Young women are almost twice as likely to have a mental illness than young men, a new report says.
The Federal Government is being urged to consider the report before it hands down its response to a national mental health review at the end of the year.
The joint report from the Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia said 15 to 17-year-olds were experiencing increasing levels of psychological distress.
One in five had levels of psychological distress that indicated a mental illness.
The report found young women were nearly twice as likely to suffer from mental illness as young men, at 26.5 per cent for females compared to 13.9 per cent for males.
Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeoman said mental health problems were worsening for women, but young men were more likely to commit suicide each year.
“We know from other research that there are several factors which young women are dealing with that are shown to impact more on them than young men,” she said.
“It’s not surprising to see the top three issues that young women are most likely to be either very or extremely concerned about were coping with stress, school and study, and body image.”
Domestic violence victims likely to experience mental illness
According to the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House (ADFVC), women who report violence are likely to experience mental illness over the course of their lifetime.
Chelsea Cam, 20, grew up in a household where domestic violence was ubiquitous.
She was kicked out of home when she was 16 and was in and out of youth services, couch-surfing and in share houses in the intervening years.
“I was physically abused from a young age and have always had issues with trusting people and with building relationships because of the fear that people are going to hurt me,” she said.
Ms Cam has recently undertaken counselling sessions and said she had been depressed for a long time.
She said the counselling had only started “scraping the surface” of her distress.
“It’s kind of affected me throughout life because I haven’t really had somewhere to go and talk about it,” Ms Cam said.
According to the ADFVC, a study on Australian women who experienced gender-based violence found 77 per cent experienced anxiety disorders, 52 per cent had mood disorders and 47 per cent said they had issues with substance abuse.
The study also found 56 per cent experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and 35 per cent had attempted suicide.
“We also know from other research that children witnessing growing up in a household where family and domestic violence occurs is very traumatic for young children and young people going through adolescence as well,” Ms Yeoman said.
“They may be experiencing some of that violence themselves, at the very least they’re witnessing it and they’re extremely traumatic [events to witness].”
In a statement, the Black Dog Institute said it was calling for intervention programs to be implemented in high schools, saying technology should be used to deliver the programs on platforms such as smart phones and tablets to access students.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 21 October 2015.