Young people living in regional and remote Australia are being let down by a lack of support services to tackle their mental health needs.
Mission Australia and ReachOut recently released a report titled Lifting the weight: understanding young people’s mental health and service needs in regional and remote Australia.
The report found almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness according to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016.
While the findings showed the prevalence of mental health disorders is similar for people living in and outside of a major city, research has shown the risk of suicide rises as distance from a major city increases. This indicates that young people living in regional and remote areas may be exposed to a unique set of structural, economic and social factors that result in poorer mental health outcomes.
I continue to be concerned by the number of young people who raise mental health as an issue in Mission Australia’s annual Youth Survey. So much occurs during the teenage years – the demands of schoolwork, the growing importance of friendships, financial pressures, getting a job – it must be overwhelming at times and those feelings can spiral out of control. This is especially true for the young people that Mission Australia work with, who often face additional challenges such as home and family instability or issues such as substance addiction.
Mental health concerns know no geographical or cultural boundaries; however, the provision of services does. Our research shows that young people in regional and remote communities struggle to access the same level of support services as young people in urban areas.
We also know from our report, that young people tend to turn to their friends and family for support, so we need to make sure we’re providing parents, carers, teachers and counsellors with the appropriate skills and support to help.
We need further investment in mental health and wellbeing programs in regional and remote areas for early years’ schooling, and holistic supports for young people across a range of needs during adolescence, including school or study problems. These services must also be welcoming to all young people, recognising the unique barriers and issues faced by males and females and different cultural groups.
On a positive note, young people appear to be very aware of mental health issues and are asking for change. Our duty as a community is to support them and provide the services they need in order to flourish into adulthood.