The Impact of Community Mental Health Programs for Australian Youth: A Systematic Review

Melissa Savaglio, Renee O’Donnell, Kostas Hatzikiriakidis, Dave Vicary, Helen Skouteris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Australia has undergone significant youth mental health reform over the past 10 years, leading to numerous studies examining the effects of community-based mental health care programs for Australian youth. However, no synthesis of this literature currently exists. Therefore, this systematic review aimed to: (1) describe the types of community-based mental health programs that have been delivered to Australian youth in the past 10 years; and (2) examine their impact in improving young people’s mental health symptomology and psychosocial functioning. A systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature was conducted. Studies were included if they evaluated the extent to which such programs improved mental health symptomology (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance use) and/or psychosocial outcomes (e.g., social functioning, school engagement, employment) for Australian youth aged 10–25 years. Thirty-seven studies were included. Four types of community-based youth mental health care programs were identified: therapy (n = 16), case management (n = 9), integrated ‘one-stop-shop’ (n = 6) and lifestyle (n = 6) programs. The majority of therapeutic programs were effective in reducing mental health symptomology. Case management and integrated approaches consistently yielded significant improvements in both symptomology and psychosocial outcomes. Lifestyle programs were effective in alleviating depressive symptoms, but inconclusive for other outcomes. This review provides support for youth-friendly, systemic, multidisciplinary and integrated assertive outreach models of community mental health care to improve outcomes for young Australians experiencing mental health concerns. Several recommendations for future research are provided to strengthen the local evidence-base supporting community mental health programs to ultimately enhance young people’s life trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-590
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Community-based programs
  • Mental health
  • Systematic review
  • Youth

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