One in five young Australians are dealing with a serious mental illness but more than 60 per cent feel uncomfortable seeking professional support, a new report from Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute has found.
The research shows young people who are experiencing the greatest distress are also the least willing to seek information or support from counselling services.
“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 chief executive Catherine Yeomans said.
“We know that many of our youth are struggling with complex issues, and it’s impacting on their ability to transition with confidence into adulthood.”
However, when it comes to use of mental health services, young men are least likely to seek professional help, according to the report.
Almost 15,000 young Australians aged between 15 and 19 responded to the survey which asked participants to answer questions about their experiences of depression and anxiety in the past four weeks.
Respondents were asked about their level of concern on 12 major issues including alcohol, drugs, bullying, depression, discrimination, family conflict and suicide.
The results show that coping with stress, school problems and body image are the primary issues of concern for young Australians.
Young people prefer to seek help online
The survey findings show most young people felt comfortable seeking support, information and advice from the internet.
The authors call for further development of online support programs, such as involving elements of interactive gaming, and telephone hotline services.
This comes after earlier revelations that increased numbers of young people are reaching out to the Kids Helpline, but as many as 156,000 calls went unanswered in 2013.
The Mission Australia report said online support offers greater accessibility for youth living in remote or rural Australia, where stigma associated with accessing mental health services can be worse than in metropolitan areas.
“This mode of delivery has a number of advantages including low cost and en masse delivery,” the report’s authors said.
The authors make a strong recommendation for policy development focussed on preventative measures.
“Early intervention and prevention, stigma reduction and mental health promotion are imperative, and it is necessary for schools to take action and play a central role,” they said.
“It is critical that there is early recognition and support for students struggling with mental health issues to assist them in remaining actively engaged and participating in schools to the extent that they are able to complete their education.”
Ms Yeomans says early intervention is a key area.
“We must invest in early intervention and support to ensure vulnerable youth get the assistance they need to work through these challenges and live happy and healthy lives,” she said.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 18 June 2014.