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Canberra
Friday, December 4, 2020
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

ANU mental health researcher lauded for collaborative approach

Australian National University Senior Research Fellow Dr Brett Scholz has received the ACT Mental Health Research Evaluation Award for his collaborative approach to research.

Dr Scholz’s research has brought people with a lived experience of mental health issues into the fold for research, education, and policy.

He said while he did not have a lived experience of mental health issues, his work nearly always included a collaboration with or was led by someone who did.

“It gives such value to the research beyond anything we could do without it and there are so many things to improve,” Dr Scholz said.

“Whenever I lecture, I try to invite mental health consumers to co-deliver and co-develop the sessions.

“Their perspective is really valuable.”

Dr Scholz is not sure why he became involved in mental health research, but his experience in 2015 at a defunded consumer research organisation taught him the value of collaboration with people with a lived experience.

He said he would love to see more dedicated lived experience roles in the research field but feared precarious university funding would prevent that.

“Research funding is not looking good for universities,” Dr Scholz said.

“It’s about creating synergistic experience for expertise and experiential expertise and valuing both things.

“Right now, mental health doesn’t value lived experience.

“We need to recruit people for dedicated paid roles.”

Dr Scholz said New Zealand were “well ahead” of Australia in their use of dedicated consumer roles.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had raised the profile of mental health and changed the way services could be delivered, meaning there were more opportunities for inclusiveness.

“It’s both a good thing and bad thing, working from home, good opportunity,” he said.

“Collaboration has been more accessible, with people able to join zoom meetings without getting carparks or babysitting. And it’s a great opportunity I hope we don’t lose.

“But I don’t think we’ve seen the pandemic’s full impact on mental health and wellbeing.”