Early Intervention Needed To Reduce Youth Homelessness And Mental Illness
3 August 2017 at 7:30 am
Mission Australia has called for urgent action to address youth homelessness and youth mental illness following its annual survey that revealed the impact of family breakdown on young Australians.
Mission Australia’s Youth Mental Health and Homelessness Report found poor family functioning and serious mental illness were factors that impacted on the risks of homelessness for young Australians aged 15-19 years.
The report highlighted that young people with a probable serious mental illness were three and a half times more likely to have spent time away from their home because they felt they couldn’t go back and nearly twice as likely to have spent time away from home on six or more occasions compared to their peers.
Nearly half of all young people who said they had spent time away from home reported high levels of concern about family conflict.
“We must act early and address issues that lead to young people leaving home. We need to actively build strong family relationships, ensure schools are equipped to identify students who may be in need of support, as well as provide targeted support and early intervention when it’s needed,” Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said.
“When a young person has a safe and secure home, this provides a firm foundation from which they can grow and thrive. It allows them to build strong social relationships, and to study, learn a trade or embark on their chosen career.
“For many young people who feel they can’t go back home because of family conflict, violence or for other reasons, what starts as sporadic couch surfing can unfortunately turn into more entrenched homelessness,” Yeomans said.
“There are a range of evidence-based specialist services that can support young people experiencing homelessness to find their way, connect them to expert help including for mental illness, reconcile with family if that’s safe and possible, or if not, find supportive accommodation. But workers in these services are over-stretched and under-resourced and with greater investment, more young people could be supported.
“We urgently need more targeted and holistic early intervention services so we can adequately address the issues faced by young people before they become homeless, as well as increased investment in social and affordable housing and supported accommodation models for young people.”
Yeomans said the findings in the report were “incredibly concerning”.
“I strongly urge governments of all levels to commit to halving youth homelessness by 2020. Major investment in supporting youth mental health initiatives is of utmost importance to reduce the numbers of young people being pushed into homelessness,” she said.
“All young people deserve a safe home and we have the means to provide it. All that is needed is the political will and the commitment from us all as a community.
Mission Australia’s annual Youth Survey collects information on a broad range of issues, including levels of psychological distress in young people.
The report considered the 17,145 responses to the 2015 Youth Survey to determine the factors which may increase a young person’s vulnerability to homelessness.
Key findings of the report included:
- Those with a probable serious mental illness are three and a half times more likely to have spent time away from home than those without a probable serious mental illness (32.2 per cent versus 8.6 per cent);
- the likelihood that a young person would spend more occasions away from home increased if they had a probable serious mental illness. Of the young people who spent time away from home, nearly half (45.6 per cent) of those with a probable serious mental illness had done so on six or more occasions in their lifetime. In contrast, one third (33.3 per cent) of those without a probable serious mental illness who had spent time away from home had done so on six or more occasions;
- an alarming 57.7 per cent of those with a probable serious mental illness who rated their family functioning as poor had spent time away from home as compared to 37 per cent without a probable serious mental illness;
- of those with a probable serious mental illness females were more likely than males to not spend time away from home if they had a probable serious mental illness (1 in 5 compared to 1 in 10).
- compared to young people who had not spent time away from home, many more young people who had spent time away from home reported high levels of concern about family conflict (48.9 per cent), depression (46 per cent), coping with stress (58.6 per cent) or suicide (28.8 per cent).
“The link between homelessness and mental illness among young people works in both directions, as young people who are experiencing mental illness are at increased risk of homelessness, while those who are homeless are at increased risk of mental illness,” Yoemans said.