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Issues in children’s mental health

Cathy O’Leary’s editorial ‘Esteem is much more than mountain of likes’ is a timely reminder of the issues associated with the mental health of our young people.

Being mentally healthy is important for children and young people so they are able to realise their potential, cope with stresses and be involved with family and other aspects of community life.

I am told regularly that mental health services for WA children and young people are at or near capacity, particularly in our regional areas. There are also many young people who simply do not seek the support they need, due to a perceived stigma, feeling embarrassed about what a professional might think and a lack of sensitive and locally accessible services. I believe there are opportunities for us to help bridge this gap through the online environment.

The digital landscape has changed rapidly in recent years and many parents are unfamiliar with the ever-increasing range of apps and social media platforms, however our young people are digital natives who tell me that technology is important in connecting them to their peers and the broader world.

While I acknowledge that there are risks associated with being online, understanding that social media and technology can support our young people’s mental health is important for parents to come to terms with. This requires parents to become more familiar with their child’s technology use and have honest and open discussion about the online world.

Late last year more than 900 parents, government and non-government staff working directly with children and young people attended a series of workshops and seminars. It was part of my Thinker in Residence program with e-mental health researcher Professor Jane Burns. We looked at how we can strengthen our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing through technology and social media.

The second phase of this important program will be held in March. There are resources are available through my website. This material will be helpful for parents and other people working with children and young people who would like to learn more. 

Colin Pettit, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA


*Originally published in the West Australian, page 50 on 20 January 2017