Trauma and mental health
Exposure to life threatening trauma is a common occurrence, with the majority of the population experiencing one or more of these events during their lifetime. The Black Dog Institute in partnership with the School of Psychiatry UNSW and St John of God Richmond Hospital, has initiated a joint research program in trauma and mental health led by Professor Zachary Steel.
The aim of the program is to conduct research that determines effective treatments for trauma-related mental health disorders and translates these findings to the wider community seeking treatment for trauma-related symptoms.
Why trauma and mental health?
Populations at high risk for multiple or sustained trauma include personnel employed in the Australian Defence Force; those working in front-line services (police, health, fire services, rescue, etc.); persons from refugee backgrounds; indigenous communities; and socially disadvantaged communities exposed to high levels of conflict and violence. Moreover, the general population is at significant risk of experiencing trauma as a consequence of road traffic and other accidents, crime, domestic violence, natural and technological disasters and terrorist attacks.
Approximately 1 in 10 persons exposed to a potentially traumatic event will develop PTSD in their lifetimes. For many individuals the posttraumatic symptoms they experience will persist with the median time to remission following onset estimated at 14 years and a third of respondents continuing to have symptoms 30 years after onset.
This research program aims to better understand trauma exposure and the impact it has on mental health and wellbeing for those affected whilst also testing the effectiveness of interventions for those with trauma-related mental health problems. At a broader level, there is an emphasis on the promotion of an evidence-based approach to early intervention and promotion for those at risk of developing trauma-related mental health difficulties. Advancing community awareness of the impact of trauma on mental health and wellbeing and to provide support for those who have been exposed to potentially traumatic events is key.
Behind the Seen
Behind the Seen is a peer-led grassroots training initiative that seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of first responders. It has been delivered to over 600 fire-fighters, paramedics, police and rescue personnel in NSW and WA. This study is evaluating the impact of Behind the Seen in increasing awareness and reducing stigma towards mental health issues among first responders and their families.
Post-conflict mental health impact
This collaborative epidemiological research program across Vietnam, Aceh-Indonesia, and Timor-Leste seeks to determine the post-conflict mental health impact for survivors of trauma and their partners.
Association between aerobic exercise capacity and functioning in post-traumatic stress disorder
There is growing recognition of the importance and justification for assessing exercise capacity within clinical mental health settings. Despite this growing body of literature in the psychosis and bipolar fields, research is lacking as to whether comparable relationships between exercise capacity and functioning exist among people experiencing PTSD. This study is seeking to determine whether there is an association between exercise capacity and global functioning amongst inpatients receiving treatment for PTSD.
Expert Guidelines: Diagnosis and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Service Workers
A panel of leading academics and specialists from across Australia, led by Associate Professor Sam Harvey from Black Dog Institute and University of NSW, have combined expert clinical opinion with the best available research evidence to develop the world’s first set of guidelines specific to the needs of emergency workers.
Aiming to provide treating general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapeutic providers and workers compensation claims managers, the guidelines support a best practice and treatment approach of emergency workers suffering, or at risk of, PTSD.
The guidelines were also developed as resource for workers, their families and carers alike; in a bid to provide them with a clearer means of accessing specific and required support. They also provide a series of recommendations about future work required.
The guidelines have been endorsed as gold standard by the Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists.