Deakin to lead new national network in mental health research

A new national collaboration to transform the way mental health treatment is developed and tested will be led by Deakin University and key partners, with $12 million support from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The Mental Health Australia General Clinical Trial Network (MAGNET) will start as a five-year project that will be funded through the MRFF’s Million Minds Mission, as recently announced in the Federal Budget.

Project lead, Professor Michael Berk, Director of the Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT) at Deakin University, said that MAGNET would build Australia’s research capacity in adult mental health.

“MAGNET will bring together more than 100 of Australia’s lead research institutions, health services and lived experience experts to develop much needed new treatments,” Professor Berk said.

“By creating lasting forums of knowledge and expertise, MAGNET will drive prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and recovery in mental health and also provide the very costly, specialised resources needed to run the most ambitious, diverse clinical trials.

Professor Michael Berk

“Our goal is to improve mental health in Australia and around the world,” Professor Berk said.

The collaboration was initiated by Dr Anthony Filippis, CEO at Neurosciences Victoria who said mental health conditions caused distress across the age spectrum and were the greatest cause of disability among working-aged adults in Australia.

“To really empower people to improve their quality of life, it is essential that we examine various treatment options,” Dr Filippis said.

Steering committee member, Professor Susan Rossell from Swinburne University of Technology said Australia was a global leader in mental health research but, until now, was the only medical discipline that lacked a national coordinated capacity for clinical trials.

“There are many ‘islands’ of excellence in mental health trials and MAGNET will connect those islands to accelerate the number and quality of the clinical trials,” Professor Rossell said.

Monash University’s Professor Paul Fitzgerald said MAGNET and the resources it provides would ensure scientific consistency and a truly national approach to mental health treatment and research in a way that has never happened before.

“Nationally, MAGNET will trigger greater coordination, and bigger and more definitive trials, to allow new and re-imagined strategies that positively impact the health of communities,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

MAGNET includes researchers, consumer and carer groups, practitioner Colleges, research peak bodies, health systems and industry partners, insurers and Government agencies across all mental health conditions, from psychosis to eating disorders to addiction.

Community partnerships, enabled by a Consumer and Carer Participation Framework and First Nations, Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), and LGBTQIA Advisory Groups, will help put the lived experience of people with mental health conditions at the centre of research efforts, ensuring the clinical outcomes from that research are truly effective.

MAGNET partners include Neurosciences Victoria, Swinburne University of Technology, Monash University, The University of Queensland, Black Dog Institute, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, Western Sydney University, University of Western Australia, Victoria University, Australian National University, The University of Adelaide, The University of Newcastle, Flinders University, University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Tasmania, Curtin University, The George Institute for Global Health, SANE Australia, Mental Health Australia, the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, Prevention United, and mental health charity One in Five.