The number of children seeking help for mental health problems has doubled since 1998, according to a landmark national survey.
The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents survey was commissioned by the previous government in 2012, with over 6,300 eligible households participating, including 3,000 young people aged four to 17.
The survey — the first of its kind in Australia — showed a third of young people with mental health disorders used support services in 1998, in comparison to two-thirds now.
It has been described as a wake-up call for parents, with depression rates nearly doubling when the children provided the information themselves, as opposed to their parents.
The survey also backs up the findings of the National Mental Health Commission’s review, which makes recommendations about the need for greater early intervention and improving program outcomes and evaluation, not just investment in programs alone.
The Government’s expert reference group is currently developing an implementation plan for the Commission’s recommendations, which is due back October 2015.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the group would engage with the mental health sector to “deliver meaningful long-term reform”.
“The whole of the mental health sector has a role to play as we move through this process together to ensure Australian mental health patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time,” Ms Ley said.
“One of the key reasons fragmentation occurs in the mental health system is because of the complicated interactions between all levels of government.
“In the coming months, I will be working closely with my state and territory government colleagues to develop a new National Mental Health Plan.”
The survey showed one in seven children had experienced a mental health disorder in the past year, the equivalent of 560,000 youth.
Despite the rise of community awareness, acceptance of mental health and willingness to both help and seek treatment, the report still had alarming statistics about depression, suicide, and self-harm behaviour amongst young people.
One in 10 teenagers aged 12 to 17 indicated they had engaged in some form of self-harming behaviour, with three-quarters of those doing so in the 12 months leading up to the survey.
One in five teenaged girls aged 16 to 17 were found to meet the clinical criteria for depression based on their own report, while one-quarter of the girls reported deliberately injuring themselves at some point in their lives.
One in 13 12- to 17-year-olds had seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12 months leading up to the survey.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 7 August 2015.