Mental Health Education and Literacy in Schools: The Australian Experience

Mental Health Education and Literacy in Schools: The Australian Experience

Matthew Dale
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7402-6.ch011
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This chapter will look at the current situation concerning youth mental health in Australia and provide information about youth mental health literacy, which was first coined by Jorm in 1997. A literature review of current Australian mental health promotion and education programs being offered in schools will be conducted as well as examples of some of the better-known ones that have been implemented internationally. The evolution of mental health education in Australian schools will be examined so as to provide a perspective of how some of the current programs came into being or existence. The main aim of this chapter will be to highlight the high prevalence of mental illness that exists amongst young people in Australia and how implementing mental health education in schools can be beneficial and helpful in improving their mental health and wellbeing. Mental health education in schools can help in breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness. Another benefit is that young people will be able to identify mental health problems earlier amongst their peers and in themselves, which can lead to early help seeking, especially due to young people gaining a higher level of mental health literacy through mental health education programs.
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Youth Mental Health In Australia

There has been considerable research and study carried out about the onset of mental illnesses and mental health problems in people, not only in Australia but around the world. The evidence suggests that three in four mental health disorders emerge by the age of 24 and half by the age of 14 (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, Merikangas, & Walters, 2005; Sawyer, Arney, Baghurst, Clark, Graetz, & Kosky, 2000; McGorry, Purcell, Hickie, & Jorm, 2007). In 2013 - 2014, around a quarter of all young people aged 16-24 years in Australia had a mental disorder (approximately 26% or 671,000 young people). One in seven children and adolescents aged 4 - 17 years experienced a mental disorder in 2013 - 2014, which is equivalent to 14% or 560,00 young people. Depression impacts on the lives of 1 in 35 or 2.8% of young Australians aged 4-17. The statistics for anxiety are even greater where 1 in 10 adolescents aged 18 - 25 and 1 in 25 children aged 13 - 17 experience the condition. (Orygen Youth Health, 2008). Of concern was the fact that there was an increase of probable serious mental illness in the age group 15 - 19 from 18.7% in 2012 to 22.8% in 2016 (Mission Australia, 2016). Lawrence and colleagues (2015) commented that mental disorders were the leading cause of illness and disability for young people aged 10 to 19 years, ahead of any physical disease.

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