New data from the 2021 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia report has shown youth mental health at the worst since tracking began — with the prevalence of psychological distress among people under 35 doubling in a decade to nearly 40%.
It might be tempting to attribute this sharp deterioration to the COVID-19 pandemic and young people missing out on many of the formative social experiences older generations had as young adults.
But these trends started well before the pandemic, and show a generation shaped by constant disappointment with political leaders failing to take meaningful action on the crises they face.
The uptick in loneliness and psychological distress and decline in long-term relationships point to the same root causes — young people feel disconnected, alienated and insecure in their work, relationships and home life.
The Australian Greens have a fully costed plan to tackle the mental health crisis in Australia by making mental healthcare free and unlimited for everyone who needs it as part of Medicare.
Quotes attributable to Stephen Bates MP, Australian Greens Youth Spokesperson
Young people — and now people well into their careers or older — are stuck in cycles of insecure work, paying too much rent in poor conditions, without enough disposable income to do the fun and formative experiences young people deserve. Then, if you’re lucky enough to escape out, you’re just stuck with a mortgage you can barely pay and facing down the prospect of raising a family you can’t afford.
We need to meet young people where they are at and talk about the reality they’re facing — a cooked economy, a worsening climate, a housing crisis, piling debt..
Youth mental health won’t be solved with some fancy meditation app or banning phones in schools.
Young people deserve hope for the future — but right now they’re staring down the barrel of a life that’s more expensive, more precarious and ravaged by climate change.
If young people can barely afford a roof over their heads and food on the table, what chance is there for them to have the hundreds of dollars it costs to get a mental health care plan and pay the gap on a therapy session.
Governments at all levels need to start making the hard choices needed to take the cost of living, housing and climate crises seriously. These are all the same crisis. The crisis of capitalism. And either that system breaks, or a whole generation will.