In June 2022, R U OK? commissioned research from leading youth research institute, YouthInsight, to better understand the behaviour and attitudes of young Australians in relation to mental health and wellbeing.
The research will inform the ongoing work of R U OK? to empower young Australians to look out for one another proactively and to build their confidence to support each other through life’s ups and downs.
YouthInsight used a mixed research method combining a qualitative phase with a quantitative survey. Twenty-four paired respondents representing a range of relationships were interviewed in-depth and a representative sample of 1,027 young people aged from 12 to 25 years completed an online survey in June 2022.
The findings explore attitudes around seeking help, supporting others, connection and sense of belonging, and communications preferences.
70% of those surveyed did not ask for help when they were experiencing a difficult time. This rises to 75% for female respondents and drops to 64% for respondents who identified as male. Reasons given for this include:
- 56% not wanting to burden others with their problems
- 52% preferring to handle problems by themselves
- 44% feeling some problems are too personal to share
- 42% not wanting to be judged
Stigma is a major barrier for young people with eight in ten (81%) believe that people don’t discuss their struggles because they don’t want to appear weak and vulnerable and more than half (53%) saying they do not discuss their mental health concerns for the same reason.
Half of those surveyed have concerns about ‘gossip’ agreeing with the statement, ‘If I told certain friends about a problem I was having, they would tell other people’.
69% of young people are much more likely to discuss mental health concerns privately with a close friend, than with family (42%) or in a group setting with friends (42%).
Young people identified social pressure about how they are perceived or should behave when they are around other people as the main barrier to discussing mental health concerns in a group setting.
- 55% of young people who are unlikely to talk about mental health in a group setting with friends say they don’t want to bring down the atmosphere
- 45% worry it will change the way people think about them
- 44% don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable.
Half of those who are unlikely to speak with family members about mental health concerns:
- 51% believe their family don’t understand the issues that affect them
- 50% I don’t want their family to worry
- 49% believe their family don’t understand mental health well enough
Positively, the results show that young people are willing to engage in meaningful conversations about their mental health with trusted friends:
- 69% of young people are likely to discuss their mental health concerns privately with a close friend.
- Young people show a strong preference for in-person interaction with 70% of young people preferring to have these conversations in person.
Half of those surveyed conceded that in the past they have felt someone was struggling with something in their life but didn’t ask them about it. The top reasons given for not asking include:
- 57% didn’t ask someone how they were going when felt they were struggling because they felt it wasn’t their business,
- 48% were afraid they would make it worse
- 40% didn’t feel close enough to the person