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QIMRs new Mental Health Research Division launched

QIMR’s new Mental Health Research Division will be officially launched today by Mr Murray Watt MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health, as part of the inaugural meeting attended by Australia’s leading mental health researchers.

The Division is a new initiative within the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and will undertake cutting-edge research into the nature, causes, diagnosis and outcome of all of the major mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, dementia, autism and addiction.

By combining recent advances in neurosciences with QIMR’s existing strength in genetics and population health, the Mental Health Research Division has the potential to become one of Australia’s leading centres for mental health research.

According to Professor Michael Breakspear who will lead the new Division, “Through improvements in diagnosis and management, our research aims to reduce the burden of mental illness to society and improve the quality of life for those with a mental illness.”

“By working in collaboration with clinicians and other researchers in Brisbane, we will ensure a broad and integrative approach to mental health research. We will utilise the latest brain imaging and computer modelling techniques to help understand how the brain functions.”

“Our aim is to work very closely with the hospital and recruit patients into research when they first present for assessment – prior to receiving treatment. The information collected will provide us with a better understanding of the impact these mental illnesses have on brain function and help identify causes of disturbances in basic cognitive processes, ” said Professor Breakspear.

“I also hope we reduce the stigma of mental illness and improve treatment and access so it is on parity with physical illnesses.”

According to Professor Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year 2010 and leading international mental health researcher, clinician and advocate, “1 in 2 Australians will suffer from mental ill health across their lifespan, 20% at any one time and 3% will be suffering from a severe illness.”

“75% of these disorders emerge before the age of 25 years. A focus on young people is therefore vital as is a clinical and translational focus to complement basic research.”

“The launch of the new Division is an essential and exciting development not only for QIMR, but for mental health research in Australia, which has been the poor relation in the medical research world,” said Professor McGorry.

The Division will also contribute to the next generation of mental health researchers, by attracting junior mental health clinicians to undertake combined clinical and research training. This will help reduce the gap between research evidence and clinical practice.

The new Division is the result of significant funding allocated by the State and Federal governments and a generous gift from The Atlantic Philanthropies for construction of the new Smart State Medical Research Centre – a 15 floor state-of-the-art research facility located on the QIMR site, Herston, Brisbane.