The number of children seeking help for mental health problems has doubled since 1998, according to the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents survey.
The survey was commissioned by the previous government in 2012, with over 6,300 eligible households participating, including 3,000 young people aged four to 17.
The survey found rates of depression in 11-17 year olds nearly doubled (4.7 per cent to 7.7 per cent) when the young people filled out the survey themselves, as opposed to their parents.
Youth mental health foundation Headspace CEO Chris Tanti said while many of the statistics in the report are alarming, it will hopefully urge parents to become more vigilant about noticing changes in their child’s mood or behaviour.
‘Parents are key in helping young people to get support, particularly mothers of young men, so knowing the signs and symptoms something might be wrong and then how to get help is vital,’ Mr Tanti said.
Mr Tanti said there are too many young people struggling with some very complex issues and the report highlights urgent action is needed in a number of areas.
‘The mental health system needs to be further simplified to make it as easy and seamless as possible for young people and their parents to get the type of help they need. One of the ways of doing this is making sure services are well advertised, accessible and delivered face-to-face, online and in schools.
‘Given the overwhelming amount of services being provided by school counsellors, Headspace will continue our work in schools to ensure our services are even better integrated and that teachers have the tools they need to identify students at risk.’
‘There is also a clear need for children under 12 years old to have access to a comprehensive primary care mental health service.’
A recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that the majority of the young people who received support from Headspace centres showed improvement over time.
Sixty per cent of the young people showed significant change, including reducing their psychological distress and/or improving their psychosocial functioning.
Other findings of the new government research include:
• One in 10 teenagers (12-17 years) indicated they had engaged in some form of self-harming behaviour.
• One in seven children and young people (equivalent of 560,000) experienced a mental health disorder in the last year.
• Males more likely than females to have experienced a mental health issue (16.3 per cent / 11.5 per cent).
• Self-harm in teenagers was found to be around twice as high in females as it was in males.
• Stigma and poor awareness of mental health issues were identified as the main issues for teenagers 13-17 with major depressive disorder not seeking help.