Mental health as a subject in Australian high schools can make a difference in the lives of teenagers.
Teenage years and high school can be very stressful with all the physical, psychological and social changes that occur. Preparedness and guidance can mean a big deal in supporting young people through these challenging time.
Teenage girl sitting against brick wall in depressed state
By including a mental health course in the high school curriculum it could be easier to identify and differentiate normal behaviour from deep mental problems in young people, said a Sydney Morning Herald report.
This seems a valuable recommendation in the face of new research showing that one third of West Australians under the age of 24 experience mental problems yearly. Furthermore, mental health experts say one young person takes his own life every week in Western Australia. This makes suicide a leading cause of death in the region for young people between the ages of 15 and 19. In these deaths, three out of four are young men.
Jenny Allen, Youth Focus chief executive, recommends the inclusion of mental health issues in regular school subjects, such as physical education, science and math. She believes this will help promote the increase of awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness.
"If it is to be done, it needs to be across the board in both public and private schools. I think it needs to be like math or health. We do things on health and mental health is not any different. It could include a whole gamut of activities that could be part of the sporting curriculum or the health curriculum," she said.
"If you were going to put it in the syllabus it should focus on whole areas of diversity and difference from things like coping and resilience to learning about warning signs and also helping those who have friends that aren't doing well."
Allen also promotes the method based on principle "prevention is better than the cure." She believes that this is particularly relevant for adolescents and their parents.
"Adolescence is a tough gig, it's a whole different world these days due to technology and other big issues like cyber bullying," she said.
Further data from Youth Focus indicate that in the previous year, while 190 people died in road accidents in Western Australia, 240 people committed suicide.
In the book "Teenage Depression: Warning Signs," mental problems or illness in young people were discussed. The book was written by Micelle Ferry and Janette Phillip, two mothers who suffered with depression.
The book was endorsed by Mental Health Minister Helen Morton in its launch this week, which is Mental Health Week.
"Bulimia, cyber bullying, self-harm, dependence on alcohol and drugs, isolation, anxiety, depression are often experienced by teenagers in silence. There are signs to look for, and this book will increase our chances of finding them and intervening early before their illness worsens," Morton said.
This comes after an announcement by the state government during which Premier Colin Barnett promised $13 million to help in suicide prevention, as targeted by the government's new 10-year strategy for mental health.
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