Lived experience to inform mental health service design and delivery

Launching ALIVE, a new national research translation centre for mental health led by inaugural Director Associate Professor Victoria Palmer (Department of General Practice) based at the University of Melbourne.

On 16 March, Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention David Coleman launched ALIVE, a new national research translation centre for mental health that will be led by inaugural Director Associate Professor Victoria Palmer (Department of General Practice) and based at the University of Melbourne. ALIVE takes its name from the objective to enable the establishment of an Academy of Lived Experience to grow lived experience research and career pathways.

The centre will bring together researchers, health professionals and those with lived experience nationally to translate high-quality research into effective health policy practice and healthcare improvements through primary care and the community settings. This co-design approach means that Australians living with mental illness will help shape the research and build on the already existing 2000+ member base in the University of Melbourne’s Co-Design Living Lab program. This will be critical in designing a more coordinated, compassionate and impactful system. ALIVE’s evidence-based model will emphasise early identification and prevention over crisis support, and take a holistic approach, addressing physical as well as mental health.

Director Associate Professor Palmer, internationally recognised for her expertise in primary care mental health research and co-design, will drive the centre’s focus on implementing preventative interventions across the whole life course and integrated care in primary care and community-based settings. Priority populations include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people who are living with severe mental illnesses.

Associate Professor Palmer sees primary care as essential to delivering mental health care to the wider community and working across settings. By working hand-in-hand with those living with mental illness and carers, she aims to work with centre members to develop a better system of care that saves lives and improves outcomes – representing a new era in mental health care that will be co-designed at all levels.

The centre will be funded over five years through a $10 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Special Initiative in Mental Health grant and will operate as a virtual network across 14 university partners from all states and territories. ALIVE will operate with an independent governance board chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO, former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the National Mental Health Commission.

Participating universities include Curtin University, La Trobe University, Monash University, University of Western Australia, Griffith University, University of Adelaide, University of Tasmania, University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle, University of Queensland, University of Sunshine Coast, Swinburne University and James Cook University.