Young Lives Matter Foundation - UWA
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds worldwide.
At UWA, we have long contributed to national population and public health policies that have been extrapolated internationally to change communities’ health behaviours. We are a research-intensive university consistently ranking in the top one per cent of the world’s universities. Based in Perth, Western Australia, we contribute to global knowledge, while meeting the needs of local, national and international communities. We benefit from vital research funding, which enables us to translate our research into tangible benefits for Australia and the world.
A team, a vision and a means to understand the dynamic interplay of risk and resilience factors responsible for suicide and self-injury are needed. UWA is uniquely placed to implement this project with access to a cross-disciplinary team of world-leading researchers in the required disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, mathematics, big data, epidemiology, and experimental and regenerative neurosciences. This convergent approach to research is embraced at UWA, where researchers are encouraged to work across disciplines to create imaginative and revolutionary outcomes.
Western Australia’s stable population base will allow us to leverage existing expertise in developmental research such as Young Minds Matter, the first national survey of child mental health and wellbeing in the world, as well as internationally recognised longitudinal studies such as The Raine and Busselton Health studies. Using these resources, we will be able to isolate the developmental changes that increase risk and identify current gaps in knowledge. The aim will be to identify the changing topography of risk as a person develops.
Despite significant investment to increase capacity in mental healthcare and the development of effective suicide intervention and postvention strategies, relatively little progress has been made towards accurate predictions of suicidal behaviour, and devastatingly, every 40 seconds a life continues to be lost to suicide globally.
The objective of the Young Lives Matter Foundation – UWA is to save lives by developing a tool to assess and predict the risk of suicidal behaviour, acting as a catalyst to activate required support services when they are needed most.
Project Leadership Team
Professor Sean Hood
Associate Dean (Community and Engagement) and Head of Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Professor Sean Hood is Head of the UWA Division of Psychiatry in the Medical School, and Associate Dean (Community and Engagement) in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Professor Hood’s primary research focus is in clinical psychopharmacology of anxiety disorders, which involves the investigation of medication effects and mechanisms in populations with clinical anxiety disorders.
Professor Hood undertook his undergraduate medical degree at UWA before completing formal postgraduate training in psychiatry in Perth and Bristol in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, he returned to Perth and set up a Clinical Psychopharmacology laboratory as a clinical academic with UWA’s Division of Psychiatry.
Professor Hood is past Chair of the Australian Pristiq Advisory Board and a member of the Australian Cymbalta, Vortioxetine and Lurasidone Advisory Boards. He is the Australian Board member for the European Masters in Affective Neuroscience degree, run jointly by the Universities of Florence and Maastricht.
Professor David Lawrence
Principal Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education
Professor David Lawrence is Principal Research Fellow in the Graduate School of Education. His main research expertise is in child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing.
Professor Lawrence was Project Leader for Young Minds Matter: the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. His current projects include Answering the Call: the Beyond Blue National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey of Police and Emergency Services, and the Western Australian Coronial Suicide Information System (WACSIS).
Professor Andrew Page
Associate Dean (Research), School of Psychological Sciences, Faculty of Science
Professor Andrew Page is Professor of Psychological Science at The University of Western Australia and Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Science. He is past National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy and inaugural winner of the Tracy Goodall Early Career Award in recognition of innovation in research and treatment.
For more than 20 years, Professor Page has collaborated with the private psychiatric sector, including Perth Clinic and the Australian Private Hospitals Association, researching ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of mental health treatments. His research has been into the origins of anxiety and the mechanisms of psychological treatment and currently he is working to predict and prevent suicide.
Professor Michael Small
CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems, Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
Professor Michael Small is the CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems at The University of Western Australia. He is an applied mathematician working in the area of complex systems, dynamical systems and chaos, with a particular emphasis on the application of mathematical techniques to real-world problems.
Professor Small previously worked under contract to the Hong Kong government on developing network-based models of disease propagation during the SARS outbreak (and later Bird Flu) – work that led to new insight in the spread and management of SARS. Other applications of his work include models of mechanical systems for the gaming industry (i.e. predictability in Roulette), agent-based and black-box models for hedge funds and investment banks, and prediction of onset of cardiac arrhythmia from electrocardiogram.
Professor Small is best known for developing new paradigms for the analysis of time series data from deterministic dynamical systems – particularly in the domain of statistical hypothesis testing, data-driven model building, and using complex networks as a model of dynamical processes.
