Mental Health, Climate, Bullying: What Aussie Youths Worry About
The most pressing concerns for young Aussies aren't new or surprising, but they need to be noticed and acted upon, according to the teens themselves.
For the third straight year, mental health has topped Mission Australia's Youth Survey as the most concerning issue for 15 to 19-year-olds across the country.
Of more than 25,000 young Aussies surveyed, 36 percent identified mental health as a major issue of concern, up from 21 percent in 2016.
But it's anxiety about the environment which has skyrocketed in the past year, with 34 percent of young people concerned about climate change and its effects on the planet, up from just nine percent last year.
Despite the massive nationwide climate strikes and a platform in the form of social media to voice their opinions, the majority of young people feel like they are not being heard. Fewer than one in 10 teens feel that they have a voice in public affairs.
"Young people are saying that no we don’t have a say in what affects us... and that ‘we do need to be listened to more, we want our views and opinions reflected in public discourse -- what we read about in the press, what we see on television and in the news’," Mission Australia CEO James Toomey told 10 daily.
He said it's important young people are given a chance to be heard because "they are, after all, the experts in what it is to be a young person in Australia today."
It's a sentiment that has been echoed by Adelaide teen, Hibra Qurehi.
The 19-year-old told 10 daily that while social media and the rise of young people with big voices have amplified issues, many aren't being taken seriously.
"Things will get worse before they get better but I don't think these voices can go unheard -- something will eventually happen," Qurehi said.
She admitted to becoming more anxious, particularly about the environment as she becomes older, and has blamed political debate for the lack of inaction on climate change.
"There are so many voices and so much hysteria that the real issues aren’t being touched," Qurehi said.
"Climate change isn’t being taken seriously".
Sina Aghamofid, 19, from Kellyville in Sydney's north-west, said anxieties about mental health and climate change are aligned.
"They're the most prevalent issues with me personally," he told 10 daily.
"The two are intrinsically linked. We get that sense of worry and anxiety about the future, the planet we're going to inherit and the lack of inaction on climate change".
Aghamofid -- who has recently travelled around regional NSW and worked with youth mental health foundation, Headspace -- said environmental issues have become a heightened concern because of the ongoing drought.
"It has made people who really wouldn't have thought about it, get out, go to rallies, make noise and really make it a much bigger issue," he said.
But while climate change is commanding the attention of the younger generation, a stronger focus on mental health is needed, Aghamofid said.
"There is support out there but a lot of young people don't know where to go," he said.
"There’s a gap in the middle where people don’t want to go into the emergency department, but they get turned away from services like Headspace".
Bullying is also an issue with young Australians, with more than one in five admitting they had been bullied in the past 12 months. Of those, 80 percent said it took place at school, TAFE or university, while a third had experienced online bullying.
"This is unacceptable," Toomey said.
"Bullying can cause and exacerbate mental health concerns, with potentially harmful and lasting effects on young people’s lives."
“In light of these findings, it’s clear there is urgent need for better investment in programs and initiatives that promote mental health and wellbeing and combat bullying," he said.
The good news is, the majority of young people (60 percent) are very happy or happy with their lives, while more than half (58 percent), also very positive or positive about the future.
The majority are engaged in education, report strong family relationships and are involved in a range of activities.
“It’s pleasing to see so many young people report a positive and optimistic outlook on their lives and their futures. But we can also see that young people are asking for change. We owe it to young people to take action," Toomey said.