Social Work Department’s Dr Melissa Petrakis has won the Early Career Researcher’s publication award in the Social and Educational Research category for her research on consumer measures in research co-production with people experiencing severe and persistent mental ill health, as published in Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development journal last year.
Her research fills an important gap in health services research literature in determining appropriate ways to enact state and commonwealth frameworks to achieve recovery-oriented practice in mental health service provision.
Dr Petrakis holds concurrent appointments as both a Lecturer in Social Work at Monash, where she co-ordinates the undergraduate and Masters units in health and mental health, and a Senior Research Fellow in Early Psychosis and Mental Health with the Mental Health Service, St Vincent's Hospital (Melbourne). Her expertise in evaluating suicide prevention initiatives and early psychosis interventions in clinical and community settings is recognised internationally.
Her study was significant while it was being conducted, as this level of involvement by people with severe and persistent mental illness as research co-creators is unprecedented. The impact of the approach to the research was acknowledged nationally in 2013 with a Mental Health Service Achievement Special Judges’ Commendation in the Consumer-Provided category.
Her study was significant internationally as it was an invited contribution to a Special Issue on “Recovery-Oriented Practices in Mental Health – Experiences in Asia and Oceania”, launched to coincide with a significant conference: Joint World Conference on Social work, Education and Social Development 2014, attended by delegates from 78 countries.
Dr Petrakis’s research comprised the piloting of 2 measures to evaluate the recovery-orientation of mental health services with people with severe and persistent mental illness receiving integrated and co-ordinated care through the Adult Mental Health Reform Initiatives in Victoria. This was a service delivery partnership between clinical and community services (with Mind Australia), and a research partnership between consumers (with lived experience of mental illness), clinicians, management and research academics.
“We sought to include people not as research subjects but as respected research collaborators with expertise by experience; people who are often marginalised and socially excluded in our society,” Dr Petrakis said.
“Our findings confirm that people are experiencing positive changes in recovery-oriented practice in mental health services, with individualised goal setting and monitoring, practical assistance and encouragement, yet that there is still more to be done to support people in the areas of variety in treatment options, contributing to advisory boards, and support regarding sexuality, spirituality and intimate relationships."