Australia: Mental Health Issues causing concern

Are young people of today more prone to mental health issues than their predecessors?

Statistics from the Youth Mental Health Report 2014 show that 21% of Australian adolescents aged 4-17 suffer from behavioural or mental health problems.

This is a dramatic increase from a report conducted in 2008 by the Australian Government Department of Health, in which that statistic was 14%.

It is no secret that school can be a very stressful environment for students.

Along with the social, academic and peer related pressure every teenager experiences, the additional stress of the inevitable life changes that come with the transition from a child to an adult are ever present.

The stress incurred by the combination of these factors alone is often enough to cause emotional instability and often mental health issues.

However there are other significant factors that are becoming more and more influential in the decline of mental health within schools.

These are drug and alcohol consumption.

There is a close relationship between substance use and abuse and mental disorders in people of all ages; however these habits are often established in adolescence or young adulthood.

While drugs and alcohol are often used by uninformed teenagers to combat mental health problems, a less known fact is that constant abuse of such substances may in fact increase the risk of developing certain disorders.

It is becoming increasingly more common for young people with substance abuse issues to have one or more mental health disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia and depression.

A survey conducted by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aging in 2009 examined substance use in Australian secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years.

The results of the survey showed that 80% had tried alcohol, 14% had used cannabis, and 19% had used inhalants at some time in their lives.

This is due in part to the development of our society, through the expansion of technology.

The advancement of technology has caused a breakdown of the routine balance that was once clearly established in a student’s life.

social media disconnect with humanity

social media disconnect with humanity

A separation between time spent at school and time spent at home used to be a natural occurrence; home was a space to escape the pressures and unwind, relax and refuel, however this sanctuary has been all but eliminated through the invasion of social media into our personal lives.

Students have lost the time out they did not even know they wanted or needed.

Constantly stuck in the social bubble, pressure has become inescapable.

The two predominant forms of school related pressure that often influence teenagers to utilise substances such as drugs and alcohol are social or peer pressure, and academic pressure.

The first acts on the need to fit in, the second on the desire to create opportunities for a successful academic career.

One program that has been developed by schools throughout Australia in an attempt to fight the growing mental health problems our nation is facing is the Social and Emotional Learning model.

The Social and Emotional Learning program was developed through extensive research into the causes and effects of mental illness and aims to help students develop an understanding of mental health and help them develop the tools to control and manage their emotions and promote a positive self-image.


Young Mental Health Report, June, 2014
Mission Australia
National Mental Health Report, 2008
Australian Government Department of Health
Survey, Sep 2009
Australian Government Department of Health
Social and Emotional wellbeing handbook, 2013
Australian Government Department of Health

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