Young Lives Matter Scientists
Professor Johanna Badcock
Professor Johanna Badcock is a clinical and experimental psychologist. She is a research-intensive academic at The University of Western Australia, based at the Centre for Clinical Research in Neuropsychiatry, and is Research Director of Perth Voices Clinic.
Professor Badcock has particular expertise in research on psychotic symptoms across disorders and throughout the lifespan. Her latest research is focused on the role of loneliness in poor mental and physical health, and she currently serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness. In 2018, Professor Badcock was elected as a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.
Professor Pat Dudgeon
Professor Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people of the Kimberley area in Western Australia. She is a psychologist and Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, and Professor and Poche Research Fellow at the School of Indigenous Studies at The University of Western Australia. Her research studies include Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing, and suicide prevention.
Among her many commitments, Professor Dudgeon is a former Commissioner of the Australian National Mental Health Commission, having completed a five-year term in July 2017. She is Deputy Chair of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association, Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leaders Mental Health, Co-chair of the ministerial Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, and member of NHMRC Mental Health Research Advisory Committee.
Professor Dudgeon is Executive Director of the National Empowerment Project: an Indigenous suicide prevention project working with 11 sites in Aboriginal communities across the country, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project and the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.
Professor Stephen Houghton
Professor Stephen Houghton is a registered psychologist with an international reputation for leading large, multi-site research projects in child psychopathology, loneliness and the development of antisocial behaviours in adolescents. As Director of the Centre for Child and Adolescent Disorders, Professor Houghton has extensive knowledge and experience in a range of developmental disorders and disruptive behaviour disorders in both practice and research. Professor Houghton is regularly sought as an expert commentator by the media.
“Working with adolescents with mental health problems is challenging, but it’s also hugely rewarding. There’s no greater feeling than seeing my work used to help improve someone’s health and wellbeing; being able to make a real difference to real people is such a privilege.”
Dr Binu Jayawardena
Dr Binu Jayawardena is a trainee psychiatrist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. He graduated from The University of Western Australia’s Medical School in 2015 and previously studied Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University in the United States. In 2008, Dr Jayawardena was awarded the Beazley Medal, the highest and most prestigious academic award for secondary students in Western Australia.
In 2018, Dr Jayawardena also commenced research at the Young Lives Matter Foundation and, together with Dr Michael McCullough from UWA's School of Physics, Mathematics and Computing, developed a network model of patients presenting with suicidal or parasuicidal behaviours in emergency settings. Dr Jayawardena’s previous research includes a longitudinal study of depression in doctors, diagnosis of depression in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in depression.
Dr Julie Ji
Dr Julie Ji is an inaugural Forrest Postdoctoral Research Fellow, based at the Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, School of Psychological Science at The University of Western Australia.
After completing her doctorate as a Cambridge Australia Poynton Scholar at the University of Cambridge in 2017, Dr Ji accepted an appointment at the University of Virginia as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the School of Psychology Laboratory for Anxiety, Cognition and Treatment.
The research focus of Dr Ji’s Forrest Fellowship is investigating how mental imagery-based memory and anticipation of reward and effort can be leveraged to promote motivation to engage in adaptive behaviours in depression and beyond.
Dr Karen Martin
Dr Karen Martin is a teacher and research academic in the School of Population and Global Health. Her work involves improving the mental and physical health of disadvantaged populations through population health research. Over the last 20 years, Dr Martin has completed work within diverse health fields such as psychological and post-traumatic distress, domestic violence, mental health, loneliness, and health in homeless and refugee populations. Previously, Dr Martin completed research in physical activity, screen use, overweight and obesity and palliative care.
In 2014, Dr Martin founded the Western Australia Trauma-informed and Restorative Schools Collaboration (TARSC WA), which is a collaboration of multidisciplinary professionals dedicated to increasing awareness about the impact of trauma and/or adversity on children and adolescents.
Dr Melissa O’Donnell
Dr Melissa O’Donnell is a Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia. Dr O’Donnell has a master’s degree in Psychology and a PhD in Paediatrics and Child Health.
Dr O’Donnell utilises linked government data from the Western Australian Departments of Health and Mental Health; Child Protection and Family Support; Education; and Justice and Disability Services. Her work investigates outcomes, and risk and protective factors for children who have experienced abuse and neglect, as well as those suffering external causes of injury.
