A joint mental health report produced by Mission Australia and Black Dog Institute has made a series of recommendations that should be adopted if Australia is to make any headway in tackling this crisis. In this blog, I have highlighted the top three recommendations from this report, which should prove invaluable in efforts to tackle mental health crises in youth.
1.Schools should provide evidence-based universal mental health prevention and intervention programs for young people.
The report has found that schools are identifying an increase in reported levels of anxiety and stress- related mental health issues amongst their students. Whilst many schools have already taken strides to integrate evidence-based programs into their classrooms, the concern remains that a national and consistent approach is lacking and therefore, failing to reach every student consistently.
A pioneering initiative from beyondblue, headspace and Early Childhood Australia hopes to change that. With $73 million being invested by the Federal Government, this initiative aims to educate primary and secondary students, teachers and adults in child related services on the signs and symptoms of mental distress to support early identification and facilitate preventative intervention when merited.
2.Technology that provides an alternative to face-to face service delivery should be supported and invested in to meet the mental health needs of young people.
It has been found that young people with a mental illness are more likely to turn to thethe internetand online services for help. With many services on offer and a growing number of mental health apps available to young people, they provide greater accessibility, cost-effectiveness and overcome barriers of social stigmas – and can represent a less confronting alternative for young people when they want to explore what help is available.
3. Friends and family need to be equipped to provide support to young people when they seek help in relation to their mental health.
While programs for teaching preventative social and emotional skills are important,
equally as crucial are the support systems that are in place or provided for young people. One thing that schools often struggle with is parental engagement.
Here are some evidence-based approaches that are being implemented in high schools:
- The Australian Sources of Strength program, led by Dr Alison Calear, is a peer led initiative that is being implemented in NSW and the ACT. It aims to change help-seeking norms and improve youth-adult communication.
- In Victoria, a pilot Positive Partner Action Research program is being run in Loyola College. The program has been effective in reducing anxiety among students through building peer relationships.
“Young people are our future. We owe it to them to follow the recommendations of this report and set them on a path to mentally healthier lives,” Professor Helen Christensen Director, Black Dog Institute
You can read the full recommendations of the report here
To learn more about this topic, attend our national Mental Health & Wellbeing in Schools Conference in Melbourne held in October.