Mental disorders are the main causes of non-fatal disability across the world, resulting in significant social, health and economic costs. New research has shown it is possible to prevent the onset and reduce severity of the most common mental illnesses – anxiety and depression.
The Australian Government has acknowledged the enormous potential of prevention, announcing $5 million support in the federal budget for a new Centre for Research Excellence in the Prevention of Anxiety and Depression.
“The delivery of evidence-based interventions through schools, workplaces and primary health care has the potential to reduce incidence of these disorders by around 20%,” says UNSW Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, Black Dog Institute Director and Chief Scientist.
“This exciting new initiative will help us to develop new prevention strategies and programs, and facilitate the delivery of these strategies to Australians of all ages and backgrounds.”
The NSW-based centre, jointly led by the Black Dog Institute and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, will support innovative translational research to improve and accelerate the uptake and impact of programs across settings and across communities.
Hunter Institute of Mental Health Director, Jaelea Skehan says the centre will consolidate and drive world-class activities in prevention.
“The centre includes a multi-agency team of experienced and internationally regarded researchers, educators, communicators and clinicians. This funding will enable us to combine our skills, leverage relationships and build effective and streamlined programs for addressing the risk factors associated with anxiety and depression.
“The centre will place focus on developing accessible and effective programs for those in particular need, including children and young people, targeted workforces and workplaces, families and carers and those living in regional and rural areas.
“We look forward to working with the Black Dog Institute and collaborating with institutions in NSW like the Brain and Mind Centre, the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health and others to deliver meaningful outcomes for our NSW communities.”
The centre will establish a strong foundation of future discovery through support of local researchers, facilitation of collaboration and efficient use of the research dollar.
“This funding provides a unique opportunity for us to create a streamlined response whereby good quality programs focused on the prevention of mental illness are designed for, and integrated into, the settings of everyday life,” says Professor Christensen.
“We applaud the Australian Government for taking this important first step and investing in a program that will have a significant outcome on the community and place Australia at the forefront of translational mental health research globally.”
Funding is expected to commence in late 2017.