Mental health literacy issues in Australian teens

Australian teen mental health literacy

Knowledge and awareness are key to slowing the development of mental health issues in Australian teens.

Researchers from Torrens University Australia have analysed existing evidence from the literature about factors that impact teens’ knowledge and awareness of mental health issues. The study explored how well Australian teens understand mental health and how their understanding can either help or hinder them in dealing with mental health issues.

Associate Professor Fahad Hanna supported this research project with Public Health Alumni Dr. Hirukshi Bennett. It was published in Frontiers in Public Health.

The research explores the understanding young people have about mental health and how factors such as culture, community, family and education can influence their response and how they seek help.

Research findings from A perspective on mental health literacy and mental health issues among Australian teens

The study found:

  • Girls are better at recognising depression than boys. Boys are more likely to have reduced help-seeking attitudes, are more likely to have mental health problems and are less likely to ask for help.
  • LGBTQIA+ teens often face mental health challenges and subsequently need more support from schools and communities.
  • Teens in rural areas have more mental health issues than those in cities and have less access to help.
  • Teens whose parents have a mental health illness are more likely to have one too. Schools can help by teaching students and teachers about mental health and providing support.
  • Teens from diverse cultural backgrounds may have unique challenges related to mental health, including shame and stigma.

Interventions to combat teen mental health literacy and mental health issues

Based on the evidence, the study recommends specific approaches to improve young people's understanding of mental health and better prepare them to deal with mental health issues. Community-specific programs should be designed and implemented in partnership with the community and tailored to various genders and cultures. The study shows that when young people know more about mental health and the support that is available, they tend to be in a better position to recognise their own mental health and seek help and ultimately, support others within their social circle.

School-focused recommendations to improve mental health literacy in Australian teens

  • Implementing programs in schools to teach coping skills, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills, and, promoting physical activity and exercise, which can improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Offering mindfulness training to help teens manage stress and build resilience and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, including balanced nutrition, adequate sleep and limiting screen time.
  • Creating supportive and inclusive school environments where students feel accepted, valued and connected to their peers and teachers, irrespective of their gender, race or ethnicity.
  • Providing access to mental health education and resources to increase awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues and providing positive role models to support youth in developing a sense of purpose and self-esteem.
  • Promoting community involvement and volunteer opportunities to foster a sense of belonging and social connection by facilitating open communication and supportive relationships with parents, caregivers and other trusted adults in Teens’ lives.

These strategies will help Australian teens develop the resilience they need to thrive and improve their mental health.

Dr. Hanna is available to discuss this research in more detail. If you’d like to arrange an interview or seek comment, please email

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