This page was first published in September 2014 and has now been archived.
Being able to cope with life changes makes for happy young people who contribute to society.
Photo of students of Coonamble High School

Read about Coonamble High School and their work for student health and wellbeing


On this page

Why are healthy transitions important?
Who are we talking about?
What's important for young people?
'Anna' - a story
Why has it been so tough?
The research tell us
'Cody' - a story
How we can make things better
I can get there

Why are healthy transitions important?

For young people to be happy and contributing members of our community they must be able to move successfully through the different stages of their lives and cope with changes.

They will go through many transitions: from childhood to adolescence, from primary to high school, from adolescence to adulthood, from dependence to independence and from education to employment.

But our current health, education and employment systems aren’t really geared to provide the support needed to make sure young people can complete their education, find and keep a jo and become independent adults during a time of enormous personal adjustment.

Many are missing out on timely support appropriate to their age, struggling at school and then being excluded from work opportunities.

The implications are profound for them, for their families, the community and our economic future.

We simply can’t afford to have huge numbers of young people not realising their potential because we don’t support them.

We also need to acknowledge that the routes young people can take to become successful, happy adults don’t necessarily go in a straight line.

Bumps are common along the way but they can become positive, strengthening life events.

Who are we talking about?

As many as a quarter of young Australians feel disengaged and are at risk of missing out on living healthy, productive lives.

It’s common for young people passing through different life stages to take risks and to experiment – with drugs, alcohol, sexuality and so on.

Issues to do with suicide and self-harm are also very significant for people in this age group.

The teens and early 20s are also the most common time for the onset of mental illness, with 75% manifesting before the age of 24. But there’s also evidence that for 50% of people who experience mental illness, the first episode occurs before the age of 14.

One in four young Australians lives with a mental illness and one in three experiences moderate to high levels of psychological distress.

What's important for young people?

  • Best practice
  • Early access to services
  • Easy access
  • Effective partnerships
  • Family and carer participation
  • Hope
  • Peer workforce
  • Promoting mental health
  • Quality control
  • Recovery focus
  • Sustainable
  • Youth participation in planning

 'Anna' - a story*

Anna is 15, lives in western Sydney and is part of a large Filipino family network.

English is their second language. Anna is a member of a religious youth group.

She has been failing at school and has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

She uses Facebook a lot to keep in touch with friends and has also been part of a young carers group. Her counsellor there has been trying to encourage her parents to be more supportive.

Anna has frequently sought help from the school counselling/crisis support team.

Why has it been so tough?

The top three concerns for young people are school or study problems, coping with stress and body image.

These problems come together to put them under enormous stress and can have a negative effect on their mental health and self-esteem.

Only a relatively small number of young people with a mental illness get any care. The types of services available vary considerably from place to place.

There seem to be inequities for young people with particular problems, such as borderline personality disorder. It can be extremely difficult for them to find appropriate support.

Young parents can also find getting the right mental health care difficult.

Our system still often uses unhelpful and arbitrary age cut-offs, which have the effect of limiting access to care at this most important period.

A particular concern is the lack of environments and interventions appropriate to young people’s developmental and social needs, meaning young people end up in adult psychiatric wards. This can exacerbate the distress and trauma they experience.

The research tells us


  • Top 3 issues of concern to young people are:
    • school or study problems - 38%
    • coping with stress - 37%
    • body image - 31%

These problems cause enormous stress and adversely affect mental health and self-esteem.

  • 1 in 4 Australians aged 16-24 are living with a mental disorder and 1 in 3 experiences moderate to high levels of psychological distress
  • About 1/3 of young women and 1/4 of young men had a mental health disorder
  • Young women were more likely to have anxiety or affective disorders than young men
  • Mental illness in young men aged 12-25 alone has been estimated to cost the Australian economy $3.27 billion a year in lost productivity
  • Australia loses more than 9 million working days per annum because of mental illness among young men alone
  • However, data measuring young men's access to mental health care reveals that only 13% received any care for their mental illness.

 'Cody' - a story*

Cody is 15 and lives at home in Broken Hill, part of an Aboriginal family. His dad is in jail.

Cody doesn’t go to school regularly. His childhood development was affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

He uses drugs and alcohol frequently and has been involved with the police and juvenile justice, because he shoplifted alcohol.

His home circumstances have caused concern to child protection services.

Cody sometimes attends the Aboriginal Medical Service for treatment for depression and drug and alcohol misuse. His girlfriend is pregnant.

How we can make things better

If we want our young people to develop resilience, the community needs to rethink how it views young people and how it engages with them.

Young people need public spaces and opportunities where they can feel included, valued and able to express themselves.

But how easy is it really for young people to find a place to enjoy themselves? The term youth tends to have a negative connotation and public and media images of young people are often unjustifiably linked to gangs and danger.

We need to involve young people in mental health support planning and the mental health workforce.

There is already growing awareness of mental illness among young people so we need to build on these foundations, working with groups that have specialist expertise.

Online services need to be boosted. A larger role could be played by e-mental health technologies to allow discreet 24/7 access to care for young people.

Young people’s mental health must be part of the agenda for educational institutions, as a key point of intervention for promotion of good mental health and wellbeing, as well as for prevention of mental illness and early recognition and response when someone is experiencing mental distress.

I can get there

  • Let me choose the support I need when and where I need it: Adult solutions won’t work for me. If you think not enough kids like me are getting support then listen to us about what support we’d choose at school, at home, socially or at work and go from there.
  • Everything old shouldn't be new again, especially with early intervention: You already understand how early intervention works best for the different problems I’m experiencing, so please make sure you design your support services to take that into account.
  • I'd like easy access to one-stop-shop youth-friendly services: I’ll get the support I need if it’s delivered in a way I can relate to, including online, and if I can access it from a variety of places, not just through the health system.
  • I'm dealing with several problems at a time so I need support for all of me: My family and I have a lot of different problems, like drugs, alcohol and domestic violence, and things won’t get better for us if services are scattered and don’t talk to each other.
  • I need specialist support now because I'm developing serious mental illness: I keep hearing that early intervention works but I won’t get the help I need if the system continues to operate along historical age limits and categories. Early intervention needs to be tailored for different types of mental health issues.

*This composite story describes what the experience of someone on this journey might look like.

Related links

Strategic Plan and Report


Source material for content on this page is from the Living Well Report

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Last updated: 28 June 2017