Sharing a meal to combat loneliness and depression in older people and improving the mental health of young men through sport will be the focus of two new mental health research projects announced today.

Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, in partnership with Flinders University, will provide $50,000 in funding for the two new research projects as part of its annual grant round.

Flinders University Professor John Coveney’s E.A.T (Everyone At the Table) project will investigate the extent to which regularly sharing a meal with others reduces loneliness and depression in older Australians.

Up to one third of older Australians will at some point in time experience loneliness, with six to seven per cent of over-65s experiencing chronic loneliness.

With loneliness associated with psychological distress and depression, and increased morbidity and mortality in later life, Professor Coveney hopes the E.A.T project will provide more information on the nature and frequency of shared meals that might be effective in reducing loneliness in this group.

Flinders University Professor Murray Drummond was also successful in obtaining funding. His research will explore whether infiltrating traditional masculinised sport settings is the key to improving young men’s mental health and wellbeing.

He’ll take a close look at a local football and cricket club and the way in which sporting clubs work with young males around mental health and wellbeing. His work will also investigate how these spaces can be better used to promote positive mental health and change young men’s behaviours, attitudes and stigmas towards mental health with the aim of developing an educational resource.

Breakthrough also announced a further $48,000 over two years for Dr Catherine Johnson’s evaluation of two new innovative treatment programs for vulnerable young people at risk of self-harm and suicide.

Meanwhile, Professor Paul Ward also received $20,000 to expand his research which aims to reduce suicide risk and poor mental health among doctors. These funds were raised during the inaugural South Australian Socks4Docs event held in June to raise awareness of the mental health of all doctors and health practitioners around the world.

Breakthrough launched in 2018 in a bid to address growing rates of mental illness. Executive Director John Mannion said a strong partnership with Flinders University was promoting ground-breaking research to better understand what causes mental illness, how to treat it an how to prevent it from happening.

“The mental health conversation has never been so strong and it’s an incredibly exciting time to work within the mental health world, just as long as we are able to listen to the conversation and translate this into research-based actions and intervention,” John said.

“We need new research and new approaches to beat mental illness and I’m grateful for generous support from the community which is allowing Breakthrough to support these researchers in their bid to tackle mental health and help create a life that’s free from mental illness.”

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint said research was the key to improving people’s wellbeing.

“Mental health issues can arise at any time, often with little warning.  Anyone can be affected. And in many ways we all are; if not personally then through association with family and friends facing challenges. The causes may not be clear, and the solutions may be even more difficult to discern. That’s where research plays a critical role,” Professor Saint said.

“The generosity of the public and the work of Breakthrough Foundation now enables our researchers to apply their skills and ideas in identifying the actions we can take to curb the impact of mental illness, and perhaps even more importantly, to discover new approaches to prevention.”


You can read more on the research projects here:
Improving the mental health  of young men through sport Professor Murray Drummond
EATing together to reduce chronic loneliness in older people – Professor John Coveney