Enhancing early engagement with mental health services by young people
Jane Burns, Emma Birrell
Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Abbotsford, VIC, Australia
Abstract: International studies have shown that the prevalence of mental illness, and the fundamental contribution it make to the overall disease burden, is greatest in children and young people. Despite this high burden, adolescents and young adults are the least likely population group to seek help or to access professional care for mental health problems. This issue is particularly problematic given that untreated, or poorly treated, mental disorders are associated with both short- and long-term functional impairment, including poorer education and employment opportunities, potential comorbidity, including drug and alcohol problems, and a greater risk for antisocial behavior, including violence and aggression. This cycle of poor mental health creates a significant burden for the young person, their family and friends, and society as a whole. Australia is enviably positioned to substantially enhance the well-being of young people, to improve their engagement with mental health services, and – ultimately – to improve mental health. High prevalence but potentially debilitating disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are targeted by the specialized youth mental health service, headspace: the National Youth Mental Health Foundation and a series of Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres, will provide early intervention specialist services for low prevalence, complex illnesses. Online services, such as ReachOut.com by Inspire Foundation, Youthbeyondblue, Kids Helpline, and Lifeline Australia, and evidence-based online interventions, such as MoodGYM, are also freely available, yet a major challenge still exists in ensuring that young people receive effective evidence-based care at the right time. This article describes Australian innovation in shaping a comprehensive youth mental health system, which is informed by an evidence-based approach, dedicated advocacy and, critically, the inclusion of young people in service design, development, and ongoing evaluation to ensure that services can be continuously improved.
Keywords: young people, mental health, technology, participation, well-being, help-seeking
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