Shepparton youth at risk of depression and anxiety

By Morgan Dyer

Alarming research has discovered more than half of young Victorians are feeling lonely.

A new report from VicHealth and Swinburne University of Technology found more than half of people aged 12 to 25 felt lonely sometimes or always and more than a quarter of young Victorians were lonely three or more times a week.

Shepparton's counselling service ACT Curious director Michelle Trudgen said loneliness could increase with online use if they compared themselves to their peers.

“Loneliness is a feeling that you have a choice on how you respond to,” she said.

“Children, adolescents and adults can sometimes present to health services and report feeling lonely at home, with family members, at school, with friends and in the workplace.

“When people feel lonely, they are more likely to stop moving forward in their life and doing activities that they enjoy.

"This puts them at increased risk of anxiety and depression,” she said.

According to ABS data, the overall suicide rate in the past 10 years had increased by about 13 per cent, but the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 19 years had increased by more than 70 per cent.

Ms Trudgen said people’s inability of understanding change could have an impact on the increases.

“The complexity of the changes in the world and people not learning new ways to deal with their stressors has increased the rate of loneliness,” she said.

VicHealth chief executive Sandro Demaio said young adults go through significant stress and challenging changes after finishing high school.

“Young people may move away from the support networks they had in their teenage years, with many having to make new friends at work or at university and many moving out of their family home,” he said.

“It’s concerning that a significant number of young people feel like they have no one to turn to.

“Being more socially connected doesn’t mean you have to make more friends. You could start by deepening the relationships with people you already know.”

Ms Trudgen said there was a wealth of services available in the region to help Shepparton youth.

“Shepparton has so much to offer in regards to social activities,” she said.

“People can volunteer, or join groups or learn about their personality or disability to enhance their communication skills and build deeper connections.

“People can see their GP, Headspace, volunteer in their community, community health service or book a session with a private clinical social worker or psychologist who specialises in young people,” she said.

Ms Trudgen said changing daily activities would also help people feel better.

“Sitting watching TV by yourself might rate as a 3/10, whilst meeting a friend for a walk around the lake would rate as a 9/10,” she said.

“This is a helpful behavioural tool to use every day to help us plan to live the life we love and also to do the necessary tasks like paying our bills, etc.

“So, don't wait to 'feel good’ to start living your life,” she said.