MANY older Herald readers will remember being told that the years of their youth would be the happiest time of their lives.
Their parents would warn them of the burdens of adulthood, and to enjoy themselves while they could. Cliche or not, for many it would have been the truth.
Only one in four said they were consistently happy with their lives.
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The glib response would be to say that even so, this means that two-thirds are not finding things difficult, or not struggling.
But to say this means acknowledging that three-quarters can't look themselves in the mirror, and say they're happy.
For an Australia that still prides itself as "the lucky country - and has reason, by international comparison, to do so - these signs of youthful despondency should be ringing alarm bells.
Of course such survey findings are not new.
A "mental health crisis" among our young has been declared long before now. And such scenarios are to be found in most wealthy nations.
A "first world problem" to those who say we've never had it so good, and that young people should thank society for the education and safety and variety of prospects that our accumulated generations of material wealth have brought them.
But things are not that simple.
Psychiatrist and mental health reformer Patrick McGorry, founding director of the Headspace program, says whoever wins on May 21 should shift focus from older Australians to the next generation.
Headspace - aimed at those aged 12 to 25 - was first funded by the Howard government in 2006 and is part of a broader mental health sector funded to the tune of $7 billion a year, with youth-focused programs a proportion of that.
More resources may be the answer, or they may not. However, whichever way we respond as a society, the first step should be to ask young people what they want, to ask what it is about our way of life, itself, that is contributing to their dislocation.
We might not like the answers, but they must surely be part of helping our youth.
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