Not getting lost in translation: Turning psychosocial research into policy and practice

Presentation First Author: 
Eoin Killackey


Psychosocial interventions sit alongside medication-based interventions as mainstays of treatment for mental health issues. Medication-based interventions typically target the symptoms of mental ill health. While psychosocial interventions can also target these symptoms, more often they tend to be targeted at the disability that accrues as a consequence of mental ill health. This can be social isolation, family dysfunction, dropping out of education, being unemployed or not taking good care of oneself. Many psychosocial interventions are supported by extensive research findings that attest to their effectiveness in aiding the recovery of young people with mental ill health. Sadly, most psychosocial interventions have been lost in translation to policy and practice and are not routinely available to young people presenting at mental health services.


We have conducted two randomized controlled trials showing that Individual Placement and Support is an effective method of helping young people with mental ill health return to school or work. As a consequence of our research, we were interested in ensuring that this intervention was made widely available to young people with mental ill health. Employment and education are key goals of young people presenting at mental health services and they are often not assisted with these goals in their mental health treatment.


Between 2008 and 2011 we pursued a strategy of the Science is Right and therefore policy should fall in line. This produced a lot of interest but little change. From 2012 we changed strategy. We conducted a review of the policy landscape as it pertained to employment and young people with mental ill health. Importantly this also included coverage of welfare benefits and the existing employment system. We then engaged in a co-ordinated advocacy strategy, including multiple audiences, and making good use of media to support our agenda.


This multi-pronged strategy has yielded great success in the advancement of the cause of making evidence-based integrated employment and education assistance more widely available to young people presenting to mental health services.


The translation of research requires a multi-pronged approach. Researchers need to move away from a stance of believing that results alone will convince policy makers and funders to implement interventions. Instead, a process of situating research findings in a broader context, understanding the economic and political needs of decision makers and involving the public through the media are needed to achieve translational aims.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
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