Griffith faces up to the issues of World Mental Health Day 

This Wednesday 10 October, is World Mental Health Day and, as a leading institution in the field, Griffith has a range of expertise and programs which link to this year’s theme, ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’. 

The aim is to bring attention to the issues our youth and young adults are facing in our world today and bring the conversation around what they need in order to grow up healthy, happy and resilient. 

Professor Allison Waters is an expert in cognitive and learning-related mechanisms and novel interventions for youth anxiety disorders. She has been running the Griffith University Childhood Anxiety Disorders Research Program since 2004, initially based at the Gold Coast campus and now based at the Brisbane campus at Mt Gravatt.   

“During this time, more than 500 children between 4 and 13 years of age with high levels of anxiety have been assessed and/or treated through the Program using well-researched diagnostic and assessment tools and evidence-based treatments,” says Professor Waters. 

Improving the sleep of pre-schoolers to reduce the risk of child mental health and academic problems is the goal of a new program by the university’s School of Applied Psychology. 

Delivered at psychology clinics at universities in Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast as part of a research trial, the Lights Out Program is a series of small group workshops for parents of children in the year before they begin Prep/Reception. 

“Sleep problems in the pre-school years represent a risk factor for numerous child mental health problems and academic problems, in the short and long-term,” says study leader Associate Professor Caroline Donovan. 

“Given that sleep problems are modifiable, it follows that successful treatment BEFORE children begin primary school will reduce child sleep and mental health problems, improve the transition to primary school, and enhance academic outcomes.” 

Meanwhile the world’s first long-term assessment of mental health effects from adolescents’ late-night mobile use has shown some concerning results. 

Research conducted by Griffith and Murdoch University tracked changes in late-night mobile phone use, sleep, and mental health indicators over three years in a large sample of Australian teens. 

They found that adolescents’ late-night mobile phone use was directly linked to poor quality sleep, which subsequently led to poorer mental health outcomes, reduced coping, and lowered self-esteem. 

“What is especially compelling” says Dr Kathy Modecki, “is that increases in poor sleep, in turn, led to rises in depressed mood and externalizing behaviours, and declines in self-esteem and coping one year later”. 

Suicide Prevention 

Griffith is highly active in the field of suicide prevention, with a wide range of academic research taking place at the Australian Institute for Suicide Prevention and Research (AISRAP). The Institute also recently hosted its annual World Suicide Prevention Day Forum on September 14. 

Supported by the Queensland Mental Health Commission, the forum was held at South Brisbane’s Greek Club with this year’s theme of “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”.  


AISRAP Research Development Manager Wendy Iverson said the event, the aim of which is to raise awareness of suicide and to develop prevention strategies, was a resounding success. 


“It was a really excellent day, with 200 delegates, and it was terrific to see the engagement from such a broad range of community.” 


The forum included an opening address from Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic, as well as presentations from researchers in the suicide prevention field, organisations that support at-risk individuals and their families and people with a personal experience of suicide.   


Study mental health 

If you have an interest in people and the ability to relate to others, together with good communication skills, a career in the mental health area could be the right choice for you. Griffith has a range of study options covering mental health practice and suicidology. 

Earlier this year AISRAP Masters of Suicidology graduate Jorgen Gullestrup was named as the 2018 Winner of the 14th Annual LiFE Award recognising excellence in suicide prevention by Suicide Prevention Australia. 

Mr Gullestrup has been behind successful work reducing the high rate of suicide within the construction industry. 

“Suicide and what can lead up to it is a very lonely and dark place for an individual to experience,” says Mr Gullestrup, who had his own personal experience of mental illness and suicide attempts during his early life. 

Through his involvement with AISRAP, Mr Gullestrup made the decision to study for the Graduate Certificate in Suicide Prevention which then later led into undertaking the Masters of Suicidology in 2014. 


Mental Health Australia: