Teen Health

Right to Care

  • You have a right to understand your own health and to make informed decisions about your own body
  • All medical staff should communicate with you throughout your visit.
  • You have the right to an interpreter.
  • If you are unsure of anything that is happening to you have a right to ask them to stop and explain what is happening.
  • You also have a right to decline care or to ask for more information before consenting to any procedure or intervention.

Becoming a Teenager

  • Becoming a teenager (also known as an adolescent) involves both physical and emotional changes in your body.
  • Your hormone levels increase causing these changes and this is known as puberty.
  • Puberty occurs at different times and in different ways in boys and girls.

Social and Emotional Development of Teenagers


  • Puberty occurs when your body releases hormones and cause many physical changes.
  • These changes include:

    • growing taller
    • growing hair in your armpits, on your legs and on your pubic area (where your genitals are)
    • pimples or acne.




      ● 9 - 14 years

      ● 10 - 16 years


      ● Grow taller

      ● Grow hair on legs, under arms and in pubic area

      ● Develop breasts

      ● Hips get wider

      ● Period will begin

      ● Grow taller

      ● Grow facial hair

      ● Grow hair on legs and in pubic area

      ● Oily skin

      ● Body odour

      ● Voice will get deeper

      ● Penis will grow

      ● Start having erections

Physical Changes Teenagers

Periods (Menstruation)

  • Once a girl starts puberty she will get her period (also known as menstruation) once a month until she experiences menopause (usually in her late 40s/50s).
  • This bleeding comes out the vagina and last about 4-7 days.
  • This is a normal part of puberty for girls.

What happens to my body when I have my period?

  • The uterus is the reproductive organ that holds the baby and helps it to grow when a woman is pregnant.
  • Each month hormones are released that make the lining of the uterus (also known as the womb) thicker.
  • These hormones also release an egg from either the left or right ovary (located on either side of the uterus).
  • If this egg does not come into contact with sperm (through sex) then you can not become pregnant.
  • Your period will start approximately 2 weeks after the egg is released as the lining of the uterus sheds and blood flows out through the vagina.

Period Symptoms:

  • Cramps or pains in the lower part of your abdomen (tummy).
  • Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
  • Constipation before your period starts
  • Diarrhoea when your period starts
  • Increase in pimples
  • Tiredness
  • Feelings that you can not control (grumpy, sad, angry)

These symptoms are temporary and will pass. Some girls/women experience these worse or for longer than others.


  • A pad is a rectangular piece of material that you can attach to the inside of your underwear. It absorbs the blood as it flows out of the vagina.
  • Some pads have extra material on the side (called wings) that fold over the edges of your underwear to help hold the pad in place and prevent leakage.
  • Some girls have periods with heavier bleeding, whereas some girls only experience light bleeding. Pads come in different thicknesses to suit heavier and lighter periods.
  • Peel the strip underneath the pad and then press it onto the inside of your underwear to attach it.
  • Once you have removed the pad after going to the toilet, wrap it in toilet paper and throw it into a rubbish bin (or sanitary bin if there is one located in the bathroom).
  • You should change your pad every 3 - 4 hours to prevent any odours or infections developing.


  • A tampon soaks up blood from inside the vagina.
  • Before inserting a tampon remember to wash your hands.
  • Follow the instructions that come with the tampon packet and make sure you relax as you insert the tampon.
  • Some tampons come with an applicator that guides the tampon into the vagina. Other tampons are inserted with your fingers.
  • Tampons have a string attached to the end that stays outside of the vagina. This string is used to remove the tampon.
  • A tampon should be changed every 4 - 6 hours.
  • Once you have removed the tampon after going to the toilet, wrap it in toilet paper and throw it into a rubbish bin (or sanitary bin if there is one located in the bathroom).
  • If you can not find the string, wash your hands and gently use your fingers to locate it within the vagina (don’t worry, a tampon cannot get lost because your cervix will block it from travelling any further).

Menstrual Cups:

  • A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped, silicon cap that can be inserted into the vagina during your period.
  • The cup catches the blood before it flows out of the vagina.
  • To insert, fold is in half like the picture below and insert. If inserted properly the menstrual cup should not be uncomfortable and will not fall out.
  • Follow the instructions here if you are unsure
  • The cup can be left inside between 6-12 hours depending on the heaviness of your flow though most brands recommend emptying and cleaning every 6 hours to reduce the chance of infection (see TSS section below)
  • You need to have access to soap and water so that you can wash your hands before you remove and reinsert the cup.
  • At the end of your cycle, you can wash your cup with warm water and an oil free, unscented soap.
  • If you wish to boil it, you can do so for 5-10 minutes but be careful to to let the cup get burned as this will make it unusable in the future.
  • With good care, your cup can last up to 10 years.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

  • Toxic Shock Syndrome happens when bacteria in the vagina become poisonous.


