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Research focus areas

Led by Associate Professor Ed Heffernan, the Forensic Mental Health Group aims to improve outcomes for people with mental health problems who have contact with the criminal justice system and people who experience mental health and suicide crisis in the community. The research projects traverse the potential touch points people may have across the entirety of the criminal justice system and crisis care including:

  • first responder contact in the community;
  • courts and watch houses;
  • prisons and transition from prison;
  • inpatient settings; and
  • relevant community settings.

We focus on partnerships in research with key stakeholders such as those with lived experience, the Non-Government Sector, Police, Corrective Services, Australian Defence Force, Youth Justice stakeholders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Stakeholders and other health stakeholders. The research is embedded in a statewide clinical service and leads to significant benefits for clinical practice by informing service design and delivery and, ultimately, improving the experience of consumers of forensic services and other stakeholders.

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
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Completed forensic mental health research projects
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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.

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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.

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Partners in Prevention – Data Linkage Study

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Partners in Prevention – Optimal Care Pathways Report

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Partners in Prevention – Perspectives from Lived Experience Report

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

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

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