Bushfire near Rappville
Photo by Carol Duncan of a burning home at Rappville, near Casino, in 2019 bushfire.

Dr Brymer said the project, funded by the Manna Institute, was expected to build mental health research capacity within regional Australia into the future.

‘The devastation and loss caused by the bushfires and floods of recent years offer clear evidence of the profound mental health impact arising from these events,’ he said.

‘Yet while there is research highlighting the short and long-term mental health impacts of environmental change, much less is known about how to design effective interventions.

‘That is where this project is unique. By exploring factors already theorised as impacting mental health in communities and individuals, we aim to develop a model to guide intervention design and identify resilience-building factors within that model.’

The Manna Institute is part of an initial 3-year strategy to improve mental health and wellbeing in rural, regional and remote Australia. It is a virtual institute that brings together leading mental health researchers from seven universities in the Regional Universities Network, including Southern Cross University and the lead institution, the University of New England. 

Experts collaborate with industry and community partners (including Everymind, Lifeline Direct and the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research) to tailor solutions specifically to their regions and regional Australia more broadly.

‘Extreme weather and changing environmental conditions in general can have shattering mental health consequences, so we are also hopeful that this research will inform improved strategies around pre-event preparation and post-event recovery,’ said Dr Brymer.

A $10,000 grant from mental health research initiative Manna Institute is funding the collaboration between members of the Regional Universities Network, affiliates and external partners working in mental health.

The project title is Development of a model to guide intervention design for mental health issues from extreme weather events.

Project collaborators are Dr Eric Brymer and Dr Royce Willis of Southern Cross University; Dr Marg Rogers of University of New England; Dr Vinathe Sharma-Brymer of University of Sunshine Coast; Professor Navjot Bhullar of Edith Cowan University.

External partners are Healthy North Coast; Australian Red Cross-Emergency Services Queensland; The Connective; PCCS (Primary & Community Care Services Limited); Batyr.