Common Youth Mental Disorders

Major depressive disorder – the key feature is the presence of either depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure or being grouchy, irritable and in a bad mood.
Symptoms of a major depressive disorder may include significant weight change, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and restlessness, loss of energy, fatigue, feeling of worthlessness and inability to concentrate. The diagnostic criteria for this disorder specify that at least five symptoms of depression must be present for a minimum of a 2-week period; that these symptoms cause clinically significant distress; and that they interfere with normal functions at school, at home or in social settings.

Anxiety disorders – a class of mental disorders defined by the experience of intense and debilitating anxiety. The types of anxiety disorders are the social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Children and adolescents with this condition may find it difficult to pay attention and to see tasks or activities through to the end or may make careless mistakes with schoolwork or other tasks. Children and adolescents with problems in the area of hyperactivity may talk excessively; have trouble staying still when it is appropriate or expected, and act like they are ‘always on the go’.

Conduct disorder – repetitive and persistent behavior to a degree that violates the basic rights of others, major societal norms or rules – in terms of aggression towards people or animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violation of rules.

Support services

Support services and clinical care options specifically designed for young people are provided by governments through various portfolios, including education and health.
Support services are also provided by the non-government sector.

Types of support services

School-based services – such as counselors, welfare officers, and support resources provide support for young people as they negotiate challenges in their school-based social environment since social connectedness has been shown to be a predictive factor for substance abuse, mental health disorders, and school outcomes.

Online services – The most common service accessed by young people aged 13-17 is information about mental health issues, followed by assessment tools. One in 5 young people without any disorder also access online services, mostly seeking information about mental health issues.

Health services – are most commonly clinical in nature: that is, they treat patients. Available mental health services are diverse and include:

  • Primary care services – that is, the first point of contact with the health system
    (for example, general practitioners)
  • Community-based care, including psychologists and psychiatrists and community-based specialized mental health teams operated and managed by state and territory health departments
  • Specialized mental health care facilities in hospitals.

Barriers to seeking and receiving care

There are many reasons why children and adolescents with mental health disorders might not seek or receive the care they need.

Parents of 4– 17-year-olds with mental health disorders did not seek help for their child, or that their child’s needs were not met by services, most commonly say that they could not afford it, we’re not sure where to get help, and that they would prefer to handle the issues by themselves or with family/friends.