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headspace - Australia's innovation in youth mental health: who are the clients and why are they presenting?

Tracey A Davenport, Elizabeth M Scott and Daniel F Hermens
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (8): 452. || doi: 10.5694/mja14.00123
Published online: 5 May 2014

To the Editor: The study by Rickwood and colleagues1 of aggregated national data for young people attending headspace centres is most welcome, as we can now compare headspace with other pre-existing and current datasets. In 2001, we reported on mental health services provided during 46 515 consultations by 386 general practitioners (mean patient age, 46 years; 34% male).2 At the time, we noted that being aged under 25 years was associated with unmet need for both threshold (odds ratio, 1.34) and subthreshold mental disorders (odds ratio, 1.94–2.11).3 We concluded that young people with mental disorders were particularly poorly served by general practice.4 While these data informed subsequent development of youth-specific services, we did not specifically report data for people aged under 25 years. Of these participants, 3503/5868 self-reported a significant mental health problem. Consequently, we can compare directly our 2001 cohort2,3 with that of the new aggregated headspace cohort.1 At this stage, it would appear that only small differences are evident (2001 v 2013, respectively: male, 27% v 36%; born overseas, 12% v 7%; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, 5% v 8%; living in major cities, 65% v 57%; non-participation in employment or education, 36% v 29%; and no days out of role, 41% v 36%). In a dataset collected between 2007 and 2009 from two urban headspace sites managed by the University of Sydney, we noted a more substantial engagement of young men (of 1260 participants, 53% were male) and comparable disability characteristics to the two other datasets (non-participation in employment or education, 30%; no days out of role, 34%).5 In future reports from headspace nationally and locally, we look forward to presentation of other data that permit relevant comparative assessment and challenge us to design new services to meet known gaps.

  • Tracey A Davenport
  • Elizabeth M Scott
  • Daniel F Hermens

  • Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Elizabeth Scott has received honoraria for educational seminars related to the clinical management of depressive disorders supported by Servier and Eli Lilly, and has participated in a Servier-sponsored multicentre trial of agomelatine for depressive disorders and on a national advisory board for desvenlafaxine, manufactured by Pfizer. Daniel Hermens has received honoraria for educational seminars from Janssen-Cilag, Eli Lilly and the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry.

  • 1. Rickwood DJ, Telford NR, Parker AG, et al. headspace — Australia's innovation in youth mental health: who are the clients and why are they presenting? Med J Aust 2014; 200: 108-111. <MJA full text>
  • 2. Hickie IB, Davenport TA, Hadzi-Pavlovic D, et al. Development of a simple screening tool for common mental disorders in general practice. Med J Aust 2001; 175 (2 Suppl): S10-S17.
  • 3. Hickie IB, Davenport TA, Scott EM, et al. Unmet need for recognition of common mental disorders in Australian general practice. Med J Aust 2001; 175 (2 Suppl): S18-S24.
  • 4. Hickie IB, Davenport TA, Naismith SL, Scott EM. Conclusions about the assessment and management of common mental disorders in Australian general practice. SPHERE National Secretariat. Med J Aust 2001; 175 (2 Suppl): S52-S55.
  • 5. Scott EM, Hermens DF, Glozier N, et al. Targeted primary care-based mental health services for young Australians. Med J Aust 2012; 196: 136-140. <MJA full text>

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