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Specialist mental health services are primarily for people with a serious mental illness/disorder. They provide a tertiary level of care and are commonly highly trained psychologists and psychiatrists who also have decided to specialise in a particular field. Find out more about the purpose of specialist mental health services, and how to find out more about local services.

Specialist mental health services help with:

  • severe mental health disorders
  • people experiencing acute levels of disturbance
  • people whose behaviour may be a danger to others.
Psychologist talking to young lady in office

What are specialist mental health services?

Specialist mental health services are primarily for people with a serious mental illness/disorder. Examples include eating disorder clinics, acute mental health wards etc. They provide a tertiary level of care and are commonly highly trained psychologists and psychiatrists who also have decided to specialise in a particular area.

Specialist mental health services also respond to people who are experiencing significant/acute levels of disturbance due to their disorder such as a suicide intervention. Generally, these will be people with a diagnosis of a major mental illness, such as schizophrenia but will also include some people with other conditions such as severe personality disorder, severe anxiety disorder, or those who are in a situational crisis which may lead to severe self-harm or inappropriate/dangerous behaviour towards others. Specialist mental health services will provide assistance to those individuals who display an acute level of severity of the disturbance and impairment. It appears that those who require specialist mental health service seem to have more than one disorder and it appears that drug and alcohol (AOD) related disorders (or dual diagnosis) are the most common.

If a young person in your care is need of psychological crisis assistance, there are services that operate 24 hours a day and provide urgent community-based assessment and short-term treatment interventions. These teams are given different names dependent upon the area of Australia you are in and have a key role in deciding the most appropriate treatment option and in screening all potential inpatient admissions. These services provide intensive community treatment and support during the acute phase sometimes as an alternative to going into hospital.

Finding out about local specialist mental health services

For information about the kind of specialised mental health services in Australia visit the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website: http://mhsa.aihw.gov.au/resources/facilities/

We recommend headspace as a first point of call for young people with suspected mental health difficulties, as they can connect young people with the most appropriate service for their needs.

Crisis teams provide a service to selected hospital emergency departments through an onsite presence. You can access a crisis team by contacting your local hospital or calling emergency services.

For more information on support services to contact in a crisis, visit Urgent help.

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