The report shows that almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness. Evidence also suggests that young people in regional and remote Australia are often being let down by a lack of support services to tackle their mental health needs.
While the prevalence of mental health disorders is similar for people living in and outside of a major city, research has shown the risk of suicide increases with remoteness. This indicates that young people living in regional and remote areas may be exposed to a unique set of structural, economic and social factors that result in poorer mental health outcomes.
The report is based on research conducted by ReachOut Australia and Mission Australia on young people living in regional and remote Australia, with a goal to create a better understanding of young people’s lives, including the benefits and challenges of living in regional and remote areas, the mental health of young people living in these areas, and their service needs. These insights have the potential to improve mental health service design, resulting in better mental health outcomes and a reduction in youth suicide.
Lifting the weight includes a number of recommendations on the need for a whole-of-community approach to address the mental health needs of young people living in regional and remote Australia, including:
- promote the co-design of services with young people, and re-orient services to meet young people's needs
- empower parents, guardians and peers to provide appropriate support to young people experiencing mental health difficulties
- invest in programs that promote mental health and wellbeing in the early years
- fund and support schools to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people through evidence-based programs
- equip communities and gatekeepers to support the mental health of young people
- utilise the potential of Primary Health Networks to deliver better mental health outcomes for young people
- harness the potential of digital technologies to improve service availability and accessibility, and to train and resource those who play a key role in helping and supporting young people
- improve financial supports and offer programs that help young people to transition from education to work, or through different types and levels of education, so that those living in regional and remote areas can achieve their educational, employment and career goals.