Bullying is a national concern for young people in Whyalla at a rate more than 50 per cent higher than the state average, Mission Australia’s 2018 Youth Survey has revealed.
A total 30.4 per cent of local respondents highlighted bullying as a key issue in the survey compared to 20.0 per cent across South Australia.
The other two issues of national concern for Whyalla’s youth were mental health (42.2 per cent) and alcohol and drugs (31.2 per cent).
A record 28,000 young people aged 15 to 19 took part in the Youth Survey 2018, including 3767 young people in South Australia, of which 165 lived in the Whyalla region.
The top three issues of personal concern for Whyalla respondents were coping with stress (42.8 per cent), school or study problems (36.3 per cent) and body image (34.7 per cent).
Mental health was a highly rated personal issue of concern for one-third of Whyalla females (33 per cent) and around one-quarter (26 per cent) of males.
Mission Australia presented the findings of the survey at a local forum on Tuesday, with locals Brie Ryan, Harold Flam and Kobain King sitting on a Youth Voice Panel to field questions about issues affecting young people in Whyalla.
Each member of the panel said they had experienced bullying in one form or another, and that it was important for school and community leaders to bring these issues to the fore.
Harold, who is a member of the Headspace Whyalla Youth Reference Group, said the issues raised by the survey needed to be prioritized in the community.
“They can definitely be reduced,” he said
“It would be great to see more services like Headspace in Whyalla. They have helped me so much and I know it’s helped a lot of other people here.”
Mission Australia Regional Leader Adam Sherwood said it was important to direct young people to ‘tailored, assertive and effective’ mental health support.
“Not all young people are going to reach out because they’re anxious and concerned, they don’t want to reveal what they’re thinking for fear of reprisal,” he said.
“Access to appropriate and timely support can make a real difference in a young person’s life.”
Mr Sherwood said more investment in evidence-based programs that promote mental health and wellbeing in schools would be key to supporting students.
“That includes holistic supports for young people that meet a range of needs during adolescence, such as assistance with school or study problems and coping with stress,” he said.
Issues around finding employment were also highlighted by young people in the survey, with the three most commonly cited barriers to finding work being a lack of jobs (17 per cent), school responsibilities (15 per cent) and a lack of skills/experience (12.4 per cent).
Almost twice the proportion of young people from Whyalla reported plans to go to TAFE/college after school (23.9 per cent compared with 14.8 per cent in SA).
However, over one in eight young people from both Whyalla weren’t confident in their ability to achieve their goals