Key messages

  • The Victorian Governement’s Mental Illness Research Fund supports multidisciplinary and cross-sector collaborative research to promote tangible improvements in service provision.
  • Working with dozens of research partners on multiple projects the research fund provides research updates to assist in every facet of the mental health community.

The Victorian Government’s Mental Illness Research Fund (MIRF) is a $10 million initiative supporting multidisciplinary and cross-sector collaborative research that can be translated into tangible improvements for Victorians with mental illness and their carers.

Five research projects were awarded the MIRF in November 2012. The projects commenced in June 2013 and will be funded over a four-year period ending July 2017.

Working together with shared values towards recovery-oriented practice: Principles Unite Local Services Assisting Recovery – the PULSAR project

$2,331,460

Led by Professor Graham Meadows at Monash University

Research partners are Monash University, Mind Australia, Eastern Region Mental Health Association, Southern Health, the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Victoria University and the University of London.

This project tests a practical approach to address the issue of how different types of services within a defined geographical area can be refocused to support recovery for people with mental illness.

It will shed light on how clinical mental health, primary care and community support services can collaborate effectively and help people with mental illness achieve their personal recovery goals.

The research will adapt and test the usefulness of a set of training materials and organisational change techniques first used in the UK, with particular focus on how they can be adapted to the Victorian context.

 Project updates

  • March 2015 update

    In year one of this project on recovery-oriented practice, we established the project team and hosted three visits from our London collaborators.

    Broad-based consultation processes supported development of training materials and we made human research and ethics submissions for quantitative and qualitative research components.

    In the early part of year two we finalised materials for primary and secondary care, secured accreditation of GP training, recruited over 300 secondary-care participants and engaged general practices.

    Fourteen secondary-care clusters and 15 general practices were randomised, with half allocated to early and half to late intervention in the two-step wedge design. As of March 2015, training interventions for primary care and secondary care for the early intervention group are under way, with secondary care to be concluded by the end of March and primary care first wave by the end of April.

    Dissemination has begun with a published journal paper and multiple conference presentations.

  • June 2014 update

    In this project on recovery-oriented practice we have in the first year established the project team and hosted three visits from our key collaborators from London.

    We are well advanced with consultation processes regarding the training materials and have made human research and ethics submissions for major elements of the research.

    We now have a very clear sense of how the experience of REFOCUS as a training and team development approach used in the UK connects with existing recovery agenda in Australia.

    Critically, we can now establish linkages between the REFOCUS intervention and the new Victorian Mental Health Act, with its strongly expressed recovery orientation.

    The project team has refined the original plan regarding a cluster randomised controlled trial into a sequential design that will increase study power, also maximising the acceptability of the intervention in the services involved and making for a readily generalisable implementation plan.

    So in the first year this broad collaboration has taken the project plan forward, refining it and adding most of the detail necessary to taking the work into real-world settings, this being the task for the rest of 2014 and further into the life of the project.

Use of online technology to promote self-management and recovery in people with psychosis

$1,966,610

Led by Dr Neil Thomas at Swinburne University

Research partners are Swinburne University, La Trobe University, the Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, Alfred Health, Melbourne Health, Mind Australia, St Vincent's Mental Health and Deakin University.

This project explores how online, multimedia-based therapy can be better developed and more routinely used by mental health workers, patients and carers as a core part of treatment.

The research focuses strongly on how this can help people with severe mental illness develop skills to effectively manage their own illness.

It will rigorously test the benefits of this approach in achieving improved health and social outcomes.

Project update

  • March 2015 update

    As of the beginning of 2015, the program has conducted extensive consultations with consumers, mental health workers and carers and developed an online portal of resources, which we will be trialling.

    An initial pilot trial of using these resources with a worker over eight sessions found significant improvements on the primary outcome: a measure of personal recovery.

    Participants reported that seeing other people talking about their lived experience on the SMART website made them feel less alone and that using the website with a facilitator helped to stimulate discussion.

    The research program is now commencing three major research trials investigating the use of these resources and their integration into healthcare in 2015 and will be looking for people who have experienced psychosis to participate in these research projects.

