About the Study

Physical Health Experiences of People who have Accessed Mental Health Services: A qualitative research and online resource development project


The Physical Health Experiences of People who have Accessed Mental Health Services project is a partnership between researchers from La Trobe University, RMIT University, Charles Sturt University, Equally Well and Healthtalk Australia, guided by a multi-disciplinary Project Advisory Group and a Consumer Leadership Advisory Group.

There are significant knowledge gaps regarding the coexistence of psychiatric service use and physical health conditions. Our research and planned online resources are intended to help close these gaps and thereby improve experiences and care.

Project aims:

The Physical Health Experiences of People who have Accessed Mental Health Services project aims to:

  • examine experiences of physical health and mental health among a diverse sample of people who have used mental health services living in Victoria and NSW, Australia, and
  • create publicly available, uniquely Australian health experience online resources aimed at informing and supporting users of mental health services in relation to their physical health issues, supporting their partners and families, and informing and educating health professionals, service providers, policy-makers and the wider community.

Research Team:

Chris Maylea

Associate Professor Chris Maylea

Associate Professor, Law School, La Trobe University

Associate Professor Chris Maylea is an experienced mental health social worker, mental health lawyer, academic and consultant. His research is in the area of mental health, law and social work, with a focus on amplifying the consumer voice.

Nicholas Hill

Dr Nicholas Hill

Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne and Visiting Research Fellow, Social & Global Studies Centre, RMIT University

Dr Nicholas Hill is an experienced critical mental health researcher. His research is focused on using transformative research methods to promote the agency and self-determination of people accessing mental health services. Nicholas has contributed to several Healthtalk Australia online resources, an evaluation of the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service, and the Preventing gender-based violence in mental health inpatient units report.

Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata

Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata

Visiting Research Fellow, Social & Global Studies Centre, RMIT University

Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata is a Visiting Research Fellow at RMIT's Social & Global Studies Centre and Co-Director of Healthtalk Australia. She has a background in health and family sociology and research-based online resource production, and is interested in the emotional and relational dimensions of health and illness experiences. Kate has worked on several Healthtalk Australia projects.

Prof Stuart DM Thomas

Professor Stuart DM Thomas

Professor (Justice and Legal Studies), Social & Global Studies Centre, RMIT University

Stuart Thomas is Professor of Forensic Mental Health at RMIT University. He previously led the development of a needs assessment for people living with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system (Camberwell Assessment of Need Forensic Version; CANFOR), which gives voice to mental health service users in prioritising their needs, and with respect to their treatment and care preferences and priorities.

Professor Renata Kokanović

Professor Renata Kokanović

Director, Social & Global Studies Centre, RMIT University

Professor Renata Kokanović is an experienced interdisciplinary critical mental health researcher, working at the intersections of health, society and medicine. Renata has  expertise in qualitative mental health research utilising innovative methodologies. She combines empirical research with interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological scholarship while collaborating with health and social care users and industry partners to facilitate greater understanding of lived experiences of health and illness. Renata is co-founder and director of Healthtalk Australia, a unique digital archive of health and illness narratives promoting lived experiences as an evidence base for the improvement of mental health and social care systems.

Professor Russell Roberts

Professor Russell Roberts

Professor, School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt University

Professor Russell Roberts is Professor of Leadership at Charles Sturt University and Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. Professor Roberts developed and authored the Equally Well National Consensus Statement: Improving the physical health of people living with mental illness, and is the national project director for Equally Well. He also leads the International Learning Collaborative to improve the physical health of people living with mental illness.

Dr Chloe Green

Dr Chloe Green

Research Associate, Law School, La Trobe University

Dr Chloe Green is an early career researcher with a background in narrative experiences of mental illness and interests in women’s experiences of illness, emotion, and physical health.

Grace McLoughlan

Lived Experience Researcher

Grace has 18 months experience as a Lived Experience researcher, where she has conducted qualitative research with Neami National and Mind. In these roles she has worked on projects on a dual diagnosis tool used in youth residential settings, telehealth and, the intersection between mental health and receiving legal support. She has done training internally with Mind and Neami about thematic data analysis and interviewing techniques, and Intentional Peer Support training to learn peer practices more broadly and how they can be applied to research.

Rosiel Elwyn

Rosiel Elwyn

Lived Experience Researcher

Rosiel has experience as a Lived Experience researcher on research into anorexia nervosa, co-design of a novel treatment for anorexia nervosa, suicide, and evaluating Safe Havens in NSW as an alternative to emergency departments for individuals experiencing mental health crises. They also have experience as a research assistant on a longitudinal adolescent brain study.

Project Advisory Group:

A Project Advisory Group comprising people with lived experience of mental health service use and physical health conditions, clinicians, social scientists, and representatives from advocacy organisations, professional societies and public health and health promotion organisations provides advice and guidance to the researchers. The current membership of the Project Advisory Group includes:

Professor Brenda Happell – Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Newcastle

Dr Caroline Johnson – Clinical Lead, Equally Well RACGP Expert Committee in Quality Care

Mr Keir Saltmarsh – Senior Consumer Advisor, Office of the Chief Mental Health Nurse, Victorian Department of Health

Dr Melissa Petrakis – Chair of the Board of Tandem

Ms Maggie Toko – Assistant Commissioner Lived Experience and Engagement, Mental Health Complaints Commission

Ms Susan Hayward – Acting Director, Monitoring and Reform, National Mental Health Commission

Mr Tim Heffernan – Deputy Commissioner, New South Wales Mental Health Commission

Consumer Leadership Advisory Group:

This project also has a dedicated advisory group composed of consumers of mental health services who have lived experience of physical health challenges. The Consumer Leadership Advisory Group is convened by Grace McLoughlan and Rosie Elwyn.


  • National Mental Health Commission (NMHC)
  • New South Wales Mental Health Commission (NSWMHC)
  • Victorian Department of Health (DH)