Youth worker says mental health is a complex issue
A MAJOR report into mental health has revealed almost 14% of Australians aged between four and 17 have experienced a mental health disorder in the past year.
But the findings from the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents report has been met with mixed emotions from youth support worker and teacher Vicki Savage, who believed there was an issue among young people of "self-diagnosing".
"They'll often decide themselves they've got anxiety or depression and not have even seen a doctor," she said.
Ms Savage also had other doubts about the mental health report, stating it "didn't explain what the home life was like of these 112,000 who experience depression".
"Out of the 560,000 who experienced mental health issues, how many use illegal drugs and how many have been put on medication from GPs as a quick fix?" she asked.
Ms Savage, who is also the co-ordinator of the Western Downs Youth Hub, said her personal experiences of supporting young people had taught her the main cause for mental health problems was often from children's home lives.
"In my experience the majority, not all, but the main cause for concern starts in the home," she said.
"An unstable home has been one of the biggest causes of young folks' mental health issues."
Of the percentage of children and adolescents who had expericed a mental health disorder were 278,000 young people who had suffered from an anxiety disorder and 112,000 who had experienced depression.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist from beyondblue Professor Brett McDermott said the report showed one-fifth of adolescents had high levels of psychological distress and one in 13 had seriously considered suicide in the past year.
"Major societal transformation since the last survey [was conducted in 1998] means young people are busier than ever and exposed to pressures and risks unimaginable 17years ago," Prof McDermott said.
Ms Savage agreed young people today were under enormous stress from an overload of expectations, such as the "pressure to be or look a certain way from external [forces] such as media, social media, TV andmagazines".
"We live in a very complex world, where our young folk are exposed to more media in one day than their great-grandpa would have seen in his lifetime," she said.
"I've sat by bedsides of young people in hospitals after attempted suicide.
"I've sat with parents who are worried out of their minds about their kids and their thoughts of suicide or not wanting to be alive."
Ms Savage believed mental health among children and adolescents was a huge and enormously complex problem but needed to be tackled by the community as a whole in order to remove the stigma attached to mental illness and the mistaken belief that talking about personal problems and feelings is somehow a fault or weakness.
"The community needs to love and support all our kids," she said.
"Listen to each other and don't be afraid to ask the hard questions to your young people around you.
"It's a tough life to live with folks with mental health issues.
"If you see a young person's mood and demeanour change, speakup."
The Youth Hub is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am-5pm.
Lifeline: 13 11 14