Rebecca Sheriff
Rebecca Sheriff

Rebecca Sheriff

‘An investigation of the relationship between serving in the Australian Defence Force and common mental disorders.’

University of Adelaide, SA
Awarded 2016 – 2019
Contributed to by the Rotary Club of Ballarat South

“Common Mental Disorders (CMDs) are the most frequent forms of mental disorder encountered in military populations around the globe.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PhD Scholarship

Researcher Profile

Rebecca Sheriff is a Full Editor for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group a global independent collaborative network producing high quality systematic reviews (since 2013). She is a member of the Advisory board for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (since 2013). Rebecca is also a board certified Consultant Psychiatrist both in the UK (since 2009) and in Australia (since 2015). Rebecca recently completed research on risky driving in the military which has been published in the BMJ Open she has presented at multiple national and international conferences and is regularly invited to peer review work for academic journals and funding organisations. Rebecca has authored/coauthored over 15 peer reviewed papers and chapters.

Project Summary

Common Mental Disorders (CMDs) are the most frequent forms of mental disorder encountered in military populations around the globe, and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is no exception. Studies of the ADF suggest that CMDs effect around one in five individuals over the previous year and around half of the military in their lifespan. CMDs include depression, anxiety and alcohol misuse.

CMDs may not only be frequently experienced consequences of military life but preexisting CMDs are also likely to be important factors in determining the response of individuals to the stresses of military life, and hence may increase the risk of subsequent PTSD and other outcomes. For example those with past or current mental health problems are responsible for a disproportionate amount of suicidal behaviour in the military. There is evidence that a proportion of those who enlist have had a prior episode of CMD and whilst assessments at the time of recruitment aim to exclude vulnerable individuals, these prior episodes often have not been diagnosed or disclosed. Hence a better understanding of these early onset disorders is important to improve resilience of military personnel in the face of the traumatic stress that is a predictable aspect of military life.

The aim of this project is to examine the relationship between the traumatic stress and CMDs. This will allow an in-depth analysis of factors relating to the onset, severity, chronicity, recovery and help seeking behaviour of CMDs which essential to maximise the effectiveness of prevention, screening, monitoring, treatment and support for those in the ADF.

Supervisors: Professor Alexander McFarlane, Scientia Professor Richard Bryant & Dr Miranda Van Hoof

How will this research help people?

The information derived from this project is essential to maximise the effectiveness of screening, monitoring, treatment and support for those in the ADF and allow the planning of a more comprehensive mental health system for defence personnel and veterans. It will also assist in the further development of recruiting methods to optimise the selection of personnel who are more likely to withstand the strains of military service. In addition, the comparison of two military forces will provide military leaders with essential and relevant information as to how to best prevent and support those in the military from suffering from the outcomes of the stresses of life in the military.

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