Mieke van Driel
Young people experiencing health issues are often reluctant to seek help. Mental disorders account for about half the burden of disease in young Australians aged 12–24 years:1 12% of males and 18% of females in this age group score levels of distress indicative of anxiety or depression;1,2 half of all mental disorders start by age 14 years and three-quarters by age 24 years;3 and one in every 5 adolescents is likely to experience a depressive episode by the age of 18 years.4 In 2004, 272 young people aged 12–24 years committed suicide (8 per 100 000), and accounted for 14% of all suicide deaths in Australia.1 Despite these statistics, few (1.3% males and 3.0% females) general practice consultations with young people aged 12–18 years involve management of depression.5 Barriers identified by general practitioners to providing adolescent health services include inadequate time, flexibility, skills or confidence, and poor linkages with other relevant services.6
Young people aged 12–25 years are poorly serviced by current models of
healthcare; they are under represented in Medicare data and are poor
seekers of healthcare. However, the majority of mental health problems
commence during this age span, significant sexual health issues arise,
and there is poor compliance with treatment for chronic disease.
This article describes a holistic, multisector primary healthcare delivery
model which may provide a way forward to improve both access and
outcomes for young people.
The ‘headspace Gold Coast’ model incorporates the relationship the
young person has with both the organisation and the individuals within
it; a focus on social and vocational rehabilitation; and a team based
approach. The model provided at headspace serves an unmet need for
young people in urban settings. However, more and ongoing support is
crucial, including options for integration into existing primary care.
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