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Youth and mental health

Mental health is part of everybody's life. It's as much a part of your overall health as physical health.

Being young can be tough – there is so much to learn and a lot of change particularly around the transition to independent adulthood. 

Adolescence is also a time when signs and symptoms of mental health issues may start to appear.

While it is normal for young people to feel sad, stressed, angry or anxious at times, when these feelings last longer and impact on day to day life, this is when extra help and support may be needed. 

There are a range of conditions and experiences, and degrees of how serious a mental health issue might be. Everyone’s experiences are different.

If or when you seek help, it's important to find the right service and way to manage your mental illness for you as an individual.

Prevention and early intervention are especially important for children and young people to prevent or delay the development of mental health issues. Acute care is also there if you need it.

Is mental illness common in young people?

Most young people don't have a mental illness, but it is relatively common. According to the 2015 national Young Minds Matter survey:

  • Almost one in seven (13.9%) 4 to 17 year olds were assessed as having mental disorders in the previous 12 months.
  • ADHD was the most common mental disorder in children and adolescents (7.4%), followed by anxiety disorders (6.9%), major depressive disorder (2.8%), and conduct disorder (2.1%).
  • Most had a mild disorder, but about one in 50 children and adolescents had a severe disorder.

What can I do as a parent or friend to help someone?

Our key advice for young people, and their parents and carers is:

  • Ensure you have the basic things in life – shelter, food, a safe environment are all important, as is learning the tools to navigate life – the basic things are important to mental health.
  • Encourage healthy habits - have a daily routine and be active in things you enjoy and regularly participate in
  • Listen and validate feelings and encourage self-expression
  • When it comes to the news or difficult topics, use factual information – if you're a parent, deliver it in an age appropriate way and switch off the news if you need to.
  • Encourage connection with friends and family
  • Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms and seek help if you need it.
  • Make sure your child or young person has a voice in their recovery
  • Support other families – they might need help too

How do I encourage my teenager to engage with a support service?

  • Listen to them first
  • Acknowledge what they’re going through
  • Support them in taking action
  • Refer them to a professional.

More info can be found in the Helping Someone in Distress document.

There is also information in the reachout.com 'what to do when someone doesn’t want help’ document.

What kind of supports or assistance are available for youth?

In a life threatening emergency, call 000 or get to your nearest Emergency Department.

  • You can find information and education via Think Mental Health, school programs, beyondblue, reachout.com and many other providers.
  • For non urgent advice, visit your GP. Other providers include headspace and Youth Focus.
  • Helplines provide on the spot advice and support for young people and parents.
  • Live chat and online forums can provide support to you remotely and help you to engage with others going through the same thing.
  • Clinical care – via community mental health services, highly specialist services and hospitals (e.g. YouthReach South and the Youth Community Assessment and Treatment Team based at Fiona Stanley Hospital)
  • Private psychologists and psychiatrists.
  • Community alcohol and drug services can support young people and families with alcohol or other drug problems.
  • Family and carer services - It can be helpful to get help as a family. Family counselling is available.
  • Support for parents and carers, which is important – via Helping Minds, Carers WA, MIFWA WA and specific associations for different disorders.

You can find services in your local area at myservices.org.au

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