From a national study, it appears that the majority of Australian university students are depressed, anxious and even contemplating self-harm.
The study was conducted by the National Union of Students and Headspace, a youth mental health initiative created in 2006 to “promote young people’s wellbeing” and provide “early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds”. The study found that those attending university were experiencing detrimental emotional and psychological trauma, with 70% declaring their mental health “poor” and more than half saying they had experienced high-very high psychological distress in the past year.
The results were confronting and alarming. 35% of students contemplated self-harm or suicide, 79% felt anxious, 59% said they had feelings of hopelessness/ worthlessness and more than half experiencing severe panic. So, what is it about this period in our life that causes so much distress? Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan believes it is because of a new beginning with unknown outcomes, bringing about new responsibilities, life lessons and behaviours.
“Like all big life transitions, after finishing year 12 young people can be more vulnerable, they are an at-risk group with no clear check-in point for mental health difficulties… They might have moved out of home for the first time, they might have greater responsibilities financially, and domestically. Some young people might engage in risky behaviours such as drug use. They may have less parental contact leaving them vulnerable and changes in their mental health going unnoticed…They are a group that can fall through the cracks.”
National Union of Students Welfare Officer Jill Molloy is in line with Trethowan, understanding the stress and anguish students experience and what it is that is taking such an emotional toll on them. “Workload, looming deadlines, relationship problems, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol use, it’s a long list that students themselves say have a detrimental impact…This is why we have partnered with headspace to bring these issues to light.”
With external factors also playing a prominent role – for example, youth unemployment is sitting around 13% , the new penalty rate cuts, underemployment rising and the government making it harder to get Newstart and Centrelink – being young is no walk in the park.
But then again, neither is being an adult or a parent of a student. So maybe everyone should rewind the clock and take a page out of the Lion King. Just repeat that wonderful phrase that ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days. A problem free philosophy. Hakuna Matata.
See, it already got you smiling.