  • June 2014 update

    The project is developing a website for use on a tablet computer by mental health workers in their work with consumers. The site will also be accessible to consumers and carers via computers, tablets or smartphones.

    The website will provide a toolkit of information and include a series of modules such as educational materials, online exercises, downloadable materials, a forum and videos featuring people talking about their lived experience.

    We undertook an extensive consultation process with the intended users of the website to determine what they would like to see from a recovery-focused website.

    This is occurring through focus groups with consumers, as well as mental health workers, from the Alfred, St Vincent’s, NorthWestern Mental Health, the Mental Illness Fellowship and Mind.

    We have also assembled some great reference groups of workers, consumers and carers that we are in consultation with throughout development.

    The ideas and feedback from this consultation process have been instrumental in designing both the cona

    The project is developing a website for use on a tablet computer by mental health workers in their work with consumers. The site will also be accessible to consumers and carers via computers, tablets or smartphones.

    The website will provide a toolkit of information and include a series of modules such as educational materials, online exercises, downloadable materials, a forum and videos featuring people talking about their lived experience.

    We undertook an extensive consultation process with the intended users of the website to determine what they would like to see from a recovery-focused website.

    This is occurring through focus groups with consumers, as well as mental health workers, from the Alfred, St Vincent’s, NorthWestern Mental Health, the Mental Illness Fellowship and Mind.

    We have also assembled some great reference groups of workers, consumers and carers that we are in consultation with throughout development.

    The ideas and feedback from this consultation process have been instrumental in designing both the content and the website.

    Some of the key requirements to arise from the consultation have been the importance of consumer ownership and for content to be flexible, interactive, engaging, and to use videos of people telling of their lived experience.

    The content development and website design are progressing well and we have been filming interviews with people with lived experience.

    The SMART website should be ready towards the end of 2014. We will be conducting a number of research projects that examine how online resources can be used within services.

    This will include a trial of therapist-assisted use, ‘SMART–Therapy’; a trial of use by workers in mental health services, ‘SMART–Service’; and a trial of engagement methods for people using the site on their own, ‘SMART–Direct.’

    tent and the website.

    Some of the key requirements to arise from the consultation have been the importance of consumer ownership and for content to be flexible, interactive, engaging, and to use videos of people telling of their lived experience.

    The content development and website design are progressing well and we have been filming interviews with people with lived experience.

    The SMART website should be ready towards the end of 2014. We will be conducting a number of research projects that examine how online resources can be used within services.

The HORYZONS project: Moderated online social therapy for maintenance of treatment effects from specialised first-episode psychosis services

$1,792,727

Led by Dr Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, a Senior Research Fellow at the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre

Research partners are Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, the Australian Catholic University, the University of Melbourne and Deakin University.

The researchers have identified a gap in availability of easily accessible and engaging ways to help young people with psychosis avoid relapse, maintain engagement with mental health services and continue to recover after initial treatment.

This study is testing the impact of an online program called HORYZONS in long-term recovery for young people diagnosed early in the course of a psychotic illness.

If effective, HORYZONS will provide a world-first resource for this purpose, combining social networking, peer support, online therapy and easy access to health professionals.

Project update

  • March 2015

    The researchers have identified a clear gap in availability of easily accessible and engaging ways to help young people with psychosis avoid relapse, maintain engagement with mental health services and continue to recover after initial treatment.

    This study is testing the impact of a world-first online program called Horyzons in long-term recovery for young people diagnosed early in the course of a psychotic illness.

    If effective, HORYZONS will provide a world-first resource for this purpose, combining social networking, peer support, online therapy and easy access to health professionals.

    The Horyzons project is progressing well, with over 70 recruited into the study. Preliminary data shows that Horyzons is acceptable, safe and highly appealing to young users, with over 70 per cent using the intervention on a regular basis (for over one-year period). Recruitment into the study is expected to continue throughout 2015.

  • June 2014

    The Horyzons project is testing a world-first Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST™), designed to bring about long-term recovery in young people suffering from psychosis.

    MOST™ uniquely integrates online social networking, individually tailored psychosocial interventions, positive psychology principles and both peer-to-peer and professional moderation in a single platform designed to provide a novel, engaging and safe therapeutic environment.

