In Australia, national surveys confirm that many of our young people are struggling. “Young people are faced with unique challenges and stressors which are changing all the time,” explains integrative psychologist Leanne Hall. “They need to work hard to keep up, and the pressure to belong and be accepted is partially determined by a changing social ideal, for example, ‘skinny is out, fit is in’ or ‘hipster is out, boho is in’.”
“Suicide is the biggest killer of young people and while it isn’t yet clear that rates of depression, anxiety and body image problems are on the rise necessarily, we are certainly seeing a bigger toll from such conditions.”
Sadly, statistics show that mental health issues are prevalent across many age groups. One in 16 Australians are currently experiencing depression and one in nine are experiencing high or very high psychological distress.
The good news, however, is that according to beyondblue, the rate at which we’re getting help is quickly increasing, with around half of all people with a mental health condition now getting treatment.
“We’ve come a long way here – it’s so much more accepted than it used to be,” Hall says. “We still have a way to go though, partly because it’s invisible and carries negative stigma. Especially in relation to social discourses around masculinity – for example the belief that ‘it’s weak to show emotion if you’re a guy’.”
One sign of progress is the growing awareness of the need to increase funding for mental health awareness and treatment, and rethink how funds are allocated. In 2017 the Australian Government dedicated $4 billion to national mental health reform, part of which resulted in the creation of a digital gateway for people struggling with mental health, as well as carers and health professionals, called Head to Health. And the 2018/19 budget included an investment of $338 million for suicide prevention, mental health research and mental health issues in older people.
Bupa has responded to the need for mental health support by providing services focused on wellness and recovery, using an evidence-based approach.
“We are broadening the range and choice of services and supports which are funded for people who are affected by mental illness through the design and development of more community based mental health services that more holistically meet the individual needs of our members,” says Kelly Johnstone, Bupa’s Strategic Projects and Mental Health Partnerships Liaison.
Bupa is also a partner of Kids Helpline, supporting ‘Kids Helpline @ School Wellbeing’, an early intervention and prevention program that covers topics like bullying, resilience, and mental health and safety to help set children up for a happy and emotionally healthy life.
As Hall suggests, one barrier to people getting help and making progress in their recovery is the shame around mental health conditions. A survey in the UK found nearly nine out of 10 people with mental health problems said shame and judgement have a negative effect on their lives. Hall says talking about mental health is the best way to make it more accepted.
“We need to have open and regular communication,” Hall says. “Parents need to openly have discussions with their kids, and schools need to be more proactive in teaching kids how to value their mental health and practice self-care,” she says, citing the need to reduce pressure on kids sitting exams as an example.
She adds, “We also need to focus on building resilience – through empowering young people to validate their emotions and teaching coping skills.”
ABC News. #FOMO leading to higher levels of depression, anxiety for heavy social media users [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: www.abc.net.au
Beyondblue. Stats and facts [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
Beyondblue. Statistics [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: www.beyondblue.org.au
Beyondblue. A digital one-stop shop for better mental health [Online] 2017 [Accessed Sep 2018] Available from: www.beyondblue.org.au
Furber, G. Flinders University. Social media and young people’s mental health [Online] 2017 [Accessed Sep 2018] Available from: https://blogs.flinders.edu.au/
Harvey SB, Deady M, Wang Min-Jung, et al. Is the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Australia? Evidence from national health surveys and administrative data, 2001–2014. Med J Aust. 2017;206(11):490-3.
Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, et al. Australian Government. Department of Health. The mental health of children and adolescents: Report on the second Australian child and adolescent survey of mental health and wellbeing [Online] 2015 [Accessed Sep 2018] Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/
Mental Health Australia. 2018-19 federal budget summary [Online] 2018 [Accessed Sep 2018] Available from: https://mhaustralia.org/
Mental Health Foundation (UK). Stigma and discrimination [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: www.mentalhealth.org.uk
World Federation for Mental Health. World Mental Health Day 2018 – World Federation for Mental Health [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: https://wfmh.global/
World Federation for Mental Health. World Mental Health Day history – World Federation for Mental Health [Online, accessed Sep 2018] Available from: https://wfmh.global/
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