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  • Young Australians more anxious, distressed

    Author: AAP

Young Australians are more anxious than ever as they navigate technological change and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's the conclusion of National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan as a national listening tour near its end.

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More than 1200 Australians have taken part in the community conversations held in metropolitan and regional areas during the last three months.

Ms Morgan said a recurring theme during the Connections2022 tour was rising concern about the well-being of young people.

"The resting pulse for our young people is much higher in terms of anxiety and psychological distress," she told AAP.

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"When we dig deep into that, there's a lot of conversation around the role of technology ... it's almost like it's created a new form of school playground. There are different ways of having relationships, different ways of communicating.

"And we haven't well equipped them for that new school playground. There's a lot of implications in that for our young people."

Other key themes paint a grim picture of Australians' mental health during the pandemic: an increased presence of suicidal ideation, higher levels of family and domestic violence and more acutely unwell people presenting at emergency departments.

But while access to services remained critical, Ms Morgan said the pandemic, which began in early 2020, had also exacerbated loneliness and a lack of human connection.

"When it comes to addressing our mental health, when it comes to addressing our risk of suicide, it's not a transactional thing. It's a relational thing," she said.

"That is a critical underpinning. It is one of the reasons the system is not working. It is working on people, it's not working with people."

An encouraging development was the emergence of "safe havens" staffed by peer workers, where people could attend in a crisis instead of emergency departments.

The availability of those facilities, particularly in regional areas, remained a challenge.

Other issues explored during the conversations were the links between mental health problems and trauma, drug and alcohol misuse and social determinants.

Housing availability was a major contributing factor across the nation.

Negative experiences cited by some participants who had sought acute mental health treatment reinforced the need for earlier intervention, Ms Morgan said.

"There is such a need for us to have an assertive outreach," she said.

"Ensuring that we can reach people in the communities or where they live, learn and work rather than expecting them to come to us is critical."

The listening tour will wrap up in regional NSW next month. But Australians are also being encouraged to contribute via an online survey, which can be found on the front page of the National Mental Health Commission's website.

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