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The National Institute for Mental Health Research (NIMHR) aims to improve the mental health of individuals through research and development, training, policy and the dissemination of health information.

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Mental illness is a national health priority. One in five Australians experience a mental illness every year and depression is the leading cause of disability in the nation. However, the majority of Australians with a mental disorder do not seek help for their problems. There are a number of barriers to help seeking for mental illness. These include stigma, a preference for self-reliance and a lack of access to services. In addition, those who do receive help are often left without support during the recovery period.

One means of addressing these barriers is to deliver online self-help programs to reduce prevent and treat mental illness and to provide support to those recovering from it.

The National Institute for Mental Health Research has pioneered the development and evaluation of effective online self-help methods for tackling depression and anxiety. Its suite of programs can be found at These programs provide free, accessible and anonymous services to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The Institute’s e-mental health research and development Unit (E-hub) undertakes collaborative research on these programs with institutions as diverse as Yale University and NHS Choices and in a large number of countries including the UK, USA, Canada, China, Norway, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. New collaborations are about to commence with Germany and Finland. E-hub is also now part of the Young & Well CRC and is charged with developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a virtual clinic that will provide e-mental health services to young people. Other ongoing work includes an e-mental health workplace program, e-programs designed to increase help seeking and a study of the effectiveness of ehub’s online support group BlueBoard.

Australians living in rural areas are substantially more likely to die by suicide than their city counterparts. Since depression is the leading cause of suicide it is vital to find ways of tackling depression among rural Australians. There are few mental health services in rural and regional areas and most rural Australians are reluctant to seek formal help for their mental health problems. The National Institute for Mental Health Research (NIMHR) aims to need to develop and evaluate alternative innovative methods to improve mental health among those living rural and remote regions.

NIMHR undertakes research to better understand what people in rural Australia believe and understand about mental illness. It seeks to investigate help seeking for mental health problems by rural Australians and the attitudes which prevent such help seeking. The Institute has pioneered the development and evaluation of online self-help methods for tackling depression and anxiety that are widely used in rural areas and is undertaking research on the use of these programs by rural Australians.

Suicide rates are particularly high among farmers. NIMHR is currently seeking to identify methods of tackling this problem. The Institute’s Farmers’ WellBeing Project aims to develop, evaluate and disseminate a self-help book and online program that will improve the mental health of farming communities. Tailored to the needs of farmers the objective is to reduce depression and prevent suicide among farmers.

Every year 2,500 people die as a result of suicide in Australia, with suicide being the most common cause of death among young people and adults aged 15-44 years. Each year in Australia there are more deaths from suicide than from homicide and car crashes combined. For every young person who dies by suicide, whole families and many others around them are left devastated. Despite this, comparatively little research has been directed to understanding and preventing suicide or to evaluating methods to disseminate suicide prevention programs in the community.

The National Institute for Mental Health Research is currently undertaking and planning a range of studies focusing on suicide and its prevention. These studies are aimed at understanding community attitudes and knowledge about suicide and to develop measures for assessing them. The Institute also seeks to answer such questions as “What are the risk factors for suicidal thoughts?” and “Why do some people with mental health problems develop suicidal thought while others do not?” The answers to these questions will assist with future suicide prevention initiatives. Meanwhile, the Institute is developing and evaluating innovative suicide prevention programs designed to prevent suicide and assist those with thoughts of suicide.

Updated:  25 July 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director, NIMHR/Page Contact:  Web Admin, NIMHR