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Youth mental illness a call for concern

16 January 2018

In 2017, more than 24,000 young people responded to the call out from Mission Australia to gain perspective on what they value, their dreams and ambitions; what they’re worried about in the context of their own lives and from a country-wide perspective. And the results are alarming.

Mission Australia's 2017 Youth Survey – the country's largest online annual ‘check in’ with teenagers aged between 15 and 19 – found that for the first time in the survey’s 16-year history, mental health overtook alcohol and drugs as the key national concern for Australian youth. Data shows that concerns about the impact of mental illness have doubled since 2015 and tripled since 2011 – young Australians are more affected by mental health and mental illness than ever before.

Concerned kids, scary stats

Mental health features heavily throughout the report, with topics like coping with stress, body image and depression frequently surfacing. Mental health was among the top three barriers that respondents believed stood in the way of them achieving their study or career goals when they finished school.

Data shows that concerns about the impact of mental illness has doubled since 2015 and tripled since 2011

And, when comparing gender, more than double the number of female respondents cited mental health issues as a barrier to post-school success, with one 15-year-old girl suggesting a need for "better school counselling and less stressful workload in the senior school years of high school.”

Mental health support more acceptable and available

Last year was a big year for developments in mental health. The world’s largest-ever study into the genetics of depression was launched in Australia, with coverage via youth radio station Triple J (on the airwaves and via their website) reaching a record number of youth participants. Professor Nick Martin from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute spoke to Triple J’s youth program, Hack, about the need for improved testing and treatments to take the “guesswork” out of treatment to improve outcomes.

Another study Hack reported on found that mental health smartphone apps are able to “significantly” reduce depression. Participants with a range of symptoms including depression, bipolar disorder, insomnia and anxiety detailed feeling greater power in managing their conditions themselves as a result of app usage.

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey believes the overwhelming response to the 2017 Youth Survey, and the prevalence of reported mental health concerns, may point to a “destigmatisation” of mental health issues. Regardless of whether it’s clever ad placement for apps, segments on youth radio or genuine hardship placing mental health as top-of-mind for young people, the 2017 report results do, as Toomey says, ‘reinforce a clear need for a broad range of support options for youth dealing with mental illness’.

A need for skilled mental health professionals

When a 15-year-old boy from Victoria is telling Mission Australia he needs more opportunities to have conversations about his mental health with people he already feels comfortable talking with – like his teachers, family and medical professionals – it’s important to listen. I

f you’re already working as an allied health professional, a Master of Mental Health with SCU Online is the perfect way to add a specialisation to your arsenal against mental health disorders and mental health issues in Australia, particularly in young people.

Improve your career outlook and the mental health outcomes for Australia’s youth in one bold move.

Speak to one of our expert Student Enrolment Advisors today on 1300 589 882.