Danila studied at Urrbrae Agricultural High School in South Australia, winning the “Urrbrae Majorie Bowes Prize”, which is awarded to the highest achieving female in agriculture at the college. They went on to attend the University of Adelaide to complete a Bachelor of Animal Science, graduating with First-Class honours, before moving to Armidale, NSW in 2013 to continue their training and complete a PhD.
Their focused work ethic awarded them the Winner for the Career Professional category in LambEx 2018 Young Guns Competition, aimed at recognising the bright young minds in the Australian lamb industry. Now a successful researcher at the University of Adelaide, Danila enjoys asking questions, working with experiments and helping animals.
Part of the role is looking at how to relieve stress in livestock, so Danila is no stranger to the importance of good mental health and well-being, not only in the animal world, but in their own as well.
A self-professed proactive member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Danila identifies as non-binary and understands the impacts and challenges that an individual can face when struggling with finding their identify. When talking about their own experiences in high school, Danila thinks back on how their feelings of isolation and fear came from not having the language to identify themselves. They believe that a lot of their experiences in high school were trickier to navigate because they did not have the resources that younger generations have available to them today. However, Danila’s journey led them to identify as non-binary later down the road and attributes their resilience to be the key that helped them unlock this understanding.
When asked about the youth of today, Danila feels hopeful that students and young people have more awareness and that compassion and empathy towards individuals experiencing these feelings is improving all the time. They reflect on how uncertainty and misunderstanding can create fear which can be detrimental to progress, “It is easy to be afraid of something that you don't have an understanding of”. With knowledge, comes a greater understanding and, therefore, more empowerment.
So what can we learn from this vibrant and vocal voice of the future? That if we arm ourselves with education, if we are not afraid to ask questions and have open conversations with others, we can create a more understanding world for everyone to be accepted in.
If you identified with Danila's journey and would like some more information about understanding your feelings, here are some resources available in Australia designed to help you:
Jillian isn’t the only one to see the benefits of accessing the arts as a way to channel emotion. Being creative can be an excellent way to process tricky feelings, increase positive emotions and focus the mind, reducing stress and anxiety. Also, making art creates brain stimulation, which can help prevent conditions like dementia in later life.
Artists have expressed their feelings and used art to process and heal for centuries. As Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” When focusing on an activity, when you are able to tune out the noise and simply be in the moment creating something, you enter a state of flow that can help you lose track of time and quiet the mind.
Author: John Spencer
Taking part in activities that get you in the ‘Flow’ zone has lots of benefits, one of the most important being that you are making time for yourself and partaking in doing something fulfilling to you. There are lots of ways to get into the zone and get creative. Interested in trying something new but not sure how to get into it? You could try some of the following ideas:
Music is intrinsically linked to our moods. If you’ve had a bad day, popping on your favourite songs can really help to blast the blues away. And it isn't just your mental health that benefits from playing music.
So, how can you harness these fantastic benefits to work for you? The scope for where to start with music can be very broad. If you are interested in teaching yourself a new skill, YouTube has lots of great videos, from teaching yourself the basic chords of guitars and ukulele, to how to start off your music production career! There are also lots of apps out there that can help you learn new skills or hone existing ones. You could try:
If your passion is in making art in a different form, then getting into visual arts might be more your style. When you are doodling or painting, you are also unlocking creative stimuli in your brain that can help build problem solving skills and improve fine motor skills. Add to that the arts' ability to improve memory and help boost self-confidence and it is even harder to deny the multiple benefits of the visual arts realm.
Whether you enjoy doodling, have an eye for photography or enjoy painting and sculpting, there is a discipline out there for you, it's just a matter of finding it. If the plethora of YouTube ‘How tos’ isn't cutting it, try one of these:
Perhaps you aren’t musically inclined or can’t master the art of visual arts. That doesn’t mean you can't access the arts. Hobbies like knitting, woodwork and pottery can be just as creative and soothing. Whether you are scrapbooking, candle making or journaling, these hobbies all share something in common. The ability to help the crafter relax, unwind and enjoy the meditative characteristics of being creative. Not sure where to start? KMart and Spotlight are great places to collect supplies for numerous arts and crafts projects.
It's common knowledge that what we put into our bodies has a huge affect on our physical fitness, but did you know that eating certain foods can help to improve your mood as well?
AUTHOR: Ted Ed
If you want to help take a stand against climate change by changing the way you eat check out our Sustainable Development Goal 13 - Climate Action page.
Try including more of these foods on your plate each day to boost your mood.
There are lots of ways to get going and improve your physical fitness! Check out on some these ideas:
To overcome these barriers at any age, it’s important to identify small, repeatable slots of time in your diary to be physically active. Start small too: