Psychological Distress Higher in Young Women - NFP Report
22 October 2015 at 11:13 am
A joint report released by Not for Profits, Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute shows an increase in the prevalence of probable mental illness among young females.
The Youth Survey Mental Health Report 2015 collected information on a broad range of issues, including levels of psychological distress in young people.
The survey found that one in five young people aged 15 to 17 had a level of psychological distress that indicates a probable mental illness.
It also found that young females were almost twice as likely to have a probable mental illness than young males (26.5 per cent of females, compared to 13.9 per cent of males), and the prevalence of probable mental illness among young people increased between 2012 to 2014 from 18.2 per cent to 20 per cent.
The prevalence among young males has stayed relatively stable over the three years.
“It’s concerning that these findings show such an increase over the three year study period, with a marked increase for young women,” Mission Australia CEO, Catherine Yeomans, said.
“This is consistent with other research across Western countries and is something we urge the Federal Government to consider when announcing their mental health reform plan by the end of the year.
“We know adolescence can be a difficult time for many young people. But this isn’t the typical teenage angst; we are talking about serious mental illness. Mental health disorders have a terrible impact on wellbeing as well as impaired academic achievement, low social participation and increased risk of substance abuse.
“All of which have serious knock on effects on social and economic participation and quality of life in the future.”
The report found that the three issues that young people were most likely to be “very” or “extremely” concerned about were coping with stress, school and study, and body image.
Although this was the case for young people in general, young people with a probable mental illness were much more likely to be “very” or “extremely” concerned about these issues than young people without a mental illness.
They were also more likely to be “very” or “extremely” concerned about depression. Young people with a probable mental illness said that they would be most comfortable seeking help from friends, the internet, parents and relatives or family friends.
“Given these findings, it is essential that effective mental health interventions and services are available to all young people, whether living in capital cities or more remote areas. There’s also an important role for parents and educational professionals to support young people to access the services that are available,” Black Dog Institute Director, Professor Helen Christensen, said.
Christensen emphasised the need for accessible and evidence-based solutions that are tailored to young people.
“Research clearly shows that prevention and early intervention programs can have a significant impact on the likelihood of a young person going on to develop a serious and debilitating mental illness,” she said.
“We strongly believe that evidence-based intervention programs should be implemented in all high schools to reduce rates of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as tackling stigma, improving mental health literacy and encouraging help seeking.
“One clear avenue for immediate action is the use of technology to deliver these programs. With nearly all young Australians having access to the internet, we need to start delivering these programs using the tools they are most comfortable with – their mobile phones, tablets and computers.
“These programs and delivery platforms are already available, they just need to be legislated and funded.”