Mental health is a crucial area of our healthcare system that we’re very proud to support with your generous support. Thank you for making this possible!

PhD Candidate Justyna Pollok is dedicated to progressing research in this area and eager to address the significant and growing rates of depression in Australia.

Beginning her PhD project last year and supported by you through a scholarship from The Hospital Research Foundation, Justyna is researching treatments for depression in two patient groups at high risk – Indigenous Australians and patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

“Depression is a huge disease burden,” Juystna said.

“The World Health Organisation says that by 2020 it will be the second leading cause of global disease burden following cardiovascular disease.”

“My project is an evaluation of existing evidence for treatment of depression in these two high risk patient groups. Depression in these groups is either not treated or it’s under-treated and there’s a lack of conclusive evidence for the effectiveness of existing treatments. This is why there is a need to support the current clinical guidelines to hopefully inform policy and help these two groups in the future.”

To understand the Indigenous community perspective on depression, Justyna will be working closely with an Indigenous Health Clinic Nunkuwarrin Yunti conducting surveys, interviews and focus groups with doctors, healthcare workers and patients.

“I’m looking at the Indigenous community because in Australia there is a huge health and life expectancy gap of approximately 10 years between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This is the biggest gap out of all Indigenous populations around the world. I’ll be running focus groups and interviews with doctors and healthcare workers who work with Aboriginal patients and I’ll be recruiting community members who are willing to be involved.”

“I will also be working closely with Lifeline to determine why only three to five per cent of the Indigenous community use the service and if there is something that needs to change to make them more likely to call up.”

Whilst running this aspect of her project, Justyna will also be furthering her research into the growing prevalence of depression in patients with COPD.

“Physical activity is often encouraged in COPD patients to improve their condition, but if a patient is depressed, the physical activity is likely to be reduced. This in turn may worsen their COPD symptoms leading to increased hospitalisation rates and high costs to the healthcare system,” she explained.

“This is why research into more effective treatments for depression in COPD is vital.”

“If we can find the right way to treat these patient’s depression this could in fact be linked with more positive outcomes including better quality of life and a longer life expectancy.”

Keeping herself busy between the two groups, Justyna is confident by the end of her three year project she will be able to provide doctors and health care workers with an updated guideline on the most effective treatments for the different patient cohorts.

We look forward to providing you with an update on Justyna’s research as it progresses!

Would you like more information on Justyna's project?