One in five young Australians are likely to be experiencing mental illness, and less than 40% are comfortable seeking professional help, according to a new report released by Mission Australia in partnership with the Black Dog Institute.
The Youth Mental Health Report also found the rate of mental illness among young Australians aged 15-19 was much higher among females and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, while young people with a disability were also overrepresented.
The report surveyed around 15,000 young people across the country aged 15-19 using the widely accepted measure of non-specific psychological distress known as the Kessler 6, which consists of a six item scale that asks about experiences of anxiety and depressive symptoms over a period of four weeks.
The report compared young people who were classified as having a probable mental illness and those who were not.
Key findings include:
- 21% of young people surveyed were experiencing a probable mental illness
- Females were almost twice as likely as males to be experiencing mental illness – at 26% compared to 14%
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents were also more likely to be experiencing mental illness – at 32% compared to 21% for non-Aboriginal
- Over 60% of young people with a mental illness were not comfortable seeking information, advice or support from community agencies, online counselling and/or telephone hotlines
- Young people with mental illness were around five times more likely to express serious concerns about depression (57% compared to 11.5%) and suicide (35.3% compared to 6.8%)
- Young people experiencing mental distress were also more likely to be personally concerned about bullying/emotional abuse and family conflict, and were struggling with a higher number of concerns than young people who were not likely to be experiencing a mental health issue.
The Youth Mental Health Report provides a range of recommendations to address the issue:
- Targeting mental health in schools through awareness and early intervention programs
- Promoting peer education and support
- Reducing stigma that may prevent help-seeking behaviour in young people
- A whole of community focus on prevention and early intervention
- Use of online initiatives to improve access, appeal and affordability of mental health services
- Ensuring culturally appropriate service delivery, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse communities
- Building a better understanding of mental health issues among families and those working with young people
Authors: Ivancic, L., Perrens, B., Fildes, J., Perry, Y. and Christensen, H