Kids Helpline reaching fewer boys

The proportion of boys and young men contacting the national Kids Helpline has fallen from 35% to 21% since 2008.

Kids Helpline provides a free confidential 24/7 online and phone counselling service, but only one in five young people helped by the service in 2018 were boys and young men.

In 2008, nearly 300,000 children and young people contacted the service and 35% were boys and young men. In the past decade there has been a marked decrease in the number of non-counselling contacts for information and referrals, from nearly 240,000 contacts in 2008 to around 80,000 contacts. In the same period, counselling contacts increased from around 53,000 to nearly 68,000.

These figures suggest that the number of boys and young men contacting the service during this time has fallen from an estimated 100,000 in 2008 to an estimated 30,000 in 2018.

According yourtown CEO Tracy Adams, which runs Kids Helpline: “It’s not for young people to be relevant to us – we must be relevant to them.”

To become more relevant the service has added online services in recent years which now account for half of all contacts. In 2018, Kids Helpline also launched four comics that aim to encourage young people to seek help and empower them to support each other by talking about suicide and child abuse in a language that speaks to them.

The types of issues that boys and young men contacted the service for in 2018 included:

  • Mental health concerns (22%)
  • Emotional wellbeing (22%)
  • Family relationships issues (12%)
  • Suicide-related concerns (12%)
  • Dating and partner relationships (12%)
  • Friend/peer relationships (8%)
  • Child abuse (6%)
  • Bullying (6%)
  • Study & education issues (4%)
  • Self-injury/self-harm concerns (9%)

A greater proportion (though not a greater number) of boys and young men received counselling for emotional wellbeing; dating and partnerships; friend/peer relationships and bullying.

In terms of the number of service users, girls and young women were:

  • 3 times more likely to get counselling for emotional wellbeing issues
  • 4 times more likely to get counselling for mental health concerns
  • 6 times more likely to get counselling for self-injury/self-harm concerns
  • 9 times more likely to get counselling for suicide-related concerns

This is particularly notable because 317 of 428 people under the age of 25 who died by suicide in Australia in 2017 were boys and young men.

In terms of different age groups, 16% of contacts from male service users were boys aged 5-12; half of contacts were from boys and young men aged 13-18 and a third came from young men aged 19 to 25 years old.

When compared with female service users, boys and young men accounted for:

  • 27% of 5-12 years using the service service
  • 17% of 13-18 years olds using the service
  • 24% of 19-25 years olds using the service

For young adults age 19 to 25 years old, there were four times more young women making contact about mental health and suicide issues than young men and nearly nine times more young women getting counselling for self-harm issues.

According to Tracy Adams, CEO of Kids Helpline:

“Part of becoming a man has often been to hide their emotions and this is cementing patterns of not asking for help. Instead we need to encourage boys from an early age to get help when need and encouraging men to model this behaviour for kids.

“This means mums and sisters, other women and fathers, brothers and friends letting kids know it’s ok to show their vulnerability and ask for help about anything including their mental health and suicide concerns through to peer and family relationships and emotional wellbeing.

Kids Helpline has published a national insights report together with a series of regional reports for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

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