Young people with disability twice as likely to have experienced bullying

Tags Education Accessibility Mental Health Research

Posted 1 month ago by Rebecca St Clair

Young people with disability were found to be more likely to express concerns about their mental health than their peers. (Source: iStock)
Young people with disability were found to be more likely to express concerns about their mental health than their peers. (Source: iStock)

Young people with disability are twice as likely to be bullied and are more negative about their future, according to the results of Mission Australia’s Youth Survey.

For the first time, Mission Australia analysed their Youth Survey data with a focus on young people with disability and how their experiences differ to young people without disability.

As a result of this, Mission Australia has released the Young, Willing and Able - Youth Survey Disability Report 2019. 

The data comes from more than 25,000 responses to the 2019 Youth Survey, of which 1,623  young people reported having disability released last week.

James Toomey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  Mission Australia, says “Overwhelmingly, these findings show young people with disability are more concerned about a range of issues. Young people with disability are telling us loud and clear that their experience of growing up and living with disability in Australia is impacting negatively on their lives, their mental wellbeing and their belief in their ability to achieve their goals.”

Young people with disability were found to be more likely to express concerns about their mental health than their peers.

They indicated personal concerns about mental health (45.5% compared to people without disability which was 32.4%), suicide (25.6% compared to 13.5%*) and bullying/emotional abuse (25.5% compared to 13.6%*). 

Young people with disability are also twice as likely to feel sad or very sad about their life as a whole (24.1% versus 10.1% for young people without disability) and feel negative or very negative about the future (26.0% compared with 11.2%).

The findings also exposed that young people with disability are twice as likely to have experienced bullying in the past 12 months than their peers without disability, with two in five young people with disability reporting this (43.4% compared with 19.3%).

Mr Toomey says that the findings of the survey clearly show that young people with disability are not able to access the same opportunities as young people without disability. 

“These Youth Survey findings pinpoint that young people with disability don’t have the same access to opportunities as their peers. They need more access to vital opportunities so they can better connect with their communities, friends and families and lead fulfilling lives and thrive into the future,” he adds.

The experiences of bullying shared in the survey are unsurprising, says Mary Sayers, CEO of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA).

“Every year we do an education survey and last years, which had over 500 responses, found half of young people and children with disability in education are bullied. So we weren’t really surprised by the result.”

The report has led to Mission Australia calling for urgent changes to support young people with disability. 

Mr Toomey says, “We must not accept that young people with disability are facing such high levels of mental health concerns, bullying and a range of barriers as the norm.

“These young people are facing considerable physical, attitudinal and structural barriers that stop them from accessing services that may address their concerns. These barriers need to be addressed so that young people with disability have access to the supports that they need, when they need it.”

Ms Sayers says that the only way for young people and children with disability to be supported and for bullying to be stopped is through embracing diversity in education.

“The best way to overcome any discrimination and bullying is through embracing diversities and embracing inclusion, and the problem is we have an education system that doesn’t always prioritise inclusion, and that is the experience of our members.” 

Mr Toomey is also calling for education and changes to ensure young people with disability are not exposed to bullying. 

“These findings confirm that bullying is a deeply concerning reality for too many young people with disability. This exposes an immediate need for a national campaign that de-stigmatises disability and prevents the bullying of young people with disability.” 

Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 is currently open to all young people aged 15-19 years-old who are living in Australia until 14 August. To take part in the survey, visit Mission Australia.  

What do you think needs to change to support young people with disability? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].

Share this Article

Leave a Comment