REACHING OUT: In 2017, mental health was the number one reason children and young people contacted Kids Helpline.
REACHING OUT: In 2017, mental health was the number one reason children and young people contacted Kids Helpline. iStock

Younger teens using Kids Helpline support services

THE 2017 Kids Helpline Insights Report has revealed first time mental health contacts to the national counselling service was greatest in the 10-14 age group, increasing by 123 per cent (1250 contacts) from 2011-17 - twice that of the 19-25 age group.

According to yourtown/Kids Helpline CEO Tracy Adams, it's very encouraging to see this younger age group reaching out for help because early intervention is key.

"By addressing emotional wellbeing issues early, more serious mental health concerns can be averted before they escalate,” Ms Adams said.

"Young people in the 10-14 age group tell us they experience issues ranging from anxiety, problems sleeping, online addiction, anger issues or mood swings through to self-harm, eating disorders, depression and thoughts of suicide.

"The reasons why they are experiencing these issues are varied and complex, but can include family breakdowns or illness, worries about bad news, school pressures or bullying.

"While some say they are receiving treatment though a GP, psychiatrist or counsellor, others say they use sleeping tablets, watching TV or YouTube, and turning to friends and family for help, and of course, Kids Helpline.”

In 2017, mental health was the number one reason children and young people contacted Kids Helpline, with one in four (26 per cent) or 17,115 of counselling contacts to Kids Helpline about this issue. Half (54 per cent) of these were seeking support or strategies to manage an established disorder while close to two fifths (37 per cent) were young people with symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health condition.

Ms Adams said the complexity of issues reported to Kids Helpline over the past 20 years had grown substantially, with greater numbers of children and young people needing ongoing counselling.

"In 2017, 64 per cent of all contacts were from children and young people who had contacted Kids Helpline before, and were receiving occasional or ongoing support,” Ms Adams said.

"More complex issues have also meant the total counselling time with young people has risen significantly, increasing by 72 per cent in just 10 years.

"Duty of Care sessions where emergency interventions are required also continues to rise, increasing by 40 per cent from 2013-17.”

Ms Adams said there was more the community could be doing to strengthen the mental health of young people in Australia.

"While not just one solution is needed to address this multi-faceted issue, a good start is ensuring that the community works together to create early prevention services that are accessible to those who are most at risk,” she said.

"With many in the 10-14 age group too young to access community-based services such as headspace, we need to ensure we create access to early intervention services that directly target and support younger children who may be experiencing adverse emotional wellbeing at this critical age of development.

"Kids Helpline is working hard to do just that by not only offering counselling 24/7 but by creating positive mental health in children at the grass-roots.”

For more information about the free primary schools program, supported by Optus and Bupa, see www.kidshelpline.com.au/school.



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