Stream Description

image - Prevention

Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders account for three quarters of the disability attributed to mental disorders. The peak of this disability occurs in those 15-24 years old and corresponds with the typical period of onset of these problems. Critically, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders share common risk factors.

To reduce the occurrence and cost of such disorders, preventative interventions need to begin early, before the problems begin to cause disability, and vocational, educational and social harm.  To date, the focus of our research has been on developing and evaluating universal internet-based programs to prevent substance use and related harms in adolescents. Our most recent trial involves combining these universal programs with selective personality-targeted interventions with an aim of maximising outcomes for both high and low risk youth.


Ongoing Projects

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Making InRoADs: Trial of an innovative early intervention to Interrupt the cycle of Anxiety and Drinking in young Australians

Funding Body: Australian Rotary Health, Society of Mental Health Research (SMHR) Early Career Researcher Fellowship to Lexine Stapinski

Anxiety and alcohol use disorders are among the most prevalent and debilitating of mental health disorders, and commonly co-occur. There is limited evidence about the temporal sequence, although the available data suggests anxiety typically predates alcohol use disorders, and the use of alcohol to cope with anxiety is commonly reported. Increasingly, anxiety and alcohol comorbidity is understood as a clinically important mutually-reinforcing relationship, yet current prevention and treatment approaches are limited by single disorder models.

 The transition into early adulthood is a unique developmental period, characterized by numerous personal and social role changes. Young adulthood also marks a period of increased vulnerability for onset of both anxiety and alcohol use disorders. The unique challenges of this early adulthood period combined with the emergence of anxiety and alcohol use disorder symptoms require a developmentally-targeted early intervention to empower young adults, enhance anxiety coping skills, and prevent the escalation of drinking. This project involves a randomised controlled trial of a new, therapist-supported online early intervention for anxious young people at risk of alcohol use disorders. 

Project Contacts: Dr Lexine Stapinski

Development of culturally-appropriate resources to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

A/Prof James Ward
Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

In partnership with Gilimbaa, an Indigenous Creative Agency, this project involves development of culturally appropriate school-based resources to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Development will be in consultation and collaboration with schools, teachers and young Indigenous Australians. An Expert Advisory Group has been established to guide the project. Scoping of existing resources and research literature will inform development of a central access portal, and a culturally-appropriate curriculum program based on the Climate Schools storyboard format. The online portal will facilitate dissemination of information and evidence-based approaches to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Project Contacts: Ms Mieke Snijder

Development of an integrated online intervention for Students and Parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among adolescents / Climate Schools Plus

Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

Building on the successful Climate Schools: Student Programme, Climate Schools Plus will incorporate a parenting component aiming to enable parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among their adolescent children. The parenting component is based on a successful program developed by Dr Ina Koning at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

In phase 1 of the project an Expert Advisory Group will be established to guide the design and development of the Climate Schools Plus Student and Parent Programme and focus testing and end-user consultation will be undertaken. Phase 2 will involve an implementation and effectiveness trial of the Programme. Climate Schools Plus will be the first online integrated student and parent program to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among adolescents.

Project Contacts: Dr Cath Chapman
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Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering the developmental pathways to alcohol related harms in young adults

Professor Patricia Conrod, Assistant Professor Natalie Castellanous-Ryan
Funding Body: NHMRC

The Climate andPreventure (CAP) study was initiated in 2011 by Nicola Newton, Maree Teesson, Tim Slade and Patricia Conrod as a school-based prevention initiative targeting alcohol and drug use. The CAP study was the first ever randomised control trial of a comprehensive prevention approach combining both universal (Climate; delivered to all students) and selective (Preventure; delivered to high-risk students) intervention techniques. Twenty-six schools and 2,190 year 8 participants were recruited to the CAP trial in 2012, and randomised to one of four conditions: (1) Control (health education as usual), (2) Climate (universal prevention for all), (3) Preventure (selective prevention delivered only to 43% of students with high-risk personality profiles), or (4) Climate and Preventure (both universal and selective approaches). All students were followed up for 3 years post baseline. Results at 3 years have shown the effectiveness of universal and selective approaches in preventing harmful alcohol use among low- and high-risk adolescents. The CAP long-term follow up is an opportunistic extension of the landmark CAP study, whereby follow up of this cohort will extend beyond the completion of secondary school and into the critical transition period of early adulthood.

The investigators will extend longitudinal follow-up for a further 3 years, inviting the participants to take part in an online survey assessing demographic information, drinking and drug use habits, and behavioural and personality inventories. This $465,967 NHMRC funded long-term follow up project will be the first in the world to examine whether combining universal and selective drug prevention strategies enhances durability of effects in the longer-term, over a 7-year period from adolescence to early adulthood. The findings will inform policy nationally and internationally, as economic modelling suggests substantial societal benefit can be gained from even modest reductions in drug and alcohol use.

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton


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