Counting the sad cost of bullying epidemic
LANAI SCARR CYBER-BULLYING of our kids is costing Australian taxpayers more than $30 million.
The bill for help from GPs or mental health professionals as a result of bullying online is revealed today as experts say the epidemic needs to be treated as seriously as the rise of HIV.
The Australian Medical Association says doctors are swamped by teens and youth suffering anxiety and depression.
Research by youth mental health service ReachOut has found 378,000 14 to 25-yearolds were bullied online in Australia last financial year.
Of those, 64,000 sought help from a mental health professional and 49,000 visited their GP.
Nearly 53,000 did not seek help for cyber-bullying at all.
On the basis of the Medicare rebate of $36.30 to patients for visits to the GP, and an $84.80 rebate for a psychologist visit, factoring in just one visit each, the cost to taxpayers was $7.3 million last year alone or $30 million over the four years of Budget estimates.
Doctors say the costings are conservative based on what they are seeing.
ReachOut CEO Ashley De Silva said cyber-bullying was a growing public health and safety issue for Australian families.
“The difficulty with cyberbullying is often there’s no escape for young people, with the bullies effectively having a key to every area of their life, including their home,” Mr De Silva said.
Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta – who has worked closely with Dolly Everett’s family in the wake of the teen’s suicide following her cyber-bullying – said addressing the health costs and impacts of cyber-bullying needed to be given the same level of seriousness as when Australia faced the rise of HIV.
“With the response to HIV we had a world-leading national plan that raised awareness and really changed behaviours,” Ms Podesta said.
“We can and need to do the same with cyber-bullying because this is a similarly serious public health issue.”
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said doctors were being swamped by kids coming to their GP with anxiety and depression as a result of cyberbullying.
He said the figure of $30 million was very conservative, given it would be likely patients would see their doctor more than once and a GP mental health plan included six subsidised visits.
“We do need to get serious about this. There are enormous gaps in the system,” Dr Bartone said.
Former Australian of the Year and founder of HeadSpace Patrick McGorry said if more resources were not directed to tackle cyber-bullying head on, rates of self-harm and suicide would climb among our youth.
“There is a sense that it is growing and the reality is at the moment, services that help our young people have huge waiting lists and are underresourced.”
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said it was “clear that cyber-bullying is costing taxpayers” however would not commit to any future policy direction on the issue. “The harm (cyber-bullying) has on innocent children simply can’t be quantified,” he said.
NO ESCAPE: With technology so prevalent nowadays, bullies have a key to all areas of life.