MEDIA RELEASE: MISSION AUSTRALIA SAYS EARLY INTERVENTION KEY TO REDUCING YOUTH HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL ILLNESS IN TASMANIA

 

In the lead up to Homelessness Week (7-13 August), Mission Australia’s Youth Mental Health and Homelessness Report released today gives findings from the Mission Australia Youth Survey, showing poor family functioning and serious mental illness are factors that impact on the risks of homelessness for young people aged 15-19 years living in Australia.

Dave chats with Noel Mundy from Mission Australia who explains  The report highlights that young people with a probable serious mental illness are 3.5 times more likely to have spent time away from their home because they felt they couldn’t go back and nearly twice as likely to have spent time away from home on six or more occasions compared to their peers. Nearly half of all young people who said they had spent time away from home reported high levels of concern about family conflict.

 

Mission Australia’s Youth Mental Health and Homelessness Report considers the 17,145 responses to the 2015 Youth Survey including responses by 719 participants from Tasmania to look at a number of factors which may increase a young person’s vulnerability to homelessness. Key findings of the report include:

 

  • Nationally, those with a probable serious mental illness are 3.5 times more likely to have spent time away from home than those without a probable serious mental illness (32.2% versus 8.6%).

In Tasmania, those with a probable serious mental illness are 3 times more likely to have spent time away from home than those without a probable serious mental illness (33.7% versus 10.9%).

 

  • The likelihood that a young person would spend more occasions away from home increased if they had a probable serious mental illness. Nationally, of the young people who spent time away from home, nearly half (45.6%) of those with a probable serious mental illness had done so on six or more occasions in their lifetime. In contrast, one third (33.3%) of those without a probable serious mental illness who had spent time away from home had done so on six or more occasions;
  • Nationally, an alarming 57.7% of those with a probable serious mental illness who rated their family functioning as poor had spent time away from home as compared to 37% without a probable serious mental illness;
  • Nationally, of those with a probable serious mental illness females were more likely than males to not spend time away from home if they had a probable serious mental illness (1 in 5 compared to 1 in 10).
  • Compared to young people who had not spent time away from home, many more young people in Australia who had spent time away from home reported high levels of concern about:
  • Family conflict: 48.9% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 12.8%
  • Depression: 0% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 15.3%
  • Coping with stress: 58.6% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 35.2%
  • Suicide: 28.8% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 8.1%
  • Compared to young people who did not have a probable serious mental illness, many more young people in Australia who had a probable serious mental illness reported high levels of concern about:
  • Depression: 8% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 10.4%
  • Coping with stress: 73.3% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 29.4%
  • Body image: 53.2% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 19.4%
  • School or study problems: 59.5% ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned compared to 26.8%

In light of these findings, Noel Mundy, Mission Australia’s Tasmania State Director said: “Youth homelessness is closer to us than we like to think. Young people at risk often go unnoticed and don’t receive the early help they need to prevent future homelessness.

 

“Couch surfing is often the first and most common way that young people experience homelessness. We know that adolescents who are couch surfing – that is, when they stay for short periods of time on couches, floors or in other insecure housing situations with relatives or friends – are at a greater risk of homelessness later in life.

 

“The link between homelessness and mental illness among young people works in both directions, as young people who are experiencing mental illness are at increased risk of homelessness, while those who are homeless are at increased risk of mental illness.

 

“We must act early and address issues that lead to young people leaving home. We need to actively build strong family relationships, ensure schools are equipped to identify students who may be in need of support, as well as provide targeted support and early intervention when it’s needed.

 

“When a young person has a safe and secure home, this provides a firm foundation from which they can grow and thrive. It allows them to build strong social relationships, and to study, learn a trade or embark on their chosen career.

 

“For many young people who feel they can’t go back home because of family conflict, violence or for other reasons, what starts as sporadic couch surfing can unfortunately turn into more entrenched homelessness,” said Mr Mundy.

 

Mission Australia is calling for urgent action to address both youth homelessness and youth mental illness.

 

“There are a range of evidence-based specialist services that can support young people experiencing homelessness to find their way, connect them to expert help including for mental illness, reconcile with family if that’s safe and possible, or if not, find supportive accommodation. But workers in these services are over-stretched and under-resourced and with greater investment, more young people could be supported.

 

“We urgently need more targeted and holistic early intervention services so we can adequately address the issues faced by young people before they become homeless, as well as increased investment in social and affordable housing and supported accommodation models for young people.

 

“The findings in this report are incredibly concerning and I strongly urge governments of all levels to commit to halving youth homelessness by 2020. Major investment in supporting youth mental health initiatives is of utmost importance to reduce the numbers of young people being pushed into homelessness.

 

“All young people deserve a safe home and we have the means to provide it. All that is needed is the political will and the commitment from us all as a community,” said Mr Mundy.