In May 2011, the Australian Government announced the Budget Measure: Strategic investment in mental health research priorities through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) - $26.2 million over the next five years.
The Government’s announcement stated:
Coordinating research and translating it into actual services are vital to improving the quality of mental health services nationally and to improve outcomes for the one in five Australians with mental illness. Currently there is no strategic research capacity in the mental health sector to address critical policy and investment issues.
The NHMRC is committed to the development of evidence for better treatment and health services in mental health. It has named mental health as a strategic priority for the coming years and has been working actively to embed mental health research into its activities and to consult with the sector.
Consistent with its strategic plan and responsive to the Government’s priorities, NHMRC will dedicate $26.2 million over a five year period (a minimum of $5 million per year) from the Medical Research Endowment account for such activities. This will not preclude applications for mental health related research projects to the NHMRC’s normal competitive process.
How NHMRC is implementing the Strategic Initiative
With the advice of Research Committee, NHMRC has allocated $26.2 million as follows:
- A Targeted Call for Research (TCR) in Mental Health
- Two Centres of Research Excellence (CRE), subject to competitive applications being received; and
- Up to two NHMRC John Cade Fellowships in Mental Health Research
As provided in the May 2011 Budget announcement, this funding is fully devoted to mental health.
1. Targeted Call for Research (TCR) in Mental Health
Following consultation, NHMRC’s Research Committee agreed that the focus of this TCR would be on Prevention of, and early intervention in, mental illness in children and young people.
An expert working group was established in 2011 who agreed this was an area of strategic need for high quality research and advised on a framework for the TCR. The working group members were: Professors Caroline Homer (Chair), Jane Gunn, Jon Currie, Ian Hickie, Philip Mitchell, Helen Christensen, Linda Richards, Vicki Anderson, Paul Fitzgerald and Kathy Griffiths.
The aim of this TCR is to stimulate research that will have clearly defined policy and service delivery outcomes for individuals up to the age of 25 years and their families and carers. This TCR is not intended for cutting edge or basic science research.
2. Centre of Research Excellence
Funding of up to two new CREs in mental health will aim to support teams of researchers to pursue collaborative research and develop capacity in clinical, population health and health services research.
Areas identified as research priorities for the CREs include prevention of, and early intervention in, mental illness for children and young people, brain development and factors contributing to mental illness, animal models of mental illness, innovative approaches to suicide prevention, determinants of engagement and lack of engagement with mental health services and improving Indigenous mental health services.
The 2012 round for applications for CREs closed in January 2012 and peer review has now been completed. Recommendations to the Minister for funding are expected to be made shortly.
3. NHMRC John Cade Fellowships in Mental Health Research
NHMRC’s Research Committee has supported the allocation of $7.5 million from the budget initiative towards funding up to two NHMRC John Cade Fellowships in Mental Health Research.
The aims of the NHMRC John Cade Fellowship scheme are to build national leadership and expand capacity in Australian mental health research.
This scheme will only have one application round and is expected to be highly competitive. It is anticipated that a call for applications will occur in August 2012.