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Student Anxiety and Depression 'at Crisis Point'

Last edited 27th November 2017

Student Anxiety and Depression 'at Crisis Point'

In April a Mission Australia report found nearly one in four Australian teenagers met the criteria for having a "probable serious mental illness" — a 20 per cent increase from five years ago.

The principal of Canberra's Merici College, Loretta Wholley, said those figures aligned with her experiences in secondary education, but mental health issues were also presenting in younger students.

"Anxiety and depression and self-harm is coming through from primary school," she said. "This used to be an issue for years nine, 10 and 11.

Now it is an issue for grades four, five and six."
Ms Wholley said her concern was that mental illness in children and teenagers would "cycle to a point where it gets out of control". "It is at crisis point," she said.

"One in four, or 25 per cent, of our population is a huge number if you really think about that in terms of a family or any group in society."

It is an experience also shared at the ACT's public schools, with UC Kaleen High School principal Lana Read saying up to 30 per cent of students could be dealing with mental health concerns. But she said there was now a change in attitudes where students also felt more comfortable to come forward. "

I think a school is very much a microcosm of broader society and we know that there has been a rise in mental health issues across the country and internationally," Ms Read said. Ms Wholley said while her school was undertaking measures to help its students, the ACT government needed to commit to more than "band-aid solutions".

"At the moment I don't believe they know the solution," she said. "[They] will give an extra $400 to an agency and that will put in an extra three counsellors. That is actually not going to be a solution for 25 per cent of the population."

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