Young People’s Mental Health

Globally, the magnitude of the burden of mental disorder and its associated adverse human, economic and social impacts has been well described. In Australia, mental illness is the largest single cause of disability, with as many as one in 5 people aged 16 to 85 years experiencing a mental illness in any one year. While mental illness across the life-course requires attention, much of the mental illness experienced in adult life has its onset in childhood or adolescence. This has important implications for social, family, educational and vocational trajectories and suggests a key target for primary and secondary preventive interventions. THRI currently has a number of projects aimed at understanding the experiences and determinants of mental health in young people.

Completed Research

Walk the talk: A study of an online population-based intervention to improve the mental health of young people who are unemployed.

  • Researchers: Vanessa Rose, Prof Janette Perz
  • HDR students: Andrew Kellett
  • Funding: Australian Rotary Health Grant

This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of an online self-directed vocationally-oriented cognitive behavioural program ('Walk the Talk') in improving the mental health of young people who are unemployed. The online program features dramatised video of cognitive self-talk, coping with unemployment, job-searching, attending interviews and maintaining employment once in the workforce; online quizzes comprising multiple choice items to self-test understanding of content material; and downloadable diary sheets, activities, website links and tips. Participants will be aged between 17-25 years and currently looking for full-time employment. Results will assist with interpreting intervention integrity and will be used to make any required modifications to the program before a planned large population scale intervention trial.

Evaluation of the Youth Enhanced Support Service (YESS)

  • Investigators: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (WSU THRI), Prof Andrew Page (WSU THRI)
  • HDR students: Hir Jani

The Youth Enhanced Support Service (YESS) provides clinical case management and treatment for young people with sub-acute mental health problems. These young people require more support than can be provided through primary mental health care settings but are not experiencing problems severe enough to require care in an inpatient (or tertiary care) setting. The objectives of YESS are to address the increased mental health needs of the young person while maintaining and building on existing relationships with primary health care providers (e.g. GP, headspace). In doing so, YESS hopes to prevent escalation to the tertiary care setting and enable primary health care providers to resume the health care lead once a young person’s mental health has stabilised. In partnership with Western Sydney University, Parramatta Mission are conducting an evaluation of the service to: 1) investigate whether YESS results in improvements in wellbeing while engaged with the service and whether these changes are sustained when young people are returned to primary care; and 2) test whether the stepped care approach reduces the risk of escalation to tertiary care and improves continuity of care with primary care providers. Routinely collected clinical assessment (e.g. K6, PWBI) and referral information will be linked to additional health and behavioural outcomes collected in near-time via the mobile app ETHICA. This will allow the research team to map care pathways and health outcomes among the YESS clients and provide insights into optimal care pathways for young people within a stepped-care framework of mental health service provision.