Evaluation of the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program

16 Sep 2021

children lying in grassAbout 1 in 5 Australians are reported to experience a mental health condition every year. This is not limited to adults and people of all ages can be affected – either directly themselves or because someone close to them might be suffering. Early intervention and prevention support for mental health, especially when offered early in life, is increasingly recognised to produce substantial benefits for children and young people, their families and communities, as well as government.

As part of an increasing investment in mental health services in response to the 2014 National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services report, the Commonwealth Government announced $110 million to extend and expand mental health programs for young Australians in January 2018. This included support for the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

The National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program aims to contribute to improving mental health outcomes for children and young people by providing targeted grants to develop the capabilities of educators and health and human service practitioners to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Specifically, the Program provided funding to Beyond Blue to implement the ‘Be You’ initiative, and to Emerging Minds to lead the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health.

The funding also included provision for an evaluation of the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program. Professor Simon Smith and his team, in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute, were engaged by the Commonwealth Department of Health to develop an evaluation framework and deliver an overarching evaluation of the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program, and to develop a costed plan for a future longitudinal research study on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The development of the longitudinal study plan involved extensive stakeholder engagement and consultation with a Scientific Advisory Group of Australian experts in longitudinal research and child and adolescent mental health. The resultant plan developed methodological recommendations through a combination of this consultation and review of previous research.

The evaluation used a mixed-methods approach which included:

  • design and administration of the National Support Network Survey: a national survey of educators and practitioners as the key target audiences for Be You and Emerging Minds, respectively.
  • an integrated data analysis: a secondary analysis of multiple existing datasets appropriate to child and youth mental health.
  • a value for money assessment.
  • community case studies: interviews and focus groups conducted with key stakeholder groups in four communities in Queensland and Western Australia, including educators, practitioners (clinical and non-clinical), and parents/carers of young people.
  • document analysis of evaluation reports from the two Program initiatives: Be You and Emerging Minds.
  • key program informant interviews: Be You and Emerging Minds staff.

The evaluation period covered the early phase of the Program’s implementation period up to October 2020. As with many projects during this time, both the severe bushfires in NSW and VIC and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in impacts on the Program delivery and the subsequent data collection for the evaluation. More importantly though, these events had a major impact on children and families and the services available to support them.

Professor Simon Smith and members of the research team recently presented the findings of the evaluation to the Department of Health in Canberra. Following that, the ISSR team has submitted the final deliverables and are awaiting confirmation of next steps from the Department of Health.

Term: June 2018 – October 2021

ISSR: Professor Simon Smith, Dr Caroline Salom, Dr Shannon Edmed, Dr Cassandra Pattinson, Ms Shelby Marrington, A/Prof Abdullah Mamun, Mr M Mamun Huda, Dr Azhar Potia, Prof Karen Thorpe

Telethon Kids Institute (TKI): Prof Donna Cross, Dr Kevin Runions