It can be particularly difficult for youth in rural and regional areas to get support for their mental health as in many places there is not enough professional support available. Seventy-five percent of mental health problems begin before the age of 25. The Victorian Royal Commission recommends making increased support for youth a priority. Youth reported they want to have more choice other than phone or face-to-face treatment only. Dr Tara Hickey developed a mindfulness and compassion group program for youth with psychotic experiences. She evaluated it with her colleagues Professor Barnaby Nelson and Professor Graham Meadows. This program could be changed, with the help of young people, to be an online group program for youth who are experiencing a range of problems. The program could help to increase the support available to youth living in rural and regional Australia.
University of Melbourne contributors:
Dr Tara Hickey, Honorary Fellow, Centre for Youth Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
The research team was delighted and grateful to the Contemplative Studies Centre to learn their project was awarded seed funding. Originally, Tara Hickey developed the MAC-P program for youth with psychotic experiences. A pilot study, conducted by the same research team, found it was feasible, acceptable and had numerous good outcomes related to mental health, social and occupational functioning for the young participants. The primary aim of this study is to repurpose the MAC-P program using co-design, creating an online group intervention that improves access to support for youth with a range of mental health difficulties living rurally and regionally.
The research project is being conducted in the Wimmera Area. In late 2022 the Grampians Health and St John of God Hospital Ballarat Human Research Ethics Committee approved the project. A Research Collaboration Agreement is currently underway between The University of Melbourne, Orygen, Monash University and Grampians Area Mental Health services. Once the Agreement has been finalised the fieldwork can commence. The backing of the ethics committee for this co-design project supports Government policy encouraging co-design for the past 15 years though is rare in practice. And there is a high need for mental health research in regional/rural communities. The research team is keen to contribute to both the development of a stronger research culture involving mental health consumers and people living in rural and regional areas.
Art installation Framing the Wimmera. Photo credit: Zoe Wilkinson
Project lead | Dr Tara Hickey
Dr Tara Hickey is a clinical psychologist who has trained and is experienced in mindfulness and compassion-based approaches. She has a particular interest in working with youth and young adults. She has worked in public mental health services in Europe, United States and Australia.
Tara holds an Adjunct Research Fellow position with Monash University, an Honorary Associate position with the University of Sydney and a Honorary Fellow position with The University of Sydney.
As part of her research she developed and piloted a mindfulness and compassion group program for youth with psychotic experiences. She has also co-facilitated a Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) Self-Practice/Self-Reflection (SP/SR) courses for CFT practitioners and is currently conducting research in this area. She has published her work in national and international journals, and has co-authored book chapters. Tara is committee member of Compassionate Mind Australia.