Sixteen years of innovation in youth mental healthcare: outcomes for young people attending Australia's headspace centre services

Debra Rickwood, Juliet McEachran, Anna Saw, Nic R. Telford, Jason Trethowan, Patrick McGorry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Australia's headspace initiative is world-leading in nation-wide youth mental healthcare reform for young people aged 12 to 25 years, now with 16 years of implementation. This paper examines changes in the key outcomes of psychological distress, psychosocial functioning, and quality of life for young people accessing headspace centres across Australia for mental health problems. Routinely collected data from headspace clients commencing an episode of care within the data collection period, 1 April 2019 to 30 March 2020, and at 90-day follow-up were analysed. Participants came from the 108 fully-established headspace centres across Australia, and comprised 58,233 young people aged 12-25 years first accessing headspace centres for mental health problems during the data collection period. Main outcome measures were self-reported psychological distress and quality of life, and clinician-reported social and occupational functioning. Most headspace mental health clients presented with depression and anxiety issues (75.21%). There were 35.27% with a diagnosis: overall, 21.74% diagnosed with anxiety, 18.51% with depression, and 8.60% were sub-syndromal. Younger males were more likely to present for anger issues. Cognitive behavioural therapy was the most common treatment. There were significant improvements in all outcome scores over time (P<0.001). From presentation to last service rating, over one-third had significant improvements in psychological distress and a similar proportion in psychosocial functioning; just under half improved in self-reported quality of life. Significant improvement on any of the three outcomes was shown for 70.96% of headspace mental health clients. After 16 years of headspace implementation, positive outcomes are being achieved, particularly when multi-dimensional outcomes are considered. A suite of outcomes that capture meaningful change for young people's quality of life, distress and functioning, is critical for early intervention, primary care settings with diverse client presentations, such as the headspace youth mental healthcare initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0282040
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6 June
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2023


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