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

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Improving the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents and young adults is receiving increasing attention throughout the world.1 The Australian Government was the first to invest significant funds in a practical and systematic response to this challenge, initiating a national reform process that created new service platforms for young people through its founding of headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation.2

The initiative commenced in 2006, establishing an initial 10 centres and is set to increase to a network of 100 centres across Australia by 2016. headspace centres are one-stop entry points offering a mix of the services that young people need most. Centres provide early intervention by responding to early presentations of mental health problems and by assisting young people at greater risk of developing mental disorders. Being youth-friendly and non-stigmatising are priorities, and centre activities are founded on youth participation and engagement at all levels.3

From the beginning, the headspace initiative has evaluated its activities, despite the significant challenges inherent in determining the outcomes of such a complex, long-term, real-world, system-wide intervention. A preliminary external evaluation in 2009 showed that young people approved the approach used by the initial centres.