Collaborative research on mental health issues, from schizophrenia to disaster mental health, will be the focus of a new University of Melbourne and Peking University centre to be launched in Beijing today.

The University of Melbourne-Peking University Centre for Psychiatric Research and Training will bring together world experts from both institutions to study all aspects of mental health, from biological to epidemiological and psycho-social.

It will also provide co-supervision of PhD students and support post-doctoral exchanges.

The new centre is the culmination of a ten-year partnership on issues of mental health between the two universities, lead by Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry, Asialink, Asia Australia Mental Health and the Peking University Institute of Mental Health.

Mental disorders make up approximately 13 per cent of the world’s disease burden and are one of the largest contributors to all diseases. It is estimated that 173 million Chinese people suffer from a mental disorder, with 92 per cent having never received any type of treatment before 2004.

Over the past ten years, the two universities have collaborated closely, particularly in the national roll out of modern community mental health services across China through the so-called ‘686 Project’. “This project is one of the largest mental health reform programs globally, delivering community psychiatric services covering a population of over 900 million people,” said Professor Ian Everall, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Melbourne.

Professor Everall said the centre was an exciting step forward in the collaboration between the two institutions. “The partnership has grown from clinical services to knowledge transfer and now, in this new venture, collaborative research.”

“Our aim over the next ten years is to have 50 PhD students jointly trained between Melbourne and Peking. Our students will receive a greater understanding of the key mental health issues in Asia and conversely, students from Peking will have full access to the range of psychiatric research expertise Melbourne has to offer.”

Professor Yu Xin, Executive Director of the new Centre, said the partnership will be of great benefit to both Australia and China.

“Peking University Institute of Mental Health and the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry have worked together for the past 10 years to support the successful national mental health policy, service delivery, as well as community-based psychosis management program in China.”

“Building on this achievement, the establishment of the new Centre will respond to the increasing demand for psychiatry research and training in China and globally. The Centre will enhance academic standing and research outcomes for both universities, and significantly increase the research and training capacity for PhD students from Australia and China.”

Professor Everall said they are keen to expand this work into research. “We already have one PhD student coming to Melbourne who will be working on the genomics of schizophrenia, trying to identify the genetic markers to help the diagnosis of the disease.”

“We also have a post-doctorate fellow arriving this month who is reviewing the data of 1000 children born to Chinese mothers with schizophrenia.”

To listen to this interview, please follow the link below:

ABC Radio interview with Professor Ian Everall, University of Melbourne Head of Department of Psychiatry