Research Centres to Target Substance Use and Suicide
31 January 2013 at 10:01 am
Two new national research centres have been launched into the most pressing mental health issues affecting the Australian community – substance use and suicide.
The centres were launched in Sydney by Federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek and Federal Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler.
Professor Helen Christensen, lead researcher and Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute at UNSW, says the launch marks the first time clinical and research experts from around Australia have united to target these areas.
“Despite considerable funding and community attention over the last five years, suicide is still the biggest killer of Australians aged 15 – 44yrs. As well as being a known trigger for suicide, co-morbid mental illness and substance use impacts around 300,000 Australians and can result in significant social and physical impairment," she said.
“Specialists from a wide range of backgrounds including psychology, psychiatry, medicine, public health and community education are involved to ensure the clinical outcomes are relevant and accessible for all at-risk individuals and groups around the country including rural, indigenous, youth and multicultural communities.
“This approach will not only reduce the money spent on costly in-patient services, it will save lives.”
Professor Maree Teesson, lead researcher and Professor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, says the new approach will build infrastructure for the future.
“Unlike more traditional public health programmes, these Centres will focus on prevention and intervention. These areas are have been neglected in the past due to the complexity of physical and environmental triggers and the associated stigma," Professor Teesson said.
“Our combined expertise, and the incorporation of new delivery techniques such as eHealth, will enable us to identify who is at risk and target them with programmes designed for them specifically.”
The Centres are both funded for five years by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use will focus on prevention and treatment. It aims to break down single disorder silos by generating significant new research on the prevention, treatment and epidemiology of comorbid mental health and substance use disorders.
An integral component of this CRE is the translation of research findings into educational curricula, training programs, clinical resources, as well as resources for the general public.
It’s a collaboration of researchers from the University of New South Wales, the University of Newcastle, University of Sydney, University of Macquarie and University of Queensland. International collaborators include the University of Birmingham in the UK, North-western University Medical School, USA and the Medical University of South Carolina, USA.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention will involving clinical and research experts from around Australia, and aims to test new delivery options for inventions, investigate models of suicide causation including social patterns and gene-environment interactions, improve help-seeking behaviour nation-wide and inform government on funding priorities.
“This new collaborative approach will enable the development of a central suicide research hub – unifying the sector and facilitating the smooth and effective translation of research into impactful clinical outcomes,” Professor Christensen said.