The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) report released this week found rising levels of high or very high psychological distress among those aged 18-24 and suicide rates among those aged 15-25.
The report compares data from Australia with other OECD countries and while the country is ranked among the best for smoking rates and life expectancy, it is among the worst for bullying by year 4 students, immunisation rates and the cost of childcare.
One of the areas of concern was rates of youth suicide, where Australia was ranked 23rd out of 37 countries.
The report noted that in 2014-15, among those aged 18-24, 15.4 per cent suffered high or very high psychological distress, up from 11.8 per cent in 2011.
Suicide rates among those aged 15-24 increased from 10.3 per 100,000 people in 2007 to 12.7 in 2016.
National Mental Health Commission chief executive officer Dr Peggy Brown has called for more investment in mental health for children from birth to 12 years old.
“Although we’ve seen significant and vital investment in adolescent mental health through Headspace, corresponding investment for children is slower,” Dr Brown said.
“Many issues which go on to develop into mental health problems in adolescence can be identified, prevented and managed if picked up earlier in childhood,” she said.
Dr Brown told ABC it was unclear what was causing the rising suicide rates.
“The simple answer is we don’t know,” she said.
But she believes many things are contributing including the growth of social media, cyber bullying, increased stress around school, getting a job, affording a home and body image.
“At the end of the day, suicide is about people who have lost hope and see no way forward,” she said.
The comments come as Australians grapple with reports of several high profile deaths including the suicide of 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett”, and an inquest last year into indigenous suicides in the Kimberley region including five children aged between 10 and 13 years old.
Dr Brown has called for a national approach to develop possible “childspaces” or wellbeing centres for vulnerable children that would integrate with other existing services.
“We know that 75 per cent of all cases of mental illness will occur by the time Australians reach 25 years old,” she said.
“When you’re young, the onset of mental illness disrupts every facet of your life — school, family, social life and job prospects — and your future potential.”
Dr Brown said there was about 560,000 young people in Australia, aged between four and 17 years old, who had a “clinically significant mental health problem”.
“Many of them are at increased risk for suicidal behaviour,” she said.
“Mental ill-health starts even younger. Experiences during the early years, including in utero, have lifelong effects on children’s later achievements, social adjustment, mental and physical health and life expectancy.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit its website.
This piece by ‘News.com.au’, 28 February 2018. was originally seen on