  • High temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rash that looks like sunburn
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Muscle aches or weakness
  • Bright red colouring of the eyes, mouth, throat and vagina
  • Headache, confusion, disorientation or seizures
  • Pain in your abdomen (tummy) and back (near your kidneys)

If you notice any of these symptoms contact your doctor immediately.

More information can be found here, scroll to the bottom of the page to find this information in other languages

Menstrual Cycle and Period Problems

Toxic Shock Syndrome


As you get older, you will likely be attracted to different people in a physical way. This means that you like they way they make you feel and could see yourself becoming closer to them in a sexual way.

Sexuality can mean different things to different people.

  • It can relate to who you have sex with, how you have sex and also who you are attracted to
  • Sexual orientation refers to whether you are sexually attracted to women or men, both or neither
  • Sexual identity refers to whether you feel you are a female or a male, both or neither
  • Many people identify with being heterosexual (meaning they are attracted to or sleep with members of the opposite sex) but people who are same sex attracted is becoming more socially accepted in Australia.

All sexual orientations and identities are equally valid.

  • Men who are sexually attracted to other men and they usually identify as being gay.
  • Women attracted to other women usually identify as lesbian.
  • Some people are not attracted to others or don’t identify as either a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl).
  • Some people identify as pansexual, polysexual or asexual and they may choose labels such as ‘queer” or “gender nonconforming” and “gender fluid” to express themselves as they feel most comfortable.
  • People who feel that their gender is different to the sex they were born with (i.e. boys who feel like they are actually girls, women who feel like they are actually men as well as those who feel they are somewhere in the middle) often identify as transgender.

    • People who are transgender may or may not have had surgery as part of their transition experience. They do not have to discuss their experience with anyone if they do not want to.

Some people don’t identify on the gender or sexual orientation binary, meaning they don’t feel attracted to or like they fit any of the above descriptions. There are many different orientations.

  • Some people don’t identify on the gender or sexual binary. This means that they may not feel like they fit any of the above descriptions. This website lists some of the terms they may like to use but they also may prefer not to be labelled at all.
  • This can be very confusing to you and to the people around you.

It is important to know you have a right to feel how you feel, love who you love and to not be judged for this or discriminated against because of it.

You have a right to feel safe and respected and there are people who will support and care for you if you are having a difficulty accepting or trying to find out what your sexuality is.

  • If you are exploring your sexual orientation or gender identity, you can find some resources listed below including support groups that can help you through the journey.
  • This can be a scary and lonely time for many teenagerss who feel there is no one else out there that feels like them.
  • Sometimes family and friends can make you feel sad or embarrassed about your feelings. It is important that you know that there are people out there just like you.
  • If you feel unsafe or depressed, please reach out for help at the following services. THey are there to help you through this difficult time. You are not alone.

Sexuality in Teenagers

Youth sexuality

Gender diverse young people support group

LGBTQI youth

Transgender resources and support specific to refugees

LGBTQ support group

You may feel ready to have sex with someone when you a teenager. It is OK to wait to see if these feelings pass. If they don’t, you should always practice safer sex. More can be found out about this in Shifra’s Healthy Relationships and Having Sex sections.

Sex should ALWAYS be consensual between both or all sexual partners. This means that you both must give active and affirmative consent, EVERY TIME. If you feel you are being pressured into having sex, you can reach out for help.

If you or someone you know have been victim of sexual assault, or if you would like to know more about what sexual assault and sexual coercion can look like, please refer to the resources below.

1800 RESPECT (www.1800respect.org.au)

Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (www.casa.org.au)

Mental Health

If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness it is important to talk to your local doctor so that they can refer you on to specialist adolescent mental health services if required.

If you need to speak to someone about mental health issues you can:

  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member
  • Speak to your local doctor
  • Call Life Line on 13 11 14
  • Call Headspace on 1800 650 890 or go on the website to live chat

Young People and Mental Health

Body Image in Teens

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service


  • Bullying is described as ongoing intimidation in a relationship through repeated verbal, physical and social abusive behaviour
  • Bullying can cause physical and mental harm to a person.
  • It can involve a single person or a group of people.
  • It can happen in person or online and it can be obvious or hidden.


