Facilitating access to effective and appropriate care for youth with mild to moderate mental health concerns in New Zealand.


Problem: Youth with mild-moderate mental health concerns often go unrecognized, and find access to and the navigation of support services difficult. Methods: A quasi-experimental pre-/postintervention design was used to explore the impact of facilitated access to free counseling support using the following outcome measures: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), Substance Abuse Choices Scale (SACS), Children’s Global Assessment Scale (C-GAS), alongside consumer feedback questionnaires. Findings: A total of 581 culturally diverse youth aged 10-24 completed the intervention. Those who completed reported significant improvements in global social and psychiatric functioning measured by C-GAS (p < .001); reduced risk of clinically significant mental health concerns measured by SDQ (p < .001); and reductions in the use and impact of drugs/alcohol measured by SACS (p < .001). Participants and their families/whanau reported that the interventions were safe and appropriate, with perceived increased skill development around coping and communication. Conclusions: This intervention appears to be an effective and acceptable strategy, particularly for Maori youth and those from lower socioeconomic groups, to reduce mild to moderate mental health symptoms and concerns. This approach could be replicated by other communities wishing to reduce mental health burden for youth by facilitating access to free, culturally appropriate, and accessible counseling via a multidisciplinary and collaborative triage approach.