New na­tional is­sue

Men­tal health tops list of greatest con­cern for young Aus­tralians

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Pa­trick Tansey

For the first time, drugs, al­co­hol, dis­crim­i­na­tion and/or equal­ity are not the greatest con­cern for young Aus­tralians. Men­tal health now tops the list. Men­tal Health has been ranked the num­ber one is­sue of na­tional con­cern for young peo­ple in ev­ery state.

The 17th Mis­sion Aus­tralia sur­vey, which cov­ers 15 to 19-yearolds, polled a record 28 000 teenagers.

The re­sults showed for Vic­to­rian youth, men­tal health was the num­ber one is­sue of na­tional con­cern, ris­ing 13.4 per cent from third last year.

Four in 10 young Vic­to­ri­ans iden­ti­fied men­tal health as the top is­sue.

Twelve months ago, the sur­vey locked in al­co­hol and drugs as the most im­por­tant is­sue, rep­re­sent­ing a seis­mic shift in the thoughts of young peo­ple be­ing able to de­tect/ or feel com­fort­able re­port­ing a men­tal health is­sue.

Co­bram Com­mu­nity House gen­er­al­ist coun­sel­lor Tricia lliff said from the small sam­ple size of youth she had seen in the past few months since start­ing, the de­sire of that age de­mo­graphic to re­port a men­tal health is­sue had not been as com­mon as recorded in the sur­vey.

‘‘To be hon­est, nowhere near enough are will­ing to come for­ward,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m not ex­actly sure why but I don’t be­lieve it’s re­lated to Co­bram specif­i­cally, I think it’s an Aus­tralia-wide phe­nom­e­non where young peo­ple are loathed to come for­ward and ad­mit there’s a prob­lem.’’

The coun­sel­lor said it was not sur­pris­ing to see men­tal health move beyond al­co­hol and drugs as the big­gest is­sue of con­cern.

‘‘I think al­co­hol and drugs are of­ten an at­tempt to self-med­i­cate men­tal health is­sues or feel­ings of pain,’’ she said.

Ms lliff said it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to answer why young peo­ple were so sus­cep­ti­ble to men­tal health is­sues.

‘‘It’s a re­ally re­ally com­plex prob­lem, but hon­estly I be­lieve there is quite a bit of trauma in lots of kids’ lives and some­times they just don’t have a place where they can calm down so they stay quite edgy and by the time they get to high school, life has be­come quite dif­fi­cult for them.’’

Ms lliff en­cour­aged peo­ple of all ages who were strug­gling to use the Com­mu­nity House ser­vice.

‘‘I’m at Com­mu­nity House two days per week, from 9 am to 11 am Mon­days and 10 am to noon Tues­days. It’s a small win­dow, but it’s still a win­dow for peo­ple to take ad­van­tage of,’’ she said.

Co­bram District Health chief ex­ec­u­tive Jacque Phillips said men­tal health is­sues in ru­ral Vic­to­ria were prom­i­nent for many reasons, but there were av­enues for peo­ple who wanted help.

‘‘Ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties see a high level of men­tal health is­sues and work with health, com­mu­nity and ed­u­ca­tion providers to im­prove ac­cess to men­tal health care,’’ she said.

‘‘Co­bram District Health pro­vides psy­cho­log­i­cal ser­vices in a part­ner­ship with Nu­murkah District Health Ser­vice. ‘‘A re­fer­ral from GP is needed to ac­cess this ser­vice. A vis­it­ing psy­chi­a­trist goes to med­i­cal clinic and there are also Tele­health op­tions avail­able.’’

Ms Phillips said de­spite chal­lenges in the men­tal health space, im­prove­ments were be­ing made within the com­mu­nity.

‘‘There has been im­prove­ments in how the sec­tors, both pub­lic and pri­vate, work to­gether to ad­dress and help youth with men­tal health is­sues,’’ she said.

‘‘A range of com­mu­nity health and well-be­ing pro­grams plus work­shops to im­prove aware­ness and knowl­edge is an im­por­tant step in our lo­cal com­mu­nity.

‘‘It takes a range of ap­proaches to en­gage young peo­ple in ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­grams to sup­port men­tal health.’’

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