Australia’s youth mental illness rate continuing to rise

Young man sitting on a floo with hands on head. Plenty of copy space

The number of Australians exhibiting symptoms of a serious psychological issue between the age of 15 to 19 has risen by 4.1 per cent in six years, according to new Mission Australia data.

Speaking with the Adelaide Advertiser [July 15, 2017], Catherine Yeomans, Mission Australia CEO, said the outcome of the analysis was concerning.

“We’re talking about an alarming number of young people facing serious mental illness, often in silence.”

In the past decade, awareness campaigns and an increasingly growing momentum aiming to break the stigma against mental illness, have attempted to pave the way for young people to seek help earlier. However, tragically suicide still remains the primary cause of death for young Aussies, according to Beyond Blue.

Dr Daniel Hermens, psychologist and researcher at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, explained the level of mental illness among the 15 to 25 age group is continuing to rise.

Dr Hermens, among other experts, indicated a multitude of stressors are behind the concerning trend of rising youth mental illness.

“It’s the pressures we see in society — cost of living, world affairs … a fall in socialisation that’s ironically driven by social media. It’s new or different types of stress. And substance abuse remains an issue,” Dr Hermens said.

Social media, and a significant online presence in general, were identified as potential factors in youth mental illness.

“Teens see Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook as part of their identity. They compare themselves to peers online, but they’re seeing a false version of others.

“While they’re very social online, I think young people are having less actual contact with people in many ways,” said Dr Hermens.

“Socialisation is a really key issue in youth mental health so people who are starting to become isolated in any way are going to be at risk.”

Australian schools are proactively attempting to reduce the rise in mental illness through early intervention. A Mental Health of Children and Adolescents report from the University of Western Australia, conducted in 2014, concluded that in 40 per cent of cases, a school staff member was the first point of contact to suggest a young person seek help for mental health issues.

Despite its role as a potential stressor, the internet can contain resources to further assist young people. Support services, such as Beyond Blue, have an extensive digital armoury to help those battling mental illness.

If you require mental health advice or support, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, or visit https://www.beyondblue.org.au/