Headspace, an australian youth mental health network: Lessons for canadian mental healthcare

Jeffrey C.L. Looi, Stephen Allison, Tarun Bastiampillai, Stephen R. Kisely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe political advocacy and scientific debate about headspace, a non-governmental organisational (NGO) substantially funded by the Australian federal government that has significantly impacted the youth mental healthcare landscape. Access Open Minds is a Canadian clinical research initiative for youth mental health partially based on headspace. Lessons from the Australian experience may thus prove useful for Canadian stakeholders. Method: The Australian healthcare system, mental health policy and governance for youth mental healthcare are contextually described. The structure and promulgation of the headspace NGO is detailed, as a parallel provider of primary mental healthcare outside of existing public and private mental health services. A review of the existing research on the evaluation of headspace was conducted. Results: Headspace has expanded rapidly due to successful political advocacy on behalf of the youth early intervention model, with limited coordination in terms of governance, planning and implementation with existing mental health services. In spite of consuming considerable resources, there has been limited evidence of effectiveness. Conclusions: Canadians should be wary of large youth programs that operate outside mainstream mental healthcare because of similar dangers such as poor co-ordination with existing government-funded services, duplication of care, the substantial consumption of resources, and limited evaluation of outcomes. As Access Open Minds is a clinical research project, there is the opportunity for Canada to evaluate the efficacy of the model before further adoption by governments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Australia
  • Evaluation
  • Headspace
  • NGO
  • Youth mental health


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