Today’s commitment by the Australian Labor Party to invest nearly $200 million in youth mental health services, if elected, has been welcomed by Professor Patrick McGorry, the executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
Professor McGorry said the ALP’s commitment acknowledged the dire situation currently faced by young Australians with serious and complex mental health issues.
“The onset of most mental disorders occurs when people are aged from their early teens to their mid-20s, reaching a peak in the early 20s,” Professor McGorry said. “Although headspace is an excellent entry point for young people with mild to moderate mental ill-health, tens of thousands of young people with more severe and complex mental health issues are slipping through the gaps in care."
“Described as the ‘missing middle’ these young people need more specialised, intensive and extended care than is currently available through primary care services such as headspace. They are often seriously unwell, but are not acutely ill enough or considered suicidal enough to reach the high threshold for access to state-funded acute and continuing care.
“To ensure these young people have access to team-based specialist clinical services we at Orygen have developed a model of youth mental health service delivery, in collaboration with headspace, that we have labelled ‘headspace Plus’. I am delighted the ALP has agreed to trial this model of youth mental health care, should they be elected.”
The ALP announced today that, if elected, it will invest $180 million in a trial of four headspace Plus centres – one each in metropolitan Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and a regional headspace Plus in Tasmania.
It also announced that it would provide $14 million over four years for Orygen to provide central implementation support, technical guidance and research for the headspace Plus model, and $3 million for an independent evaluation.
In Australia more than a quarter of mental health presentations to emergency departments are young people aged 15-24 years, Professor McGorry said. “These ‘avenues of last resort’ are not the place for young people to get the care they really need. They deserve better, and we believe headspace Plus will provide the care they need.
“These young people are losing their futures, and in a growing number of cases, many hundreds each year, their lives. It is devastating families, weakening our society and undermining our economy.”