Mission Australia, in collaboration with the Black Dog Institute, has undertaken a nationwide study into youth mental health and as reported in the Brisbane Times, it backs up what those affected by youth mental health issues have been saying for some time. The numbers of young people with serious mental health issues continues to increase. And, especially troubling, so does their reluctance to seek help.
The report focuses on the period between 2012 (when the cut-backs by the previous Queensland government began that included the closure of the only long-term inpatient facility) and 2017, so that now 21.9 per cent of young Queenslanders meet the criteria for having a probable serious mental illness – “up from 18.6 per cent in 2012”.
On the release of the report, Mission Australia’s Queensland state director Darren Young said the number of young Queenslanders facing serious mental illness was “alarming“.
“The effects of mental illness at such a young age can be debilitating and incredibly harmful to an individual’s quality of life, academic achievement, and social participation both in the short term and long term,” he said.
Brisbane Times, 19 April 2017
The nationwide study also clearly states that:
“ …young people with a probable serious mental illness report higher levels of personal concern across a wide range of issues, meaning that services and supports need to be cognisant of the complexity of worries and concerns young people are experiencing. Services need to be able to support and skill young people to deal with these issues or to provide referrals when needed (as it may be beyond the scope of any one particular service to support young people with the diverse range of concerns noted) and help them navigate an often complex service system.”
This emphasises the values in the current Queensland government response to the recommendations from the Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry. Young people and carers with lived experience MUST be part of a co-design team to create that full range of services needed to meet the needs of severe and complex youth mental health issues and a depth of understanding of these issues must be developed across the community – particularly in areas where young might seek help.
The Mission Australia study reports that:
“Young people with a probable serious mental illness have consistently reported that the top three sources they would go to for help with important issues in their lives are friends, parents and the internet.”
But even the statistics indicate that there are declines in seeking help from these preferred sources.
The would tend to indicate that any public rhetoric about the reduction in stigma is purely that – rhetoric – and, although positive publicity campaigns are a good starting point, more actions must be taken and/or attitudes changed at all levels for young people to have confidence in and/or knowledge of available support/services, particularly as the range of these expands to meet all needs.