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Mind the research on mental health

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Thu, 10 Oct 2019
Mind the research on mental health
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We discuss the importance of mental health research for World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Across the globe, more than 800,000 people die by suicide a year. In fact, someone loses their life to suicide approximately every 40 seconds1. Moreover, it is estimated that about 13 per cent of the global population — roughly 971 million people — suffer from some kind of mental disorder2.

However, data on mental health is still insufficient. More mental health research and support can help save lives, ease suffering, and improve our quality of life. After all, research informs the way we approach clinical applications when treating mental health.

At James Cook University in Singapore, we offer research expertise in health and well-being with emphasis on pertinent social issues such as suicide behaviours, stress and coping, and racism.

Some of our research projects include exploring novel approaches to facilitate treatments for clinical conditions across the lifespan, and investigating the effects of trauma on mental and physical well-being.

Professor Nigel Marsh, Director of the Postgraduate Clinical Psychology Programme at James Cook University in Singapore, shared, “Poor mental health can be very debilitating, and result in considerable suffering with associated social and economic burden for individuals, their families, and society in general.

“Collaborative research undertaken by staff at James Cook University in Singapore with colleagues from throughout the region has demonstrated the importance of social factors in the prevention and recovery from mental illness. While progress in psychological research aids us in developing more effective treatments for individuals who are experiencing mental illness, it is also important that we don’t forget the need to strengthen our communities so that they can provide the social support that is necessary for mental health and wellness.”

He added, “It is not only the prevention of illness that is important, but also the promotion of wellness. This will ensure that all members of society can achieve their full potential, while living in an environment where asking for help is not seen as weakness.”

World Mental Health Day, which falls on 10 October each year, aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and inspire efforts in support of mental health.

This year’s theme is suicide prevention. Backed by support from the World Health Organization (WHO), this focus provides an opportunity for everyone to learn what can be done to prevent suicide, as well as reduce the stigma associated with suicide and let people who are struggling know that they are not alone. All it takes is for you to spare 40 seconds of action to show that you care.

Dr Joanna Barlas, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at James Cook University in Singapore, said, “Research is crucial in addressing the complexities of mental health and the ways in which individuals develop strategies to cope with intense and overwhelming emotions.”

She continues, “For instance, we have a reasonably good understanding of which treatments, in general, work for depression, but we need to better understand individual factors involved in treatment responsiveness and effectiveness; why do some people not make progress, why do some drop out of treatment altogether?”

Dr Barlas also believes that “we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and suicidality by being more open in our communication about it. Through our day-to-day conversations and interactions, if we demonstrate a willingness to share our own experiences of mental health problems and to not shy away from asking others about how they are feeling and what difficulties they are facing, we can help to give a voice to those who struggle to reach out for help.”

Dr Jonathan Ramsay, Head of Academic Group Psychology & Education at James Cook University in Singapore, emphasised the importance of creating an environment of trust, in which all members of a university campus community feel enabled to speak out about mental health issues, and to seek support as and when appropriate.

For example, the campus is home to a Psychology Clinic, which offers psychological assistance to both the campus community and the public. Confidential psychological assessment and/or psychotherapy is offered in a private and comfortable environment, at minimal cost, for a wide range of emotional, behavioural and cognitive challenges. This allows anyone facing emotional difficulties to reliably seek help on campus.

Additionally, there are activities offered to staff to improve mental health, such as a yoga session held in commemoration World Mental Health Day.

Ultimately, boosting mental health research is key to providing hope for the future, and building healthier and better lives.

If you think that you are struggling with emotional difficulties, you can refer to our mental health booklet here, or make an appointment at the JCU Singapore Psychology Clinic.

1 World Health Organization (2019, May 16). Retrieved from

2 Moraga, P., & GBD 2017 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators (2018). Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, 392(10159), 1789-1858.

For further information on areas of research strength in Psychology and future collaborative opportunities at James Cook University in Singapore, view our booklet here.

Find out more about the JCU Singapore Psychology Clinic here.


Research: Professor Dean Jerry [email protected]
Media: Pinky Sibal [email protected]