A rich partnership between Psychiatry and Mental Health
Academic psychiatry brings translational research, up-to-date teaching and excellence of clinical practice to our mental health services. All clinical programs are enriched by having academic units embedded within them so that this combination of research, education and clinical care is optimised. Our students need exposure to the full breadth of psychiatric specialties. Hence, our positioning within the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health provides a natural pathway for this partnership.
We provide research and teaching in the field of developmental psychiatry and psychology with a particular focus on child, adolescent and family mental health.
We work in close affiliation with the clinical services provided by the Monash Health Early in Life Mental Health Service. Our special areas of interest include mental health in children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, disorders of infancy, attachment, school refusal, trauma, refugees, anxiety and depression.
Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Prof David W. Kissane, MD is an academic psychiatrist, psycho-oncology researcher and author. His academic interests include group, couples and family psychotherapy trials, communication skills training, studies of existential distress, and the ethics of end-of-life care. He developed a cognitive-existential model of group therapy for women with early stage breast cancer, which ameliorated fear of recurrence, and his trial of supportive-expressive group therapy for advanced breast cancer showed the prevention of depression alongside improved quality of life. He is best known for his model of family therapy delivered to ‘at risk’ families during palliative care, which prevents complicated grief and depression in bereavement. His work on demoralization as a variation of depression in the medically ill has preceded interventions to promote meaning-based coping.
Translational Molecular Psychiatry
Prof Suresh Sundram is the head of Translational Molecular Psychiatry. The group's research aim is to ultimately develop disease modifying novel treatments for psychotic disorders, in particular, schizophrenia using a broad translational approach.
There has been good growth in research in the domains of biomedical, psychosocial, and consultation-liaison research. The acquisition of a new TMS machine opens up a further opportunity to study its application in adolescent and old age psychiatry. A study of co-morbid physical illness in patients who are mentally ill, together with further attention to drug and alcohol related mental health issues, are other key areas for research potential.
The Behavioural Neuroscience lab - headed by Dr Rachel Hill is working toward better treatments for psychiatric disorders. Psychiatric disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental disturbances or ‘risk-factors’. The Behavioural Neuroscience laboratory models these risk factors in mice to understand at the molecular, physiological and behavioural level how these disturbances contribute to mental health. We use a number of different techniques, including genetic manipulation, mouse behavioural testing, molecular biology, in vivo electrophysiology and human clinical studies.
The epidemiological work of this Centre is exemplified by a current study of refugees and the recent acquisition of Mental Illness Research Fund (MIRF) funding for a Recovery from Mental Illness project. This research unit aligns with the community and inpatient psychiatry.
Old Age Psychiatry
The research interests of the Aged Mental Health Research Unit (AMHRU) include behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia; the care needs of people with dementia from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; caregiver support; depression in residential care and brain stimulation therapies. AMHRU is a partner of the Commonwealth Government's Dementia Collaborative Research Centre with responsibility for identifying non-pharmacological treatments of the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and then mounting trials of their efficacy.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Much translational research has been developed in this specialty with focus on infant and perinatal mental health, adolescent health, youth psychiatry and developmental childhood problems like autism. Major research streams include Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, Neuropsychology, Emotion Disorders Research, Child and Family Health Psychology: Community Mental Health Applications Research and Clinical and Research Programs.
Adaptation and coping with cancer, psychological therapies given to patients, couples and families in the patient palliative care setting, communication skills training, cancer survivorship and Ethics of end-of-life care are just some of the projects pursued within our CL specialty unit.
The impact of Progressive Neurological Disease (PND) on family life.
Various studies are looking at the mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers, including the impact of immigration detention on child asylum seekers.
Clinical Psychology, Social Work and Allied Health
The natural collaboration between psychiatry and clinical psychology is recognised in both research and education. Clinical social workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and dieticians are just some of the other affiliations within our research and teaching teams.
Drug and Alcohol
The drug and alcohol clinical services provide an opportunity to foster an academic relationship with these vital services which are embedded within the whole of the mental health program.