Youth fear COVID, climate and inequality

Youth fear COVID, climate and inequality

Nearly 70 per cent of young gender diverse Aussies feel they have been unfairly treated in this past year, highlighting an urgent need for support, Mission Australia's annual youth report has revealed.

For the first time, the annual survey of 20,000 Australians aged 15 to 19 had such a significant proportion of young people identifying as gender diverse, their responses were included in the gender breakdowns.

Nearly three quarters of these participants said they experience very high levels of concern about their own mental health and over 30 per cent said they felt extremely or very concerned about bullying or emotional abuse.

Another 30 per cent said they feared for their personal safety.

The findings indicate an “urgent need for support”, especially given a recent study which found three quarters of transgender or diverse young people in Australia have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, and almost one in two have attempted suicide.

“Our Youth Survey tells us that young people in Australia want it brought out of the shadows and into the light,” says Mission Australia's CEO James Toomey, who described the findings as “gravely concerning”.

Steps forward will include improving support services, enhancing workforce training and updating mental health service provider training so clients are treated in an affirmative manner, the report says.

The report also found that young Aussies had felt isolated, insecure and unmotivated during the rolling COVID-19 lockdowns.

One respondent talked about the “constant state of the unknown”, while another said having to isolate had “weakened” their friendships.

“Due to lockdowns, I was unable to physically be in contact with my friends, which left me feeling isolated as well as (with) a sense of being trapped,” said a third.

More than half of the survey's participants said COVID-19 had negatively impacted their mental health, a finding which is supported by studies suggesting young people in isolation or quarantine situations are more likely to require mental health support.

“Responses to the Youth Survey have confirmed that young people feel uncertain, stressed and are without access to their usual support mechanisms,” the report found.

Increased awareness of climate change issues is also taking a psychological toll on young Aussies, “causing distress and adversely affecting wellbeing”, the report said. This phenomenon has previously been dubbed 'eco-anxiety'.

“One of my biggest problems is that it is hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel when there is so much climate change and it feels like the world is going to end,” one participant said.

The vast majority – 93 per cent – said that the Australian government was not doing enough to address climate change.

“No doubt concerns about the lack of action on climate change in Australia during the past several years has affected the mental health of young people,” says Toomey, adding it was vital people pay attention.

“Young people have the answers. It's a matter of ensuring they are genuinely listened to, included in decision-making processes, and their concerns acted upon. It's the brightest way forward for us all,” he said.

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