Drink, drugs main worry for teens

EXCLUSIVE Tim Clarke

Drugs, alcohol and stress are the things that worry WA's youth most - while the State's generation next also feel they may not be able to live up to expectations placed on them.

This year's national Mission Australia Youth Survey spoke to more than 13,000 teenagers nationwide and more than 1000 in WA to gauge the views of Australia's 15 to 19-year-olds, asking about personal and national concerns, what young people value and where they find help.

In WA, more than anywhere else in Australia, drugs and alcohol were considered the most pressing issue facing the country, with mental health coming in at number two. The rest of the country's youth were more focused on politics and the economy.

Amanda Hunt, Mission Australia's State director, said the results from WA should be a signpost for government on how serious a problem drugs and alcohol were among the young.

"WA youth across the board are telling us they are increasingly concerned," she said. "We need to prevent alcohol, drugs and mental health issues from stunting the development and confidence of young people in our State."

Coping with stress was one of the main concerns highlighted by WA's young adults, belying the traditional perception of a carefree youth. Nearly 40 per cent of youngsters in WA, and more than 40 per cent across the nation, said stress was a major concern.

When it came to finding help for their problems, more than half those surveyed said they would turn to the internet, with only one in three saying they would talk to a teacher or a school counsellor.

"It's clear we need to do more to support our youth to navigate their way into adulthood, particularly for the most disadvantaged," Ms Hunt said.

A disturbing gap was also revealed between what young West Australians aspire to and what they believe they can achieve.

Only 60 per cent of those asked felt career success and financial independence were attainable.