Being There: Young people supporting their friends through tough times

Released today, the Being There report finds young people rely on each other when they face mental health challenges, with more than 94 per cent supporting a friend during mental ill health. This includes providing financial assistance, temporary accommodation and linking them to professional support.

Young people experience more mental health difficulties compared to other age groups in Australia. This report is a significant step to better understanding the ways young people seek support and the best ways to assist their wellbeing and mental health.

Dr Benjamin Hankel, Y&R VC Fellow and lead researcher on this project says the findings are significant in unlocking better support for young people.

“Importantly, as our report indicates peers do provide personalised support to their friends as they can notice changes in behaviour or mood while having a unique understanding of their friends’ individual needs and circumstances, including their cultural background,” says Dr Hanckel.

The results found that young people spend an average of 3.5 hours every week providing support to their friends or peers, a total of 182 hours annually.

The report also found that young people can identify when a friend is experiencing a mental health and when they need a formal intervention from a mental health professional. Young people confide in friends and often avoid disclosing their concerns to adults in their lives, as they are often “not taken seriously”.

Nic Brown, CEO of Batyr, says young people care about their peers and communities particularly given the disruptions and uncertainty they experienced in the last few years.

“Friendships are playing a central role in mental health care, with around 70% of this cohort turning to their peers and friends before their parents or teachers,” he says.

“Not only are young people providing ongoing support when friends are dealing with mental ill-health, but they are recognising when friends need professional help too, connecting friends to more formal pathways of care. Ensuring young people have the resources needed to support themselves and their friends is important to starting conversations and supporting each other through difficult times.”

The report's findings draw from a national survey and focus groups with young people, along with consultations within the mental health sector.

Find out more and read the full report here. Otherwise, you might be interested to read the latest Conversation article about the findings.