Adolescent with anxiety

Melbourne researchers have created new clinical guidelines to better support children and adolescents diagnosed with anxiety as demand for mental health care surges.  

The Australian-first, evidence-based clinical guidelines for health care professionals, aim to improve the identification, assessment and management of anxiety disorders, which affect one in 14 youths and have risen post COVID-19.

The document, developed as part of the Melbourne Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy, involved experts from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics.

University of Melbourne and MCRI Professor David Coghill said that while anxiety was one of the most common mental health problems in children and adolescents, healthcare-related barriers were still an issue.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic saw a surge in children seekingmentalhealthcare, there remains considerable variation in clinical approaches and significant gaps in the provision of key services,” Professor Coghill said. 

“But these new guidelines will help to create a consistent, overarching approach that ensures infants, children, young people with anxiety and their families have access to high quality, equitable, preventative and consistent mental healthcare. This care needs to be available where and when young patients need it, so we can achieve positive outcomes across development, health and wellbeing.”

Key recommendations in the guidelines include more consistent and regular assessments, screening and treatment of anxiety, with a focus on helping young people identify between everyday worries and what is clinically significant. 

The experts have also included age-specific and development-specific approaches, allowing for targeted and appropriate treatments. Experts and consumers contributed to the document, which was developed by a Clinical Guidelines Development Group (GDG).

“Not only did we take into account the lived experiences of children, young people and their caregivers, we also informed these guidelines with multidisciplinary research evidence support,” Professor Coghill said.

“The Melbourne Children’s Campus advocates for family-centred care and we encourage all professionals involved in the care of children and young people with anxiety to become familiar with these clinical guidelines and implement them at work.”

Read the full clinical guidelines (PDF) - Melbourne Children's Campus