NHMRC Synergy Grant Success

Congratulations to Anne Kavanagh on the announcement of a five year NHMRC Synergy grant.

Professor Anne Kavanagh, Head of the Disability and Health Unit and Director of the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health, will develop a new program of work developing interventions for life-time mental health outcomes for young Australians (aged 15 to 24 years) with disability.

“Young people with disability experience social and economic disadvantage and poorer mental health than their peers,” Professor Kavanagh said.

“This project brings together young people with disability, academics from diverse disciplines including public health, policy, linguistics and social sciences and advocacy organisations to co-design and test innovative policy and practice interventions, that provide the opportunities for young people with disability to flourish and achieve positive mental health outcomes across the lifespan,” Professor Kavanagh said.

Young Australians with disability face greater difficulty in establishing themselves socially and economically as they transition to adulthood than their non-disabled peers, underpinning life-long mental health disadvantage and significant societal costs. This interdisciplinary research team, many with lived experience of disability, will partner with youth with disability to develop new knowledge about the barriers and facilitators of key life transitions across education, work, and family, at this critical life stage. The problem is made even more urgent because the harsh impacts of COVID-19 on young people are likely to see young people with disability falling further behind their peers. Furthermore, young people with disability are not specifically targeted in government investments in disability reform (e.g., National Disability Insurance Scheme) and reform goals will not be realised without specific attention to this population.

We will apply innovative methods to analyse data generated from the integration of administrative, text-based (e.g., media, policy documents) databases, longitudinal studies (e.g., Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey) and qualitative lived experience studies with young people with disability to provide a comprehensive picture of the diverse and interacting, social, economic and cultural factors impacting mental health for youth with disability aged 15-24 years. Analyses will generate new knowledge about promising policy and practice interventions (e.g., employment or mental health programs, media guidelines for reporting on disability). We will identify short and long-term mental health effects of these interventions through simulation of policies using observed data, re-examination of text-based data, and qualitative interviews. Outcomes of the research will be a suite of scalable policy and practice interventions that achieve better mental health for young people with disability and across the life-course.

This research program brings together academic researchers from multiple disciplines to address the entrenched social, economic and mental health disadvantage experienced by Australian youth with disability. In partnership with advocacy groups and government, we will generate new evidence about interventions, including policy reforms, that can reduce the gap in mental health and wellbeing between young people with disability and their non-disabled peers.

Research Team: Kavanagh A, Llewellyn G, Dickinson H, Badland H, Hewitt B, Aitken Z, Emerson E, Seminor E, Mooi-Reci I & Shakespeare T.  Developing interventions for better life-time mental health for young Australians (aged 15 to 24 years) with disability. NHMRC Synergy Grant GNT2010290 2022-2026