Young Minds Matter is Australia’s largest survey of child and adolescent mental health and well-being. It measures the prevalence, impact and burden of mental disorders on young people and details the need for services in the health and education sectors.
The survey has been conducted twice, firstly in 1998 and then in 2013-14, each measuring the prevalence, impact and burden of mental disorders.
Professor David Lawrence from the Faculty of Education and the Telethon Kids Institute was part of the Young Minds Matter research team and presented the findings at a recent Faculty of Education Centenary event.
Over 6,000 children and almost 3,000 adolescents were interviewed in 2013-14 and the results showed that while the number of children and families receiving help for mental disorders had substantially increased since 1998, there had been little change in the proportion of children and adolescents diagnosed with a mental disorder.
“Much of the health and education sector resources devoted to mental health problems are directed towards identifying and treating disorders, rather than at preventing them from occurring,” says Professor Lawrence.
“While providing adequate early intervention and treatment services is important to reducing the impact of mental disorders, preventing them in the first place has the potential to both reduce the burden of these disorders and the cost of treating them.
“There is still much to be discovered about the causes of mental health and research into how they develop is an important social goal that we as a society need to commit resources to.”
The findings outlined that 560,000, or one in seven 4-17 year olds, were assessed as having mental disorders in the previous 12 months. ADHD was the most common, followed by anxiety, major depressive and conduct disorders.
High rates of major depressive disorders in older adolescents, particularly females, were also identified, highlighting the challenges being faced by young people today and why it is necessary to find ways to prevent mental disorders through early intervention.
“There have been many changes to the provision of support services in the past 15 years, however there’s been many changes in our society. One particularly visible change has been in the use of technology, communications and the development of social media,” says Professor Lawrence.
“These tools have created new environments in which children can be bullied and cyber-bullied. There’s also been significant structural changes in the labour market and in expectations for performance at school. This may have increased the number of young people feeling pressure to perform at a high level academically.”
Professor Lawrence and the team of researchers behind this survey hope that the data obtained will help government develop and target services with the aim of preventing mental disorders in young children.
A second presentation on Young Minds Matter by Professor Lawrence has been scheduled on the 6th September as part of UWA Research Week. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register early through the Faculty of Education Centenary website.