The current Mission Australia Youth Survey Report reveals that young people aged 15 to 19 in Australia report issues and concerns relating to mental health, the environment, bullying and voice. For the third year running, mental health is the top national issue. The proportion of young people identifying mental health as an issue of national importance rose substantially from 21.6% in 2016 to 36.2% this year. The top four personal concerns also relate closely to mental health: coping with stress (44.7%), school or study problems (34.3%), mental health (33.2%) and body image (31.0%). The environment soared from eighth place in 2018 (9.2%) to second place in 2019 (34.2%) of the topics of importance to young people, more than tripling in significance since last year.
Young people were also asked whether they felt they have enough of a say about important issues, with less than one in 10 (7.2%) young people feeling they have a voice all of the time in public affairs. A higher proportion of females than males felt they have a say none of the time in public affairs (55.4% compared with 48.0%). Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “These results clearly indicate that young people in Australia feel disenfranchised and are deeply concerned about a range of important issues. Feeling ignored is perhaps driving young people to engage in other ways to be heard, such as climate strikes.
“It’s vital that all young people have opportunities and forums available to them so they can speak up and shape public matters and policy. Young people’s concerns must be considered when forming policies that affect their lives and futures. Young people must be part of the design of programs or services for young people. They are, after all, the experts in what it is to be a young person in Australia today.” Young people also expressed that they are facing a range of challenges in their lives. For the first time in 2019, young people were asked whether they had experienced bullying, with 21.0% of young people reporting they had been bullied in the past 12 months.
Of those who had experienced bullying, eight in ten (79.9%) reported that the bullying took place at school/TAFE/university, just over one third (34.0%) had experienced bullying online/on social media, while around one fifth (18.1%) had experienced bullying at home. Nearly half of young people (47.7%) had also witnessed bullying in the past year. Proportionally, more young people from regional areas than those from major cities had experienced bullying over the past year (24.5% compared with 19.0%). Mr Toomey said: “Young people are acutely aware of their own mental health and they can certainly see it is a prevailing issue right across Australia.
“This year, our survey also confirms a disturbing level of bullying which young people are experiencing or witnessing. This is unacceptable. 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. A greater focus on prevention and early intervention is also sorely needed. By investing in programs that are proven to work, young people will have a better chance of reaching their potential.”
The Youth Survey Report 2019 also indicates around six in 10 young people felt very happy/happy (60.7%) overall with their lives and are very positive/positive (58.3%) about the future. The majority of young people are engaged in education and confident in their ability to achieve their study and work goals. Most young people report strong family relationships and are involved in a range of activities. Mr Toomey said: “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 went on “We must stand alongside them to advocate for the changes they want to see, provide opportunities to have a say and better support them with the services they need as they transition to adulthood.” The 18th annual Youth Survey was completed by more than 25,000 young people aged between 15 and 19 years. The results of the Youth Survey are shared with governments, NGOs, schools and social commentators to inform the debate around the circumstances of young people in Australia and to support the development of policies, services and programs that have the needs of young people at their core.
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