'Mental Illness' is a general term relating to those illnesses that affect the mind and mental health refers to the wellbeing of an individual's state of mind. Mental health disorders interfere with emotions, thought processes, behaviour and perception. The most common and disabling mental health problems
include depression, anxiety, psychosis and eating disorders. These illnesses can be treated or may come and go throughout life or for some become a life-long struggle. The School of Medicine's Mental Health team aim to facilitate research and development in the field of mental health disorders, diagnosis,
treatment and prevention, to help reduce burden and improve the quality of life of consumers and their carers.
The Mental Health team actively participate and conduct research in mental health, and in the process develop international linkages and partnerships with industry and communities. Current and future research projects give priority to those with a Greater Western Sydney (GWS) focus, and projects that
encompass issues such as obesity, eating and weight disorders, migrant health and substance use disorders. Medical students learn how to identify areas of burden by analysing symptoms and signs, and propose treatments and prevention programs for sufferers. Also, students gain an appreciation of the multidisciplinary approach that links sufferers with care providers and support networks to help them
during their disorder and post-disorder.
Various members of the team actively participate in research, teaching, awareness programs, clinical practice, and undertake training to further enhance their skills in the field.
Areas of Research Interest
Professor Hay's broad interests comprise of a focus on community and primary care studies in the area of burden from eating disorders and eating disorder mental health literacy. This namely the "knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention", the
"evidence" from controlled trials for eating disorder treatments, and getting evidence into practice. For more information about Professor Hay's research interests and publications, please view her staff profile.
Dr Slewa-Younan's area of research interest is psychological distress and traumatic experiences in refugee populations. Recent studies have focused on the sex differences in trauma related mental health disorders and psycho-physiological measures an Iraqi refugee population seeking treatment in an urban
Australian setting. For more information about Dr Slewa-Younan's research interests and publications, please view her staff profile.
Current Research Projects
At present there are a number of research projects that the Mental Health team are involved in.
LEAP Study - Anorexia nervosa is a chronic, severe eating disorder. This study aims to determine the usefulness of a novel therapy in the treatment for anorexia nervosa, namely the Loughborough Eating disorders Activity theraPy (LEAP). LEAP is an innovative therapy
that looks at the role of extreme exercise in the maintenance of anorexia nervosa combining cognitive techniques and behavioural experiments. The study will be conducted across two sites - Sydney, Australia and Leicester, UK - and is a four-year long research project supported by an NHMRC Project
Grant. For more information about the study please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Andreea Heriseanu.
SWAN Study - Titled 'A comparison of three treatments for anorexia nervosa in adults', this four-year NHMRC Project Grant study aims to undertake a landmark controlled trial treatment for those with anorexia nervosa. Led by A/Prof Sue Byrne at the University of Western
Australia, the research project is referred to as the Strong Without Anorexia Nervosa (SWAN) Study, the focus of the research is to determine which of the three promising new psychological treatments have the best outcome in anorexia nervosa. The three treatments are enhanced cognitive behaviour
therapy, the Maudsley cognitive motivational therapy, and supportive clinical management. For more information about the study please send an email to email@example.com or contact Andreea Heriseanu.
Longitudinal Study - Titled 'Mediating factors and effects of health literacy in course and outcome of common eating disorders: A longitudinal study', this study is a four-year long research project supported by a Rotary Health Research Grant. The research focuses on women's
health and well-being with special regard to body image, eating and weight issues. The researchers follow up women with disordered eating and over time investigate their changes in symptoms, mood, quality of life and attitudes and beliefs about eating disorders, and the effects, if any, from attempts
to seek help and other life factors. At present there are over 300 participants that partake in the study. For more information about the study please contact Diane Kancijanic.
Trauma in refugees in Australia - Physiological measures in trauma related disorders have long been examined in non-refugee populations. This study seeks to pilot methodology to understand the trauma suffered by Australian Iraqi refugees by assessing their heart rate and
heart rate variability and abnormal responses to arousal. The results of this study will hope to aim to provide the first evidence of the applicability of this methodology to assess future psychological treatments for refugee populations. For more information about this study please contact Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan.
Responses to Food - an fMRI study - Central to an ED are people's thoughts, behaviours and emotions around food and body image. This study aims to examine the neurobiological (emotive) responses to images of food in adults and adolescents with eating disorders and controls
(people without eating disorders), utilising functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). For more information on the study please contact Diane Kancijanic.
Psychotherapies - Professor Hay is a Chief Investigator on a multi-site international NHMRC funded grant(Principal Investigator Professor Stephen Touyz of University of Sydney) comparative study of two psychotherapies for women with chronic anorexia nervosa – the
first ever study of its type! To learn more about the project please contact Professor Phillipa Hay.
Epidemiological studies - Clinical epidemiological studies of health usage, mortality and season of birth in collaboration with Population Health in the School of Medicine. For more information on the studies please contact Professor Louisa Jorm
or Professor Phillipa Hay.
Professor Phillipa Hay is an internationally recognised expert in the field of eating disorders, and has past and current collaborations with researchers around Australia, in the UK and in the Americas. There includes researchers from the University of Chicago, University of London, La Trobe University,
Mental Health Literacy
Professor Phillipa Hay is collaborating with La Trobe University in Melbourne to research the stigma and mental health literacy surrounding eating disorders. This three-year ARC funded study aims to improve the understanding of eating disorders and reduce the stigma, shame and suffering for people
with eating disorders, and enhance appropriate treatment seeking and quality of advice. For more information about the study please contact Professor Phillipa Hay.
Opportunities for Study
Clinical and teaching
A range of mental health issues encountered by all people at different phases of their life will be studied by Western Sydney University Medical students.
Topics will include and are not limited to:
schizophrenia and related psychoses
suicidal and dangerous behaviour
substance abuse and dependence
responses to loss and other crises
common disorders of childhood and adolescence
In 2010, Year 4 students of the MBBS program started their Mental Health placements as part of their clinical attachments. Students have experienced many aspects of mental health at various locations including public hospitals, private hospitals and community settings. If you would like to participate
in the Mental Health placements by teaching students at your clinic, please contact Sebia Losurdo for more information.
Research Opportunities for Students
Professor Hay regularly has supervised international research elective students from the University of Aberdeen and elsewhere. A Western Sydney University medical student recently undertook an update of a review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
There are several ongoing studies which may be undertaken by research, postgraduate and MBBS (Hons) students.
If you are interested in undergraduate or postgraduate research in Mental Health please contact Professor John Morley (Chair, Research Committee) or for more information visit the website for Prospective Candidates.