The number of young people identifying mental health as a top concern has doubled since 2016.
According to the Mission Australia Youth Survey, just over four in 10 young people identified mental health as the top issue facing the nation.
About 28,000 people aged 15 to 19 responded to the survey – a third living in regional areas – and it was the first time in the 17 years of reporting that each state and territory named mental health as the top issue in the country.
Warrnambool youth councillor Sophie O’Brien is not surprised mental health has been identified as the top issue in this year's survey.
The Warrnambool Youth Council has been active in the mental health space and ran a social media campaign during Mental Health Week in October.
Miss O'Brien, 16, joined mental health professionals on The Words for Wellness panel at the Lighthouse Theatre on World Mental Health Day.
She spoke about how mental health was perceived and why it was important to talk about it.
Becc Brooker from the rural section of the Youth Affairs Council Victoria was also not surprised mental health was top of the list.
"Any time you ask a young person what's an important issue to you, the majority are saying mental health," she said.
Miss Brooker said many young people felt they could talk to their peers about mental health but weren’t as comfortable talking about it with their parents, carers and other adults.
Survey respondents were asked to indicate how personally concerned they were about a number of issues.
‘Coping with stress’ was the top issue of personal concern for young people from major cities (44.9 per cent) and regional areas (40.2 per cent).
Mission Australia chief executive officer James Toomey said it was positive more people were talking about mental health but action needed to be taken.
“We want to see investment in evidence-based programs that promote mental health and well-being in schools and holistic supports for young people that meet a range of needs during adolescence, including assistance with school or study problems and coping with stress," he said.
While coping with stress was a prominent issue, many survey respondents reported feeling happy with their lives and positive about the future.
The majority of young people from major cities and regional areas felt happy overall with their lives (63 per cent compared with 61.7 per cent).
The majority of young people from major cities and regional areas also felt either very positive or positive about the future (62.1 per cent compared with 63.1 per cent).
Miss Brooker said some issues besides mental health important to young people in the south-west included dealing with the transition period after high school, dealing with discrimination and accessing services such as medical appointments.
Meanwhile, Miss O'Brien said some issues affecting young people in Warrnambool and surrounds include access to opportunities, drug and alcohol abuse, a lack of recreational activities for teenagers and acceptance for all people from all backgrounds.
- Anyone who needs help can phone Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636