Youth unemployment is rife across Australia and more needs to be done to support growing numbers of vulnerable young people experiencing mental health difficulties.
headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said the recent release of the top twenty youth unemployment hot spots, prompted headspace to delve a little deeper into its own data revealing a much higher than average number of young people seeking help at headspace centres who are not engaged in education, employment or training (NEET).
“The average number of disengaged young people who are accessing headspace services in the identified hotspots is 27 per cent, which is a staggering three times higher than the national NEET average of 8.8 per cent for 15 – 24 year olds.”
Mr Trethowansaid he was concerned about this trend and the direct link between unemployment and mental health for young people.
“There is a two-way link between youth unemployment and mental health; unemployment in young people can lead to poor mental health, and young people with poor mental health are more vulnerable to not engage in work.”
Mr Trethowan also acknowledged that unemployment is a challenging and complex issue.
“Mental health difficulties are part of that complexity which is why headspace has a targeted work and study stream that can support young people to find employment.
“Our model of care not only looks at a young person’s mental health challenges, but also supports them with physical health, alcohol and other drug use, and engagement in work and study,” he said.
Research shows that unemployment has a significant impact on a young person including social withdrawal, financial difficulties and increased use of substances. These negative effects can be prevented if a young person is able to engage in work.
Having a job provides structure and routine to daily life; it also brings a sense of purpose and responsibility for young people and improves their self-confidence.
Underemployment is also a critical issue affecting young people that is not being addressed. Underemployment typically affects young people in regional and remote areas, more so than metropolitan areas
Young people who work just one hour a week are represented as being employed, yet many are desperately seeking more work which can greatly impact their mental health and wellbeing.
Mr Trethowan wants young people to know that headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, is here to help no matter where they live.
“Young people can seek help from one of our headspace centres located across Australia or through our national Digital Work and Study Service which provides young people with access to work and study specialists who can support them to find work.”
“The shocking rates of youth unemployment reinforce the continued need to ensure young people can access support for their work and study needs, combined with mental health and wellbeing care,” he said.