Expert explains why Coast youth aren’t coping
Alarming new figures have revealed the grim reality of how young people are coping with their mental health.
New cause of death data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown thousands of lives were lost to suicide across the country last year, an increase of 396 compared to 2014.
More than 780 of those who took their own life were from Queensland alone, with suicide continuing to claim more young lives than any other cause of death.
Sunshine Coast service ConNetica is working to prevent the data from becoming more bleak.
It takes a proactive approach to suicide prevention, with a strong focus on mental health education.
Director Marion Wands said the challenge facing young people today was undeniable.
"I have serious concerns about the future wellbeing and the current wellbeing of our young people," she said.
"These are very alarming issues that we need to consider seriously."
COVID-19 has exacerbated the feeling of loneliness for some, with key findings released by Headspace showing 51 per cent of young Australians said they were unable to carry out their daily activities.
One third of young Aussies also reported high or very high levels of psychological distress, revealing the pandemic had left youth worse at "dealing with life".
Ms Wands said the uncertainty around job security and social isolation were contributing factors.
"Sadly at the extreme end, you see people losing hope and feeling helpless about their situation, and that's often the language that goes with people thinking about suicide," she said.
"They feel a burden to others, they feel they don't belong, and they have that capacity to inflict that level of pain on themselves to take their life.
"All of these, along with not seeing what their future holds, puts even more pressure on their wellbeing and as a consequence, we see increases in more thoughts around suicide."
HOW WE CAN HELP THOSE STRUGGLING
On one end of the spectrum, Ms Wands said lobbying the government to provide more support for youth was vital to improving the issue.
"I talk a lot about that social determinants of health," she said.
"That's linked to are you employed or not employed, do you have job security or not, what is the likelihood of your education attainment, are you able to afford it, will it be a quality education, is there a power imbalance.
"When we can change through social policy to enable greater equity, people to fulfil their potential, to see that they have a future, we will make significant gains for an inclusive community."
For parents whose children are struggling with their mental wellbeing, Ms Wands said acknowledging the emotions was the first step.
"Say something to the children like 'I can see that you're upset, I can see that you're finding things difficult at the moment, let's have a talk about what we can do' and let them know there are always solutions to the problems that we face," she said.
"That makes such a difference when children or adolescents or even partners know that there is someone they can trust, that cares about them and are there for them."
Ms Wands said initiating the conversation was sometimes the most difficult but crucial part of encouraging a person to seek help.
"As soon as you see someone starting to become vulnerable or withdrawing … we ask that we reach into them actually start these conversations," she said.
"Don't expect people to ask for help.
"By having the courage and initiating the conversation, it's almost like opening the floodgates.
"And because we start the conversations and do it non-judgmentally … even if the conversation doesn't happen the first time, we've made that connection with the person and they know then they're not alone."
Parents were encouraged to research what mental health services are out there, but to know it wasn't always the best solution.
"We definitely need to know what services are there and we also need to realise that what's needed isn't just mental health services," she said.
"You don't want to recommend people services that they can't afford, because that even makes them feel less able to get on.
"Please don't feel you have to be a clinician and determine if it's anxiety, depression or bipolar … a lot of the time it's about getting them involved in the community.
"We're all part of the solution, we can all make a difference, we can all have conversations."