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The National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Headspace, is a support service for 12-25 year olds. Since 2006 they have provided assistance in four different areas: mental health, physical health, support for work and study, and drug or alcohol help. Despite its funding struggles, the organisation has grown nationwide with over 100 centres, helped over 255,000 young people, and provided 1.5 million services across a variety of platforms such as face-to-face, online and over the phone.
Despite their reputation, a major study has recently claimed clients are only receiving “small” benefits, and 1 in 10 patients don’t improve or go backwards. Also, the cost varied widely; the Federal Government subsidises sessions by over $500at some locations, with the average cost per treatment session being $339.
The University of New South Wales landmark evaluation explained Headspace has a “small program effect” with less than 25% of patients improving, but conceded it proved slightly better than those receiving private or no treatment. There were also “consistent patterns of improvement” to drug and alcohol assistance, and physical health.
“While some evaluation findings are mixed, results show that there are small improvements in the mental health of Headspace clients relative to two matched control groups.”
The averaged results make it difficult to determine which centres are performing well and which areas need improvement. However, according to Headspace chief scientific adviser Debra Rickwood, the results are not a shock to the foundation.
“It’s an average effect and an average effect over a large number of young people with a very, very diverse range of presentations,” she said.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has stepped up to defend the benefits of Headspace despite its mixed report card.
According to the ABC, Ley stated that Headspace was a “first class brand for vulnerable young people” and it would continue to receive Federal Government support through funding.
“We have confidence in the future of this model, for rural and regional Australia particularly,” she said.
Despite the funding guarantee, it’s possible funding may move away from centres that are not performing well over the long term. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has recognised the importance of Headspace and supported the organisation.
“On balance they do a good job, they do a very good job,” he said.
“I don’t think that Headspace alone can be expected to solve all the challenges of youth mental health, but I have a pretty good opinion of them from what I’ve seen.”
Headspace has been praised for its success in assisting those who suffer from self harm and suicidal thoughts, having just recently partnered with Facebook to combat youth suicide in Albury Wodonga. They have also helped more people improve on their study and work.
For more information, check out the Headspace website.