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Matilda Centre researchers highlight mental health, substance use and discrimination as key issues for young Australians

2 July 2019
These issues are the top three concerns for young Australians
Researchers at the Matilda Centre will address these issues at the upcoming Mental Health Services Conference - a joint initiative between the Matilda Centre and the PREMISE Centre of Research Excellence.

Recent surveys have reported that mental health, alcohol and other drugs along with equity and discrimination are currently the three top ranked issues of concern for young Australians. Given the high interest and concern about these issues, young researchers and students at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use (The Matilda Centre) and NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE) affiliated institutions will be discussing them in a featured symposium at the upcoming Mental Health Services (TheMHS) Conference on Friday 30th August. The symposium is a joint initiative of the Matilda Centre and the PREMISE Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Sydney.

The symposium will feature Jennifer Debenham and Hannah Deen, from the Matilda Centre, and Dr Ally Nicolopoulos, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute.

Ally Nicolopoulos

The first presentation by Dr Nicolopoulos will focus on lived experience among youth, which she believes is vital; “This presentation depicts the way young people tell their stories about their mental health and suicide experiences, and the importance and significance of allowing them to do so,” says Dr. Nicolopoulos.

Jennifer Debenham

Ms Debenham, PhD candidate at the Matilda Centre, will then discuss The illicit Project and explore the effects of substance use on the adolescent brain. “The brains of young people are highly neuroplastic, which presents both risk and opportunity,” says Ms. Debenham. "So that we can play to the strengths of the growing brain and prevent substance-related harm, let’s look beneath the surface and better understand the neural changes occurring and how substances can interfere with this process”.

Hannah Deen

Finally, Ms Hannah Deen, Research Assistant at the Matilda Centre, will present data from a recent Cracks in the Ice community survey about stigma, discrimination and barriers to help-seeking for young people who use crystal methamphetamine. “To protect young Australians from drug-related harms, we must first and foremost make sure they feel comfortable seeking help when they need it,” says Ms Deen. “There is no place for stigma and discrimination in this picture."

High school students from Scots PGC College, QLD will also be participating in the symposium to offer their own perspectives on these issues and the information presented in the talks. TheMHS Conference is Australasia’s leading and most diverse mental health conference.

The conference is strongly interdisciplinary and multisectoral with delegates coming from a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds including clinicians, managers, consumers, carers, researchers, educators and policy makers.

TheMHS Conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 1:30pm to 3pm AEST on Friday 30th August. Learn more about TheMHS conference