Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Dr. Purushothaman
September 5, 2013

Target population

Specialist child and adolescent mental health services are provided for children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years with serious emotional disturbance. This includes young people with a diagnosable psychiatric disorder whose condition is considered seriously detrimental to their growth or development and/or where there are substantial difficulties in the person’s social or family environment. Emotional disturbance in childhood and adolescence may present in a variety of ways. While symptoms may include impaired reality testing, hallucinations, depression and suicidal behaviour, emotional disturbance in childhood presents more often in other ways. Hyperactivity, nightmares, fearfulness, bed-wetting, language problems, refusal to attend school, and stealing are among the behaviours that may indicate distress or disturbance. Young people from 16 to 18 years of age may receive a service from either child and adolescent mental health services or adult area mental health services depending on their needs.

Service components

Crisis assessment and treatment

Intensive mobile youth outreach support services

IMYOS provide intensive outreach mental health case management and support to adolescents who display substantial and prolonged psychological disturbance, and have complex needs that may include challenging, at risk and suicidal behaviours. These services work with young people who have been difficult to engage using less intensive treatment approaches.

Continuing care case management services, clinical and consultancy

These teams provide a range of services starting with initial intake to provide advice, information and screening. They undertake assessment and treatment of children and adolescents experiencing significant psychological distress and/or mental illness and their families. Services include crisis assessment, case management, multi-modal treatments, individual, family and group therapy and parent or carer support. They also provide consultancy services to other community agencies and service providers. Child and adolescent mental health services work extensively with other service sectors including schools, general practitioners, paediatricians, youth and family services, child protection and welfare agencies.

School early intervention programs (conduct disorder program)

Conduct disorder is the most severe type of disruptive behaviour in children and young people, with such behaviours as extreme aggression, truancy, lying, stealing, lack of empathy, or running away. Programs offering multilevel early intervention and prevention designed to reduce the prevalence and impact of conduct disorder are currently being piloted in Victoria, and are not currently available in all catchment areas.

Acute inpatient services

These services provide short-term assessment and/or inpatient treatment for children and adolescents who have a severe emotional disturbance that cannot be assessed satisfactorily or treated safely and effectively within the community. They are usually located with general hospitals. Links with metropolitan inpatient services exist for the admission of consumers from rural services.

Day programs

Child and adolescent mental health services' adolescent day programs offer an integrated therapeutic and educational program for young people with behavioural difficulties; emotional problems such as severe depression and/or anxiety; emerging personality difficulties or severe mental illness such as early psychosis. Issues such as relationship and/or social difficulties and non-attendance of an educational or vocational setting are addressed through intensive group therapy. These programs are not currently available in all catchment areas.

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