Thousands of young people are turning to the Headspace mental health program for help, according to a study published by the Medical Journal of Australia.
The biggest issues are depression and anxiety, says the study, which is based on a census of 21,274 young people who attended 55 Headspace centres in a six-month period in 2013.
The age group covered by the study ranges from 12 to 25, with levels of distress rising with the age of the client.
More than six out of 10 clients are young women, with just under one in 100 describing themselves as intersex, transgender or transsexual.
Underlying problems include work or educational problems, peer-group issues, bullying or problems with other mental illnesses, says study co-author Patrick McGorry of the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.
Although few young people say drugs and alcohol are their main reason for seeking help, people with emotional issues are at risk of self-medicating, says Prof McGorry, who is a Headspace director.
He says families should feel confident that there is a youth-friendly place to go for help.
Headspace was set up by the federal government and has grown from 10 centres in 2007 to 55 in 2013.
Half of Australia will have access to a centre by 2015, says Prof McGorry, but people throughout the country can access services over the internet.
‘The study shows young people are voting with their feet and attending this new stream of mental health.’
People visiting a Headspace office will be seen by a non-judgmental, youth-friendly person who will first of all provide a listening ear, says Prof McGorry.
‘They will assess what the person needs and arrange an appropriate package of care,’ he says.
This could include a referral to a youth worker, a GP and a psychologist. There could also be employment and educational support.
‘The great thing about Headspace is that it is an Australian innovation that has been supported by both coalition and Labor governments.’
The program has been internationally recognised and experts from around the world are visiting Australia to get ideas for their own countries, says Prof McGorry.
This article first appeared on ‘Sky News’ on 13 January 2014.