Mental Health Research at SGSC

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SGSC’s Critical Mental Health Research Group assembles dynamic senior and early career researchers focused on collaborative, interdisciplinary and cross-national mental health research.

The group actively contributes to policy development and the improvement of mental health service design, and advocates for positive changes that promote agency and self-determination for people experiencing mental distress.

They have significant experience harnessing a range of participatory methods including narrative approaches, arts-based, creative and visual methods, and digital and performance ethnography.

The centring of lived experience is embedded in the group’s research through co-design and interdisciplinary research practices. In light of enduring stigma and systemic issues, most recently highlighted by the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, the group contributes to social change by foregrounding personal narratives and promoting inclusion.

The group prioritises partnerships with people experiencing mental distress and their supporters, while collaborating with peer-led organisations, industry, including service providers, and government to tailor research design and outcomes to end-user needs. Through these partnerships, the Critical Mental Health Research Group works towards more inclusive and mentally healthy futures.

The group’s research is funded by national and international grants, including Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council, Suicide Prevention Australia and Horizon 2020 (European Commission). They are also supported generously by leading industry partners such as the National Mental Health Commission, Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, Mind Australia and the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC).

SGSC Principal Mental Health Researchers

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Professor Katherine Johnson

Professor Katherine Johnson is an internationally recognised researcher in sexuality & mental health, particularly LGBTQ+ suicide prevention, early mental interventions for LGBTQ+ youth mental health, and transgender care. Her background is in critical & community psychology & psychosocial studies & her methodological strengths are in qualitative, visual & creative participatory research methods. Her research is informing policy & practice in the UK, Europe & Australia.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7092-4426

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Professor Renata Kokanović

Renata is an interdisciplinary scholar working at the intersections of critical mental health studies, critical social theory and medical humanities. She utilises qualitative research methods, with particular expertise in narrative approaches to mental health. She is co-founder and director of Healthtalk Australia, a unique digital archive of mental health narratives, promoting personal narratives of mental health as evidence for improving mental health support in the community.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4308-3403

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Professor Stuart DM Thomas

Stuart Thomas is Professor of Forensic Mental Health; his background is in psychology and law and he specialises in mental health epidemiology. His research interests focus on law enforcement and public health, outcome measurement and stigma.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9471-9726

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Dr Emma-Louise Seal

Emma Seal is a Research Fellow whose work examines the lived experience of mental and physical health and wellbeing. Her work is located at the intersection of critical social theory and public health scholarship. Emma is interested in social and organisational change with the aim of reducing inequalities and improving health services, in particular how community-based supports can be mobilised to improve mental health outcomes. She uses qualitative, participatory methods to produce translatable research.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8476-9201

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Tamara Borovica

Tamara Borovica is an early career researcher whose work focuses on embodiment, gender, and psycho-social approaches to mental health, wellbeing, and belonging. Her expertise is in embodied and arts-based methods for participatory research inclusive of non-normative ways of knowing. Tamara’s work contributes to enhancing the public dialogue about and the development of ‘human-centric’ approaches to mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7356-9236

ellen van holstein

Ellen van Holstein

Ellen van Holstein is a Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. Her research analyses who gets to be included in different spaces and networks of ‘community’ and the equity issues that emerge as responsibility for those problems shifts from governments and individuals to collectives, service organisations and volunteers.

Currently, Ellen is working on research on Australian community centres (also known as neighbourhood houses) to analyse who are finding access and inclusion in Australian society through these organisations and who are at risk of exclusion as funding for centres changes. 

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2049-5883

rebecca olive

Rebecca Olive

Rebecca Olive’s work explores recreational sport and leisure in everyday life. With a particular interest in coastal and ocean ecologies, she has focused on various surfing, ocean swimming and sailing cultures, practices and politics. Influenced by feminist cultural studies approaches, Rebecca is interested in how people navigate in their relationships to other people and to the multispecies communities they’re immersed in. Her work advocates for the importance of recreational sport and leisure in human-environmental health and wellbeing.

Rebecca regularly writes for surf media, has produced a podcast, ‘Saltwater Library’, and maintains her project website, ‘Moving Oceans’.

iD icon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2980-3969

Mental Health Projects

Funding & Research Partners

The Centre has a wealth of experience in conducting collaborative, interdisciplinary and cross-national mental health research, advocating for positive change that promotes the agency and self-determination of people who access mental health services and contributing to policy development and service design. 

Our researchers work to foster collaborations with individuals who have experience of mental health services, community groups and partner organisations to address urgent issues, identify knowledge gaps, and address implementation. 

The ability of our researchers to work in partnership with individuals, community groups, and government to produce transformative outputs is recognised through the significant funding the Centre has received from national and international funding bodies, not for profit organisations, industry and philanthropy.

NMHC
ACEM
MindAustralia
VMIAC
MHLC
MHC-NSW
NeamiNational
LivedExperienceAustralia
SANE-Australia
Switchboard
VictoriaLegalAid
ECLC
RosesInTheOcean
ManyColouredSky
ParksVictoria
VicDHHS
Orygen
cohealth
HTA
HTA
DIPEx
EquallyWell
MHVictoria
Spectrum
StVincents
MHLC
MHC-NSW
NeamiNational
VMIAC
MHLC
MHC-NSW
NeamiNational
LivedExperienceAustralia
SANE-Australia
Switchboard
VictoriaLegalAid
ECLC
RosesInTheOcean
ManyColouredSky
ParksVictoria
VicDHHS
Orygen
cohealth
HTA
DIPEx
EquallyWell
MHVictoria
Spectrum
StVincents

RMIT Social & Global Studies Centre

Want to find out more about transformative research for social justice at RMIT University's Social & Global Studies Centre?

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.