CRYING OUT FOR HELP: The demand for counselling support for children and young people is increasing.
CRYING OUT FOR HELP: The demand for counselling support for children and young people is increasing. CONTRIBUTED

Desperate kids seek mental health help

ONE of the most extensive reports into the issues affecting young people shows mental health is the main concern of Australian children and young people.

The Kids Helpline Overview 2013 - a summary of the key issues affecting young people in Australia last year - found family relationships, emotional wellbeing, suicide-related concerns and dating and partner relationships were also major concerns.

Kids Helpline last year received more than 700,000 direct contacts and help-seeking website inquiries, mostly from young people aged 5-25 years.

That was up 9% on 2012.

Kids Helpline CEO Tracy Adams said the demand for ongoing counselling support for children and young people continued to increase.

Counsellors helped kids deal with severe, complex and long-standing issues.

She said 43% of children and young people who received counselling from the service last year were experiencing suicidal, deliberate self-injury and mental health concerns.

However, an estimated 156,000 telephone calls, emails and web contacts went unanswered in 2013.

"We encourage children and young people to keep trying to contact us if they can't get through," she said.

"It is vitally important that they do. Counsellors are available every hour of the day.

"We are providing an increasing number of counselling sessions to children and young people reaching out to the service seeking to deal with very significant issues and we do worry about that."

Kids Helpline is 70% funded by the BoysTown Art Unions and Ms Adams called for more support from governments and the broader community.

"We need an additional $4 million to meet the demand," she said.

Kids Helpline general manager Wendy Protheroe said the service helped young people with everyday issues such as friendship and relationship problems and also life's extremely serious issues such as suicide, mental health, anxiety, depression and bullying.

"Last year qualified counsellors, on average, dealt with young people regarding suicide concerns 26 times per day and deliberate self-injury 43 times per day," she said.

There was a significant increase in online counselling sessions and the number of downloads and views of online self-help resources.

"Our qualified counsellors now conduct 42% of all sessions with a young person online, while views and downloads of our self-help Hot Topics on the Kids Helpline website has increased by 30%," she said.

Ms Protheroe said family relationships continued to be the most common concern for children and young people aged between five and 18.

"Almost one in five counselling contacts were with children and young people seeking help about family relationships," she said.

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