Young people living in regional and remote Australia are being let down by a lack of support services to tackle their mental health needs, a new report released by ReachOut and Mission Australia revealed today.

Lifting the weight: understanding young people’s mental health and service needs in regional and remote Australia, tells the story of young people in regional and remote areas and their mental health and service needs.

Almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness according to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016.

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 rises as distance from a major city increases. 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.

Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said: “Mental health concerns know no geographical or cultural boundaries; however, the provision of services does. Our research shows that young people in regional and remote communities struggle to access the same level of support services as young people in urban areas.

“We know that young people turn to their friends and family for support, so we need to provide parents, carers, teachers, counsellors and sporting coaches with the appropriate skills and support to help.

“Pleasingly, young people appear to be very aware of mental health issues and are asking for change. Our duty is to support them and provide the services they need in order to flourish into adulthood. This is especially true for the young people we work with, who often face additional challenges such as home and family instability or issues such as substance addiction.”

ReachOut’s CEO Jono Nicholas said: “We know that mental health is one of the top concerns for all young people.

“Our research shows that while many young people in regional and remote Australia value their lifestyle and like where they live, having enough money, study stress and pressure and planning for the future weigh heavily on their minds.

“Young people noted that they face many barriers to accessing services – such as embarrassment, fear, a preference for self-reliance, transport and cost, amongst others.

“Access to appropriate and timely support can make a real difference in young people’s lives, and we need to harness the potential of digital technologies to deliver the services and supports young people want, when and where they need them.

“Further, investment in evidence-based mental health and wellbeing programs delivered through schools can help equip and support young people to deal with worries and stresses, and if needed, get additional support.”

The report is based on data from the 8,267 young people aged 15-19 residing in regional and remote areas who participated in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016 between April and August 2016, and quantitative and qualitative data produced by ReachOut with the support of Future Generation Global Investment Company.

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