Although numerous studies have examined the effects of community-based mental health care programs in Australia, no synthesis of this literature exists. This systematic review of peer-reviewed and grey literature described the types of community-based mental health care programs delivered and evaluated in Australia in the past 20 years, and evaluated their impact in improving outcomes for those with a serious mental illness (SMI). Articles were included if they evaluated the extent to which the programs delivered in Australia improved individual outcomes, including hospitalisations, psychiatric symptoms, substance misuse or psychosocial outcomes, for individuals with an SMI. Forty studies were included. Community-based mental health care programs were categorised into three types: case management (n = 23), therapeutic (n = 11) and lifestyle (n = 6). Therapeutic programs were most effective in reducing psychiatric symptoms. Case management approaches yielded significant improvements in psychosocial outcomes. Lifestyle programs were inconclusive in improving individual outcomes. This review provides support for the implementation of community-based mental health care programs that are informed by both therapeutic and case management principles. A multidisciplinary team that can facilitate the provision of therapeutic and psychosocial support may be most beneficial for those with an SMI within the Australian community.
- community mental health services
- mental health
- systematic review