  • Cyber-Bullying is bullying that happens through the use of technology. Using the internet, a mobile phone or a camera to hurt or embarrass someone is known as cyber-bullying.
  • Cyber-Bullying can be in the form of:
  • Abusive text messages or e-mails
  • Hurtful images or videos
  • Embarrassing someone online
  • Mean/unkind online chat messages

Peer Pressure

Bulling-Info for Teens

Alcohol, Smoking and Drug Use


  • In Australia adolescents under the age of 18 are not allowed to drink alcohol.
  • Binge drinking means that you drink a lot of alcohol or plan to get drunk. This type of drinking can cause accidents, blackouts, confusion and other health problems.


  • In Australia, adolescents under the age of 18 are not allowed to smoke cigarettes.
  • Smoking cigarettes can cause many health problems for you and the people you smoke around.

If you are wanting to quit smoking call QUITLINE on 13 7848.

How to reverse effects of smoking


  • Drugs are any chemical substance that can change the way you feel or how your body works.
  • Drugs can be illegal or legal.
  • Legal drugs can be bought at chemists and are used for health reasons. You should only take these drugs with advice from a doctor. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take the right amount.
  • Illegal drugs include cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. They are bought “off-market” which means they can not be bought in a store or chemist.
  • These drugs are addictive and can cause problems in your relationships, maintain a job and saving money. They also affect your physical, emotional and mental health.
  • If you think you have a problem with drug use, it is important to speak to your doctor so that they can provide you with the right help.

Teenage drinking and alcohol use: what to do

Confidential alcohol & drug counselling and referral in Victoria

How to tell if you have a drug problem

Teens alcohol and other drugs: services, resources and links

  • Being open about feeling difficult and frightening thoughts and emotions is hard but getting help is essential to getting better.
  • People with severe depression especially men are at a high risk of suicide especially those who have experienced traumatic events in their life or been discriminated against.
  • There are services that are specific for men who have experienced torture and trauma, both in Australia and overseas
  • There are also services for those who have been bullied or targeted due to their sexuality, disability or mental health concerns.
  • You have a right to seek help and to feel heard, safe and respected.
  • Help is out there and it’s OK to ask for it.
  • Don’t feel you have to deal with your worries alone.
  • There are many types of mental health disorders.

    • The most common two are a depression and anxiety.
    • Depression and anxiety affect both men and women.
    • Depression and anxiety can affect and be affected by their sexual and reproductive health.


  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression at some point in their lives.
  • Depression occurs when you feel sad, lonely and sometimes hopeless for long periods of time (usually more than 2 weeks).
  • Some people have trouble doing everyday things like getting out of bed, working or socialising with family and friends.
  • Other people may force themselves to be very busy and socialise a lot but still have a constant feeling of sadness or being alone
  • Many men experience this for years without getting help
  • Women who are pregnant or have had a baby recently may also experience these troubling feelings and not seek help.
  • For some people this can be managed with therapy or changes to diet and increasing your exercise. Other people might need medication for a period of time.

Video: Teenage Depression


  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point in their lives.
  • Anxiety occurs when you have constant feelings of worry or stress that won’t go away.
  • Sometimes these feelings get worse around certain stressors (e.g. job interviews, paying bills, moving, relationship problems)
  • For some people this can be managed with therapy or changes to diet and increasing your exercise. Other people might need medication for a period of time.

What support is there for people living with mental illness?

  • In Australia, it is not a crime to experience mental health issues.
  • You have a right to seek help and to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Seeking help will not affect your visa status.
  • A number of services exist for people who need help for mental health concerns and mental illness.
  • In Australia, people with mental health concerns may be treated in the community or sometimes in hospital, but not in institutions.
  • In most common cases, people needing assistance for mental health difficulties should contact their GP/ family doctor or community health centre.
  • If you need urgent assistance, contact the mental health team at your nearest hospital or contact your doctor.
  • Information and assistance with mental health issues may be found through the agencies listed below.
Service Phone Number Website
Lifeline – 24 Hour Helpline 13 1114 www.lifeline.org.au
Kids Helpline – 24 Hour Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au
Men’s Helpline Australia – 24 Hour Crisis Line 1300 789 978 www.menslineaus.org.au

What Causes Anxiety and Depression in Men?

