Research projects

DIAMOND Consortium: Building capacity in primary mental health care research and evaluation

Principal Researchers

Professor Jane Gunn, Dr Gail Gilchrist, Melina Ramp, Darshini Ayton,

Maria Potiriadis

Institution

Primary Care Research Unit, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Funding

$467,000

Award Type

beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence

Project completion year

2008

Project brief

The diamond consortium involved a multidisciplinary team with expertise in complex primary care and mental health research, evaluation and clinical practice.  The team developed a comprehensive program of primary care mental health research and increased the research capacity for this work in Victoria.  The final report presents a summary of the three years of activity.

The consortium funding has provided support for:

  • the development of a network of primary care depression researchers
  • the development and conduct of the diamond longitudinal study, the most comprehensive mapping of depression care in general practice undertaken in Australia
  • 36 presentations related to the diamond longitudinal study
  • the conduct of 17 seminars
  • the conduct of six workshops
  • nine international visiting academics (partial funding for these visits)
  • seven small seeding grants
  • 25 research higher degree students
  • nine peer-reviewed publications related to the diamond study and the consortium.

Key findings

The results of this project consist of a set of outcomes.  The consortium successfully established an active network of over 100 researchers with an interest in depression-related research in primary care.

The consortium focused on four key activities:

  • a communication strategy
  • the research program
  • seed funding
  • capacity building.

Communication strategy

A website was established at www.diamond.unimelb.edu.au n to provide details on the aims, structure and function of the consortium.  It includes information about research in progress, publications, and future and past events.

Twelve consortium newsletters have been circulated widely throughout Australia and internationally, describing the progress of the diamond longitudinal study and related projects, profiling consortium members and their work, highlighting key consortium events and advertising relevant seminars and conferences.

Due to the delay in publishing research findings in peer-reviewed journals, the project used radio interviews, articles published in primary care and local newspapers, and presentations at forums, conferences and meetings to disseminate information about the diamond study and other consortium activities.

Consortium members’ contributions to state and national policy are summarised in the consortium’s final report.  They include organising seminars and panel discussions, presentations to mental health practitioners and involvement in the development of the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Research program

The consortium developed and implemented a research program that began with the diamond study pilot.  This enabled the team to refine a cost-effective method for recruiting people attending general practice to a study on depression and emotional well-being.

The pilot study provided a research capacity building opportunity for two medical students, and the development of study methods and tools has influenced a number of other research programs.  Two other studies (the DIALOG and Weave studies) have been able to recruit participants via the diamond screening process.  Five research higher degree students are using data collected in the diamond study.

The pilot study findings were also used to inform the development of general practice-based models for depression care through the Re-order study.

The diamond longitudinal study involves 30 general practices and almost 800 people experiencing depressive symptoms.  Participants agreed to document and map their experiences of depression and the healthcare system over time.  This is the largest prospective observational study of depression care undertaken in Australia.  It has attracted considerable international attention and led to the use of a common set of measures in a number of other studies.

Seed funding

The funding from beyondblue enabled the consortium to allocate seed funding to support a number of projects related to depression in primary care, including:

  • screening for depression in elderly district nursing clients
  • problem-solving approaches to depression in general practice
  • management of depression
  • development, pilot testing and evaluation of an enhanced discharge summary form to improve uptake of ongoing primary health care
  • women’s attitudes to screening for postnatal depression
  • the experience of depression after birth and views about primary care services among Persian-speaking women in Melbourne
  • men’s experience of partner abuse and depression.

Capacity building

The diamond consortium has built research capacity in primary care mental health by supporting the careers of early career researchers, young researchers and research students.  The consortium also hosted 17 seminars and six workshops on related topics.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

The diamond consortium’s activities funded under this project have made a substantial contribution to the coordination and communication of depression-related research activities in Australia, and have assisted with the open exchange of information and sharing of resources.

The consortium’s activities have helped map the pathways to and from mental health care for people experiencing depression and identified barriers and facilitators to effective models of primary care mental health.  They have helped to develop and test models of care based on a systems approach, and built research capacity in primary care mental health.

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