Researchers at workshop

Our projects

Improving understanding, prevention and treatment

Our research projects are designed to increase the knowledge base around the effective prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders.

Participate in a study

It is through research that we expand existing knowledge and understanding of mental illness and substance use and can develop better ways to prevent and treat those who are affected.

Some of our research studies are seeking participants, are mid-trial or are conducting follow-up.

  • Preventure Australia is recruiting schools in the greater Sydney or Wollongong regions to be part of a free trial to evaluate the efficacy of a school-led Preventure program. Contact Dr Erin Kelly at for more information.
  • Strong & Deadly Futures is recruiting secondary schools to participate in the first culturally inclusive social and emotional wellbeing and alcohol and drug prevention program. The program was developed with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous high school students, and incorporates elements of cultural strengths and empowerment. Contact or call (02) 8627 9013 for more information.

Featured partnerships

The NSW Adolescent Prevention Alliance builds on more than 10-years of research, translation and collaborations in primary prevention for alcohol/tobacco/other drug (ATOD) use, mental health problems, and risk behaviours. Led by the University of Sydney's Matilda Centre, the Adolescent Prevention Alliance represents a partnership between 10 NSW Health-based organisations with a common goal of improving health outcomes for young people across NSW.  

Built on strong foundations of multi-agency alliance, we are bringing together Australia’s leading ATOD and mental health prevention researchers, NSW metropolitan and regional local health districts, NSW Health and Education departments, translation science institutions, community drug action teams, lived experience experts, peak professional bodies and policy partners, to enhance the reach and impact of adolescent prevention and early intervention across NSW.

By focussing on knowledge generation, evidence exchange and implementation science, we are ensuring the effective and timely translation of evidence-based prevention into sustainable practice across NSW. In addition, we aim to build research and evaluation capacity across the NSW Health workforce and the NSW Health system to help staff create, understand and apply evidence-based knowledge in their work.

For more information please contact Dr Jennifer Debenham at

Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank aims to stimulate bold thinking around a national response to mental health, initially focused on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. The Think Tank exists to empower Australians, to create a better mental health system, to embrace hope and to build on strengths.

Funded by the BP Foundation.

For more information please contact Dr Marlee Bower at

The Built Environment and Mental Health Network is a multidisciplinary collaboration of academics, practitioners and policy makers which aims to:

  • Bring together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to share skills, expertise and data.
  • Develop frameworks to progress understanding the impacts of the built environment (including architecture, town planning, housing, urban development and land management) on mental health.
  • Promote the role of mental health in built environment research/practice settings, and vice versa.
  • Translate research evidence into public health and planning policy and practice through collaboration and partnerships with practitioners of the built environment.

Supported by preliminary seed funding from the Henry Halloran Trust.

For more information or to join the network please contact Dr Marlee Bower at

The Long-COVID Australia Collaboration (LCAC) is a group of researchers, health professionals, and people with lived experience who are working to understand and treat Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome (PACS), more commonly known as Long-COVID. We aim to understand the ongoing health impacts of Long-COVID, identify symptom progression and recovery, and to develop evidence-based digital treatments for Long-COVID that can be tailored to individual needs.

For more information or to join the network please contact Professor Andrew Baillie at

Featured projects

10,000 Voices Project will fast-track research related to the mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on young Australians. Specifically, it will:

  1. Assess the short- and long-term mental health and behavioural impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on young Australians.
  2. Collect and analyse evidence and data on the coping and resilience building strategies used by young Australians and their communities.
  3. Provide evidence to inform preparation and delivery of mental health services in the future that will promote positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

The impact of COVID-19 requires a unique, novel and rigorous method to capture potential mental health impacts. Our existing national cohort of more than 10,000 young Australians provides a unique and time critical opportunity to understand this impact. This is the largest national longitudinal cohort examining adolescent mental health in Australia.

The 10,000 Voices Project brings together a team experienced in undertaking over 20 large multi-method cohort studies leading to over 200 publications and significant policy impact in Australia (CIA, CIB), UK (CIH), and the USA (CIC) and the cohort will allow us to fast track prevention and build new knowledge. The 10,000 Voices Project will provide evidence on:

(a) direct mental health effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder substance use and suicide, related to the coronavirus pandemic

(b) indirect or compound effects, including increased risk of stress-related disorders, such as substance use, anxiety and depressive disorders.

It will use a robust cohort methodology and will provide evidence in the first 6-12 months following the events by capitalising on a comprehensive existing large youth cohort.

For more information contact

A longitudinal, mixed-methods study investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and substance use of Australians, with a focus on the social determinants of mental health, including the role of:

  • housing
  • social networks
  • community and neighbourhood
  • trauma
  • employment and income, and
  • past life experiences.

For more information contact Dr Marlee Bower at

Australian longitudinal study of heroin dependence: An 18-20-year prospective cohort study of mortality, abstinence, psychiatric and physical health comorbidity.

Heroin dependence is remarkably persistent, and in many cases it is a lifelong condition with a high mortality rate. Yet, the natural history of heroin dependence has rarely been studied. ATOSis a landmark Australian cohort study examining outcomes from heroin dependence. 615 participants were recruited to the study in 2001-2002 and followed up over three years.

The 11-year follow-up commenced in 2012 and examined mortality rates, remission rates, criminal histories and levels of psychopathology; predictive factors of long term remission, mortality, criminality; and the health service utilisation associated with heroin use careers.

This study is currently contacting interviews for the 18-20 year follow-up.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information contact Dr Christina Marel at

Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering developmental pathways to alcohol and cannabis related harms in young adults.

CAP is a school-based prevention initiative targeting alcohol and drug use. The CAP study was the first ever randomised control trial of a comprehensive prevention approach combining both universal (Climate; delivered to all students) and selective (Preventure; delivered to high-risk students) intervention techniques.

Twenty-six schools and 2,190 year 8 participants were recruited to the CAP trial in 2012. All students were followed up for 3 years post baseline and a long-term 7-year follow up is currently underway. 

This long-term follow up project will be the first in the world to examine whether combining universal and selective drug prevention strategies enhances durability of effects in the longer-term, over a 7-year period extending from adolescence and the completion of secondary school and into the critical transition period of early adulthood. 

The findings will inform policy nationally and internationally, as economic modelling suggests substantial societal benefit can be gained from even modest reductions in drug and alcohol use.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information contact Anna Smout at

Internet-based prevention for anxiety, depression and substance use in young Australians

The Climate Schools-Combined study evaluates an integrative approach known as the Climate Schools Combined (CSC) intervention. This multi-centre longitudinal study has to date found that using the CSC intervention is more effective in reducing problems and symptoms associated with substance use and mental health disorders compared to the stand-alone interventions and school-based health education as usual.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information contact Dr Louise Birrell at

An integrated online intervention for students and parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis-related harms among adolescents.

This study investigates the first online alcohol and substance use prevention program targeted at both students and their parents. Students will receive the Climate Schools substance use modules during their health classes, while their parents will be asked to view webinars, rank rules and access their own modules/summaries in line with the student program from home. The attitudes and behaviours of students and parents towards alcohol and cannabis will be assessed over three years, to investigate the influence of the Climate Schools Plus (CSP) program on these outcomes.

This evidence-based intervention has the potential to provide a sustainable and scalable improvement to the well-being of young Australians, and to reduce the substantial costs associated with substance use.

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information contact Chloe Conroy at

Guidelines on co-occurring conditions: Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings (3rd edition)

Evidence-based resource to increase the knowledge, skills and capacity of clinicians to manage and treat co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions.

Guidelines website and training programs

Interactive website, online training, face-to-face training and train-the-trainer program based on the Guidelines content, aimed at supporting the uptake of the Guidelines into clinical practice.

For more information, please contact

Randomised controlled trial of an integrated cognitive-behavioural therapy for the treatment of co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder in young people.

It is estimated that 80% of adolescents have experienced at least one traumatic event and one in seven suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For 50% of these adolescents, the course of their illness is further complicated by a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), which frequently develops as a consequence of repeated “self-medication” of PTSD symptoms. Once established, both disorders serve to maintain and exacerbate the other, leading to a chronic course of illness and significant treatment complications. This trial examines the efficacy of two integrated psychological therapies for adolescents aged 12-21 years who are experiencing traumatic stress and using alcohol or other drugs. 

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

This study is currently recruiting.

For more information please contact Dr Natalie Peach at

Ongoing maintenance, optimisation, development and promotion. 

Cracks in the Ice provides trusted, evidence-based information about crystal methamphetamine (ice) for family and friends, community and health professionals. The online toolkit was informed by input from over 500 members of the Australian community.

Funded by Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information please contact Dr Steph Kershaw at

Development of resources to prevent methamphetamine ('ice') related harms in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Develop a culturally appropriate central hub for resources, programs and information.

Funded by Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information please contact Dr Steph Kershaw at

Comprehensive evaluation of the EQUIPS programs in NSW Correctional Settings.

Funded by the Department of Justice (NSW).

For more information please contact Dr Emma Barrett at

Evaluation of the Central Australian Youth Link Up Project (CAYLUS).

Researchers from the Matilda Centre are providing assistance to CAYLUS in maintaining a rolling monitoring and evaluation process for the activities it runs through the CAYLUS Youth Worker Brokerage. The project will examine the ongoing impact and perceived impact of programs and activities supported by this brokerage on local level community crime (particularly crime involving young people) and petrol sniffing.

Funded by CAYLUS.

For more information about this project contact Dr Christina Marel at

For more information about CAYLUS, please visit

Healthy, wealthy and wise: The long-term effectiveness of a combined prevention model for anxiety, depression and substance use in adolescents.

After following one the largest adolescent cohorts in Australia from year 8 to 10 within the Climate Schools Combined project, the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise study continues to follow these individuals until 2021, as they make the critical transition from secondary school into early adulthood. More specifically, this landmark study will allow the long-term durability and cost-effectiveness of school-based programs for substance use, anxiety and depression to be assessed.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information contact Dr Louise Birrell at

The Health4Life Initiative: A cluster randomised controlled trial of an eHealth school-based program targeting multiple lifestyle risk behaviours among young Australians

The Health4Life Initiative is a web- and app-based intervention that aims to empower young people to improve their physical and mental health and to prevent chronic disease later in life. Based on the best available evidence and aligned with the Australian Health and Physical Education curriculum and NSW PDHPE curriculum, the Health4Life Initiative encourages secondary school students to: 

  • be physically active
  • eat healthily
  • adopt healthy sleep habits
  • limit their sedentary recreational screen time
  • remain alcohol and smoke-free

It is the first intervention of its kind to concurrently address these “Big 6” behaviours among adolescents, prior to the onset of chronic disease.

The Health4Life Initiative is currently being trialled in 71 schools across NSW, QLD and WA.

Funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

For more information please contact Dr Lauren Gardner at

Making inroads: trial of an innovative early intervention to interrupt the cycle of anxiety and drinking in young Australians.

Anxiety and alcohol use disorders are two common and debilitating disorders that often co-occur. If left untreated, these conditions can fuel each other in a self-perpetuating cycle, leading to more severe symptoms and greater impairment. Typical onset of these disorders is between adolescence and early adulthood, with anxiety symptoms usually emerging earlier and marking a particular risk for harmful alcohol use and progression to alcohol use disorder. The unique challenges associated with the transition to adulthood, combined with the emergence of anxiety and alcohol use disorder symptoms, require a developmentally-targeted early intervention to empower young adults, enhance anxiety coping skills, and prevent the escalation of drinking.

The Inroads program is a therapist-supported, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based, internet-delivered early intervention for young adults aged 17 to 24 years that simultaneously targets anxiety symptoms, alcohol use, and the interconnections between them. The program has been adapted from our effective Combined Alcohol and Social Phobia (CASP) cognitive behavioural therapy program for adults. Participants are guided through five sequential modules over a 5-week period, with automated email and text reminders to complete program modules and monitoring of drinking and anxiety. Therapist support will be provided via emails and text/phone contact providing personalised feedback, trouble-shooting, and activity suggestions aligned to module content.

Funded by the Australian Rotary Health, and Society of Mental Health Research Early Career Researcher Fellowship to Lexine Stapinski.

For more information please contact Dr Lexine Stapinski at

Development, maintenance and dissemination of online evidence-based substance use prevention resources for teachers, parents and students. 

The Positive Choices portal was developed in consultation with education and drug and alcohol experts, as well as target users (teachers, parents and students). Research literature and drug education websites were systematically reviewed to identify resources meeting pre-specified inclusion criteria for relevance and quality. The Positive Choices portal was launched in December 2015 as part of the Australian Government’s drug education and prevention strategy. Regular review and scoping is conducted to ensure the information and resource database is up-to-date, and training opportunities are provided through the quarterly Positive Choices webinar series.

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information please contact Dr Emma Devine

Positive Choices to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: user testing, development, expansion and implementation

This project involves the development of culturally appropriate school-based resources to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The online portal development and resources are guided by an Expert Advisory Group and have been developed in consultation and collaboration with schools, teachers and young Indigenous Australians. The online portal facilitatse dissemination of information and evidence-based approaches to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information please contact Dr Lexine Stapinski at

Accredited facilitator training for psychologists, youth workers and school staff

The Preventure prgram is a brief personality-targeted program in preventing the escalation of anxiety, depression and alcohol use.

Preventure Australia is the only team in Australia that carries out accredited training for school staff and health practitioners to implement  the Preventure program in their organization.

Partial funding by NSW Health - The Health Administration Corporation.

For more information contact Lucinda Grummitt at

Targeting personality risk factors to prevent adolescent mental illness: Preventing adolescent mental illness and substance use through teacher-delivered interventions targeting personality risk factors.

This trial will test the effectiveness of the Preventure program among young Australians by targeting shared risk factors. It will be the first in Australia to test the effectiveness of the program when delivered by teachers (rather than psychologists), supporting its implementation, enabling broader reach and reducing intervention cost, thereby ensuring a scalable model with the potential to be delivered nation-wide in all Australian high-schools.

Funded by Australian Rotary Health.

For more information please contact Dr Erin Kelly at

Identifying early warning signals on the pathways to alcohol use disorder

The RADAR projects is conducting a world-first, intensive, longitudinal study of the developmental course of alcohol use disorder (AUD) across adolescence and young adulthood. The specific objectives are to 1) prospectively measure the presence, age at onset and temporal unfolding of AUD symptoms and 2) determine the individual, peer, family and environmental factors that, in the presence of early symptoms, predict transition to AUD.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information please contact Associate Professor Tim Slade at

A cluster randomised controlled trial of a computerised school-based alcohol and drug prevention program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Strong & Deadly Futures is a culturally-appropriate drug prevention and wellbeing curriculum-aligned program based on the Climate Schools storyboard format. The program was developed in collaboration and consultation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and their teachers.

Strong & Deadly Futures is currently being trialled in schools.

Funded by NHMRC and the Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information please contact Dr Kylie Routledge at

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