Young people living in Australia face significant barriers in accessing mental health services as rates of mental illness remain high.
A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that over a quarter of Australians aged 16-24 years old have a mental health condition that lasts for more than a year. Only half of these young Australians receive professional help from a counsellor, psychologist or social worker. Lack of access to adequate services due to distance, cost and stigma remains a barrier a decade on from the reports original release.
Imani Johnson came to Australia to study theology at the start of this year. After moving from her home city of Los Angeles, Ms Johnson found herself “needing to deal with my ish” as she transitioned to study in Australia. Her college in Sydney’s North West offers free counselling to student, which for Imani, made all the difference. “If it wasn’t offered for free … it would be more complicated … all we get on the visa is healthcare, that’s it. Nothing else except GP’s,” she said.
Associate Lecturer at Macquarie University, Dr. Maria Amigó studies the affects of transition on young people as they encounter new culture. “When you come to a new country, you are very vulnerable,” she said, “young people undergoing transitional periods … are more vulnerable to feeling disoriented, feeling left out, that they can’t cope with what’s required of them… this could lead to mental health issues.”
The coalition has committed to increased funding for mental health care services, supporting e-mental health services like ReachOut.com to support students like Imani who risk falling through the cracks without free or subsidised support. ReachOut.com CEO Jono Nicholas said, “It’s a big gap to fill, as the majority of mental illness begins before the age of 25… We also know that online mental health services, like ReachOut, are increasingly the first step in a young person’s help-seeking journey and overcome many of the barriers to help-seeking such as stigma, cost, waiting times, transport, breach of confidentiality and a preference for self reliance. There’s huge scope for online services to break down these barriers for young people.”
Ms Johnson is settled into her new home, and knows where to ask for help when she needs it, “there’s a stigma, and there shouldn’t be… it’s all about just saying “hey, I need help.”