The key findings of the Youth Mental Health Report, jointly authored by the Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia are depressing in themselves. The report surveyed 15,000 young Australians aged between 15 and 19. It found that one in five young people are likely to be experiencing mental illness, but only 40 per cent would consider seeking help. And those who are worst off are the least willing to seek professional support. Females were almost twice as likely (26 per cent) as males (14 per cent) to be struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute said:
“We need to teach appropriate mental health strategies and awareness in schools, just like we teach English, maths and science. We also need to provide quality support and advice via channels that they are comfortable approaching. Finally, the community as a whole needs to acknowledge this problem and start the right conversations.”
Access the report at MissionAustralia.com.au
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The news from the Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia is not news, really. Just a sad confirmation that many young Australians are not leading a happy and productive life. Instead they are fighting an enemy in their own head – one which tells them everyday that they are a loser and will never overcome their challenges. And for every 15-19 year old struggling with mental health issues, there are many more concerned family members and friends who are also affected by their depression and anxiety. So what can, or should, we do?
Firstly, we need to talk. The stigma surrounding mental health remains one of the major stumbling blocks in addressing the issues and clearing the way for young people to feel that they can reach out for help. Yet this is a difficult taboo to break when the person concerned does not want their issues known. Impossible, you might say. But over time, as a society, we are slowly learning. More and more people are starting to share their own experiences and this is so brave, and so beneficial to those who are hiding their problems for fear of being judged. So those who can should speak out loudly and encourage the rest of us, to share our stories as well, when the time is right. Easier said than done? Yes. But so very important, particularly in breaking the isolation which can be such a pernicious aspect of mental ill health.
Secondly, we need to become better informed about mental health and what family and friends can do to help those in need. Australians are fortunate to have excellent non-profit organisations with great resources, both online and in print. The more we know, the better we can help those who need it. So let’s start the conversation now. September 11 is RUOK? Day – but don’t wait until then to ask someone nearby how they are going – you just may save a life.
What about you? Have you suffered from mental ill health? Or do you know someone who is currently fighting this battle? How can we help more people – particularly our young ones – to seek early intervention and beat the monster in their mind?