Supporting cognitive and mental health in young Australians

With almost 75% of all mental health illnesses beginning in adolescence and young adulthood, the University years are a critical period of vulnerability for mental ill-health. The Turner Institute is driving several co-led initiatives aimed at improving the brain and mental health of young adults.

People in a gym class The team at BrainPark is developing a fun and empowering behaviour change program that seeks to embed regular physical exercise into the lifestyles of Australian university students to improve their mental, cognitive and brain health.

According to project lead, Dr Rebecca Segrave, the PEAK study (named in reference to PEAK-performance) is a community-focussed behaviour change program that embeds neuroscience-informed physical exercise into the lifestyles of university students to optimise their cognitive and mental health.

“Co-designed with the University community, PEAK will be an innovative, empowering, scalable, sustainable, and evidence-based program that sets young Australians up for a lifetime of healthy habits, brains and lifestyles,” she said.

The project is supported by the nib Foundation, and is a collaboration with the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change (CBC), who are recognised world leaders in behaviour change science.

The THRIVE@Monash program led by Professor Kim Cornish and team is a university-wide initiative that is co-designed by students across all sectors including international, domestic and residential, and students from specific communities such Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island.

The program is preparing to launch an e-portal for students, based on their specific needs identified through regular surveys conducted across the 2020 lockdown and continuing into 2021. The rich, in-depth data have provided unique insights into students’ mental health, coping and lifestyle behaviours including sleep, diet and exercise.

By mid-year the e-portal will be available to all students, and later in the year the THRIVE@Monash app will be piloted across the Monash student community.