New national issue
Mental health tops list of greatest concern for young Australians
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.’’