Dr O’Donnell collaborates with government agencies to inform policy-relevant research to improve the outcome for children through prevention and early intervention. Her work has contributed to National and State policy and practice in the area of child protection and family support, including development of the first Youth Health Policy of Western Australia.
Emeritus Professor Geoff Riley AM
Professor Geoff Riley graduated from The University of Western Australia in 1974 and trained in Psychiatry in Perth and London before spending 10 years in General Practice in rural WA. In 1991 Professor Riley was invited to join the Faculty of Medicine at UWA as a member of the School of Psychiatry, and from 2004 to 2006 he was Head of School.
Professor Riley subsequently became Head of the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia and Professor of Rural and Remote Medicine. He was also Head of the School of Primary, Aboriginal and Rural Health Care.
Professor Riley is Clinical Editor of the WA Primary Health Alliance project Against Depression. This is a suicide prevention program in which Professor Riley is teaching general practitioners and other health professionals in the rural community about depression and suicide.
In 2010 Professor Riley was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Dr Jennifer Rodger
Dr Jennifer Rodger is a Senior Research Fellow at the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science and an Associate Professor at Experimental and Regenerative Neurosciences, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia.
Dr Rodger completed a BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry at the University of Bath, UK, followed by a PhD at the University Pierre et Marie Curie, France. Her research team investigates mechanisms of brain plasticity and repair, including preclinical studies of non-invasive brain stimulation in injured and abnormal brain circuits.
Dr Rodger has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals including the Journal of Neuroscience and FASEB Journal and her work is funded by the NHMRC, ARC, Multiple Sclerosis WA and the Neurotrauma Research Program (WA).
Dr Kandice Varcin
Dr Kandice Varcin is a postdoctoral researcher at Telethon Kids Institute and Adjunct Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. Dr Varcin completed her PhD and Master of Psychology (Clinical) in 2013 at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. She is a registered psychologist and a qualified Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 trainer in Australia.
Dr Varcin undertook postdoctoral research training at Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital in the US from 2013 to 2016. In this position, she received specialist training in electroencephalographic (EEG) and behavioural techniques for the early detection of neurodevelopmental disorders. At Telethon Kids Institute, Dr Varcin’s research is focused on techniques to improve early identification and intervention for infants at risk of neurodevelopmental disorders.
Associate Professor Lisa Wood
Based in the School of Population and Global Health, Professor Lisa Wood is a tireless advocate for research that is relevant to real-world issues. She has nearly three decades of experience in public health and health promotion, and has worked with academic institutions, government and non-government organisations within Australia and internationally.
Professor Wood brings to the Young Lives Matter Project a strong public health perspective, and is involved in a wide range of research studies relating to the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable population groups, including the need to address underlying determinants of health inequalities. Current research areas focus on the plight of the homeless, prevention of domestic violence, social isolation, the mental wellbeing of veterans, and closing the gaps in Aboriginal health.
Dr Susan Young
Dr Susan Young is Director of the Social Policy Practice and Research Consortium (SPPRC), jointly located in the Schools of Population and Global Health, and Allied Health. The Consortium undertakes research and policy projects concerned with the health and wellbeing of families, children and communities.
Dr Young is currently involved in SPPRC projects which include research into family experiences of entrenched disadvantage and the provision of developmental approaches in child welfare and in schools. Dr Young is also a social work educator, specialising in collaborative practice, supervisor and researcher with more than 30 years' experience in working with issues of vulnerability and marginalisation.
Australians urged to support the mentally vulnerable
As our thoughts turn to the excitement and fun of the festive season, Young Lives Matter Foundation-UWA is reminding people to stay closely connected to loved ones, especially those who struggle with mental health.Read more
Identifying self-harmers vital to help those at risk of suicide
Perth researchers looking to identify the risk factors of suicide have achieved an almost four-fold increase in the accuracy of their predictions based on a study of patients at a private psychiatric hospital.Read more
Young Lives Matter podcast
The Young Lives Matter Foundation has been launched in Perth today, aiming to identify some of the factors which may lead to someone being at high risk of youth suicide.Read more
Young Lives Matter Foundation aims to save young lives at UWA
The Young Lives Matter Foundation will support research to identify trigger points for youth suicide and help predict when a person is at high risk.Read more
Indigenous suicide rates double the rest of the population
A study led by The University of Western Australia that compared suicide rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the globe has revealed suicide rates are around two times higher in Indigenous populations, with the impact of colonisation a key cause.Read more
Board of Trustees
Mr Ronald W. Woss AM, Chair
Mr Ronald Woss AM is distinguished by his long-term commitment to community charitable work, which he approaches with the same dedication and purpose that marks his successful business career.
