Immediate action needed as concerns around mental health rise by 10% in one year
The number of young people reporting concerns around mental health has risen by 10% in one year according to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2018 released today.
Four in ten (43%) young people identified mental health as the top issue facing Australia today – up from 33% in 2017 and doubling since 2016.
Mental health also entered the top three issues of personal concern in the annual survey which was completed by more than 28,000 young Australians. The top three personal concerns were coping with stress (43%), school or study problems (34%) and mental health (31%). In previous years, the third most cited item was body image (30%), which moved to the fourth spot in 2018. Each of the top four personal concerns have strong links to mental health.
CEO James Toomey said it was time we listened to young people’s clear and growing concerns around mental health and took immediate action to ensure all young people have access to the right supports.
We must acknowledge the positive effort both nationally and internationally that has raised the public awareness and, in part, reduced the stigma of mental health issues. We should acknowledge the effectiveness of these efforts in the increased identification of mental health as a personal and national concern in our results.
Yet, we do need to ensure that awareness is matched with adequate access to the right help when needed. Whatever a young person’s background or circumstances, we know that access to appropriate and timely support can make a real difference in their lives.
Unfortunately, we also know that help is not always there. The service system is difficult to navigate and the support offered can be patchy, especially outside of metro areas, and often not tailored to the needs of young people and their help-seeking preferences. This has to be tackled as a priority.
Moreover, we want to see investment in evidence-based programs that promote mental health and wellbeing in schools and holistic supports for young people that meet a range of needs during adolescence, including assistance with school or study problems and coping with stress.
Almost half of female respondents identified mental health as a national concern, while just over one third of male respondents reported this as an important issue in Australia.
While in 2017, alcohol and drugs was the most important issue in Australia according to young people in Victoria, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, mental health is now the top issue in every State and Territory for the first time.
The Youth Survey 2018 also shows that many young people reported feeling confident in their ability to achieve their study or work goals after finishing school. The top three plans for young people after they finish school were to go to university, get a job or plans to travel/gap year.
However, almost one in ten young people reported low levels of confidence.
Young people also highlighted challenges in their lives, with many expressing concern about moving out of home and finding work. For the first time in 2018, young people were asked whether they felt there were any barriers which may impact upon them moving out of home, with housing costs (70%), financial stability (63%) and availability of housing (42%) identified as the top three barriers. Double the proportion of females (1 in 4 females nationally) reported security/safety as a barrier to moving out of home.
Nearly four in ten young people surveyed identified that they felt there were barriers to them finding work (39%). Nationally, the top three barriers young people identified as impacting upon them finding work were school responsibilities, lack of skills or experience and lack of jobs (20%, 15% and 12% respectively).
More than twice the proportion of young people in regional areas than those in major cities felt that where you live was a barrier to finding work (13% compared to 6%). For many young people still studying, employment is important for financial reasons, as well as allowing them to gain important skills as they transition into adulthood.
Mr Toomey said, “It is great that so many young people in Australia are optimistic about achieving their aspirations after school, but more still needs to be done to address the barriers standing between young people and their goals.
“We must ensure that young people—regardless of their background, postcode, income, gender or sexuality—have access to education and training, safe and secure housing and support services. By expanding programs that work to support young people to engage with education and improve their career opportunities, particularly for vulnerable young people, we can give all young people the best chance to reach their full potential.”
The results of the Youth Survey are shared across Governments, NGOs and social commentators to inform the debate around the circumstances of young people in Australia and to support the development of policies, services and programs that have the needs of young people at their core.
Read the report