Research in progress

Grants awarded 2016

  • The role of anger in PTSD

    $27,687 – Dr David Berle, University of Technology Sydney

    This project will investigate whether a high degree of anger during treatment for PTSD weakens the response to treatment, and whether persisting anger in the 9 months post-treatment increases the risk of symptoms returning. The findings may inform efforts to improve the social and family relationships for individuals with PTSD; boost productivity; and lower the rate of discharge from the ADF.

  • Social networks, identity and the mental health of veterans

    $49,811 – Professor Dan Lubman, Monash University and Director of Turning Point

    The research will put a veteran’s transition to civilian life under the microscope with the view of developing novel treatment approaches and better support. The project will examine the social networks and identities of veterans and investigate how these impact mental health, wellbeing, housing and employment stability and the use of alcohol and other drugs. The aim is to identify existing barriers and facilitate greater social engagement among veterans.

  • Online treatment program for mental health and alcohol use for contemporary veterans

    $123,068 – Associate Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin, UNSW and University of Newcastle

    The project will evaluate the effectiveness of online therapy (SHADE model) for the treatment of mood and hazardous alcohol and substance use in contemporary veterans (45 years and younger). Partnering with the ex-serving organisation community, the project will recruit at least 150 ex-serving ADF personnel and evaluate the effectiveness of a pilot program.  The findings will inform any recommendation to integrate eHealth programs such as SHADE in the ex-serving community.

  • Efficacy of creative art therapy in the treatment of PTSD – literature review

    $25,000 – Dr Felicity A Baker, The University of Melbourne

    A systematic literature review, with narrative synthesis, aims to identify current evidence of the efficacy of therapies such as music, dance and movement, art, and drama in the treatment of PTSD in adults. The project will produce a high quality manuscript for peer review, with the ultimate aim of informing researchers and stakeholders in their understanding of appropriate therapies to address PTSD symptoms and improve quality of life.

Grants awarded 2015

  • A trial of N-acetylcysteine for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that hasn’t improved with normal treatment

    $50,000 - Professor Richard Kanaan, Chair of Psychiatry, Austin Health, University of Melbourne.

    PTSD is very common in the military, and very disabling. The prognosis is poor, with the disorder persisting in most patients, so that 9% of Vietnam veterans continue to suffer with PTSD.  Guidelines recommend trauma-focused psychotherapy and SSRIs as first line treatments, but these are only moderately effective, with 30% of patients showing no response, and only a minority being cured.  If this project is successful it will demonstrate that NAC – a cheap, well-tolerated, nutraceutical – is an effective adjunct to those treatments, rendering them truly effective, and offering hope of a cure to many thousands of veterans and their families.

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of non-invasive brain stimulation technique as a treatment for PTSD in an Australian veteran population: A pilot study.

    $50,000 - Professor David Forbes, Director, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne.

    Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common and serious mental health problem in the Defence community that can have a profound impact on the person’s functioning and quality of life, as well as on relationships with loved ones and friends. 

    Although we have effective treatments for PTSD, there are still many veterans who do not benefit from these approaches.  New and innovative treatments are required that not only effectively treat the symptoms of PTSD but that also help to prevent the development of or manage co-morbid  disorders such as depression, broader anxiety, suicidality, relationship problems and long term disability that goes along with chronic PTSD. 

    This study would be the first in the world to explore the effectiveness of a new intervention known as Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS) as a treatment for PTSD.  TBS aims to improve the way different parts of the brain that are effected by PTSD communicate with each other, resulting in a reduction in PTSD symptoms as well as improvement in memory and thinking.  

  • Testing a novel psychological treatment to reduce chronic pain, depression, anxiety and associated health outcomes in Defence personnel

    $50,000 - Dr Melanie White, School of Psychology and Counselling, Qld University of Technology.

    Chronic pain and associated depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms are over-represented in serving and ex-serving Defence personnel, presenting significantly disabling and costly problems for these individuals, their families, and for the ADF as an employer. If successful, this project offers Defence an innovative, evidence-based, low-cost, practical and easily administered tool for treating chronic pain and associated disability, with the potential to be adapted to mobile self-administration, including timely ‘booster treatments’ that ADF members can administer themselves on deployment or in their own homes (reducing barriers to treatment seeking) and to supplement existing therapies as part of a holistic treatment approach.

  • Development and rollout of an online visual test for bipolar disorder for use in large clinical and genetic studies

    $25,000 - Dr Steven Miller, Head, Perceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre.

    Sleep deprivation and extreme stress are routine exposures for training and serving Defence personnel (warriors) and are also well-known triggers of bipolar disorder (BD). A test that can identify which Defence applicants (recruits) are at risk of developing BD would prevent those at risk being exposed to these environmental BD triggers. This test would therefore reduce the rate of BD in the Defence community. Furthermore, the test’s potential to improve treatment decisions by more accurately distinguishing BD from schizophrenia and major depressive disorder would also directly benefit serving and retired Defence personnel (and family members) who have already developed mental health problems.

Grants awarded 2013

  • Does the PARTY (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth) program reduce alcohol-related harm in naval trainees?

     $300,000 over 3 years - Prof Jeffrey Rosenfeld, National Trauma Research Institute, The Alfred, Monash University

    The Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth program (PARTY) is a trauma prevention and health promotion initiative operating since 2009. It provides young people with 'behind the scenes' access to a major trauma unit to show them the potential consequences of risk‐taking behaviour and poor social choices. Specific programs for Navy trainees have been operating since 2011, with repeat alcohol-related incidents by program participants low. The booster grant will enable more robust research, using a validated screening tool and controlled trials with ‘at risk’ naval trainees. The new on-base program format has the potential to be rolled out across other Defence establishments around Australia.

  • Future soldier rehabilitation: A next generation brain-computer interface for robotic limb control

    $154,824 - Dr Tom Oxley, University of Melbourne

    Dr Oxley's team has developed a world-first implantable neural recording system, implanted via angiography (instead of more invasive brain surgery). The researchers have established strong collaborations with several USA and Australian Defence bodies and are making radical advancement in the control of prosthetic limbs. The booster funding will continue the momentum of the research with a view to improved rehabilitation and quality of life for soldiers requiring prosthetic limbs.

Grants awarded 2012

  • Preventing bone and muscle injury during Army recruit training

    $263,078 over 3 years - Belinda Beck, Griffith University

    Lower limb injuries are the cause of the greatest number of days lost to military training and represent one of the largest associated costs to Defence. Bone injuries take the longest to heal and are the most common cause of medical discharge from the Army. This project proposes a conditioning program prior to recruit training, with a view to reducing the rate of injury. Stage 1 will involve a retrospective audit of injuries over the past five years at the Kapooka training centre. Stage 2 will examine the effect of a four-month targeted musculoskeletal pre-conditioning program on the rate of injuries. The relationship of an individual's physical and behavioural characteristics will also be evaluated.