For Mr Woss, his commitment and engagement in community and charitable causes has spanned more than 25 years, in which his efforts have made a significant difference to the lives of many people.
His latest involvement as the Chairman of the Young Lives Matter Foundation – UWA is evidence of his continued passion in supporting and establishing youth suicide prevention initiatives. This is also evident in his involvement at Youth Focus, where he served as Chairman for 10 years and is an Inaugural Life Member.
The Young Lives Matter Foundation has assembled a cross-disciplinary team of world-leading experts in mental health and allied fields. It aims to establish a global centre of excellence at UWA for research, and the development of a suicide prevention strategy that is internationally translatable.
Mr Woss’ other philanthropic interests involve supporting worthy medical and nursing students at the University of Notre Dame through scholarships.
His interest in and love of jazz has resulted in him supporting WAAPA, a division of Edith Cowan University, through the sponsorship of a number of visiting artists and the provision of scholarships to talented jazz students.
Mr Woss’ career has seen a change in focus from his successful business pursuits to his committed involvement in the philanthropic sector, whereby he can truly make a difference for generations to come.
Professor Dawn Freshwater, Director
BA Manc., PhD Nott., FRCN, RN, RNT
Professor Dawn Freshwater is Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia. She has been a leader in world-class universities for more than a decade and remains committed to her academic discipline, in addition to equity and diversity.
Professor Freshwater was awarded her PhD at the University of Nottingham in 1998. She is a highly experienced and driven supporter of translational research and research-led teaching. She is a trained health professional and an academic of international repute in her own field of mental health. Professor Freshwater’s research focuses on two key themes: psychological therapies research, and offender health research linked to medical humanities, with significant focus on utilising narrative methodologies in particular in arts, music and textual analysis. Her contribution to the fields of public health (specifically mental health and forensic mental health) and in researching leadership practices won her the highest honour in her field - the Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN).
Professor Freshwater is a Member of the National Health and Research Medical Council (NHMRC)’s Women in Health Science (WiHS) Committee, and Inspector of Health Services with the Office of Corrective Health Services in Perth, Western Australia. She is also Deputy Chair and Director of Group of Eight (Go8), member of Chief Executive Women Engagement Committee, Board Director of PerthUSAsia Centre, member of the Partnership Board of the World University Network (WUN), Board Vice-Chair of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU), Vice-Chair of the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA) and a Governor of the Forrest Research Foundation.
Professor Sean Hood, Director
Professor Sean Hood MBBS MSc FRANZCP undertook his undergraduate medical degree at The University of Western Australia before completing formal postgraduate training in psychiatry in Perth and Bristol, UK in 2003. Since 1999 he has worked with Professor David Nutt’s Psychopharmacology Unit at the University of Bristol/Imperial College and continues to collaborate with this group closely.
It was in Bristol that Professor Hood first began investigating serotonergic systems in clinical anxiety disorders using the acute tryptophan depletion (ATD) technique and other challenges, and this body of work was the focus of his master’s degree in Affective Neuroscience (University of Maastricht, Netherlands, 2003). Subsequently, he returned to Perth setting up a Clinical Psychopharmacology laboratory as a clinical academic in The University of Western Australia’s Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences Unit. Additionally, he worked for five years as a General Practice Liaison Psychiatrist in Bentley, Perth.
Professor Hood was Chair of the Australian Pristiq Advisory Board and member of the Australian Cymbalta & Vortioxetine Advisory Boards. He is a psychiatrist in academic (UWA), public (SCGH, Nedlands) and private practice (The Marian Centre, Wembley). His public practice includes two days per week as Head of the SCGH MHU Treatment Resistant Anxiety and Mood Disorder Unit (TRAMD).
