Research Students

Current PhD Students

Emily Blackman

Effectiveness of an educational intervention for health workers in the assessment and management of people at risk of suicide

There is evidence that suicide prevention education and training has a positive impact on knowledge, skills, confidence and attitudes of those engaging with people in suicide-related distress. However, little is known about the effectiveness of suicide prevention education and training amongst health workers in South Australia. This mixed methods study aims to evaluate and critically examine the effectiveness of the ‘Connecting with People’ suicide prevention education and training amongst health workers in South Australia’s prison system and the Best Practice Spotlight Organisation (BPSO) in the Mental Health Directorate of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network. This knowledge will be translated into practice through the development of an intervention guide to support health workers in mental health and custodial settings engaging with people vulnerable to suicide.

Watch Emily accept the award for Best Poster (ECR/PhD Student Category) at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Adelaide, July 2018

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Associate Professor Rachael Vernon, Dr Monika Ferguson

Kelly Chidgey

Exploring the role of police in providing a mental health response to the community

Given the nature of police interaction with people in mental distress, there is a need for better insight and understanding about how and why people interact with police and the sequence of events for the person attended to. The purpose of this PhD research is to undertake deeper examination of police activity and make recommendations on the drivers for interaction between police and people who use mental health services, specifically at the time of mental distress, suicide or self-harming states. This mixed methods study will examine the numbers of people who interact with police, what drives such interaction and what issues people have requiring police attendance. The research will also examine the perspectives of mental health clinicians working in the emergency department with whom police engage at the time of transfer to hospital. 

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr Monika Ferguson

Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny

The mental health consequences of the Fast Track Assessment of protection claims: The perspectives of legal professionals and asylum seekers

In December 2014 the Australian government introduced a new “Fast Track Assessment” procedure to manage protection claims made by a group of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat between August 2012 and December 2013. This research will look at the nature, scope and mental health consequences of legal processing attendant upon asylum seekers applying for protection within the new legal framework. It will examine the impact of the process as perceived by people who are providing asylum seekers with legal support, examining the response to vulnerable people and how they negotiate mental health concerns. The research will also consider the intersection between human rights, mental health and law for those asylum seekers that are impacted upon by this process.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Professor Carol Grech

Dr Conrad Newman

Psychological autopsy and the public sector mental health response to men who die by suicide in South Australia

At least six people per day die of suicide in Australia - five of these are men. This research will examine a unique dataset of recorded dialogues from 15 men aged 18 – 65 years who contacted the South Australian Public Sector Mental Health Triage Service seeking help and subsequently ended their life by suicide. The chain of care for these men from the time of contact with MHT until their death by suicide will be examined to determine what protective action (or lack thereof) was provided to them by public sector mental health services. This research will introduce the “voice” of the decedent and clinicians (through the use of MHT recordings) into the field of suicidology for the first time. This has the potential to inform clinical practice, service provision and policy.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Professor Carol Grech

Chris Patterson

The use of situation awareness by mental health nurses to inform the involuntary admission decision: An ethnographic study

The function of admitting a person to a mental health facility as an involuntary patient is a central component of contemporary mental health legislation and practice in Australia. The admission is commonly based on the decision of a legally recognised health professional, such as an accredited mental health nurse. The decision to admit an individual as an involuntary patient has a direct impact on the person’s health, autonomy and liberty and ultimately their human rights. Knowing the major determinants of the decision-making process is essential to being able to understand future decisions. By identifying how health practitioners identify, use and make meaning of the factors and elements relevant to making a decision, an understanding of the practice can be formed. Considering that such a complexity of factors is used to inform a decision of importance, a framework that enables the investigation of the decision-making process is important. This study posits that the concept of ‘situation awareness’ provides a suitable framework to understand how health practitioners make a decision.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr Monika Ferguson


Current Masters Students

Kirsty Baker

Important aspects of the therapeutic relationship; the consumer's perspective during hospitalisation with first episode psychosis: a scoping review

The person experiencing a first episode of psychosis is especially vulnerable when acutely unwell and experiencing distressing psychotic symptoms. The person often requires admission into a mental health unit to provide safety and security and commence treatment. Hospitalisation can create strong feelings of fear and anxiety and the mental health nurse provides support and reassurance to the person during this experience. Little is known about the person’s preference for care and exactly which qualities of the therapeutic relationship are most important to them during this difficult time.

