Australia’s first and largest integrated research initiative into the prevention of anxiety and depression will be launched by Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt at Parliament House today.
The Prevention Hub unites two of Australia’s leading translational research institutes – the Black Dog Institute and Everymind – to create new world-leading solutions to one of the country’s largest public health issues: mental illness.
In any one year, over two million Australians will experience anxiety and a further one million will be affected by depression. It is estimated that preventive strategies could lower the incidence of anxiety and depression by 20%, which if delivered at scale would mean 60,000 cases per year in Australia.
The NSW-based Hub will focus on three research priorities: workplaces; children, adolescents and families; and healthcare, and comprises thousands of participants across a number of trials.
“To date, Australia has never had a dedicated initiative to investigate how and when prevention interventions should be delivered across the lifespan,” said Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute.
“Effective interventions can prevent the development of anxiety and depression, delay the onset of these conditions, and reduce the severity, duration, and impact of symptoms through early detection and timely treatment.
“To achieve this, we must take what we know about the prevention of anxiety and depression and put it into practice in a wide range of settings.”
Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan said The Prevention Hub will consolidate and drive world-class activities in prevention.
“We know that prevention-focused approaches in mental health are cost-effective and show good return on investment, not to mention the fact that the growing burden of mental ill-health cannot reasonably be stemmed by focusing on treatment alone.”
“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.
“We have already had a range of other research institutions and industry partners sign up to work with us on the research programs we have prioritised over the next two years.”
An online schools-based program developed by the Black Dog Institute, Smooth Sailing, is among the interventions to be scaled up within The Prevention Hub. Acting as a ‘virtual clinic’, students complete an online screener and are allocated to mental health care matched to their symptom severity, directing them to school counsellors if required.
“One in four Australian school-aged kids experience anxiety and depression, yet unlike skin cancer prevention, to date we have placed little emphasis on preventative mental health in schools,” said Professor Christensen.
“Programs like Smooth Sailing will enable students to engage with evidence-based programs, helping to monitor those at risk who have historically slipped through the cracks.”
An online prevention program for families and carers, based on Everymind’s Partners in Depression program, will also be trialled and scaled as part of the funding, with a focus on reaching rural families.
“We know that people who care for and support someone living with depression and anxiety can be at increased risk of mental ill-health themselves,” said Ms Skehan.
“Prevention programs targeted at families can reduce the risk of mental ill-health and facilitate early help-seeking, but we need to ensure that those programs are available to all families and carers.”
Jaelea Skehan added, “We applaud Minister Hunt’s vision to take action now so we can change the futures of individuals and families across Australia. The Prevention Hub will help us bring the solutions we know work for preventing anxiety and depression to Australians at unprecedented levels.”