Which organisation is delivering this program / service?

Black Dog Institute

What are the aims and objectives of this program / service?

Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) is a schools-based mental health and suicide prevention program for 14-16 year olds delivered by the Black Dog Institute. YAM aims to promote discussion and awareness of mental health issues, as well as the development of problem solving skills and emotional intelligence in young people. The program has the strongest evidence base of school programs reviewed by the Black Dog Institute, and European trials show YAM can significantly reduce the risk of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation in adolescents.

YAM was developed by a group of interdisciplinary researchers from NASP/Karolinska Institute (Sweden) and Columbia University. Following extensive, successful randomised control trials involving 10 countries, 168 schools and 13,000 students throughout Europe and the United States of America, the Black Dog Institute worked alongside the creators of YAM to review course content and make adjustments that ensure the program’s relevance for Australian audiences. This is now being tested through the LifeSpan trial.

YAM is delivered in partnership with the NSW Department of Education as well as local youth wellbeing service providers, headspace across the Public, Independent and Catholic school systems.
YAM is being delivered as part of Black Dog Institutes’ LifeSpan trial, a systems based approach to suicide prevention, and has been rolled out in Newcastle and Illawarra Shoalhaven to more than 32 schools, reaching more than 5,000 year-9 students. Expansion into the Central Coast and Murrumbidgee trial sites is scheduled to occur in 2018. YAM is also being delivered in some South Australian schools as part of the National Suicide Prevention Trial supported by Black Dog Institute and it is expected that it will soon be taken up in other parts of the country.

Through five, one-hour sessions delivered over 2-3 weeks, YAM creates a non-judgmental atmosphere, where students are empowered to consider themselves experts in their own mental health and their voices and experiences take centre stage. Role-play and reflection stands at the core of the program and encourages discussion of mental health issues such as stress, crisis response, how to help friends in need, and where to seek advice. These key learnings are reinforced through a YAM guide provided to each student that helps them connect with local mental health resources and youth rights and empowerment organisations in their communities.

What does delivery of this program / service involve?

YAM is delivered by accredited instructors to class groups of around 30 high school students aged between 14-16 years.

YAM instructors are drawn from various fields and include educators, community workers, clinicians and counsellors. Instructors undergo a comprehensive five-day training course to become certified.

The programme spans five sessions covering the following six themes:
1. What is mental health?
2. Self-help advice
3. Stress and crisis
4. Depression and suicidal thoughts
5. Helping a friend in need
6. Who can I ask for advice?

The five sessions include role-play workshops, interactive lectures and group discussion.

Students retain a program booklet and class posters for future reference.

Youth Aware of Mental Health Reviewers Summary

The Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) has been evaluated with promising results internationally, and the Black Dog Institute is evaluating an adapted version within the Australian context. This research is still underway. The proposed YAM evaluation and associated program logic are sound. Given that the YAM program is one of several suicide prevention programs being implemented in the area as part of the Lifespan trial, caution should be taken when interpreting the results of the YAM evaluation in respect to changes in suicide attempts and suicide deaths. The potential impact of other programs should be controlled for as far as possible. However, a pre-post evaluation with follow up at 12- and 24-months is being conducted among Year 9 students to specifically assess how effective YAM is at improving suicide literacy and help-seeking behaviours, as well as reducing suicidal thinking and mental health risks.

Information about the research design (control groups, random assignment etc.) and the kinds of measures to be used e.g. are there behavioural measures, are they validated etc.) would be useful for further assessment.

Reviewers have identified the following consideration(s) relating to this program / service review

Partial Evidence 

Research/evaluation activity has only focussed on certain components/target groups/settings; and/or the body of evidence indicates inconsistency in terms of whether the program or service achieves its impact(s); and/or rating only based on one or two research/evaluation projects.


The most recent research/evaluation activity occurred more than two years ago.

Program adaptations and adjustments 

Significant program adjustments have occurred since evaluation activity was conducted; and/or the program/service not been specifically adapted for the Australian context; and/or the program/service has been adapted for the Australian context but the adapted version has not been researched/evaluated.


Research/evaluation activity was conducted by staff from the same organisation as that which delivers the program or service.

Experts by experience not involved 

Experts by experience not involved in the design of the program/service itself, the design of safety and quality aspects, the delivery of the program/service OR research/evaluation on the program/service.