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Q&A 

Youth Mental Health

Meet Dr Shane Cross, a key member of our Youth Mental Health team 

Dr Shane Cross with Minister for Health Greg Hunt

Dr Shane Cross with Minister for Health Greg Hunt

Q: How are you involved with the Youth Mental Health team? 

My background is in clinical psychology and I have been working as part of the Youth Mental Health team for seven years. This multidisciplinary clinical research team is mainly interested in better understanding the unique needs of young people in the early stages of mental ill-health, and how interventions and services can be structured to better meet those needs. We’ve been interested in testing new clinical interventions and health service models in the real world through places like headspace

I am currently the Clinical and Service Implementation Director of Project Synergy, which is a series of research trials examining how a new health information technology platform can help improve mental health services. 

Q: What do you most love about your job?

Feeling like I am contributing to improving mental health care for young people. My passion is working with clinicians, service providers and young people to help shape mental health services so that they can better meet the needs of the people that require them. As well as learning how we can improve the experience and outcomes of care through research. 

Adolescence and young adulthood is a time of tremendous change. It’s where 75% of all mental disorders begin. Without timely help, many people might not reach their full potential, which can have potentially devastating personal and societal consequences. Knowing that I’m helping to prevent this is what I love about my job. 

Adolescence and young adulthood is a time of tremendous change. It’s where 75% of all mental disorders begin.
Dr Shane Cross

The team at headspace Camperdown

Q: Can you explain in your own words how the Youth Mental Health team is doing things differently? 

As a team, we are very interested in not just the short term but the long-term outcomes of those who receive mental health care. We develop clinical service models that aim to make sure all people accessing services get the right kind of care and the right amount of care. 

Much like digital and technology disruptions occurring in other industries (for example Uber), we believe that technology has the capacity to change the way health care is delivered and experienced. We want to empower young people, their families, their clinicians and the services they use, to work together and use real-time health data to make better treatment decisions. As well as monitor the effectiveness of the care they receive over time. Smarter use of this data can help us discover what interventions suit which people, and how services should respond and adapt to diverse people with different needs. 

Q: Why is this field of work important to you? 

I have witnessed the impacts of mental ill health in my family and in my professional life. I have seen the benefit of intervening early when problems first arise, and on the flip side, the complications and negative impacts of intervening late.

The current system of mental health care is fragmented, difficult to navigate and there is little to no information available to the public about the quality of services. Smart technology can hopefully empower service users to work in more effective partnerships with their health professionals through transparent access to health information and to the clinical knowledge that informs health care decisions. 

We believe that technology has the capacity to change the way health care is delivered and experienced. We want to empower young people, their families, their clinicians and the services they use...
Dr Shane Cross

Q: What are you most excited about in terms of the Youth Mental Health team this year? 

We are in the middle of building a new technology platform through Project Synergy that we hope will give additional choice to people needing services. Our previous research has shown that technology assisted services can:

  1. help people access services more easily and at a time and place that suits them
  2. have connected access to a range of online apps and e-tools that can assist in managing their needs 
  3. work more effectively with their treating health professionals to share their health information and get updates in real time. 

The project extends across the lifespan. We have a specific focus on young people through our headspace centre in Camperdownand other headspace centres around the country that assist us with developing the platform in partnership with young people and clinicians. 

Keep an eye out soon for our new Project Synergy website that will be seeking to recruit young people and other community members to help generate ideas.

Q: What would you say to any young person reading this that might be experiencing mental health issues? 

There are plenty of great websites, apps and online tools available to learn more about what you are going through. Maybe what you are experiencing is more common than what you might think, and there are lots of options out there to assist with where you are at.

Consider letting someone close to you know what is going on for you. This can be hard for some people, but those closest to you have probably noticed that you are not your usual self. If your problems are getting in the way of your relationships, study or work, then it is worth speaking to a health professional - take along a support person if that helps. Try not to put off getting help - things can be easier to manage if they are tackled early!

The headspace story

Professor Ian Hickie, head of the Youth Mental Health team, tells the story of headspace.