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Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Research
The healthy development of children and young people is fundamental to Australia’s future. Led by Professor Toumbourou, this group is concerned with identifying key modifiable determinants that can encourage optimal mental health and prevent the most prevalent mental health and behaviour problems experienced by children and young people. The group are organised within the prevention science model and studies include: estimation of the community prevalence of mental health and behaviour problems in children and young people; longitudinal observation of the developmental course and predictors of healthy and unhealthy adjustment; and intervention studies investigating the potential to modify determinants and achieve optimal outcomes. In the initial years this group plan to build internal capacity by encouraging professional networks, training and co-authorship amongst Deakin University researchers with similar interests. Partnerships with relevant external researchers are also being developed nationally and internationally. Current projects are funded from large grants received from the US National Institute of Health and from both the ARC and NHMRC. These grants are enabling ongoing data collection and analysis of cross-national longitudinal studies and the set-up of a national community randomised trial. Currently, 22 research students are engaged in this research.
Wellbeing in Adulthood
The research in the adult area is strongly applied, solution focused, and is committed to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of adults. Specifically, researchers in this group examine health risk behaviours that impact on the wellbeing of adults, and then design interventions to promote positive mental and physical health. Health risk behaviours refer to a broad range of individual behaviours which compromise or impact negatively on health and wellbeing. Examples of risk behaviours examined by the team which contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing include:
• Substance use/abuse
• Eating disorders
• Body image
• Sexual risk taking
• Family violence
Disability, Chronic Disease and Aging Research
The focus of this research cluster is the impact of disability, chronic disease and aging on mental health, wellbeing and quality of life. In particular, we address issues of assessment, prevention and early intervention where mental illness co-exists with other conditions. Our primary aim is to inform and influence policy and responsive service initiatives. We engage with key stakeholders, including people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and the elderly, as well as those who support them, such as family and carers, government and community agencies. We also endeavour to use methods that are accessible and meaningful to a diverse range of people with cognitive, physical and sensory impairments. We have a keen interest in improving social inclusion of people with disabilities and in promoting their wellbeing through clinical, behavioural and educational supports, as well as new developments in information technology. Some recent examples of our work include: the treatment of mood disorders in individuals with intellectual disability and with autism spectrum disorders, drug and alcohol needs of offenders with intellectual disability, the assessment of subjective wellbeing in people with disabilities, as well as issues related to employment and problem behaviours. Chronic diseases with which we have particular expertise include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and arthritis. We have developed and evaluated training programs for staff to promote better management of the mental health needs of older people and the behavioural problems associated with dementia. The researchers in this cluster have secured competitive funding from the ARC, beyondblue, Alzheimer’s Australia and the Victorian Government Departments of Human Services and Justice and have well-established partnerships with a range of Government and private sector aged care, disability and health agencies across Australia.
Forensic Psychology Centre
The core business of this group is research and research training, professional training of practicing clinicians and other criminal justice professionals, and the provision of expert advice to government and non-government organisations on matters pertaining to offender management, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The group conducts research that addresses all three aspects of forensic psychology: clinical forensic psychology; procedural justice; and the reintegration of offenders within the community. Members have particular interests in the development of effective and evidence-based policing practices, community support for offender reintegration, and the management and treatment of offenders. These are all areas that, in recent years, have become heavily influenced by psychological thought and practice both in Australia and internationally, and areas in which significant opportunities arise for psychologists to make a valuable contribution to both offender mental health and community safety. There is a clear focus in our research on bringing about change at an individual and community level, and the development of both skills and knowledge that can inform and enhance the delivery of professional psychological services. Currently, 28 research students are engaged in research in this area.