World-leading research to build new mental health program

18 June 2020

A dedicated team of world-leading researchers will pilot a new model of care in the Bowen Basin to improve mental health outcomes as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic take hold.

Mitsubishi Development has funded the $500,000 pilot program to improve mental health services for individuals in the Bowen Basin, taking into account the impact of COVID-19.

The ground-breaking program is being run out of Wesley Medical Research’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Centre that aims to deliver immediate improvements to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of COVID-19.

Mitsubishi Development’s Chief Executive Officer, Sadahiko Haneji said that while the resources sector had kept many Australians employed during the coronavirus, there were many more in the community suffering job loss in sectors that will not recover quickly.

“In our discussions with Wesley Medical Research we were concerned by new modelling that indicates Australia’s suicide rate could surge by up to 50 per cent as the impacts of job loss and economic hardship start to affect mental health,” Mr Haneji said.

“We have more than 50 years of experience operating in the Bowen Basin and know that mental health issues are more prevalent amongst the young and those who live in rural and regional Australia – so there was no question that we would act on this.”

General Manager of Wesley Medical Research, Dr Claudia Giurgiuman, said COVID-19 could result in an extra 750 to 1,500 suicides in Australia this year – a rate that is likely to persist for up to five years if the economic downturn lasts more than 12 months.

“At this stage, the suicide rate is likely to overshadow the number of deaths in Australia directly attributable to COVID-19 infection, and Australia’s mental health system must urgently be equipped to respond to the expected dramatic increase in demand for services,” Dr Giurgiuman said.

“When Mitsubishi Development approached us with their concerns, we designed a program that will have immediate impact in the Bowen Basin community by enabling access to a new evidence-based model of care to improve mental health outcomes.”

The tailormade program will access more than one million data points, including interviews with community members to identify existing mental health services and how they can be improved for individuals in the Bowen Basin following the impact of COVID-19.

In collaboration with QUT’s Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation, a model of care will be designed to support individuals that complements existing services with a pilot conducted as early as August to trial its effectiveness in mitigating mental health impacts resulting from the coronavirus.

The landmark research program funded by Mitsubishi Development was showcased as part of the official opening of Wesley Medical Research’s COVID Rapid Response Research Centre on 18 June 2020.

The world-class Centre is also seeking funding for three other critical research programs to:

  • determine the effects of HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) on frontline health care workers
  • discover best practices in patient management of critically ill COVID-19 patients, and
  • enable early intervention strategies that minimise the impact of COVID-19 for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Centre was officially opened by Wesley Medical Research Chief Patron and Governor of Queensland, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC.