When we struggle with our mental health, it is easy to get stuck in a negative mindset thinking that it is only us and that everyone else around us is doing great.
To help you see that you are not on your own and that mental health difficulties are more common that what you may have thought, I have compiled some information and statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Adolescence is a Critical Time
Half of all mental health conditions in adulthood emerge by age 14, and three quarters by age 24.
Mental health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing (WHO 2013).
The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted in 2007 found that an estimated 1 in 5 (20%) Australians aged 16–85 experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months (ABS 2008).
A mental illness can be defined as ‘a clinically diagnosable disorder that significantly interferes with a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities’ (COAG Health Council 2017). The term itself covers a range of illnesses including anxiety disorders, affective disorders, psychotic disorders and substance use disorders.
However, a person does not need to meet the criteria for a mental illness or mental disorder to be negatively affected by their mental health (COAG Health Council 2017; Slade et al. 2009). Mental health affects and is affected by multiple socioeconomic factors, including a person’s access to services, living conditions and employment status. It also doesn’t just impact the individual but also their families and carers (Slade et al. 2009; WHO 2013).
The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007 estimated that:
- nearly 1 in 2 (46%) Australians aged 16–85 had experienced a mental disorder during their lifetime.
- 1 in 5 (20%) people who had experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime had symptoms in the 12 months before the survey interview. For these people, anxiety disorders were the most prevalent type of disorder (14%), followed by affective disorders (6.2%) and substance use disorders (5.1%).
- a higher proportion of males than females (48% compared with 43%) had experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. However, a higher proportion of females than males (22% compared with 18%) had experienced symptoms in the 12 months before the survey.
- 16–24 year olds (26%) were most likely to have experienced symptoms of a mental disorder in the previous 12 months and 75–85 year olds the least likely (5.9%).
- over 4 in 10 (43%) people with a disability status of profound or severe core-activity limitation, experienced symptoms of a mental disorder in the 12 months before the survey, compared with 17% of people with no disability or limitations (ABS 2008).
The National Survey of People Living with Psychotic Illness 2010 estimated that:
- 64,000 (or 4.5 cases per 1,000 population) people with a psychotic illness, who were aged 18–64, were in contact with public specialised mental health services in a 12-month period.
- the prevalence of psychotic disorder was higher for males than for females (5.4 and 3.5 cases per 1,000 population, respectively). The age groups with the highest prevalence were 25–34 and 35–44 (5.6 cases per 1,000 population for both age groups) (Morgan et al. 2011).
A survey conducted in 2013-14 by the Telethon Kids Institute at the University of Western Australia found that almost one in seven Australian children had a mental health disorder, with anxiety (6.9%) and ADHD (8.2%) being the most common.
The Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2013–14 (Young Minds Matter) estimated that, in the 12 months before the survey:
- 560,000 children and adolescents aged 4–17 (14%) experienced a mental disorder.
- males had a higher prevalence of mental disorders (16%) than females (12%)
- of the mental disorders experienced by participants, the following were most prevalent: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (7.4%); anxiety disorders (6.9%); major depressive disorder (2.8%); and conduct disorder (2.1%). (Lawrence et al. 2015).
- 11% of adolescents aged 12-17 had deliberately hurt or injured themselves without trying to end their life (self-harmed).
The National Health Survey 2017–18 revealed that:
- 1 in 5 (20%, or 4.8 million) Australians reported that they had a mental or behavioural condition during the collection period (July 2017 to June 2018).
- females reported a higher proportion of mental or behavioural conditions (22%) than males (18%).
- overall, 15–24-year-olds had the highest proportion of mental or behavioural conditions (26%) and 0–14-year-old had the lowest (11%).
- of those participants who had a severe disability, 58% had a mental or behavioural condition compared with 14% of people with no disability or long-term restrictive health condition (ABS 2018).
How Many Children have Mental Illness?
In 2013–14, an estimated 314,000 children aged 4–11 (almost 14%) experienced a mental disorder in the 12 months before the survey (Lawrence et al. 2015). Boys were more commonly affected than girls (17% compared with 11%).
ADHD was the most common disorder for children (8.2%), and the most common among boys (11%).
Anxiety disorders were the second most common disorders among all children (6.9%), and the most common among girls (6.1%).
- 3 in 4 (72%) had mild disorders.
- 1 in 5 (20%) had moderate disorders.
- less than 1 in 10 (8.2%) had severe disorders.
- Severe disorders were more common among boys (9.9%) than girls (5.6%).
Depression can often lead to feelings of great despair and distress. These feelings can be so profound that they lead to thoughts of suicide, although this does not necessarily mean that the person will act on these thoughts.
In 2018, 3046 deaths by suicide were registered in Australia (an average of 8 a day) – more than two and a half times the national road toll in the same year.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44 in 2016-2018 (to some extent, this is due to the sound physical health of people in these age groups, with chronic diseases only beginning to feature more prominently among people aged over 45 – AIHW, 2019).
In 2018, suicide was the leading cause of death among Australian children and adolescents aged 5-17 (100 deaths in 2018 with the majority occurring in those aged 15 to 17).
The Mission Australia Youth Survey 2020 gives us some very interesting information on mental health difficulties in Queensland:
The top three issues of personal concern for young people surveyed were:
- Coping with stress – almost four in 10 (37.3%) respondents indicated they were extremely or very concerned about this issue.
- Body image – around three in 10 respondents from QLD were extremely or very concerned about body image (29.8%).
- Mental health – with similar figures (28.4%) concerned about mental health.
The next most concerning issues were school or study problems (28.2%); and physical health (20.8%).
Coping with stress was the top issue of personal concern for both females and males.
For females, the second and third most concerning personal issues were body image and mental health.
For males the second and joint third most concerning personal issues were school or study problems, mental health and physical health.
Young people were also asked to list the three most important issues in Australia today.
In 2020, the top three issues identified by young people were:
- equity and discrimination
- and mental health
How Stressed are Young People?
For the first time in 2020, young people were asked to report on how much of the time they felt stressed in the past four weeks. Responses were rated on a 5-point scale that ranged from all the time to none of the time.
Four in 10 (39.3%) young people felt stressed either all the time or most of the time.
Meggy Delaunay is a psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and young adults. She is a registered Psychologist in Australia, New Zealand and France, and can provide therapy sessions in English and French.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.