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Research aims to improve youth mental health services

Research aims to improve youth mental health services

New research will focus on designing more responsive service models to manage the demand for South Australia’s youth mental health services.

The University of Adelaide and not-for-profit organisation Sonder, which provides support for people with mental health challenges, are working together to examine how the efficiency and effectiveness of primary youth mental health services can be enhanced to meet current demand for services.

The University of Adelaide’s Dr Tracey Dodd, who is leading the partnership, is from the Adelaide Business School.

“It is vital that industry, academics, and government continue to work together to unlock new knowledge that can improve outcomes for all South Australians,” she said.

“Research shows that mental well-being is a key pillar of broader social and economic well-being. We have a once-in-a generation opportunity to show how resilient South Australia’s support systems can be in response to the challenges that COVID-19 has brought.”

A new industry-based PhD researcher, funded by the University and Sonder, will undertake the important work.

Sonder CEO, Sageran Naidoo welcomed the partnership and opportunities for improvement that it will uncover.

“With young people seeking help at an unprecedented rate, it is increasingly evident that all youth mental health services are experiencing major challenges in meeting the demand for services and that wait times are growing,” he said.

The research will examine Sonder’s existing youth mental health services (including its lead agency operated headspace centres) and associated service pathways, processes, and procedures to identify improvement opportunities. The research will also engage with community partners, young people, family members/carers, and staff to co-design more timely and innovative models of care for young people.

The findings will support South Australian policymakers and service providers to design more responsive service models to manage the demand for youth mental health services, in a time in which demand for timely services often exceeds supply.

“Long wait times are a major barrier to help-seeking for young people and their families, so it is critical that we work to find ways to improve the efficiency of our service delivery and meet current demand,” said Mr Naidoo.

“With demand for our services exponentially increasing over the last 12 months and rates of mental health presentations by young people to services increasing, now is the time for services to be investing in research to better equip our mental health system to meet the rising tide of need.”

Mr Naidoo says the opportunity to partner with the University of Adelaide to advance the sector’s understanding of how the state’s youth mental health services can be improved is invaluable.

The University’s Adelaide Business School will host the new PhD position.

“The University has a proud history of partnering with industry. We are delighted to work with Sonder on this project to add to our portfolio of thought leadership in the area of social advancement,” said the University of Adelaide’s Professor Noel Lindsay, Dean of the Business School and Pro Vice Chancellor – Entrepreneurship.


Would you like to join a team dedicated to pushing the boundaries in youth mental health service design and reform? Would you describe yourself as a curious person who is good at organising and communicating new ideas? Do you have previous or current engagement in the mental health sector?

Sonder and The University of Adelaide have just the opportunity for you! We have partnered to establish a full time PhD opportunity for a suitable candidate to examine improvement opportunities in the youth mental health system.

The candidate must hold a first-class honours degree or equivalent.

The position will attract a tax-free income over three years.

Interested applicants should email a one-page letter outlining how they meet the above eligibility criteria, a brief CV and copies of academic transcripts to Program Director, Undergraduate Project Manager, Dr Tracey Dodd at tracey.dodd@adelaide.edu.au 

Following this, applicants may be invited to discuss their application further at interview.