INGE HANSEN AND JODIE DEAN
A joint report by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute revealed young women are at a higher risk of mental illness than young men.
An annual survey, conducted by Mission Australia, found one in five young people aged 15-17 have a level of psychological distress which indicates a probable mental illness.
Young females were identified as being almost twice as likely as young men to have a mental illness with 26.5 percent of females and 13.5 percent of men at risk.
In the three year period between 2012 and 2014, the prevalence of mental illness among young people increased from 18.2 percent to 20 percent.
State Director of Mission Australia, Darren Young said these results are more than concerning and must not be dismissed as being normal teenage stress.
“Being that age [15-17] has a lot of great times but they [adolescents] have also got a lot of stresses that will occur,” he said.
“But I think for us, it’s really validating that it’s not just the usual angst that you’d experience in your teenage years.”
Counsellor and psychiatrist at Thrive by Design, Prue Blackmore said the increase in mental health issues in adolescents can be attributed to a number of factors.
“We’ve got dietary factors, we’ve got the natural hormonal realities of adolescents, and the developmental urge to get away from their parents who are not letting go,” she said.
“The tension between them [parents and teenagers] is rising.”
She said adolescents feel increasing pressure in everyday life with busy schedules reducing the amount of time to themselves.
“The constant flowing doesn’t allow for rest and rehabilitation and recuperation,” she said.
Mr Young said although mental illness may be higher in young women, young men have a higher suicide rate and there are still questions surrounding why this is the case.
“Young men suicide more than young women and we also know that suicide’s the leading cause of death in young men in Australia,” he said.
“Young women may have a better understanding of that [mental illness] or a better awareness and young men don’t or they express it in a different way, we really don’t know.”
Mr Young said tackling the stigma around mental health and increasing education are some of the best ways to respond to the issue.
“Specifically in schools there can be a lot of work done around encouraging the peers to be talking to each other about the signs and symptoms of mental illness so that can be identified early and support can be provided before there’s much more negative effects,” he said.
“If we can start addressing these things at that early age and as these issues start to arise, they don’t have that sort of long lasting impact where people start to withdraw socially or turn to excessive drug and alcohol down the track.”
If you or anyone you know is in need of help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14