9 minute read

A couple of weeks of the right support can be life-changing.

Service Manager Kiran Zunker sees young people leave the Youth Step Up Step Down (YSUSD) service in Caboolture, Queensland, in a significantly more positive situation than when they entered a fortnight earlier.

Young people (15 and 21 years) who are in challenging circumstances come to stay at this short-term residential support service to learn better coping strategies.

“Many young people come to us from unstable home environments or from homelessness, and a majority are experiencing significant trauma,” Kiran says.

“A lot of the young people that come here have been using self-harm as a coping strategy for the really intense emotions they are experiencing. Some also have problems with drug and alcohol use.

“Our service users are still young and learning new skills and ways to process challenging emotions and experiences more productively.”

Young people who come to the Mind-managed service undertake a two-week Dialectical Behaviour Therapy program. In the first week they learn distress tolerance skills and in the second week they learn interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation.

“Every day we do one group from this program and one group from the Mind Recovery College. In the afternoons we have a practice session of skills learnt that day,” Kiran says.

The service’s family engagement workers also support parents to get the same skills the young person is learning, to maximise the opportunity for sustained improvement in family relationships.

The support team also connects young people to external support services to further help consolidate their recovery.

“That’s things like mental health supports and employment providers - and community social groups based on their interests are important too, as many are experiencing isolation,” Kiran says.

Young people can stay at the service for up to 28 days but the average stay is a fortnight. Kiran says the change in that time is often remarkable.

“From entry to exit I see them become more confident in going home in terms of coping and managing everyday tasks.”

Outcome measures collected by Mind demonstrate the significant improvements for service users of this model of support, not just at the Caboolture youth service but across the 15 short term residential support services managed by Mind, in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. (These are called Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) services in Victoria).

Key outcomes findings

The Mind Research team measures outcomes using validated instruments including the Kessler 6 for psychological distress and bespoke items according to the service stream being assessed.

“We design our surveys to target the specific outcomes each service stream is aiming to provide,” says Dr Laura Hayes, Mind’s Manager of Research and Evaluation.

“For instance, at SUSDs and PARCs, key aims are to reduce people’s psychological distress and support them to better manage daily living in the community.”

Mind collected data from 1098 residents from 15 SUSD/PARC sites in Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia across the 2022-2023 Financial Year. Data was also collected from 111 carers of SUSD and PARC service users, to measure their experience.

This program literally saved my life. I will be walking out with so much knowledge about my mental health and confidence.

Between service entry and exit, outcome measures showed a consistent significant reduction in psychological distress, across all groups such as age, gender, relationship status, Aboriginal status, and site. 

There was also a 49 per cent reduction in number of residents at risk of ‘serious mental health concerns’ between entry and exit, which was statistically significant. 

Between entry and exit, residents consistently showed a significant improvement in overall recovery, irrespective of their age, gender, relationship status, Aboriginal status, and site. 

Service satisfaction ratings were very high (between 4.0 and 4.8 out of 5) for feeling safe, feeling respected, being listened to by staff and having feedback welcomed. Services rated equally highly for having privacy protected and for embracing diversity and inclusion.

Outcomes data for carers of service users was also very positive, with very high wellbeing ratings showing carers had an increased ability to cope and knew more about the mental health resources available to them after a service engagement. Carers’ service satisfaction ratings were also very high (between 4 and 4.3 out of 5) and an 83 per cent NPS (Net Promoter Score, measuring customer satisfaction) reflecting carers’ trust and satisfaction with their Mind PARC/SUSD service.

Comments left by young people in their outcome surveys at service exit were also captured and are consistently positive.

“The therapy groups were really helpful to my recovery,” one wrote. “I especially liked working with [support worker] because they were always enthusiastic and supportive and helped to keep me accountable to my goals. This a great service for young people struggling with their mental health.”

“This program literally saved my life,” wrote another. “I will be walking out with so much knowledge about my mental health and confidence.”

Kiran says the comments are consistent with the feedback she received at Caboolture. She says peer workers - staff who have their own lived experience of mental health challenges - can play a particularly important contribution to the young person’s recovery. 

“The peer workers provide that hope and inspiration that things can and will get better – they really role model recovery for the young people that come here.” 

“Four of our past service users are now studying for their Certificate IV in mental health peer work as they’ve been inspired by the impact peer workers have had for them.”

If you would like more information about Youth or Adult Step Up Step Down or Prevention and Recovery Care services, visit the Mind website, or phone 1300 286 463.

If this article raises concerns for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 
If you would like more information, please contact us.

1300 286 463 
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