Nina is a visiting postdoctoral researcher from Switzerland at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, working with Associate Professor Meredith Harris, Professor Harvey Whiteford, and the Policy and Epidemiology Group. She will also collaborate with Prof. Michael Sawyer from the University of Adelaide, and with Assoc. Prof. David Lawrence from the University of Western Australia.
Nina’s research involves investigating perceived need and barriers to care for mental healthcare in the Australian population of young people aged 11-17.
Tell me about yourself and your background, how did you find out about the opportunity to pursue your research career through QCMHR?
My interest in an academic career started during my studies in psychology (I have a M.Sc. in psychology). Before I engaged in a further academic education, I gained work experience outside of academia, extending my psychological and personal skills. Especially my job for the Swiss government made me realize the importance of a collaboration between academia and government, strengthening my belief that scientific evidence should guide governmental decisions and its everyday business, and vice versa.
This led me to the decision to engage in a PhD, which I completed at the University of Bern in Switzerland and which focussed on stigma of mental disorders and its associations with healthcare utilisation in the population. The internationally important and impacting research that is done here at QCMHR caught my interest, because it covers all my main research interests in population’s mental health, factors that are associated with healthcare utilisation, and the epidemiology and prevention of mental illness. I have received an Early.Postdoc Mobility fellowship grant from the Swiss National Science foundation that enables me to work with these great researchers here in Australia until the end of December 2019.
What does your research look at and what inspired you to pursue this project in particular?
Our research project aims to gain insights into perceived need and barriers to care for mental healthcare in the Australian population of young people aged 11-17. For many people, the onset of mental disorders occurs during childhood and adolescence, and mental disorders cause a high burden in this age group. Early detection and intervention have the potential to reduce this burden, but many young people do not engage in treatment. A delay in seeking treatment, or not seeking treatment at all, can disrupt young peoples’ development at key developmental stages, affecting their life course. So far, perceived need and barriers to care among young people are poorly understood. This means that we do not really know why young people with a mental disorder often decide not to seek help with a health professional. Considering their stage of development and the importance of their social environment, young people perceive and behave differently from adults. Gaining knowledge about young peoples’ perceived need and barriers to care is necessary to comprehend likely peculiarities of this age group. We hope that our research will help to inform strategies to reduce barriers and to adapt services to the special needs of this age group.
Where to from here, what are your plans for your future as a researcher?
In my experience, mental health is often a bit overlooked or not prioritised. I would like to see this changed. Therefore, I will continue work that aims to reduce the burden of mental disorders and that helps to increase populations’ mental health. For me, this includes conducting high-quality, reproducible research and strengthening the dialogue between science and policy.