MENTAL health is the major worry for one in three young Australians, with the number of people concerned about it doubling in the last two years.
That’s according to Mission Australia’s latest Youth Survey which takes into account views of more than 24,000 people aged 15-19 from around the country.
Of those surveyed, 33.7 per cent cited mental heath as the top issue of national concern, rising from 14.9 per cent in 2015. This was followed by 32 per cent of people worried about alcohol and drugs and 27.3 per cent concerned about equity and discrimination.
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said it shows much more needs to be done when it comes to protecting young people’s mental state.
“This report tells us that many young people facing challenges reach out to friends and family for support,” he said.
“I can tell you from experience that family members and friends need to know how to navigate the bewildering variety of services and information sources that are available, and be provided with targeted information about mental health first aid and other practical supports that exist.”
Coping with stress, body image and depression were the main worries for teens, who also identified mental health as a key barrier to achieving their goals, along with academic ability and financial difficulty.
While 40 per cent of young people said they would feel either “extremely” or “very” confident about doing what they wanted, the number of those feeling “not at all” or only “slightly” confident had nearly doubled since 2015, from 10.4 per cent to 19.1 per cent.
One 18-year-old male student from Tasmania said his “biggest stress” was paying rent having moved out of home.
“Centrelink has helped a bit but getting a job was extremely hard as I had very little experience and was 18. I have now got a casual cleaning job at my church which helps but the availability of jobs to uni students, especially new ones, I think is something that should be a lot better than it is,” he said.
A 19-year-old woman from Western Australia said her main concern was that Australia acknowledges the fact “mental health is a huge issue and do something about it”.
Far from the stereotype of selfie-obsessed millennials, Mr Toomey said the results show young people are engaged with the broader social issues that will impact their lives.
“As our future leaders, it’s important that they are given a voice and opportunities to engage with decisions that will affect their lives,” he said.
“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.”
The survey also showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face greater challenges than their peers with higher levels of personal worry about drugs, bullying, personal safety and discrimination.
But despite added challenges, they had a similar confidence in achieving post-school goals.