Changes in psychological distress and psychosocial functioning in young people visiting headspace centres for mental health problems

Med J Aust. 2015 Jun 1;202(10):537-42. doi: 10.5694/mja14.01696.


Objectives: To examine changes in psychological distress and psychosocial functioning in young people presenting to headspace centres across Australia for mental health problems.

Design: Analysis of routine data collected from headspace clients who had commenced an episode of care between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, and at 90-day follow-up.

Participants: A total of 24 034 people aged 12-25 years who had first presented to one of the 55 fully established headspace centres for mental health problems during the data collection period.

Main outcome measures: Main reason for presentation, types of therapeutic services provided, Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) scores, and Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale (SOFAS) scores.

Results: Most headspace mental health clients presented with symptoms of depression and anxiety and were likely to receive cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Younger males were more likely than other age- and sex-defined groups to present for anger and behavioural problems, while younger females were more likely to present for deliberate self-harm. From presentation to last assessment, over one-third of clients had significant improvements in psychological distress (K10) and a similar proportion in psychosocial functioning (SOFAS). Sixty per cent of clients showed significant improvement on one or both measures.

Conclusions: Data regarding outcomes for young people using mental health care services similar to headspace centres are scarce, but the current results compare favourably with those reported overseas, and show positive outcomes for young people using headspace centres.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Community Mental Health Centers*
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Young Adult