NSW Mental Health Commissioner has taken a swipe at the federal government’s youth welfare plans, as a report shows 1 in 5 youths suffer mental illness.
The NSW Mental Health commissioner has taken a swipe at planned federal changes to youth welfare, after a Mission Australia report showed one in five young people are dealing with mental illness.
John Feneley was speaking at the launch of Mission Australia and The Black Dog Institute’s 2014 Mental Health Youth Report – a study of 15 to 19-year-olds across the country that found 21 per cent of the 15,000 surveyed were battling a probable mental illness.
As part of its May budget the federal government announced people under the age of 30 would face a six-month wait for unemployment benefits and must work for the dole.
But Mr Feneley says the plan potentially abandons young people at a key transition point in mental health development, leaving school.
“When we have policies that somehow suggest that people can survive for six months of the year without any support, because miraculously some family in the background will take care of them – it’s just nonsense,” Mr Feneley said on Wednesday.
“It is really telling that we would do this at a time when we’re trying to raise awareness of those transition points.”
He said for many young people, conflict at home means they cannot turn to family for help.
The report also found girls are nearly twice as likely to suffer from mental illness.
It also found more than 60 per cent of young people experiencing mental illness feel uncomfortable getting professional help.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and young people with a disability were also more likely to be experiencing mental illness.
However, less than 40 per cent felt comfortable seeking information, advice or support from community agencies, online counselling or telephone hotlines.
“The confronting findings in this report illustrate the significant challenges many of our young people are facing when it comes to psychological distress and mental health issues,” Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said in a statement on Wednesday.
Ms Yeomans said early intervention and support is critical to help those vulnerable.
The Youth Mental Health Report was based on a survey that asked respondents to answer questions about their experiences of anxiety and depressive symptoms over a period of four weeks.
This article first appeared on ‘SBS’ on 18 June 2014.