High Rate of Mental Illness in Young People - Report
18 June 2014 at 12:02 pm
One in five young Australians are likely to be experiencing mental illness, and less than 40 per cent are comfortable seeking professional help, according to a new Mission Australia report released in partnership with the Black Dog Institute.
The Youth Mental Health Report, which was launched by the NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley, also found the rate of mental illness among young Australians aged 15-19 was much higher among females and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, while young people with a disability were also overrepresented.
Mission Australia Chief Executive Officer Catherine Yeomans said the findings highlighted the increasing vulnerability of Australian youth, and the need for greater support to help them on their journey into adulthood.
“The confronting findings in this report illustrate the significant challenges many of our young people are facing when it comes to psychological distress and mental health issues,” Yeomans said.
“As a leading provider of services and supports for thousands of vulnerable young Australians, we know that many of our youth are struggling with complex issues, and it’s impacting on their ability to transition with confidence into adulthood.
“This report makes it clear that Australian youth – particularly those facing significant disadvantage – need more support, not less. We must invest in early intervention and support to ensure vulnerable youth get the assistance they need to work through these challenges and live happy and healthy lives.”
The report surveyed about 15,000 young people across the country aged 15-19 and compared young people who were classified as having a probable mental illness and those who were not.
Key findings include:
21 per cent of young people surveyed were experiencing a probable mental illness;
Females were almost twice as likely as males to be experiencing mental illness – at 26 per cent compared to 14 per cent;
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents were also more likely to be experiencing mental illness – at 32 per cent compared to 21 per cent for non-Aboriginal;
Over 60 per cent of young people with a mental illness were not comfortable seeking information, advice or support from community agencies, online counselling and/or telephone hotlines;
Young people with mental illness were around five times more likely to express serious concerns about depression (57 per cent compared to 11.5 per cent ) and suicide (35.3 per cent compared to 6.8 per cent);
Young people experiencing mental distress were also more likely to be personally concerned about bullying/emotional abuse and family conflict, and were struggling with a higher number of concerns than young people who were not likely to be experiencing a mental health issue.
Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute, said these results were sobering yet not unexpected.
“We know that Australian young people are struggling, but as our recommendations show, we also know how many of these issues can be addressed,” she said.
“We need to teach appropriate mental health strategies and awareness in schools, just like we teach English, maths and science. We also need to provide quality support and advice via channels that they are comfortable approaching.
“Finally, the community as a whole needs to acknowledge this problem and start the right conversations.”
The Youth Mental Health Report makes a range of recommendations:
Targeting mental health in schools through awareness and early intervention programs;
Promoting peer education and support;
Reducing stigma that may prevent help-seeking behaviour in young people;
A whole of community focus on prevention and early intervention;
Use of online initiatives to improve access, appeal and affordability of mental health services;
Ensuring culturally appropriate service delivery, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
Building a better understanding of mental health issues among families and those working with young people.
Download the report: Youth mental health report – June 2014