Although calls for reform of youth mental health by Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year, have generated considerable support, including by GetUp, through a community launched campaign, further analysis of his opinion piece in Weekend Health called Mental health needs early care, Feb 6-7) shows an unclear interpretation of evidence.
McGorry claims there's compelling evidence that early intervention costs one-third as much as standard intervention.
This claim however is based on selective evidence particularly about psychosis, not mental illness generally.
He claims early intervention for psychosis has much better results in terms of return to work and quality of life, but the data he collected for Schizophrenia Bulletin paper last year showed no significant differences.
There is a mispresentation of the Access Economics report, by McGorry. Instead of proving early intervention is cost-effective, there was insufficient data to conclude the cost-effectiveness.
Also, his comments about National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission are misleading. It suggested that a youth-friendly service focusing on mental disorders and sexual health, not Headspace (the National Youth Mental Health Foundation), specifically, be rolled out across the country.
Early intervention carries with it potential harms as well as potential benefits. It's implementation requires a foundation that is based on rigorous assessment of evidence, not on academic spin and wishful thinking.
Melissa Raven is a psychiatric epidemiologist and policy analyst and an adjunct lecturer in public health at Flinders University.