Friday, November 26, 2010

Australia reports mental illness five times higher in university students there

From ABC news in Australia:

Researchers have found mental illness among Australian university students is five times higher than in the general population.

Despite Australia's booming economy, another study shows young people are also facing a tough time getting jobs.

Clinical psychologist Dr Helen Stallman from the University of Queensland says many students simply are not coping with university life.

"A really high proportion of university students are reporting higher levels of psychological distress and significantly more than that in the general population," she said.

Dr Stallman screened more than 6,000 students about their mental health.

She found 84 per cent were suffering psychological distress and she says almost one-fifth showed signs of mental illness.

"Students who are suffering very high levels of distress that is probably indicative of mental health problems, we had 19 per cent of students reporting that high," she said.

"In the general population that's only 3 per cent of people."

The study, published in the latest edition of Australian Psychologist, found students were feeling distressed about financial issues.

Dr Stallman says the study also found students were under pressure to perform.

"Things like perfectionistic thinking - tying your sense of self worth to how you perform on tasks," she said.

"So, for example, if you get a bad result on an exam feeling like you're a failure as a whole person.

"Also having a lack of coping skills. So being able to cope with frustration and disappointments when they arise."

Professor Brett McDermott is an associate professor of psychiatry at the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane and a spokesman for national depression group Beyond Blue.

He says the findings are consistent with previous research that shows one in 25 young people suffer depression.

"It's extremely worrying. It's a somewhat vulnerable time of life," he said.

"The intersection between moving into the adult, employed world that includes often marriage and parenting and the more cloistered time at high school.

"This is a time for major life decisions. Picking a partner is probably the most important decision of your life and this happens soon, picking your career path. And to be depressed at that time at some level must limit your opportunities."

The University of Queensland research findings come as another report has painted a bleak picture for 15 to 24-year-old job seekers.

The Foundation for Young Australians senior executive Dr Lucas Walsh says teenage males are the worst affected.

"We found that despite the fact Australia's faring quite well in the wake of the global financial crisis, the same can't be said for young people. Those worst affected are young teenage males," he said.

"We saw a large number of them become disengaged at the time of the GFC and that their disengagement from full-time education and where it remains as high now as it did in 2009.

"That's around 246,000 teenagers are not in full-time education or work."

Professor McDermott says being unemployed and socially disconnected can often lead to depression.

"A lot of people get connectedness through their work. They connect with friends at work and colleagues at work, they go to work functions and that kind of thing," he said.

"For someone to be disenfranchised from that is putting them at increased risk of depression.

"As well as obviously there is a psychological dimension where they feel they're not actually progressing with their life, they're not going forward.

"They might be developing a feeling of hopelessness, they might even be developing despair."