Preparing a workforce across sectors: staff experiences of developing an Australian first, mental health and intellectual disability initiative for youth (MHIDI-Y)

Richard Whitehead, Liza Hopkins, Michelle Kehoe, Glenda Pedwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the experiences of staff during the development and implementation of an Australian-first, family-focussed service addressing the mental health needs of young people (aged 12–25 years) with an intellectual disability. This study aims to understand the challenges and successes of the staff team when navigating their way in a new program working with a complex client group. Design/methodology/approach: This study used a thematic analysis on data collected from focus groups at two time points in the implementation phase of the new program. Thematic analysis of the data was conducted to identify important themes relating to the staff’s challenges, successes and learning. Findings: The findings showed that there was a lot of adaptation needed for staff members trained in either mental health, or disability, but not both. Another key finding was the importance of working with the young person’s family system as well as their existing system of support services. This major focus of the work for staff could be challenging due issues arising in the family unit and a lack of collaboration between services. Working with this complex client group was viewed as challenging and stress inducing; however, the motivation and attitudes of staff were found to be positive factors in the running of the program. Originality/value: This paper makes an original contribution to the field, as it provides a unique look at staff experiences when needing to adapt to a new and challenging workplace that was the first-of-its-kind in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Mental Health, Training, Education and Practice: Issues for Workforce Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Dual disability
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental health
  • Staff experiences
  • Youth

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