Young Australians witnessing a decline in mental health
9 October 2019 at 2:35 pm
Nearly two thirds of young Australians believe the mental health of young people is getting worse, according to new research.
Data published by headspace on Wednesday found 62 per cent of young Australians believed the mental health of young people was in decline, with 37 per cent nominating social media as a major reason for this.
Released to coincide with headspace day, the research also found that one third (32 per cent) of young people in Australia were experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress.
This follows research from Mission Australia in 2018 that found the number of young people believing mental health was the top issue facing Australia today had almost tripled in three years.
Jason Trethowan, the CEO of headspace, said while there were many factors contributing to the state of a young person’s mental health, it was clear social media was placing greater pressure on people.
“A young person’s real-world persona and online persona are so intertwined these days so for example, if they’re being vulnerable online or sharing something personal and not getting the reaction they were hoping for, it can be really upsetting,” Trethowan said.
“There’s also exposure to things like cyberbullying and this ability to draw comparisons between your own life and that of your peers, perhaps making young people feel like what they’re doing isn’t stacking up.”
Trethowan said these platforms were designed to keep young people online, which made it important to educate Australians on the dangers of social media overuse.
“There are only so many hours in the day and if time spent online is taking away from things that offer balance and a healthy mind frame, that’s where we run into problems,” he said.
After social media, expectations from family, school, and community (18 per cent), work or study pressure (16 per cent), and political, social, and environmental issues (8 per cent) were identified as the main reasons for the decline in mental health.
On Wednesday, headspace also announced actress and transgender activist, Georgie Stone, as an ambassador for the charity.
Stone said she was proud to be working with headspace, and wanted to remind other young people that help was available when things got tough.
“One in four young people will experience a mental health issue,” Stone said.
“I want to tell other young people that they’re not alone, even if what you’re going through feels really isolating, there are people you can connect with and talk to, and self-care strategies you can try to help yourself through hard times.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with mental health, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or headspace on 1800 650 890.