I am interested in?
Improving outcomes for people in correctional setttings who have mental disorders

Forensic mental health is a specialised field within mental health that deals specifically with mental disorders among people in correctional settings.

There is a high occurrence of mental illness amongst inmates in correctional settings. Often mental illness is present in association with other disabilities such as substance abuse and intellectual disability. Offenders with a mental disorder are a highly stigmatised and marginalised group in our community. There are a number of particularly vulnerable populations within this group, including juveniles, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The marginalisation is increased by sensationalised media representations that often give misleading accounts of forensic mental health issues.

Research focus areas

Led by Associate Professor Ed Heffernan, the Forensic Mental Health Group aims to improve outcomes for people in correctional settings who experience mental disorders. The group conducts research across four focus areas:

  1. Epidemiology
  2. Early intervention and prevention
  3. Forensic mental health systems and services
  4. Partner projects

Our research leads to significant benefits for clinical practice by informing service design and delivery and, ultimately, improving the experience of forensic consumers and other stakeholders.

The group prioritises the sharing of research findings with stakeholders and the wider community through publications, seminars and presentations.

Key research outputs

1. Changing Direction: Mental Health Needs of Justice-Involved Young People in Australia
The research underpinning this report involved QCMHR Forensic Mental Health Group members Carla Meurk, Megan Steele, Jacklyn Schess, and Ed Heffernan. The report’s authors found that justice-involved young Queenslanders and Western Australians experienced higher levels of psychological distress and suicidality than their counterparts in the community. There were consistent associations between experiences of abuse, head injury, psychological distress, and mental disorders. The findings highlight the importance of delivering trauma-informed care to young people who are justice-involved, or who are at risk of justice system involvement, and the need for services and interventions that aim to prevent or address the abuse that they may experience.

2. Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations
Individuals who experience a suicide crisis or self-harm often come into contact with police or paramedics. Those who have experienced a suicide crisis report deficiencies with the existing system, and police and paramedics report that responding to these events is one of the most challenging aspects of their role. However, little is known about the nature, extent, precipitating factors, pathways and outcomes of a suicide related call-out, and what responses will most effectively and compassionately meet the needs of those in crisis. Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations, funded by the Queensland Health Suicide Prevention Health Taskforce, was established in 2017 to address these knowledge gaps and inform systems enhancements. The outcomes of this work include the following five reports.

 3. The use of involuntary treatment orders within Australia: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1039856218789787

4. Fitness for Trial and Fitness for Interview – a retrospective review of individuals found to be of unsound mind in Queensland: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7033686/

Projects

Click on the links to view more details about each of our projects.

Current forensic mental health projects
Read more
Completed forensic mental health research projects
Read more

Staff

For complete staff bios and contact details, visit: Forensic Mental Health Research Stream Staff

Publications

1. Changing Direction: Mental Health Needs of Justice-Involved Young People in Australia
The research underpinning this report involved QCMHR Forensic Mental Health Group members Carla Meurk, Megan Steele, Jacklyn Schess, and Ed Heffernan. The report’s authors found that justice-involved young Queenslanders and Western Australians experienced higher levels of psychological distress and suicidality than their counterparts in the community. There were consistent associations between experiences of abuse, head injury, psychological distress, and mental disorders. The findings highlight the importance of delivering trauma-informed care to young people who are justice-involved, or who are at risk of justice system involvement, and the need for services and interventions that aim to prevent or address the abuse that they may experience.

2. Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations
Individuals who experience a suicide crisis or self-harm often come into contact with police or paramedics. Those who have experienced a suicide crisis report deficiencies with the existing system, and police and paramedics report that responding to these events is one of the most challenging aspects of their role. However, little is known about the nature, extent, precipitating factors, pathways and outcomes of a suicide related call-out, and what responses will most effectively and compassionately meet the needs of those in crisis. Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations, funded by the Queensland Health Suicide Prevention Health Taskforce, was established in 2017 to address these knowledge gaps and inform systems enhancements. The outcomes of this work include the following five reports.

 3. The use of involuntary treatment orders within Australia: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1039856218789787

4. Fitness for Trial and Fitness for Interview – a retrospective review of individuals found to be of unsound mind in Queensland: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7033686/

Changing Direction: Mental Health Needs of Justice-Involved Young People in Australia
The research underpinning this report involved QCMHR Forensic Mental Health Group members Carla Meurk, Megan Steele, Jacklyn Schess, and Ed Heffernan. The report’s authors found that justice involved young Queenslanders and Western Australians experienced higher levels of psychological distress and suicidality than their counterparts in the community. There were consistent associations between experiences of abuse, head injury, psychological distress, and mental disorders. The findings highlight the importance of delivering trauma-informed care to young people who are justice involved, or who are at risk of justice system involvement, and the need for services and interventions that aim to prevent or address the abuse that they may experience.

Read more

Summary Report – Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations – Summary Report
Individuals who experience a suicide crisis or self-harm often come into contact with police or paramedics. Those who have experienced a suicide crisis report deficiencies with the existing system, and police and paramedics report that responding to these events is one of the most challenging aspects of their role. However, little is known about the nature, extent, precipitating factors, pathways and outcomes of a suicide related call-out, and what responses will most effectively and compassionately meet the needs of those in crisis. Partners in Prevention: Understanding and Enhancing First Responses to Suicide Crisis Situations, funded by the Queensland Health Suicide Prevention Health Taskforce, was established in 2017 to address these knowledge gaps and inform systems enhancements. The outcomes of this work include the following five reports.

Read more

Partners in Prevention – Data Linkage Study

Read more

Partners in Prevention – Optimal Care Pathways Report

Read more

Partners in Prevention – Perspectives from Lived Experience Report

Read more

Partners in Prevention – Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes and Confidence of Police Report

Read more

A comparison of the reported use of involuntary treatment orders within Australian jurisdictions

Read more

Contacting us

Do you want to know more about QCMHR, but can’t quite get enough information from our website? Please get in touch – we are happy to help!

Find out more

Send us a message