Working with complexity in youth mental health

‘Complexity’ is a term that is regularly used in clinical mental health services but has, to date, been narrowly defined.

Traditional definitions of complexity have often focused on the young person alone. This can include the level of risk that a young person presents with as a result of their illness, but may also consider psychosocial factors (e.g. homelessness, family violence or limited social supports.

Although these factors are likely to impact a young person’s wellbeing, functioning, responsiveness to services and overall recovery, attributing complexity based on a young person’s presentation alone can be unhelpful.

This resource aims to:

  • propose a model of complexity which comprises of three domains (young person, workforce and service systems);
  • encourage self- reflective practice and adaptive learning for individuals, teams and organisations as a way to explore and respond to complexity;
  • identify approaches for clinical practice around complexity, including recommendations for how clinicians, teams and services can respond to complexity (based on feedback from services doing this work); and
  • provide case examples of what reflecting, exploring, formulating and responding to complexity might look like in practice.