Professor Hood maintains an active engagement in medical student education, chairing the Systems’ Committee of the new UWA MD program prior to implementation in 2014. Professor Hood is Head of the UWA Division of Psychiatry, and Associate Dean (Community and Engagement) for the UWA Medical School, in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
Dr Ron Edwards, Director
Mr Ron Edwards has had a diverse work life including commencing work as a public servant in Canberra and Sydney followed with work as a lecturer in the TAFE and university sectors.
Mr Edwards also worked in the private sector and was a Member of the Federal Parliament and Deputy Speaker in the period from 1983 to 1993.
Mr Edwards is currently Chair of the State Emergency Management Committee, Chair of the Murujuga Stakeholder Reference Group concerning the rock art of the Murujuga (Burrup) Peninsula and a member of the Board of Youth Focus.
Along with the Hon Fred Chaney and John Cunningham, Mr Edwards established the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation in 1996 and also became a member of the Anglican Schools Commission from 1994 to 2015. He also worked in the seafood and resources industries and during this period was a member of the Board of the Perth Mint.
Mr Edwards was a founding member of the Social Inclusion Board and a member of the Not For Profit Reform Council which established the Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission.
The Not For Profit Sector harnesses the energies and philanthropy of thousands of Australians and is able to provide comfort, support, hope and relief for the thousands of people who need their services.
Mr Peter Mott, Director
Chief Executive - Hollywood Private Hospital
Mr Peter Mott was appointed Chief Executive of Hollywood Private Hospital in March 2013. With 738 licensed beds, Hollywood is the largest private hospital in Western Australia. Prior to joining Ramsay Health Care, Mr Mott was Executive Director Perth Southern and Regional WA Hospitals, St John of God Health Care.
Mr Mott has more than 35 years' experience in public and private healthcare. His roles have included Director Policy and Industrial Relations at the AMA WA and Director Employee Relations at the WA Department of Health.
Mr Mott holds a master’s degree in Industrial Relations, a Bachelor of Business degree, a Diploma in Health Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Catholic Culture. He is a member of the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) National Board and National Council and is Chair of the Workforce Taskforce. He is a member of the WA Child and Adolescent Health Service Board, a member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Vascular Surgery Training Board, Deputy President of the Australian College of Health Service Management WA Branch Council, and a member of the UWA Business School Ambassadorial Council. Mr Mott is immediate past President of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) WA, immediate past Chairman of the AIM WA UWA Business School Executive Education Advisory Board, past Chairman of Lifeline WA, and past Deputy Chairman of John XXIII College.
He is a Life Member/Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australasian College of Health Service Management.
This ambitious, interdisciplinary initiative will establish a global centre of excellence for research and action to prevent suicide.
It is a complex problem and solving it demands resources, creativity and new knowledge. We believe that with the support of the community, it can be done.
UWA covers the administration costs associated with processing donations to the University – 100 per cent of your gift will be used to fund lifesaving research into suicide prevention.
Donations to the Young Lives Matter Foundation – UWA are fully tax-deductible.
A project of paramount importance
Suicide is a global phenomenon and is the main cause of preventable deaths for 15-24 year-olds in Western Australia. Despite significant investment to increase capacity in mental healthcare and the development of effective suicide intervention and postvention strategies, relatively little progress has been made towards accurate predictions of suicidal behaviour, and devastatingly, every 40 seconds a life continues to be lost to suicide globally.
In order to reduce the rate of suicide we must first address the many issues that underlie each death. The World Health Organization's 2014 report Preventing suicide: a global imperative identifies known risk factors (e.g. mental disorder, substance problems, social disadvantage, access to means of suicide) and recommends evidence-based prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies.
We believe an index, which will act as a rating system, can be developed and applied to clearly communicate current suicide risk. Unlike risk measures to date, we are proposing that the index be dynamic in nature. Vulnerability for suicide and self-harm is fluid and developmental factors are needed to reflect changes in risk/resilience over time.
Each life tragically lost to suicide is preventable and the creation of a developmental vulnerability index will help move the needle on this serious public health problem. Professor Dawn Freshwater
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital ED and Mental Health and Observation Area (MHOA) Pilot Study
The Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital ED and MHOA Systems-Level Study was a pilot study conducted by the Young Lives Matter Foundation in 2018. It was a preliminary systems-level investigation of patient trajectories, interactions and information flow within the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) Emergency Department (ED) and Mental Health Observation Area (MHOA) for patients presenting with suicidal or parasuicidal behaviours.