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Poor mental health is one of the key predictable, and preventable, long-term outcomes of childhood acquired brain injuries (ABI) – but a pilot project, funded through the Children’s Hospital Foundation grant program, is on a mission to change the outcomes.

Moderate to severe brain injury can result in chronic and lifelong disability, with research showing that up to 63% of children with moderate-severe ABI experience mental health concerns, such as anxiety, low mood, behavioural challenges, or adjustment difficulties at some point in time.

This number is compared to 14% of Australian children without brain injury. 

While post-injury mental health and behavioural difficulties can be prevented or lessened through timely and effective interventions, young people with ABI struggle to access appropriate care in their local community, according to clinical records at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

Determined to change these statistics, the At a Crossroads Project addressed the prevalence of poor mental health in children and young people with ABI head-on.

With the support of a Children’s Hospital Foundation grant, the project team implemented a trial to add a psychiatry consultation to existing ABI rehabilitation care provided at Queensland Children’s Hospital from October 2021 through to June 2022.

Adding to the existing model of care, the Crossroads clinic offered short-term, individualised mental health consultation with a psychiatrist for 15 young people with ABI.

According to Dr Katherine Olsson, Clinical Neuropsychologist in the hospital’s Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service (QPRS) and Project Officer for Crossroads, the project helped to streamline the model of care and reduce the need for families to attend multiple appointments with multiple specialists.

The project also ensured young people and their families maintained a sense of safety, care and support throughout their ABI and mental health journeys.

Ms Janet Danielson, QPRS Clinical Program Lead (Acquired Brain Injury) said the pilot had seen significant outcomes for both staff and children with ABI.

“With dedicated and individualised resources, we have experienced a reduction in barriers to accessing mental health support and several positive outcomes for both staff and patients,” Ms Danielson said.

“The support of the Children’s Hospital Foundation grant program helped us fund a specialised model of care to make initial positive strides in the treatment of mental health concerns following childhood acquired brain injury – we’re extremely grateful for this support.”

Following the pilot’s success, the clinic has received recurrent funding under the Better Care Together plan for a dedicated consultation liaison psychiatrist once a fortnight, and to continue to advocate for change in the ongoing care of childhood acquired brain injuries.

The At a Crossroads Project was made possible with the generous support of Woolworths and their customers, through funding from the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Since our partnership began over 35 years ago, Woolworths has helped raise more than $60 million for some of Queensland’s sickest kids and their families.

To learn more about how your support can make a difference in the lives of sick and injured kids, head here.