Good ideas are often simple. They seem so obvious once we hear about them. In a complicated arena like teen mental health, good ideas are also in short supply. That’s why I was excited to invite CEO Chris Tanti to our offices at TeenScreen to learn about Headspace. This innovative program, based in Melbourne, Australia, is making it easier for teens to learn about mental health and wellness – without the usual stigma – and helping them to access the mental health care they need.
This unique outreach and treatment initiative began with Dr. Patrick McGorry, a pioneer in early detection and intervention of mental disorders – a goal central to our mission here at TeenScreen National Center. What began 5 years ago with one center has grown to 30 in cities across Australia.
The concept of making it easier for teens to learn about mental health is a cornerstone of the approach. A youth advisory board helps connect a wide range of young people to the center’s mission of broad health education and outreach. Teens are involved in leadership roles where they help develop and run programs for their peers in education and outreach.
Headspace is a comfortable place to “talk about what’s on your mind”, not just a clinical center. Services offered to youth include assistance with general health problems, support for concerns about bullying or difficulties with friends and schoolmates, counseling on issues of depression, alcohol and drug use, help with problems in gaining employment, and a safe place to discuss sexuality, gender identity and contraception. Youth can stop by, drop in or access information online and then make a connection with Headspace in their community
A striking aspect of Headspace is the collaboration among many local youth- serving agencies. In each community where Headspace is located, a process of coming together and sharing resources led to the formation of the new Center. This is not an easy process but it makes for a more seamless set of services and much greater cooperation among providers. It also means that fewer youth in crisis “fall between the cracks” and are lost to services and support. Headspace is a fascinating and creative effort to bring mental health into the mainstream. It goes where the kids are and addresses the issues they care about. At the same time it builds trust and allows youth to share issues of concern at a comfortable pace in a space of their own. Small wonder Headspace is a huge success. We in the US can learn a lot from our friends in Australia!! To learn more about Headspace visit their website: www.headspace.org.au.