Research Impact:

Mental Health Policy and Practice Unit

Much of our work is commissioned by policy-makers, planners and managers who are trying to determine the best way to deliver services. The PHN Lead Site Project and the National Suicide Prevention Trial evaluation provide key examples here. In both cases, we have received funding from the Department of Health to evaluate major reforms in mental health and suicide prevention. We are examining the implementation and outcomes of these reforms in selected PHNs and the Department will use our findings to shape their broader roll-out. We anticipate that we will have a similar impact to those we have had in the past on the basis of our earlier large-scale evaluations. For example, our evaluations of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program and the Better Access program influenced the parameters surrounding the delivery of these two major primary mental health care initiatives. Similarly, our detailed exploration of frequent callers to Lifeline led to a new model of service delivery that better catered to the needs of this group.

Our work on suicide and the media has had, and is still having, a major impact too. The positive findings from the RCT of Man Up were pivotal in the ABC deciding to screen the documentary in prime time in 2016 and repeat it three times in 2017-18. It is still on iView, and has been watched by more than 2.6 million people. Gus’s ad has had over 56 million views on social media. After Man Up went to air, we examined whether it had changed the conversation about masculinity, mental health and suicide, examining social media posts and emails sent to the show’s website or directly to Gus. The following quotation typifies the kinds of audience statements that were made, and further underscores the impact of the show:

During your second episode, one of my lifelong mates sent a group text letting us know he was struggling with “the black dog”. He had been inspired to do so in part from your show, also inspired by your show it led to us catching up and having a meaningful talk, where we listened to each other and spoke openly with each other. In the 30 odd years of our friendship we have never done this before. Thank you.

The various components of our national suicide prevention research and campaign project were also influential. A key example is the population-based survey. This survey elicited responses from over 3,000 adults from across the country and found that 40% of them mistakenly believed that asking someone about suicide could prompt them to take their own life. This spawned the 2018 #YouCanTalk campaign, created by Beyond Blue and seven other NGOs, which ultimately had more than 18 million views on social media.