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Queensland leads the way in quality mental health research

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Queensland’s premier mental health research facility led the way in assessing the social, economic and health impacts of mental illness in Australia. Now, researchers at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) are part of a global COVID-19 forecasting team determining the impact of COVID-19 on our health systems.

Australia’s comprehensive mental health report
QCMHR Professor Harvey Whiteford was the Associate Commissioner for the Productivity’s Commission’s mental health inquiry report, released in November 2020. The report looked at some of the main influences on people’s mental health, examined the effect of mental health on people’s ability to participate in the community and at work, and the implications for Australia’s economy and productivity.

The Productivity Commission’s report found that our mental health system is often too complex to navigate, with people receiving treatment too late or not at all. It also estimated that, in addition to enormous social and health costs, mental illness and suicide costs the Australian economy more than $200 billion a year. The report recommended reforms for the Federal and State and Territory Governments to improve the mental health of people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. These recommendations included reforms across workplaces, schools and universities, the justice system and community groups and services.

The global COVID-19 forecasting team
The report’s data is from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has since had a significant impact on mental health. This year, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation asked several QCMHR researchers to join their global COVID-19 forecasting team. The QCMHR group will acquire data from Australia, New Zealand and other Asia Pacific countries and analyse it to assess the impact of COVID-19 on health systems in these nations.

The QCMHR researchers also plan to use the COVID-19 pandemic research as a case study to quantify the prevalence of mental disorders for other “shock” scenarios, such as bushfires, natural disasters and other major events in the future.

International recognition
The researcher leading QCMHR’s COVID-19 forecasting group is Dr Alize Ferrari. Dr Ferrari is one of three QCHMHR researchers recognised in the 2020 Clarivate™ highly-cited researchers list.

In psychiatry and psychology, QCMHR researchers Professor John McGrath, Professor Harvey Whiteford, and Dr Ferrari are three of only fourteen researchers from across Australia to make the list.
• Professor McGrath for his work in discovering the causes of serious mental disorders.
• Professor Whiteford for his work in measuring the burden of mental and substance use disorders and how to improve the health system to reduce that burden.
• Dr Alize Ferrari for her work in the field of Indigenous psychiatric epidemiology and the burden of mental disorders.

QCMHR has research groups based within BDHP Partners West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, and The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health and Queensland Brain Institute. QCMHR covers the research spectrum from genetics and neurobiology, clinical trials, child and youth mental health, forensic mental health, and policy and translation.

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