According to Natasha Bita in the Herald Sun, Australian children and teenagers are facing a mental health crisis. (Mental Health 360: Shocking rise in Aussie teens being medicated, 2 December 2020).
1 in 13 teens are taking antidepressants and/or other psychiatric drugs.
Health and youth experts claim COVID-19 is a factor to this worrying trend. 87,781 primary school – aged children and 134,439 teenagers were prescribed medications for various mental disorders over 2018/2019.
What diagnoses children are receiving?
Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression are major issues facing a number of children. What’s worrying is that primary school and preschool – aged children are also being diagnosed.
Yourtown chief executive, Tracey Adams told Herald Sun that domestic violence is exacerbating these rates.
Children are also being diagnosed with other conditions, including ADD/ ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.
The increase in conduct disorder diagnoses has surprised and alarmed me. How can more children be diagnosed? Is it over diagnosis; an accusation commonly aimed at ADD/ADHD?
Or is it something else? As I wrote before, alarms surrounding domestic violence have been raised. According to Better Health Channel, parental aggression (particularly from the father) and domestic violence are risk factors that can trigger the disorder.
To be honest, I think that the Federal and State governments have failed in this area. It’s too little, too late.
Only now has the Government offered Kids Helpline extra funding for fifty more counsellors. Why wasn’t enough support put in before the pandemic hit?
I think this exposes the great flaws in the Australian mental health system as a whole. There isn’t enough support for those who need it, but haven’t reached breaking point.
Parents play vital role
Psychologist and founder of Parentshop, Michael Hawton told Herald Sun that most anxiety in children is “learned”.
If kids are surrounded by parents who are highly rushed and speaking and behaving anxiously, it’s hard for them to not pick up on that.
He also suggested that parents teach children about facing problems head on rather than avoiding them. Emotional reactivity should also be minimised.
Blaming social media and anxious parents doesn’t solve the problem
Many commenters on the Herald Sun article have blamed social media (surprised?). But to me, the issue is much bigger.
There are obviously children and teenagers that need ongoing help. Some may need different therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). There may be children that need to be removed from violent or abusive homes. Victims of bullies need support to have their self – esteem built back up.
Psychologists and/ or Masters qualified Social Workers need to be employed in all schools.
Also, I really do think the Australian mental health system needs an overhaul. Medicare is grossly inadequate in funding mental health.
The Australian mental health system seems to help two types of people: those who don’t need ongoing professional help. Or, the other extreme: those who are at high risk of harm or suicide.
Both State and Federal Governments have failed in dealing with psychological costs of lockdown and COVID-19. Counselling services should have been properly funded in the first place. It isn’t good enough.
Lastly, all mental health costs should be covered by the Government. If not through Medicare, through other means.
What are you thoughts? How can people with mental or behavioural conditions be helped?