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Rural youths with mental health issues need help through technology

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Rural youth lag their city counterparts in a lot of ways but in terms of mental health issues they are very much in the game, almost a quarter report struggles with their mental wellbeing.

Evidence of a lack of workable strategies is that just over half (51.7%) of those surveyed for the Lifting the weight: understanding young people’s mental health and service needs in regional and remote Australia report, released by ReachOut and Mission Australia, who indicated they had a problem were not seeking the right type of help.

Technology has a big part to play in any strategy to address the issue as most reported that they were accessing advice through the internet; 43.4% of young people indicated that they would access the internet for help with important issues in their life.

The prevalence of mental health disorders is similar for people living in and outside of a major city, the consequences seem higher in the country, with the risk of suicide rising as distance from a major city increases.

The top three worries reported were financial issues (29.9%), school or study stress (21.2%) and the future (15.2%).

Of the people surveyed 42.2% reported coping with stress as being a major concern, 36.0% identified school or study problems and 30.4% worried about body image.

The top two sources of help for young people were friends (82.6%) and family (parent/s, 76.9%; relative/family friend, 63.7%; brother/sister, 53.7%). 

Schools need funding to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people through evidence-based programs and communities need to be equipped to support the mental health of young people.

Primary Health Networks need to be helped to deliver better mental health outcomes for the young and financial support and assistance with the transition from school to work should feature in any strategy.

Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said: “Mental health concerns know no geographical or cultural boundaries; however, the provision of services does. Our research shows that young people in regional and remote communities struggle to access the same level of support services as young people in urban areas.

“Pleasingly, young people appear to be very aware of mental health issues and are asking for change. Our duty is to support them and provide the services they need in order to flourish into adulthood. This is especially true for the young people we work with, who often face additional challenges such as home and family instability or issues such as substance addiction.”

ReachOut’s CEO Jono Nicholas said: “We know that mental health is one of the top concerns for all young people.

“Young people noted that they face many barriers to accessing services – such as embarrassment, fear, a preference for self-reliance, transport and cost, amongst others.

“Access to appropriate and timely support can make a real difference in young people’s lives, and we need to harness the potential of digital technologies to deliver the services and supports young people want, when and where they need them.

The report was based on data from the 8,267 young people aged 15–19 living in regional and remote areas who participated in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016 between April and August 2016.

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