This scoping review seeks to gain a deep understanding of the important aspects of the therapeutic relationship with the mental health nurse from the perspective of the person experiencing a first episode psychosis. This process begins by exploring the lived experience of the person to clarify their specific needs. The findings aim to inform and improve nursing practice around the delivery of quality mental health care.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr David Evans

Jessica Byrne

How is teaching and learning through lived experience and mental health recovery explained via educational theory? A scoping review of the qualitative and quantitative evidence.

Lived experience in recovery is the expert knowledge someone has acquired from experiencing, or caring for someone experiencing significant mental health related distress. Consumer involvement in all areas of education is integral to ensure that high quality learning of health care workers is achieved. There are different ways the positive benefits and learning from the involvement of lived experience in education can be conceptualised and explained in the literature. This includes literature describing learning practice and outcomes within Recovery Colleges. It also includes research about lived experience teaching practice for mental health practitioners.

This scoping review aims to explore the research activity and outcomes relating to educational practice and theory used by lived experience educators and organisation’s teaching from a lived experience, or coproduction focus. It will result in a conceptual map on the different forms of learning theory used by educators and the various processes and outcomes that educators attribute to lived experience teaching.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr Mark Loughhead


Recent PhD Completions

Dr Kate Deuter

The experience of attempted suicide by older people: Within and between the meaning of protection

The past decade has seen significant contributions to the literature on late life suicidal behaviour. Much of the research reported is devoted to understanding risk factors for suicide in the elderly population; relatively less attention has been paid to examining factors that might be protective against the decision of an elderly person to end their life. This qualitative PhD study aims to explore the meanings that older people attribute to protective factors in relation to their experience of attempted suicide. The central objective related to this aim is to understand the nature and scope of protective factors that give older suicide survivors reasons and experiences to live following a non-fatal suicide attempt.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr David Evans, Dr Katrina Jaworski

Recent Honours Completions

Kristy Acres

A qualitative study of family carers of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder: What are carer’s views and experiences of preferred nursing practices in the Emergency Department setting?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a common mental illness which features challenges for ongoing psychosocial functioning. The experience of feelings and behaviours relating to self-harm and/or suicide often result in crisis situations for the consumer and family. Carers, partners and significant others are instrumental in the support and management of crisis with the consumer and often seek hospital care via Emergency Departments.

This qualitative study aims to better understand the carer experience of nursing practices and communication whilst in Emergency Departments. It will explore the common and unique experiences of carers when they are supporting consumers with BPD to access ED based care; views and expectations of carers towards nursing practices and communication in Emergency Departments; the ED nursing practices carers see as effective and preferred; and carers’ views on overcoming barriers to effective nursing care for consumers with BPD and for themselves in the caring role.

This project is sponsored by Sanctuary BPD Carer Support Group and UniSA’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research Group.

Supervisors: Dr Mark Loughhead, Professor Nicholas Procter

Download the Report on Carer Perspectives on ED Nursing Practices for a Person with BPD [pdf, 814kb]

Kelly Chidgey

Barriers and enablers experienced by police officers when responding to individuals in suicidal crisis: An exploratory study based on Australian coronial findings

Since the shift from institutionalisation to community based treatment for people with mental illness, police have seen a steady increase in the amount of contact they are having with persons who are in suicide or self-harm crisis. Police can spend anything from 10 to 30% of their time responding to mental health incidents and in some instances, police may detain a person with a mental health related concern as often as every two hours.

People in suicidal crisis have been found to have increased contact with police prior to death, therefore it is important to be able to examine the nature of these interactions and potentially analyse if anything could have been done differently to prevent the fatality. This study will examine coronial inquest findings of confirmed or suspected suicides from all Australian states and territories, excluding South Australia, where the deceased had contact with police within the 48 hours preceding their death These findings will be analysed to identify if there are any recurrent recommendations that are made that could be used to develop policies for police officers that respond to individuals who exhibit suicidal or self-harming behaviours.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Procter, Professor Carol Grech, Dr Amy Baker

Areas of study and research

+ Click to minimise