Get to know the researchers at QCMHR and the significance of their research projects.

Meaghan Enright is currently working as a Research Officer in the Policy and Epidemiology Group (PEG) stream of QCMHR. With an interest in adolescent mental health, Meaghan is involved in two projects at QCMHR; Nationally-representative adolescent mental health surveys (NAMHS) and a project quantifying the global coverage of prevalence data for mental disorders in children and adolescents. Keep reading to find out more about her research.

Tell me about yourself and your background, how did you come to pursue your research career through QCMHR?

During my undergraduate degree in America, a Bachelors of Science (Honours), focused in Health Policy and Management at Providence College, I came to Australia for a semester in 2015 on exchange.  It was during this time that I grew to love global health, particularly youth and maternal focused health globally.  When I returned from Australia, I worked in the Office of Family Visiting at the Department of Health in Rhode Island while completing my studies.  During my yearlong placement there, I tracked, analysed, and followed-up with the most high-risk cohort of children flagged from birth throughout the state.  I was able to realise how crucial the beginning of a person’s life is, and how greatly their health can be impacted by a multitude of factors (both good and bad).  Upon graduating, I returned to Australia to study my Masters in Public Health, focusing in global health, and was lucky enough to start working at QCMHR just a few short months after I finished my coursework!

What does your current research look at and what inspired you to pursue this project in particular?

My research mainly focuses on child and adolescent mental health.  I am currently involved in a global project, planning, administering, and eventually analysing three nationally representative mental health surveys to adolescents (aged 10-17) in Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam.  I also work on a project aimed at estimating global coverage of prevalence data for mental disorders in children and adolescents.  Coverage refers to the proportion of children and adolescents (aged 5-17) represented by available prevalence data for the 6 most common mental disorders globally (conduct disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders). When I started work at QCMHR about 8 months ago, I was fortunate enough start work on both of these exciting projects under the leadership of Dr Holly Erskine, my supervisor.

As noted above, my interest in child and adolescent mental health stems from my previous experience during my undergraduate degree and at the Department of Health, but also from personal experience.  Through my own experience, and through the experiences of close family and friends, I know firsthand how important it is to get the right support and services as a young person struggling with mental health.  This personal experience combined with my professional interests cement my passion for this particular area of research within the broader sphere of mental health.

Why is this topic important and what do you hope will come out of your project? (Publication, increased awareness or support for these communities? etc.)

Children and adolescents make up 30% of the global population, with 85% of these young people located in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in this age group (age 5-17 years), yet we know so very little about just how much these disorders are affecting the majority of children and adolescents.

Our coverage analyses aim to pinpoint where our efforts are most needed in terms of capturing the burden of mental disorders in young people.  With this identified focus, the second project I am involved in aims to fill a small portion of the unknown burden of mental disorders for this age group through the three nationally representative mental health surveys.  The three countries we are collaborating with have never before estimated the burden of mental disorders in adolescents at the national level, making this project the first of its kind.  We aim to influence the three countries conducting the surveys, and to catalyse the surrounding countries and regions towards measuring the burden of adolescent mental health.

Where to from here, what are your plans for your future as a researcher?

I am planning to continue working on these two projects for the next few years, with the potential to enrol in a PhD once data from the three nationally representative mental health surveys becomes available.  It is hard to say where exactly I want to go with research, being that I am still quite new to the field, but I would love to become involved in teaching at some stage in the future.  Either way, I am very grateful to work at QCMHR and am hoping to continue my work here well into the future.

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