The role of families in youth mental healthcare: Findings from the headspace evaluation

Young people and wellbeing
Thursday 26 July, 1320 – 1340


Dr Fiona Hilferty
Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales

Professor Ilan Katz
Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales

The national evaluation of headspace highlighted the critical yet contested role of families in the provision of youth mental healthcare. This presentation will report findings related to the important role of the family in youth mental healthcare. The authors re-examine substantive data collected as part of the headspace evaluation (six focus group interviews and an online survey of 226 parents and carers, and 50 interviews with young people) to show that youth mental health is truly a family issue: that mental illness affects young people and their families; that mental illness in young people can be both a cause and a consequence of family problems; that service access is often facilitated by parents; and that parents often need help themselves.

The presentation assesses how the headspace service model aligns with the data collected from families and highlights some of the dilemmas for headspace and other youth mental health service providers including balancing parental engagement with confidentiality and focusing on the young person while taking the family’s needs into account.