IntroductionThis report describes the results of the Child and Adolescent Component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. This component of the survey was designed to answer four questions:
- How many children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems?
- What is the nature of these problems?
- What is the degree of disability associated with these problems?
- What are the services used by children and adolescents with mental health problems?
Content of the reportFour sets of results are described in the report:
- The prevalence among young people of mental health problems and of three mental disorders (Depressive Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) [Chapter 3 and Chapter 5].
- The quality of life of young people with mental health problems [Chapter 4].
- Services used by young people with mental health problems [Chapter 6].
- The prevalence of mental health problems, quality of life and health-risk behaviour among adolescents as reported by adolescents themselves [Chapter 7].
Summary of conclusions
Prevalence of mental health problems
- Fourteen percent of children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems.
- This high prevalence rate of mental health problems is found in all age and gender groups.
- There is a higher prevalence of child and adolescent mental health problems among those living in low-income, step/blended and sole-parent families.
The relatively large number of young people with mental health problems stands in contrast to the limited number of trained clinicians available to help them. This disparity makes it unlikely that specialised programs based in secondary and tertiary treatment settings (e.g., child and adolescent mental health services and departments of psychiatry in hospitals) will ever be able to provide direct care for all those with problems in Australia. As a result, there is a need to develop alternative approaches to reduce the prevalence of child and adolescent mental health problems.
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Quality of life of children and adolescents with mental health problems and their families
- Children and adolescents with mental health problems have a poorer quality of life than their peers.
- Parents of children and adolescents with mental health problems report greater concern and worry about their children's health and less time for their personal needs than other parents.
Prevention and treatment programs have the potential to reduce child and adolescent mental health problems by changing family, school or community systems. There is a need to identify and implement new mental health promotion, prevention and treatment programs that can provide cost-effective help for both young people and their families in Australia.
Use of professional services
- Only one out of every four young persons with mental health problems receives professional help.
- Family doctors, school-based counsellors and paediatricians provide the services that are most frequently used by young people with mental health problems.
- Adolescents with mental health problems report a high rate of suicidal ideation and other health-risk behaviour, including smoking, drinking and drug use.
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