More than one million young Australians experience mental illness each year, and half of all young people experience at least one period of mental ill-health before the age of 25. Youth mental health crisis presentations have been increasing, associated with Covid-19-related lockdowns and disruptions to work, education and social lives, while suicide is the leading cause of death of people aged 15 to 24 years. Many young people who experience poor mental health also use drugs or alcohol at a level that risks their health. All elements of the mental health system need to work together to respond promptly and effectively to the escalating needs of the youth population. As a key element in its Youth Navigation Flagship, the Mindgardens Youth Integration Project is working with national and state partners to redesign the links between youth mental health, drug and alcohol and related services, to make appropriate care more accessible to young people in crisis. This in turn can support young people’s engagement with work or study, improve their physical health and personal relationships, and promote positive trajectories at this critical life stage. This translational research project, to take place in the real-world clinical environment of the Randwick Health and Innovation Precinct (RHIP), in eastern Sydney, will:

  • identify barriers and enablers to mental health and drug and alcohol service integration for young people aged 12 to 25 years
  • co-design solutions with young people to address service fragmentation, including between State and Commonwealth services
  • develop resources to support young people and their families to navigate the service system
  • incorporate mixed methods qualitative research that is scientifically robust and focused on outcomes
  • make recommendations to inform policy development and government investment decisions that will be relevant across Australia.

As part of this project, Mindgardens is partnering with Headspace National, local health networks and NSW Health pillars to develop models of youth integration. Mindgardens is also advising Headspace National about approaches to integrating psychiatry within its services.