The importance and benefits of youth participation in mental health settings from the perspective of the headspace Gosford Youth Alliance in Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Children and Youth Services Review, 2014, 46 pp. 294 - 299
Issue Date:
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© 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Objectives: Young people's participation in decision making that affects them is increasingly recognised and valued as a right. Youth participation in mental health settings is fundamental to service design and delivery, and is beneficial for the young people as well as the organisation. Headspace recognises the many benefits of youth participation with its national and local youth participation initiatives. In 2013, headspace Gosford in Australia established its current youth participation model, called the Youth Alliance (YA), consisting of 12 young people. These young people contribute ideas and opinions around service design and delivery, and participate in a range of activities. Method: This paper presents the findings of a focus group conducted with the YA immediately following recruitment. All 12 young people participated in a two hour focus group which sought to identify the key reasons these young people joined the YA, and what they hope to achieve in their capacity of YA consultants. Results: The two main reasons participants joined the YA are to help 'overcome barriers to help seeking and ensure young people get the support they need' and 'to build confidence, social skills and make new friends'. The barriers to help seeking identified by the participants are consistent with those outlined in the literature. Conclusion: Youth participation in youth mental health settings is beneficial to young people as well as organisations and the community, and it is crucial that strategies are put in place to increase youth participation. The ways in which these young people perceive their participation as beneficial to themselves as well as the organisation and the community is the focus of this paper.
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