Gendered patterns of mental health problems begin in youth with nearly one in five Australian older adolescent women found to meet clinical criteria for depression in the Second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. However, the same report observed lower rates in parents’ and carers’ perception of major depressive disorder in their children. This suggests that parents or carers can’t always pick up on their child’s mental state, particularly for internal mood systems in older adolescents.
Self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviours occur most in older adolescent women, however, receiving medical treatment as a direct result of injuries from deliberate self-harm is markedly higher for young people with major depressive disorder than those without a disorder. In fact more than half of adolescent females with major depressive disorder reported self-harming and suicidal thoughts and behaviour, which is more than twice as high as compared to males. Suicide attempts are also reported highest in adolescent women with major depressive disorder with reports suggesting over one in five attempted suicide in the previous 12 months.
Problem eating behaviours was also observed most in older adolescent females at almost 5% with either low weight or binge eating and problem eating behaviours compared to 0.7% males. Additionally, between 2015 and 2016, the National Hospital Morbidity Database revealed 95% of Australian hospitalisations with the main diagnosis of an eating disorder were for females, of which 57% were aged 15-24 years.
With adolescents reporting not accessing or seeking help due to stigma and poor mental health literacy, young women have an unmet need for accessible, appropriate and accurate mental health information and, available, affordable and local early intervention.
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