Beyond Blue- Depression Signs and Symptoms

LGBTQI and Mental Health

  • If you are worried about whether you have anxiety or depression you can fill in this anonymous checklist from Beyond Blue. Beyond Blue states: “This simple checklist aims to measure whether you may have been affected by depression and anxiety during the past four weeks. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be experiencing depression and/or anxiety. Your answers and results are completely confidential and we don’t store any of your information. After taking the test, you can print the results for your records or to give to your GP. These questions relate to how you've been feeling over the past four weeks. Tick a box next to each question that best reflects your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.”

  • If you prefer, you can copy and paste the following Anxiety and depression checklist (K10) directly into your internet browser: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety-and-depression-checklist-k10

Choosing mental health services for teenagers

Teenage mental health: introduction

GPs and teenage mental health


  • Bring a refugee or asylum seeker, experiencing war, natural disasters, physical or sexual assault/abuse or constant discrimination just for being who you are can affect the way you think, feel and act.
  • Everyone experiences these feelings differently.
  • It is OK to feel sad, scared, tired and angry about your experiences
  • You have right to get better and to not feel this way forever.
  • Getting help is important to moving on with your life and feeling safe and happy again
  • Talking to someone,art therapy, exercise and meditation can also help.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope can make things more difficult so it is important to seek help if you are needing these things to get through each day.
  • There are specialised services throughout Australia to assist people who have experienced trauma and torture in your homeland.
  • Support for difficult experiences you may have had since arriving in Australia may not be offered by these same services.
  • Call Lifeline if you are unsure. You can use a TIS interpreter to speak to a trained counselling about any problem that is bothering you

You are not alone. There are people who can help you.

See below to find out how to access these services in your state or territory.

Service Phone Number Website
ACT Companion House – Assisting Survivors of Torture and Trauma 02 6251 4550 www.companionhouse.org.au
NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) 02 9794 1900 www.startts.org.au
QLD Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT) 07 3391 6677 www.qpastt.org.au
SA Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS) 08 8346 5433 www.sttars.org.au
TAS Phoenix Centre – support Service for Survivors of Torture and Trauma 03 6234 9138 www.mrchobart.org.au
VIC Foundation House – Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (‘Foundation House’) 03 9388 0022 www.foundationhouse.com.au
WA Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS) 08 9227 2700 www.asetts.org.au

Some information adapted from: The Beginning a Life in Australia booklet, produced by the Department of Social Services (DSS)


Depression and Anxiety in Multicultural Communities

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  • Everyone experiences grief and loss at some point in their life.
  • Everyone copes with this experience differently
  • It is important to allow yourself time to grieve and heal.
  • You may feel differently about your experience at different times, so you can try different coping strategies that might work for you including:

    • Grief time:
    • Grieving can take time, so be patient as you work through your emotions.
    • Allow yourself up to 20 minutes each day to grieve by taking time to be alone.
    • You can think, cry, pray, meditate, write or any other method that helps you.
    • Journal:
    • Write about your feelings and about the person you are grieving.
    • This can help you relieve stored emotions and show your progress.
    • Allow yourself to cry and work through your grief. Don’t worry if you can’t cry, because people work through grief differently.
    • Talk it out:
    • Grieving can feel lonely, so talk to someone who may have been through a similar experience or consider joining a support group.


  • Self care is any activity that can help you feel healthy, relaxed and happt.

  • Making time for self-care regularly allows you to maintain good physical, emotional and mental health.

  • There are many ways to look after your health even when you don't think you need it. It helps if you can:

    • Eat well and exercise regularly
    • Get enough sleep and set aside some time each day to relax
    • Put time into activities and relationships that make you feel good
    • Create some short-term and long-term goals to look forward to
    • Try to deal with problems instead of letting them build up
    • Be aware that alcohol and drugs can affect your state of mind and relationships.
  • The New Roots app from Service Settlement International in Sydney, is focused on supporting men who speak Tamil, Farsi or Arabic.

  • The New Roots Project has been developed to build the mental health of men, aged 18-45, who have recently arrived in Australia on a humanitarian visa. The primary aim is to help men to stay physically, socially and emotionally strong.

New Roots App




  • You have a right to seek help and to feel heard, safe and respected.
  • Help is out there and it’s OK to ask for it.
  • Don’t feel you have to deal with your worries alone.
  • You have a right to seek help and to feel heard, safe and respected.
  • Help is out there and it’s OK to ask for it.
  • Don’t feel you have to deal with your worries alone.

There are many other problems men may experience in relation to their sexual or reproductive health. See https://www.andrologyaustralia.org/your-health/ for more.