A new survey released by NPS MedicineWise shows that talking about mental health issues gets easier over time among Young Australians.
Almost half (47%) were uncomfortable speaking to their doctor about it when first diagnosed which eventually got easier over time. Around 4 in 10 (43%) had used a mental health safety plan, something that can lower the risk of suicide by almost half.
The survey was carried out from 25-29 June 2022 wherein 309 Australians between the ages of 16 and 24 diagnosed with a mental health condition took part. The people were representative of young people with mental health conditions.
Mental health and young people
Awareness of mental ill health in Australia is growing. It is a problem that often starts at a young age.
“More than half of all young people go through some form of mental ill health by the age of 25,” says Dr Caroline West, GP and medical advisor at NPS MedicineWise.
“For three quarters of adults living with a mental health issue, it started before 25 years of age. This is why it is so important for young people to seek help early. There are treatments that work.
“Fear of stigma and feeling alone in their struggles stop people from seeking help,” she says.
This is why NPS MedicineWise has created a series of videos where young people share their stories. They talk about overcoming stigma, building relationships with health professionals and navigating the health system.
“There are cultural aspects to having a mental health condition,” says Jeanette Chan, a 23 year-old mental health advocate from Melbourne.
“It was really challenging at first talking about mental health with my family. It wasn’t something that we talked about a lot.
“For a long time, I held it in and dealt with it on my own.
“I eventually spoke to my family about mental health. It wasn’t great at first. Over time, I persisted with the different conversations. It’s worked out for the best,” she says.
A trusted relationship with your doctor
The survey found people felt more comfortable over time speaking to their doctor about mental health. When first diagnosed, almost half (47%) felt uncomfortable speaking about the topic. Only about three in ten (31%) of these people still feel uncomfortable now.
The survey also found almost one in five (18%) of people were not part of treatment decisions. Over four in ten (44%) felt as equal with their doctor in working on their mental health.
“It is important you feel comfortable with your doctor. They are your partner working with you on your mental health. It is about you and what is right for you,” says Dr West.
“It can sometimes take time to feel comfortable. If you don’t connect with one doctor, it is important to seek out one who you can relate to and trust.
Safety plans lower the risk of suicide
Around four in ten (43%) of young people with a mental health condition use a mental health safety plan. Only about one in seven (15%) had never heard of a mental health safety plan.
Suicidal thoughts are common for people feeling mental health distress.
A mental health safety plan is an important part of mental health treatment. A safety plan can lower the risk of suicide by almost half (435).
“You can use the Beyond Now app from Beyond Blue as a mental health safety plan. It is on your phone and it is always there when you need it,” says Dr West.
There are 7 steps to the Beyond Now mental health safety plan, which include recognising your warning signs, making your surroundings safe, reminders of reasons to live, things that can make you feel strong, people and places to connect with, family and friends you can talk to and getting professional support.