Mental health service delivery for 16-25 year olds

Birmingham researchers have worked with colleagues at the University of Melbourne to research mental health policy and service delivery models for 16-25 year olds in the UK and Australia.

Executive summary

  • Birmingham researchers have worked with colleagues at the University of Melbourne to research mental health policy and service delivery models for 16-25 year olds in the UK and Australia. This research helped define the difference between a ‘transition issue’ and a ‘service gap’; helped to identify what makes transition challenging from a service perspective; and clarified young peoples’ understandings about significant transitions into, within, and between services and how access and engagement are negotiated. The team have used this understanding to inform policy development in order to improve service provision for young people.
  • Ongoing work is aimed at understanding both how young people negotiate service access in resource-constricted environments, and how they move within internal service divides i.e. between acute care and being discharged to community services or their General Practitioner (GP).

Background

There has been a long running debate over at least the last 20 years about the movement of patients between child and adolescent and adult mental health services, specifically young people who may be lost to services or not be able to access them between the ages of 16-18 or 16-25 – this group is often called the ‘transition’ age group. This has attracted policy attention and there have been a range of initiatives to try and address this issue, yet despite this attention, problems persist.

Children and young people’s mental health is a policy priority. Older adolescents and young adults, who are at a particularly vulnerable period developmentally and in terms of onset of mental disorder, are often overlooked and have a weak voice in relation to the policy context.

An international case based research study was undertaken in 2013/2014 to explore mental health service delivery for 16-25 year olds. Research took place across six sites, three in the UK (in England, Wales and Scotland) and three in Australia (in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and in Queensland). Prior to this research, most research evidence took place in clinical settings and looked at clinical pathways rather than at structural or system level issues. Prior research focused often on transition between Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS) often in relation to one diagnostic pathway, rather than looking at the issue more broadly or across services. 219 interviews were conducted across the sites with national, regional and local policy makers, with staff working in services, and with young people accessing services.

Academic(s)

Dr Sarah-Jane Fenton

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