Tuesday, 18 October 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: new paper examines whether mental health problems in high school students vary by socio-demographic factors

PhD candidate Julia Dray and A/Prof Jenny Bowman of the Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group and colleagues, recently published a study which investigated prevalence of mental health problems in high school students, and how such prevalence varies by age, gender, Aboriginal status, remoteness of residential location and socio-economic disadvantage.

The recently published paper relates to one of three studies presented last month by Julia at the 22nd International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions World Congress, Calgary Canada, which Julia attended as one of twenty international early career researchers to be awarded a place in the Donald J Cohen Fellow program at the World Congress.

The research team surveyed a regional sample of almost 7,000 high school students… so what did they find?

Almost 1 in 5 students scored in the ‘very high’ range for general mental health problems, with girls more likely to have mental health problems overall and in particular internalising problems (e.g. emotional symptoms), and boys more likely to have externalising problems (e.g. hyperactivity). Aboriginal students consistently scored higher for mental health problems than non-Aboriginal students.

A particular strength of the study, the research team developed the paper through a cultural advice process which involved an internal cultural advice group within the research team, an external cultural steering group and external Aboriginal researchers and community members to ensure that results relating to Aboriginal students were correctly interpreted embedded in the context of multi-generational trauma for Aboriginal people in Australia. The paper highlights the need for the development and validation of culturally appropriate measures of mental health for use with Aboriginal young people, and the equal importance of considering resilience and strengths within Aboriginal individuals and communities including strong family and interpersonal relationships, maintenance of a unique cultural identity and connection, and the development of coping skills.    

You can read the full paper at: