CQUniversity Australia

Researcher focused on increased life expectancy for those with mental illness 

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CQUniversity has honoured World Mental Health Day with a vital new appointment - a senior researcher to lead the way nationally on mental health issues. Professor Brenda Happell, the University's newly appointed Engaged Research Chair for Mental Health Nursing, says people with mental illness, on average, live 20 years less than those in the general population.

"It is testament to the stigma and discrimination towards the mental health field that this appalling statistic has been allowed to contribute," says Professor Happell.

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"In what other area of the community would we tolerate such a discrepancy?"

Professor Brenda Happell says one of her over-arching goals as a research leader will be to contribute to closing the gap so people with mental illness are able to enjoy a normal life expectancy.

PhotoID:11206, Newly appointed Engaged Research Chair for Mental Health Professor Brenda Happell
Newly appointed Engaged Research Chair for Mental Health Professor Brenda Happell
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She is pledging and promoting her research focus during Mental Health Week and on World Mental Health Day (October 10).

"It's a telling factor that the suicide rate is higher than the road toll, yet we have much more community focus on preventing road deaths," she says.

"In terms of national prominence, where's the mental health equivalent to 'slip, slop, slap' or our diet, exercise and heart health programs. The fact is that mental health is not yet front of mind when it comes to health campaigns."

Professor Happell says people with mental illness tend to be less physically healthy due to a number of factors including side effects of medication, poor diet, lack of physical activity and risky behaviour, including drug-taking and unsafe sex.

She's looking forward to building a strong Mental Health Nursing research team at CQUniversity, building on existing strengths in research, learning and teaching and community engagement across the institution.

Endorsing the Engaged Research Chair appointment, CQUniversity's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Scholarship & Industry), Professor Jennelle Kyd says "Brenda is an esteemed Professor with a prolific and highly-regarded research performance".

PhotoID:11499, Professor Happell chats about mental health
Professor Happell chats about mental health
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"Her excellent research track record and international standing is complemented by strategic leadership, management and communication qualities.

"Professor Happell's experience, research performance and leadership are attributes that will enable her in this new role to make a valuable and relevant contribution to enhancing the University's research profile. Brenda is one of our own and it is great that we are able to build our research step-change recognising her significant achievements."

Originally recruited to the University as a Nursing leader, Professor Happell has also extended her track record and renown in the mental health nursing and mental health arenas, while becoming Director of the Institute for Health and Social Science Research (IHSSR).

Brenda is proud to be Editor of the world's highest ranked mental health nursing journal, the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, which has received a comparative impact factor also ranking it in the top 20 of academic nursing journals worldwide. She was appointed in 2004 after being encouraged to apply for the role.

Professor Happell's research findings have recently been promoted by the Dietitians Association of Australia, as part of Australia's Healthy Weight Week. The Association has mentioned a recent research study that Professor Happell was involved in - Implications of excess weight on mental wellbeing, published in Australian Health Review 2010 - in one of its media releases for Healthy Weight Week.

In the past year, Brenda has been elected to the Australian College of Mental Health Nursing's Board of Directors.

The active researcher has a distinguished academic career that includes more than 180 research publications, two books and six book chapters since 2003 and a career grants total of over $5 million. She is Associate Editor of Issues in Mental Health Nursing, Fellow of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses and a consultant to the World Health Organisation.

Professor Happell also has an impressive list of national and international keynote speaker invitations.