When asked the question “do young people get enough mental health education in Australia?” the immediate answer that comes to mind is an aggravated “No, no they do not”.
It begins with a lack of understanding about the importance of mental health. The importance of being mentally healthy should be seen on the same level as being physically healthy, but it isn’t. Not only this, but there is an innate problem in our society, particularly in the age of social media, that leads many in the younger generation to believe that they have to be happy all of the time. This creates a stigma against speaking about emotions or seeking help when you’re feeling down. This stigma can only end through educating the younger generation on how to be mentally healthy, understanding the brain and creating proper coping mechanisms during formative years at a young age.
It is important to acknowledge that in comparison to other countries in the world, Australia’s initiatives regarding the mental health care of their youth is impressive. Mental wellbeing is on the back burner for many countries around the world, and in this sense Australians are lucky. This being said, with all of the resources and opportunities that Australians are provided with, mental health should not be a prevelant issue. Yet, data from the 2014 Mission Australia Youth Survery showed that 1 in 5 of young people aged 15-19 met the criteria for “probable serious” mental health disorders and furthermore, 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment.
Australians are facing a mental health epidemic.
A survey of 600 principals and teachers orchestrated by mental health charity Beyondblue found that while almost 100% of them considered mental health to be as important as academic achievement, 22% did not believe it was their responsibility to address it and 47% did not have the time to achieve positive mental health outcomes. These figures are quite staggering. As a collective we have agreed that mental health is important, but it is swept to the side as if that agreement was not even made in the first place. The statistics are starting to create a healthy level of anxiety, especially the ones posted by the Australian Mental Health Party:
- 1 in 4 young Australians currently has a mental health condition.
- Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians, accounting for deaths of more young people than car accidents.
- Half of all the lifetime cases of mental health disorders start by age 14.
The ways to turn the tide on these shocking trends is through educating the younger generations early. Mental health classes must be integrated into primary and high school curriculums, at the bare minimum of once a week. Many schools in Victoria have a handful of meditation and wellbeing sessions every few months, but the lack of consistency in these sessions does not inspire change and confidence among the students; I found this in my own experience. Not only this, but there must be trained psychologists readily available for students. Many schools have guidance counsellors but their involvement with students isn’t promoted heavily and they are not well trained enough to understand that there must be a relationship created between the student, to gain trust to then slowly change their mindframe; this too I learnt from my own experience.
That being said there are helpful initiatives available to those who look, such as the Medicare 2006 “Better Access to Healthcare Initiative” which offers 6 free sessions with a psychologist following a referral by a GP – learn more about the initiative here.
Furthermore Beyondblue offers a variety of mental health care on their website, including 24 hour phone service and if you would like to stay anonymous, chat lines with a trained counsellor, just to name a few services. Learn more about Beyondblue here.
Mental illnesses come in many forms and levels of severity. There are many problems to consider, each requiring time and patience to solve. Our initiatives and in-school schemes show we have resources for our benefit, and show that we are lucky. Yet the issue is bigger than that – it is a problem as a society that we are ignoring, yet are all silently suffering in together. We must end the stigma and that begins by speaking openly, which we must do consistently.