Television interview with Assistant Minister McBride and Greg Jennett, ABC Afternoon Briefing - 9 August 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's interview with Greg Jennett on the Medical Research Future Fund and Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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GREG JENNETT, HOST: Medical research scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve lives, but for that research to take place, money is needed and fairly constantly. The government has today announced a new round of funding for mental health related research projects, these cover children are through to the unemployed and new fathers. To get an update on what's been covered, we caught up with Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride. Emma McBride, always good to have you back with us in the studio. Now, the Medical Research Future Fund is allocating money to a round of new projects dedicated to mental health research, think there are 10 in all and we won't have time to cover all of them, but why don't we focus in on a couple. Children whose struggle to speak, read or write there is to be early detection through some sort of screening program, what's being offered there?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: This is really important work because we know that children who have difficulty with speech and language and writing are much more likely to develop mental health problems through childhood and later in life. So, this is an important investment in understanding that better, so that we can through this research at Curtin University, which is almost a million dollars, understand better the right kind of detection, the right sort of early intervention and treatment, so that children are better supported and are given every chance to thrive, and much less likely then to develop mental health problems associated with these speech or language difficulties early in life.

JENNETT: So, this is over and above and quite separate to the routine therapies, speech pathology, and what have you, that people, parents, typically wouldn't take their children to?

MCBRIDE: That's right, and this is really important research to understand better what is that link between children who experience language, speech and reading and writing challenges, and the link to developing mental ill-health and with this research that will then be able to feed into good evidence-based approaches for that better detection, early intervention, to give these children the best chances to thrive.

JENNETT: There's another one that caught my eye again, worth roughly speaking a million dollars, it's a reliable, freely available screening tool that targets eating disorders, but not just eating disorders, in a particularly young age group, not one that you'd normally associate with eating disorders, ages 5 through to 12. What exactly is this screening tool? Is it some sort of technological app?

MCBRIDE: What we have seen in Australia is that there has been an increase in prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating, and we've also seen that emerge earlier in life and in younger children. So what this tool will be looking at is children aged from 5 to 12, to be able to in a safe way, and an easy to use tool to be able to better detect children who are at risk of eating disorders or disordered eating. And we need to make sure that this is done in a very evidence-based way, because this is a particularly vulnerable group, and to make sure that any interventions are properly researched, and evidence based.

JENNETT: Is it done subtly? I mean, you wouldn't want a child between 5 and 12, to become too conscious, or too aware that they might be at risk would you? There would be line to tread there.

MCBRIDE: And this is why this is such important and valuable research to be able to understand what is the best way to be able to identify children who are at risk, but at the same time to be aware of those sensitivities, particularly for younger children earlier in life. So I think this is, again, this is something that is not well understood, it's quite complex and individual, and to be able to understand it better so that what we can do in the future is safe and reliable, is really important.

JENNETT: It's quite novel research that's on offer here across the board. Another one, and we will get some final observations in a moment, but targeting young parents or young fathers in particular, have they been under service in the way of mental health treatment and detections?

MCBRIDE: We know that paternal mental health is so critical to the father themselves, to the child developmentally, and into the family. And we also understand that at the moment about 1 in 10 fathers struggle with their with their mental health. And so what we want to understand is, this is something that hasn't been well researched before, there were some good pockets of work, but we want to understand it better. What are the causes, how they can be detected early and better supported to be able to reduce the number of fathers who are impacted by this for them and for them for their child and for their families.

JENNETT: Alright now because you're highlighting this publicly here Emma McBride, is there anything the public can actually do with this information. The money goes to universities to run these research projects. What would a family do if they wanted to become part of this?

MCBRIDE: So, this is the fifth round of the Mental Health Mission, the Million Minds Mission, part of the Medical Research Future Fund. These are universities across Australia, the University of Adelaide, Curtin University, Deakin University. So if people are interested, they can look up the Million Minds and there is the usual process for people to be able to be part of research, research studies, but I would encourage people and families who are interested to jump online to have a look because it's so important that we get this evidence base to better understand what causes mental ill-health and psychological distress at a community level so that we can make sure that any intervention by the government is evidence based, is well informed and is safe and effective.

JENNETT: Well, it is interesting research Emma McBride, you have shone a light on it and dispensed public advice too. Thanks again for joining us.

MCBRIDE: Pleasure to be with you.

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