Regional Australia Bank announces mental health research scholarship recipient

Regional Australia Bank has reaffirmed its commitment to research into mental health through its support for a PhD scholarship that will look in greater detail at the reasons that can lead some rural and regional Australians to take their own lives.

The bank is working in collaboration with Suicide Prevention Australia – and as CEO Ms Nieves Murray explains, funding for new Australian research into suicide prevention is vitally important.

“Funding can help to improve our understanding of how we can best protect people from suicide, intervene in times of crisis, and provide ongoing interventions and support.

“The key is to then translate that research quickly and effectively into suicide prevention policy, programs and services; ensuring a quality, evidence-based approach.”

The national peak body recently announced the first six recipients of Higher Degree Research Scholarships totalling $630,000 in Australian Government funding, which will be awarded along with additional funding support from the bank.

These are the first Higher Degree Research Scholarships to be awarded from the $12 million fund administered by Suicide Prevention Australia, and Katie McGill from the University of Newcastle has been named as Regional Australia Bank’s scholarship recipient of $105,000 to help her undertake new research into suicide prevention.

Katie will use sentinel unit data to inform best practice for hospital-presenting deliberate self-harm, and the project will explore deliberate self-poisoning in regional Australia, as well as investigate the impact on self-harm repetition outcomes of innovative services and policies.

Kate described her reaction to finding out her project had been awarded the scholarship: “I was incredibly excited and proud to learn that I’d won this scholarship from the bank. This funding will play a key role in supporting research in a real-world setting, and in enabling the study to demonstrate the different ways that health service data can be used to identify what works in suicide prevention, as relevant to the unique situations and circumstances of regional and rural Australians.”

For Regional Australia Bank CEO Kevin Dupé, the bank’s role in supporting these scholarships is reflective of its culture, being a customer-owned organisation with a strong social conscience.

“Mental health affects more than just the relationship with the self,” says Kevin. “It colours how we relate to everyone around us – and because we tend to live in small, tight-knit groups here in regional Australia, the wider impact of these types of losses can be devastating. That’s why we’re involved, to make a real difference in our local community.”

“Mental health is an issue that affects everyone on some level, so as an organisation we want to be proactive in raising awareness and tackling this issue for regional Australians head on,” he said.

As part of its involvement with the charity, Regional Australia Bank is also hosting a sold-out Charity Golf Day and Charity Dinner in Armidale on 8 Feb 2019, to help raise funds.

Nieves Murray says that having the bank’s support has been invaluable. “We’re delighted that Regional Australia Bank are on board, and we really admire the work they’re doing to address issues like suicide and support the mental health of our rural and regional communities. We look forward to working together with the bank to address what is a priority public health concern for all Australians.”