    MOST™ has been designed and developed over five years by a multidisciplinary team of 25 researchers, in close collaboration with young people. MOST™ incorporates cutting-edge online and mobile technologies and functionality to support young people in their journey to full recovery.

    To establish the effectiveness of this innovative intervention, the Horyzons study will recruit 200 young people with psychosis (25 participants recruited to date).

    If effective, Horyzons will be implemented across Victoria and Australia and will enable time-unlimited, advanced support for all young people with psychosis, following appropriate face-to-face interventions.

Getting to the CORE: Testing a co-design technique to optimise psychosocial recovery outcomes for people affected by mental illness

$1,777,332

Led by Dr Victoria Palmer at the University of Melbourne

Research partners are the University of Melbourne, the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council, the Victorian Mental Health Carers Network and selected community health centres throughout Victoria.

This research is investigating the value of actively involving people affected by mental illness in the design of treatment and care, and examining how this approach can best improve mental health services.

The project will build on the widely recognised work of Victoria’s mental health consumers and carers in fostering partnership with clinicians to improve their service experiences and quality.

The project is taking this work further by testing if the approach will improve the recovery outcomes for consumers in a number of community health centres across Victoria.

Project update

  • March 2015

    For updates on the project, see the CORE blog:

    http://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/core/

    The study has also released an open-access protocol paper:

    http://m.bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/3/e006688.full

  • June 2014

    The CORE study has been busy preparing to optimise psychosocial recovery outcomes for people affected by mental illnesses and improve carer wellbeing and mental health in Victoria.

    In August 2013 the study team presented at the national Mental Health Services Conference (TheMHS).

    The team also finalised an innovative recruitment strategy to maximise participation options with collaborative partnerships formed with Arts Access Victoria and David Granirer’s WISE Employment sponsored Stand Up for Mental Health program, the focus of our study launch that took place in March 2014.

    In February 2014 the team held its first advisory and data-monitoring committee meeting, comprised of 10 international (UK, USA and Canada)and national experts in experience-based co-design, recovery, randomised controlled trials and complex interventions.

    Two pilot studies have been completed.

    The first tested the feasibility and acceptability of outcome measures for consumers and carers, with over 30 consumers and 10 carers participating.

    The second tested feasibility and acceptability of outcome measures for staff in mental health community support services (MHCSS), with 55 staff from eight organisations participating.

    We are now getting closer to the CORE and preparing for recruitment in 2014.

Developing an Australian-first recovery model for parents in Victorian mental health and family services

$1,855,891

Led by Associate Professor Darryl Maybery at Monash University

Research partners are Monash University, SANE Australia, Family Life, Neami, the Bouverie Centre, the Parenting Research Centre, Raising Children Network, beyondblue, Eastern Health, Melbourne Health and the University of South Australia.

The key question being addressed by this project is how we can improve longer-term recovery of people with severe mental illness by addressing their parenting role as a core part of their treatment.

To answer this, the researchers will trial specific innovative interventions that engage families and children within specialist mental health services.

Project update

  • March 2015

    For parents with a mental illness, recovery must incorporate parenting and family functioning as a major component of wellness, along with social and occupational spheres.

    Recognising and supporting an individual’s parenting role and responsibilities optimises psychosocial recovery by increasing a parent’s motivation to seek and maintain treatment, provide opportunities for meaningful activities, be valued by society and decrease the risk factors for children.

    The research will provide an Australian-first, evidence-based recovery support platform for parents, which will also deliver significant mental health and wellbeing benefits to children.

  • June 2014

    Along with empowering parents, the project will deliver substantial wellbeing and mental illness prevention benefits to families, particularly to children.

    As of May 2014, we have almost 100 clinicians trained to implement the approach and a further 30 who have become Let’s Talk trainers. They come from 13 services across urban and rural Victoria and in coming months the project will commence implementation with parents.

    A highlight to date is our collaboration on the project with the Victorian FaPMI (Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness) strategy and with the national Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) initiative. FaPMI workers have been instrumental in the training and implementation of the model across several Victorian regions and we have worked closely with the national COPMI initiative in developing the online Let’s Talk training package.

    In the longer term and in collaboration with our research partners and agencies, we expect to have developed a model that breaks the cycle of mental illness for many families.