Youth mental health organisation headspace has revealed alarming new data on the levels of psychological distress among young Australians.
Nearly one in three (32%) young Australians aged 12 to 25 are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress, triple the rate in 2007 (9%), according to the research.
The organisation announced the data at the start of this year’s Mental Health Week, running from October 7 to 13.
The headspace National Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey looks at the mental health and wellbeing of over 4,000 young people aged 12 to 25.
Rates of distress are significantly higher among young women (38% compared to 26% of young men), the research found.
Contributing factors can include women having a greater awareness of their emotional state, societal pressures to confirm to an idealised body image contributing to concerns with appearance and relationship issues with family, friends or partners, headspace said.
The research found 18-21 year olds are reporting the highest levels of distress with 38% compared to 20% of 12 to 14 year olds.
Victoria has the highest percentage of young people reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress at 35%, compared to 33% in Western Australia and South Australia, 31% in New South Wales and 29% in Queensland.
headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said the new data revealed “a startling and deeply concerning increase in the levels of psychological distress” currently being experienced by young people throughout Australia.
“The figures are too high to be ignored or not be taken as serious warning that the mental wellbeing of our future generation needs to be prioritised, nurtured and safeguarded,” he said.
The psychological distress was affecting young people of all ages, locations and backgrounds, Trethowan said.
“One of the most vulnerable times for young people to experience mental health issues is between 18 and 24 years of age,” he said.
“At this stage, young people face a unique set of life challenges: transitioning from school to study or the workforce, moving out of home and relationship break-ups, which can all make it hard for them to stay in a positive state of mind.
“We need to continue to invest in services for our young people, and help them build their mental health literacy from a young age.”
Inquiry into mental health in the workplace
Data released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that suicide in Australia is at a 10-year high, jumping from 2866 deaths in 2016 to 3128 people having died by suicide last year.
That’s a 9.1 per cent jump in suicide rates last year, increasing to 12.6 deaths in every 100,000 people in 2017 and overtaking the World Health Organisation’s global average of 10.6 in every 100,000.
On Sunday, the federal government announced a new Productivity Commission inquiry into the impact of mental health on the Australian economy and identify the ways workplaces can better support people living with mental health conditions.
The inquiry will provide recommendations to the government can improve mental health, as well as social and workforce participation and productivity.
“It’s focusing on the causes and the prevalence of mental health, the ability to recognise it, and help provide treatment, support, and recovery within the workplace,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
“We know that with 4 million Australians being affected by mental health conditions every year, the workplace can be an absolutely central point for identifying, for helping to provide support and for helping to provide recovery.”
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.