Mental Health :: Australasian mental health research needs a wider perspective

While ANZ mental health researchers have an outstanding record of collaboration and publishing internationally, most of this activity relates to rich countries in North America and Europe.

?Less than five per cent of Australasian research articles on mental health published in high-impact journals had relevance to the wider international community, most notably to low and middle income countries? said Professor Helen Herrman, author of the research.

Highly populous countries outside of the developed regions of North America, Western Europe and Australia New Zealand (ANZ) were found to be poorly represented in mental health research. Western countries have shown the greatest contributions to mental health research, however mental health is a major issue for 85% of the world?s population who do not live in these affluent countries. Without action, low to middle-income countries, especially in the Asia Pacific region, will see mental illness become the second leading contributor to their overall disease burden. And by 2020, for example, depression is expected to be the leading cause of disability worldwide.

The George Institute?s Professor Herrman says ?We believe that ANZ and other key players in North America and Western Europe have the resources and expertise to play a much greater role in improving mental health in less well resourced countries. It is important that international mental health research includes countries that are culturally diverse and at various stages of development. Most of the regions outside of North America, Western Europe and ANZ are low and middle-income countries, where research is urgently needed to provide a local, rational basis to set priorities, encourage quality interventions and to ensure efficient allocation of resources.?

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry was also assessed in terms of the local ANZ input to international mental health research. ?Only 20 articles (6%) were included over a 10 year period. This journal has the highest impact factor in the Asia-Pacific region, yet does not fully reflect the mental health requirements in the region?, noted Professor Herrman.

The research capacity in developing countries is low. The study suggests that the ANZ research community can usefully focus on priority areas for our region, such as the generation of culturally-informed epidemiological databases, intervention evaluations, prevention approaches, women?s mental health and violence. Professor Herrman believes that research teams should assist in building capacity of individuals and institutions in low and middle-income countries, which is a central focus of research at The George Institute.

Director of Neurological and Mental Health at The George Institute, Professor Craig Anderson, noted the The George focuses on the interaction between mental health and chronic disease. ?We are addressing the growing concern and implications for developing countries facing emerging epidemics of these conditions. It is clear that there are significant gaps in knowledge about mental disorders in the Asia-Pacific region, most notably how these disorders relate to other non-communicable diseases, and the efficacy and effectiveness of interventions for these disorders,? he added.

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