Just half of Canberrans’ attempts to contact youth mental health service Kids Helpline were successful last year as demand grows for time and resource-intensive online counselling.
The organisation’s annual Insights Report found ACT response rates had dropped from 61 per cent in 2015 to 51 per cent in 2017.
Demand increased 27 per cent in the same period.
Yourtown strategy and research head John Dalgleish said resourcing issues contributed to the Kids Helpline response rates, with 70 per cent of the service’s funding linked to its own fundraising efforts.
Children and teenagers’ concerns were increasingly complex, he said, requiring more time and effort to be spent on individual cases. As well, an increasing number of young people were contacting the service for web-based support, with web chat and email contacts rising 66 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.
“It takes on average about twice as long to provide a counselling service to a child through tech as it is through phone,” Mr Dalgleish said.
“Children and young people tend to prefer to engage in counselling increasingly through online means, so for us to remain relevant we need to provide that service, but the implication of doing that is it takes more of our resources from our base.”
Children of a culturally and linguistically diverse background made up more than half of the ACT’s successful attempts to contact Kids Helpline.
More male, intersex, transgender and gender diverse children and teenagers sought support from the service in 2017 than 2015, which corresponded with a slight decrease in female contacts.
Almost half of answered contacts from Canberra children and teenagers related to mental health concerns or emotional wellbeing. Seventeen per cent related to family relationship issues and 13 per cent were suicide-related concerns.
The vast majority of ACT contacts were from Canberrans aged 13 to 25.
Overall, 6915 of Australian children and teenagers’ 339,724 attempts to contact Kids Helpline came from Canberra.
The Annual Insights report showed the number of 10 to 14 year olds seeking support from throughout Australia more than doubled from 2011 to 2017.
The dramatic increase prompted Yourtown and Kids Helpline chief executive Tracy Adams to call on Australians to do more to support young people.
“While not just one solution is needed to address this multi-faceted issue, a good start is ensuring that the community works together to create early prevention services that are accessible to those who are most at risk,” she said.
“With many in the 10 to 14 age group too young to access community-based services such as Headspace, we need to ensure we create access to early intervention services that directly target and support younger children who may be experiencing adverse emotional wellbeing at this critical age of development.”
Support is available by phoning Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978 or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.