What young people want you to know about mental health

What young people want you to know about mental health

According to headspace over 50 per cent of young people aged 12–25 who identify as having a mental health problem are too embarrassed to ask for help or worry about what others think about them.   

With one in four young people at risk of developing a serious mental health condition before they turn 18, breaking down the barriers and stigma has never been more crucial.

So what is it that makes young people (and let’s face it, all of us) wary of reaching out? Is it the pressures of modern day living — the need to be ‘always on’ that keep the stigma alive? Is social media to blame? Are we putting too much emphasis on awareness but not enough on supporting people in knowing what help they can access? What will make it easier to talk about mental health the same way we would our physical fitness?

October 10 was World Mental Health Day, an initiative created by the world Federation for Mental Health to increase public awareness and acceptance of mental illness.  

The theme for World Mental Health Day this year was “do you see what I see?”. It provided an opportunity to think about how we can have more positive, constructive conversations about mental health, reduce the stigma and open up avenues to talk about and seek support for mental health.  

Here’s what 12 young Australians say when it comes to talking about mental health.

Laura, 25

To reduce the stigma about mental health, we need people in schools teaching children about these mental health issues and encouraging students to open up and talk about it, not hide from it and bottle it up. If we are exposed to these conversations earlier on in life, then we would be more likely to open up and seek the help we need without feeling shame or embarrassment.

Anjali, 23

Workforce and educational institutions need to normalise mental health and not make it seem like an issue only a minority deal with.

Lazerela, 20

In order for young people to share we need to have established a rapport or relationship with a person who gives us guidance. Create a safe and respectful space without any judgement or pressure.

Akshara, 22

We need more statistics and education on what mental health is and what it can be defined as. We need to shift our mindset and realise that mental health affects people on different measures and whether what is affecting you is considered “big” or “small”, you matter and reaching out is important.

Kasun, 22

We need to change people’s perspectives from a young age on mental health and portray it as a normal issue that everyone experiences in some form rather then making it out to be a disease of such.

Prakathesh, 24

I think good mental health practices start with the family and acceptance of it. Too many families, especially migrant families, don’t understand it still.

Saba, 22

Better education about the signs and potential contributing causes of poor mental health. If we have a more meaningful understanding, and recognise that others may also feel the same, we may be less inclined to feel that it is “abnormal” and seek support.

Gaja, 22

More awareness and open discussions of it (mental health) from a young age, through school so we can get used to terms like mental health.

Sheehan, 25

Schools, workplaces and other institutions should embrace mental health in the same way that people have accommodations made for physical health or family commitments. We should have an allowance for personal days so that days can be taken as a break when needed without staff having to explain why they need a day off.

Inthuja, 19

I think maybe educating school kids about mental health as a class…would be a good way to help reduce the stigma.

Anusha, 25

I think having more open conversations about it (mental health). I know it already happens a lot more than it used to but I think understanding how it fits into all facets of our lives like work and our relationships is important.

This month the Productivity Commission announced a new inquiry, which will review the $9 billion spent on mental health in the Australian economy. The aim is to see what improvements in the way our state and federal institutions support mental health can and need to be made. This review is an opportunity for our Government to stand up and include some of the most at risk people in this country in a conversation they are all too often excluded from.

If you feel comfortable with talking about mental illness, give it a try. It might not change the whole world, but it will show the young people around you that you’re open to having the conversation.

If you or someone you are close to are struggling with mental health, there’s always someone you can talk to. If you don’t feel like talking on the phone, there’s also online chat services available through these links:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service : 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

Headspace: 1800 650 890