For the first time since it launched 16 years ago, the Mission Australia’s 2017 Youth Survey found that mental health is the biggest issue for young people in Australia. A record 24,055 young people aged 15 to 19 years old completed the survey and about one-third of the participants identified mental health as their biggest concern. This has more than doubled since the survey in 2015 where 14.9% of participants said mental health was their top concern.
The mental health concerns related to personal issues such as coping with stress, body image and depression. The study also found that young people identified mental health as a major barrier to achieving work or study goals for. Mental health ranked as one of the highest barriers to achieving post-school goals, as identified by young Australians, behind only academic ability and financial difficulty.
Mission Australia’s CEO, James Toomey said: “The fact that mental health has climbed to become the top national concern for young people reinforces much more needs to be done. Young people need a coordinated, comprehensive and cohesive national response to ensure they can access the right mental health supports when they need them.”
Mr Toomey said it makes sense to invest in universal mental health programs in schools and community-based mental health services that are youth friendly because friends and family members also need to know how to navigate the variety of information and services that are available
“To give young people the best opportunity for their future, we need to ensure they have access to education and training, secure housing and support services, regardless of where they live or their family income,” he said.
Alcohol and drugs (32.0%) and equity and discrimination (27.3%) were also identified as the top concerns, after mental health, for young Australians. Young people living in regional areas identified alcohol and drugs as a top concern in much higher rates than young people in major cities (36.9% compared with 29.5%, respectively.)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people also continue to face greater challenges with drugs, bullying, personal safety and discrimination.
Mr Toomey said: “We have a duty to support all young people to reach their potential and we are calling for a long-term commitment to addressing the concerns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have identified.”
Mission Australia shares the results of the Youth Survey each year to help inform the development of policies, services and programs that address the needs of young people.
By Cindee Duong