- Written by Nik Babovic
- Published: 13 Oct 2017
Youth Mental Health & Mental Illness Disorders
More Australian teenagers are in severe psychological distress than five years ago despite growing awareness and initiatives aimed at tackling mental illness, a new report shows. The alarming statistics, released in a report by Mission Australia, show almost a quarter of teens surveyed meet the criteria for probable serious mental illness, with girls twice as likely as boys to be affected.
Nearly 1 in 4 Australian teenagers meet criteria for having a ‘probable serious mental illness’. Mission Australia’s Chief Executive Catherine Yeomans stated “The effects of mental illness at such a young age can be debilitating and incredibly harmful to an individual’s quality of life, academic achievement and social participation both in the short term and long term”.
Their main concerns are coping with stress, school and study problems, coping with depression and anxiety and body image.
A youth mental health disorder (or condition) is when the thinking, mood or behaviour difficulties a young person experiences are persistent, severe and have a negative impact on their capacity to function at home, at school or among friends and peers. In diagnosing a mental health disorder, health professionals typically look at groupings of symptoms. For example, if a young person is having a prolonged period of being sad or down and experiencing little interest or pleasure in things they would normally enjoy, a mental health professional (after considering other symptoms or behaviours) may diagnose a young person as having ‘clinical depression’. The main purpose of the diagnosis is to enable them to make informed recommendations to the young person (and their parents or caregivers) about what support or treatment may be useful.
The Mission Australia report revealed that teenagers were increasingly turning to the internet to help them deal with their troubles. This might signal that we have a way to go to reduce the stigma of mental health issues, because young people are not prepared to admit they have a problem, so they’re looking for the anonymity of researching on the internet to try and seek help.
What we need is to make sure that when young people go to the internet they actually find evidence-based, self-help tools and ways to refer to help and get the support they need. Above that, Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute are calling for specially funded, mental health programs in all Australian high schools.A recommended program to understand youth mental health issues, recognise the signs and symptoms and understand how to support someone is Youth Mental Health First Aid. If people know what to look for and what to do we can stop the old way of keeping mental health behind closed doors, like we should be ashamed to feel bad. We shouldn’t!
Tina Winchester1300 943 438 firstname.lastname@example.org Sources: Mission Australia Black Dog Institute