Mental health along with alcohol and drugs are the major concerns of youth in Central West NSW, a new survey reveals.
About 200 youth in the region have taken part in the 16th and 2017 Mission Australia Youth Survey.
They are among a record 24,055 Australians aged 15 to 19 years to take part in this year’s survey, including 7208 in NSW.
Nationally, mental health topped the list of issues of “national concern” for the first time in the survey’s history.
In NSW, about four in 10 respondents identified mental health as a national concern while more than three in 10 respondents identified alcohol and drugs as an important issue in Australia today. The survey found young people in regional areas identified alcohol and drugs as a top issue of national concern in much higher rates than young people in major cities.
The top issues of national concern in the Central West were equally mental health, and alcohol and drugs. Many of the issues of “personal concern” reported by young people in the region were related to their own mental health, including coping with stress, body image and depression. Mental health was identified as one of the major barriers to achieving work or study goals after school.
In response to the survey, Mission Australia’s area manager for Western NSW Luke Butcher said important work was happening to destigmatise mental health issues.“It is significant that young people are becoming more aware of the impacts mental illness can have on their lives and those around them,” he said.
“However, the fact that mental health has climbed to become a top national concern for young people reinforces that much more needs to be done. Young people need a coordinated, comprehensive and cohesive national response to ensure they can access the right mental health supports when they need them. It makes sense to invest in universal mental health programs in schools, as well as community-based mental health services, and to design services with young people to ensure they are youth friendly.”
Mr Butcher said the survey showed young people were reaching out for support. “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,” he said.