Young Australians not being helped by mental health programs

Young Australians mental health

New research shows two in three young Australians with emerging mental health problems remained in poor mental health or deteriorated further despite accessing support services.

The study of more than 1500 12 to 25-year-olds found that early intervention services in the primary healthcare system failed to deliver the required care. The report suggested a more “comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach” was needed.

The paper, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, looked at young people’s social and occupational outcomes after two years of early-intervention support in youth mental health programs at Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Institute.

“Only 35 per cent had good functional outcomes over two years. That is, only one in three people maintained an initially good level of function or substantially improved from a lower level of function,” said report co-author Frank Iorfino from the Brain and Mind Institute.

“In contrast, functional impairment persisted in nearly two-thirds of participants, or their level of function deteriorated and was volatile.

“Our findings suggest the current primary care-based model meets the needs of only a minority of young people seeking care. Most require more comprehensive and multidisciplinary approaches.”

One in four young people experience mental ill-health by age 25. It is often first manifested in adolescence or young adulthood, the study said. Many studies have shown the longer a person waited before seeking support for their mental health, the poorer the outcome.

Treatment needed to be more personalised, the report said. This, in turn, required more active monitoring and measurement of symptoms and conditions. Unfortunately, it is an approach “largely unused in the mental health care of young Australians”.

Patrick McGorry, professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne, said Dr Iorfino’s findings were “not unexpected”.

“Headspace was designed and works extremely well for the first stage of care. This involves mild to moderate mental health conditions. But it is also a stigma-free gateway for more specialised care. However, it is only part of the solution,” Professor McGorry said.

“While primary care-based models offering soft entry to care for all young people is effective for some, it is clearly insufficient for most young people with more substantial needs.”


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