Archives of Research and Systems Development

International Mental Health Research

1. Development of Suicide First Aid Guidelines for India, Philippines and Japan

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Harry Minas, Claire Kelly, Anthony Jorm

Description: This project produced guidelines for how a member of the public should provide first aid to a person who is suicidal, i.e. has expressed suicidal thoughts or intent or has made a suicide attempt. The guidelines were produced for three countries (Japan, Philippines and India) using expert consensus (i.e. Delphi method). These three countries were chosen because they are Asian countries with very different cultural and religious contexts, different rates of suicide, different levels of economic development, and different levels of availability of mental health services. The guidelines were made freely available on the Mental Health First Aid website and published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

Training modules based on the guidelines were delivered in Japan and a training program in the use of the guidelines has been developed for the Philippines. These have been supported by the WHO and the Christian Blind Mission.

2. Spirituality in Japan: An exploratory study using drawings

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci

Description: Dr Colucci explored, in collaboration with Prof Watanabe from Kansai University of International Study, the concept of spirituality among Japanese university students using drawings as a research method.

3. Culture and the meaning of suicide: a comparison between Italian, Indian and Australian students

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Harry Minas

Dr Colucci recruited almost 700 Italian, Indian and Australian University students 18-24 years old (equally distributed by gender), enrolled in The University of Padua (Veneto, Italy), in various colleges in Bangalore (Karnataka, India) and two Universities in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia). A range of methods (e.g. case vignettes, word associations, attitudes scale, survey open-ended questions, tape-recorded focus group discussions) was employed for this study. The comparisons highlighted differences and similarities across cultures in meanings and social representations of suicide.

In addition to other publications, a book largely based on

4. Cultural attitudes and meanings, religious/spiritual beliefs and suicide among young Indians

Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Manjula O’Connor, Francesca De Giovanelli, Pareek Rekha, Harry Minas

In spite of the recognised importance for mental health patients and suicidal people, spirituality is still an overlooked area in Suicidology. Not only there are relatively few studies addressing this topic, but ‘religion/spirituality’ is usually just one of a series of variables, generally measured with a single question (mainly inquiring about church attendance/affiliation). Furthermore, studies on non-religious forms of spirituality are rare. The current project was aimed to the in-depth study of attitudes, opinions and meanings of suicide and the expression and value of spirituality/religion in a North Indian village. In particular, the study intended to start looking at the link between spirituality (religious and non-religious), spiritual well-being and suicide and assess participants’ opinions on youth suicide prevention strategies. Participants were volunteer University students, 17-25 years old, at-least second generation Indians (i.e. born in India with both parents born in India). The project was divided into two stages:

  • Administration of a self-administered survey composed of the WHO-SRPB instrument (WHO-Spirituality, Religiousness and Personal Beliefs), questions on spirituality and religion, and a section on youth suicide (attitudes scale, open-ended questions and questions on previous experience and exposure);
  • Recorded focus groups discussing religion/spirituality and suicide prevention.

One hundred and sixty students (equally distributed by gender) participated in the first stage of the study. Of these, 42 volunteered to take part in focus group sessions (two tape-recorded sessions for each group). This work was led by Dr Erminia Colucci in collaboration with Manjula O'Connor and academics from the Dev Sanskriti University, Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh, India.


Multicultural Mental Health Research

1. Evaluation of Mental Health first aid training for members of the Vietnamese community in Australia

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Harry Minas, Tony Jorm

Community surveys have shown that, in many countries, the public have poor mental health literacy but how members of the public respond to a person with a mental disorder may affect outcomes. For this reason, a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course has been developed which trains members of the public in how to give early help to people with developing mental health problems and to give assistance in mental health crisis situations. This MHFA training has been taught to several members of the community in Australia and overseas. In this project, we evaluated the level and quality of knowledge on mental health in a group of Vietnamese living in Australia, before and after a short training course.

2. Race Based Discrimination – VicHealth Promotion Foundation

Chief Investigators: Natasha Klocker, Harry Minas

This project is based upon the independent evaluation of an anti-discrimination program being piloted by VicHealth and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC). Called the Localities Embracing & Accepting Diversity (LEAD) Program, this three-year pilot aims to promote positive attitudes towards cultural diversity and prevent racial discrimination. It operates in partnership with local government. It is the first program of its kind in the world to adopt such a multi-faceted approach to interpersonal and local-level institutional discrimination. This project will be led by Dr Natascha Klocker who is employed as a research leader under a partnership arrangement with VicHealth.

3. Mental health research and policy for young people of refugee background. (2009-2010)

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Harry Minas, Jo Szwarc, Carmel Guerra, Georgia Paxton

This interdisciplinary research project is a collaboration between GCMH, the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House), the Centre for Multicultural Youth and the Royal Children’s hospital. In addition to a systematic review of the literature, the project consisted of three components, which were completed in 2010. (1) The application of expert consensus methods to develop a mental health of refugee research agenda for Australia; (2) A study of experienced practitioners’ views about what works and does not work in providing effective mental health services to young people from refugee background8; and (3) A roundtable discussion between young people of refugee background and service providers, representatives of relevant Victorian government departments and academics. The project will inform the further development of Victorian refugee health policy. Two reports have been prepared, titled:

  • A Mental Health Research Agenda for People of Refugee Background in Australia: a consensus study; and 

  • Barriers to and facilitators of utilisation of mental health services by young people of refugee background.

4. Culturally determined barriers, the prevalence and nature of domestic violence within the Australian Indian Community(2010-2011)

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Manjula O’Connor, Karen Field, Alice Baroni, Reita Pryor, Harry Minas

This participatory community theatre project aimed to understand issues surrounding domestic/family violence among Indian immigrant women as well as barriers to accessing services. It consisted of three stages: information/focus group sessions; theatre workshops; and community theatre performances. The project was a collaboration between GCMH, Australian India Society of Victoria, Drummond St Relationships and Third Way Theatre, and was supported by a grant from the Legal Service Board of Victoria and the Australia India Society of Victoria. The project was completed in 2011 and findings have been submitted for publication.

5. Consensus study on the role of Cultural Portfolio Holders

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci, Prem Chopra, Harry Minas

This project was a collaboration between GCMH and the Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit, and is funded by St Vincent’s Health, Melbourne. The objective was to investigate the roles that Cultural Portfolio holders can play to bring about mental health system improvement for immigrant and refugee communities, and what is needed to support such roles. The study was based on focus group discussion and the Delphi consensus method based on on-line survey. Data collection was completed in 2011 and the findings have been published.

6. Windows on the new world: Australia from the eyes of international students

Chief Investigators: Erminia Colucci

This photo-voice project supported by the CCRAG, enabled international students to photograph everyday events that illustrated their experience of and responses to studying and living in Melbourne, followed by a photographic exhibition at the University.