headspace responds to unbalanced ABC News story

Please attribute this statement to headspace CEO Jason Trethowan:

ABC News published two stories on Sunday 28 April 2019, questioning the value of the services provided by headspace to young people across Australia. These stories were unbalanced and took a negative approach to exploring the value of headspace that – since inception – has helped hundreds of thousands of young people access vital support.

My biggest concern about this type of reporting is the potential impact it has on young people who are desperately seeking help. headspace has worked hard to create a safe space for young people to get support and the last thing we want is young people being discouraged from seeking help because there is mistrust in the services that are there to support them. 

There is no denying that headspace, as an early intervention service for young people, has been a huge success and below are some key facts about our service:

  • Access - Since 2006, more than 446,000 young people have received help and treatment through one of our 110 headspace centres or our online and phone counselling service, eheadspace. Without headspace, these young people would have nowhere to go.
  • Client Satisfaction – Our service satisfaction rates are very high with young people reporting an 86% satisfaction with our centres and 83% satisfaction with eheadspace. We have thousands of case studies of young people who have been helped by headspace and attest to headspace ‘saving their lives’.
  • Outcomes - headspace data shows about 62 per cent of young people with depression and anxiety improve with a significant decrease in psychological distress and/or a significant increase in social and vocational functioning. This proportion increases to over 68 per cent for those who attend five or six sessions with a headspace clinician.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Young People - The latest headspace data that shows that 8 per cent of young people who access headspace identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This is close to double the percentage of population and shows that many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are choosing to access headspace as a service of choice.

From inception headspace has taken on board the experiences (both positive and negative) of young people and their family and friends to help shape the service we deliver. Youth participation is at the core of the headspace service and we support national and local youth reference groups who provide extensive feedback and input into our services. We welcome critique of the headspace service as this helps us to ensure we are providing the best possible care for young people experiencing mental health issues.

The ABC news stories referenced the Independent Evaluation of headspace that was conducted during 2013/2014 when 67 headspace centres were operating nationally. We now have over 110 headspace services commissioned through 31 Primary Health Networks, and operated by over 65 local lead agencies, in communities across Australia. It would certainly seem timely for a new evaluation into the headspace service and we would welcome this as an opportunity to continuously improve our services.

Finally, I would like to reiterate my concern about news stories that have the potential to stop a young person seeking help. I would like to remind all young people that headspace is a confidential, youth-friendly service that is here to help. We provide face-to-face and online services that cover mental health, physical health (including sexual health) alcohol and other drug services, and work and study support.

For media enquiries please contact: Bronte Tarn-Weir, headspace Communications Manager on 0413 025 385 or btarnweir@headspace.org.au