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Youth better equipped to talk mental health

Posted by Caitlin Fitzsimmons on 17 February 2020

Young people are more likely to seek help for mental health and technology addiction than their counterparts a decade ago.

Mental health was the top reason young people contacted Kids Helpline, run by yourtown, in the 2018-19 financial year. yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams said this had changed over time, because of the societal push to break down stigma and advocate for mental health.

''[ The community] has created a mechanism that means people can be comfortable to talk about mental health and young people are growing up with that,'' Ms Adams said.

'' That is a significant contributor to the fact that young people are reaching out for support, and we should applaud that, but we've got to make sure we have the resources to support it.''

Kids Helpline has operated for 29 years, in which its counsellors have dealt with 8 million '' contacts' ' (phone calls, web chat and email).

For the first 20 years, the main reason young people called Kids Helpline was to get navigating family relationships and this is still the case for children aged five to 12.

But mental health now represents more than a quarter of all contacts across all age groups, rising to 35 per cent for young adults aged 19 to 25. Across all age groups, emotional wellbeing ranks second, while family relationships are third.

Ms Adams believes young people today are no more prone to mental health problems, but they have '' the language' ' to talk about it and awareness to take a preventive approach.

One of the biggest issues facing young people today is their use of technology, she said. This has long been a concern but it is now an issue for teens themselves.

'' We see young people now who find themselves almost addicted to technology, addicted to gamification , addicted to be always being 'on' ,'' Ms Adams said.

'' We often talk as adults about work-life balance and we find we are really having to work with young people about how to balance their lives around how they use technology and allow themselves space.''

While the figures are for 2018-2019 , Ms Adams said the past six months were leaving their mark. '' We're going through a very difficult time we've got young people who've faced the loss of their homes, their schools and their environments have been impacted by catastrophic climate events.''


Author:Caitlin Fitzsimmons
About: This article is from the February 9 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit http://smh.com.au/digitaledition.
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