Urgent action on mental health needed to save young lives, says Orygen executive director

Urgent action on mental health needed to save young lives, says Orygen executive director

7 February 2022

Executive Director of Orygen, Professor Patrick McGorry, has urged the Australian government to take immediate action on the current youth mental health crisis, calling specifically for more early intervention services.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia today, Professor McGorry said the under-resourced youth mental health system was overwhelmed, with GPs, headspace centres and emergency departments struggling to meet demand. 

“We know that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other socio-economic pressures, mental ill-health in young people aged 12-25 is at crisis point,” he said. “Countless lives and futures will be saved by taking action now.”

Professor McGorry said that early intervention services for young people with complex needs, known as ‘the missing middle’, were especially needed.

“These young people in the missing middle are being let down by our current system of care,” he said.

“These are young people who are already beyond the initial stage of mental ill-health (characterised by anxiety and depression alone). They may present with emerging psychosis, or mood, personality, eating, and/or substance use disorders. They need early intervention, specialised care and ongoing support to help long-term recovery.”

Professor McGorry said Orygen had been instrumental in developing strong evidence-based models for delivering early intervention care for young people, but the roll out has stalled.

“Ten years ago, the Australian government funded an evidence-based platform of care for young people with early psychosis, linked with headspace centres and other primary care, initially in six regions of Australia. It has been highly effective, but its extension to the rest of Australia has stalled,” he said. 

“We know what to do and what works – we now just need the funding and the action to do it.”

“We need to rapidly scale up these platforms of care and mobilise and expand the skilled workforces to operate them.

“The missing ingredients are acknowledgement of the magnitude of this public health problem, a sense of urgency, and the capacity to implement reform.”