Mental Health is one of the top three issues facing young Australia

Young people have put the spotlight on mental health in a new survey, naming it as one of the top three issues facing Australia.

Mission Australia’s Youth Survey this year found concerns about mental health across the country have doubled since 2011. About 22,000 young people aged 15 to 19 took part in the survey and more than 20 per cent cited mental health as among their top national issues. Alcohol and drugs was cited as their top concern, followed by equity and discrimination.

Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans said concerns about mental health were at their highest level in the survey’s 15-year history.

“If young people are telling us that they think this is one of the top three concerns facing the nation, then we should sit up and pay attention and we should think about whether we’ve got the right responses in place,” she said.

“Let’s look at the issues that [we] are facing right across the country and put in programs that are going to support young people.”

Results ‘not surprising’ for many

The results did not surprise 19-year-old Savannah van der Veer, who has managed depression and obsessive compulsive disorder for more than a decade. “But I was really suffering and I didn’t really know how to talk about it and I didn’t really know that what was happening to me wasn’t normal.”

Miss van der Veer said she turned to her mother and counsellors for support. Youth mental health group batyr held more than 150 workshops in Australian high schools last year.

The program is facilitated by young people who have experienced mental health issues. “What our programs are designed to do is to make it OK to not be OK — to show young people that there are people out there like them who are suffering and going through tough times but that we can talk about it as a group,” chief executive Sam Refshauge said.

The sessions incorporate music and activities to shift negative stigma around mental health issues.

Teenagers at St Philip's Christian College, Gosford, take part in a program run by mental health group batyr.
Teenagers at St Philip’s Christian College, Gosford, take part in a program run by mental health group batyr.

Young men suffer in silence

According to the survey, young women were twice as likely to consider mental health a national concern.

Young men rated their third biggest concern as international relations, not mental health.

Lachlan Hodson, 16, said boys were less likely to talk about their mental health.

“Boys comparing themselves to women and seeing that women can sort of talk about these things — if [boys are] suffering these things they won’t particularly want to talk about them,” he said.

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