Transition to adult services for young people with mental health needs: A systematic review

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Jul;20(3):436-57. doi: 10.1177/1359104514526603. Epub 2014 Apr 7.


Background: Young people's transition from child and adolescent (CAMHS) to adult mental health services (AMHS).

Objectives: To systematically review evidence on the effectiveness of different models of CAMHS-AMHS transitional care, service user and staff perspectives, and facilitators of/barriers to effective CAMHS-AMHS transition.

Data sources: A systematic search in May 2012 of Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, EMBASE, AMED, Health Business Elite, HMIC, Cochrane Database, Web of Science and ASSIA; ancestral searches; and consultation with experts in the field.

Study selection: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods primary research on the CAMHS-AMHS health-care transition of young people (aged 16-21 years) with mental health problems.

Data extraction: Two reviewers independently completed a standardised data extraction form and critically evaluated identified documents using a validated appraisal tool for empirical studies with varied methodologies.

Results: A total of 19 studies of variable quality were identified. None were randomised or case-controlled trials. Studies incorporating service user/carer perspectives highlighted the need to tackle stigma and provide accessible, age-appropriate services. Parents/carers wanted more involvement with AMHS. Transitional care provision was considered patchy and often not prioritised within mental health services. There was no clear evidence of superior effectiveness of any particular model.

Conclusions: High-quality evidence of transitional care models is lacking. Data broadly support the development of programmes that address the broader transitional care needs of 'emerging adults' and their mental health needs but further evaluation is necessary. Developing robust transitional mental health care will require the policy-practice gap to be addressed and development of accessible, acceptable, responsive, age-appropriate provision.

Keywords: Transition; adolescent; health services; mental health; young people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Transition to Adult Care / organization & administration*