Launch of research network for rural mental health

Improving mental health services in regional Australia is the focus of a Collaborative Research Network (CRN) launched at the University of New England in Armidale today.

UNE, along with five partners – the Universities of NSW, Sydney and Newcastle, La Trobe University, and the Hunter New England Local Health Network – will investigate and implement strategies to improve the education of health professionals working in regional settings and to expand existing rural health strengths.

UNE’s Chancellor, Richard Torbay, said studies had shown that people living in rural and remote areas tended to be in poorer health than their counterparts in urban areas. “The research undertaken by this CRN will help us understand the shortfalls in the current system and allow us to work with health professionals on the front line to develop effective solutions,” Mr Torbay said.

The Commonwealth Government has contributed $4.8 million towards the $7 million “CRN for Mental Health and Well‐being in Rural and Regional Communities”. The research will look at the areas of health workforce stability, self‐care, suicide, disabilities, sexuality, inclusion, and biomedical science supporting rural mental health.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills, Sharon Bird (pictured here), was in Armidale to launch the program.

UNE’s Acting Vice‐Chancellor, Professor Annabelle Duncan, said that the Commonwealth funding assisted UNE in expanding its strengths in rural health research and in delivering better mental health outcomes for regional communities.

“UNE’s aim is to become the nation’s university of choice for research into regional issues of global significance, and the work of the CRN will assist us in reaching this goal,” Professor Duncan said. “The research we undertake will make a positive difference to the lives of people – not in 20 years, but within 2 years.

“Indeed, the work of the CRN is already making a difference, with one of our Postdoctoral Fellows helping a suicide prevention group with the development of educational materials for the community.”

Professor Duncan said that UNE was looking forward to working with its partners in delivering better mental health outcomes and services to regional areas.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here expands to show the Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills, Sharon Bird, during her official opening of the CRN for Mental Health and Well-being in Rural and Regional Communities, and the Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay.