Mental health now the top concern for young people in NSW: Mission Australia

DRIVING MENTAL HEALTH: Lachlan Butler (left) with Georgie Buckmaster and Casey Owen in launching 'Project Reshape' in April 2017. Photo: Supplied
DRIVING MENTAL HEALTH: Lachlan Butler (left) with Georgie Buckmaster and Casey Owen in launching 'Project Reshape' in April 2017. Photo: Supplied

Lachlan Butler, president of the Yass Rotaract Club said that while progress had been made towards helping youth mental health, the latest Mission Australia youth survey shows that more can be done.

Major research undertaken by Mission Australia has found that for the first time mental health is the number one issue of concern for young people in NSW and across the nation.

A record 24,055 young people aged 15–19 years of age, including 7208 young people in NSW, took part in the 2017 survey, .

Nationally and in NSW, mental health topped the list of issues of national concern for the first time in the survey’s history, with around four in 10 young people from NSW (38 per cent) identifying it as a national concern.

More than three in 10 young people from NSW identified alcohol and drugs (31.9 pc) and around a quarter of NSW’s young people identified equity and discrimination (26 pc) as important issues in Australia today.

Notably, many of the top issues of personal concern reported by young people in NSW are related to their own mental health, including coping with stress and body image and depression.

“A coordinated effort between our community mental health services, and the state and federal governments will be important for future mental health initiatives,” Mr Butler said.

He along with other members of the Rotaract and Interact clubs launched ‘Project Reshape’ in early 2017 to address the importance of mental health in Yass Valley.

“The Yass Rotary family will continue to support this important issue and is looking forward to further developing the Project ReShape mental health initiative,” he said.

Mental health was also identified as one of the major barriers to achieving work or study goals after school.

Coping with stress was the top issue of personal concern for young people from NSW, with almost half of respondents indicating that they were either extremely concerned (21.9 pc) or very concerned (26.7 pc) about this issue.

“Mission Australia’s state director Ben Carblis said “important work is already happening to destigmatise mental health issues here in NSW and across Australia and it is significant that young people are becoming more aware of the impacts mental illness can have on their lives and those around them.

“However, the fact that mental health has climbed to become the top national concern for young people in our state reinforces that 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 Carblis said.

Consistent with the NSW rankings, the national results for the Youth Survey 2017 found that after mental health (33.7 pc), alcohol and drugs (32 pc) and equity and discrimination (27.3 pc) were identified as the most important issues in Australia today.

Young people in regional areas identified alcohol and drugs as a top issue of national concern in much higher rates than young people in major cities (36.9 pc compared with 29.5 pc).

Mr Carblis said the results show that young people are recognising the broader social issues that will impact on themselves and their peers.

“Young people continue to tell us that they are concerned about alcohol and drug use in their communities.

“We urgently need to address the underlying causes of substance misuse to minimise negative impacts on young people, and provide prevention and early intervention programs where they are most needed,” he said.

Mr Carblis said that Mission Australia shares the results of the Youth Survey each year to inform the development of policies, services and programs that have the needs of young people at their core.

“If we better understand the hopes, fears and everyday realities that young people face, we will be better equipped to celebrate their achievements with them, support them through difficult times and help them realise their aspirations as they make their journey into adulthood and independence,” Mr Carblis said.