â€œWe have seen the thoughts and acts of self-harm increase as teens get older,â€ Dr. Rioseco said.
â€œNavigating the world as a young person can be difficult and it is clear that managing self-injurious thoughts and behaviors is a critical aspect of providing health care to adolescents. “
A report by the mental health group Black Dog with Mission Australia released this month found that a quarter of 25,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 experienced psychological distress in 2020.
According to Professor Helen Christensen, director and chief scientist of Black Dog, governments have not invested enough in prevention programs, especially in schools.
â€œIf we don’t put preventive measures in place, we will be at the forefront of crisis prevention,â€ said Professor Christensen. â€œIt’s likely it’s going to get worse because we have things like the pandemic and COVID, we have bushfires, climate change.
“So we really have to do something now if we’re going to be in a better position five or 10 years from now.”
Almost all of the mental health funding has been spent on treatment rather than prevention, she said. This despite calls from the Productivity Commission and the federal government’s task force on suicide, said Professor Christensen, who was a member of the task force’s expert advisory group.
There was also a lack of guidance for schools on what programs were working.
Professor Christensen said the AIFS results were similar to those of Black Dogs. He also found that psychological distress was more likely to affect women and people who identify as non-binary.
While young women were more likely to self-harm, young men were at higher risk for suicide, although this gap is narrowing.
Professor Christensen said there are scientifically proven programs, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that could be rolled out online or in schools.
â€œIt’s really teaching people that if you think in a particular way it’s going to have an effect on your emotions,â€ she said. “And that you can reverse that by changing the way you think.”
Dr Rioseco said the AIFS study also found that children close to a parent were less likely to self-harm. And the sons and daughters of a parent with poor mental health were at greater risk than others.
What was important for a parent, she said, was “to take care of yourself and your own well-being and to have conversations with children about mental health.”
The AIFS study found that children who attended non-government schools – who invested more in mental health programs – were less likely to self-harm.
Crisis support can be found on Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyond blue (1300 22 4636 and beyond blue.org.au)
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and ideas of the day. register here.