Social media headlines survey

Kate Withers

A survey has found that social media is the leading cause of poor mental health in Australia’s youth population.

The research, launched by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, revealed that 62 per cent of young Australians believe the mental health of young Australians is deteriorating.

Other factors respondents listed as contributors include pressures with school, work and community.

The results of the survey, released earlier this month, coincided with National Mental Health Week.

Headspace Morwell youth worker Christian Atwater said that while the national survey showed social media as the leading cause for ill mental health, there was no single trend when it came to issues affecting Gippsland’s youth.

“When we discuss ill mental health, ill mental would be by definition is when your mental health is impacting your social, you work life, your education,” Mr Atwater said

“When it comes to social media, social media can be quite important for young people, it’s all around their lives.

“It can have a negative impact definitely for people [but] what we try to encourage though is positive use of social media.”

Mr Atwater said following positive influencers, resisting the urge to compare yourself to others and consuming positive content were all ways for young people to achieve “a healthy headspace” while using social media.

The national survey found other leading causes of ill mental health in young people were societal expectations (18 per cent) and work or study pressure (16 per cent).

But Mr Atwater said every case was individual and required a “holistic” approach when it came to treating youth mental health.

“There is no one key fix. Each person differs from the next, so to say that everyone would be impacted by work or study, that’s not necessarily the case,” he said.

“Some of these things, they do pop up in some of the young people that we see but we try to work more so in a holistic manner.”

He maintained, however, there were several strategies that all young people could employ to ensure a healthy headspace.

“Getting enough sleep is very important for young people, especially these days, and when you’re not up all hours of the night on social media comparing, doing Instagram posts and that sort of thing, you’re getting enough sleep and you’re getting rested,” he said

Mr Atwater also encouraged young people experiencing mental health issues to reach out and ask for help.

“The key point we take out of this is that whilst 63 per cent of young people are experiencing ill mental health outcomes, we encourage young people to seek out services like headspace,” he said.

Headspace is a free service and offers drop-in services for young people aged 12-25.

National Youth Mental Health Foundation Survey reasons for declining mental health in youth:

Social media: 37%

Expectations from family, school, community: 18%

Work or study pressure: 16%

Political social, environmental issue: 8%

Information technology: 6%

Interpersonal problems: 6%

Stigma around mental illness: 5%

Drugs and alcohol: 5%