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Education Training, Medical Health Aged Care

$1.3m grant to expand award-winning program for adolescents with mental health and substance use issues

Monash University 3 mins read

Researchers from Monash University, RMIT and the University of Canberra, led by Professor Dan Lubman, have been awarded a Medical Research Future Fund grant to expand a program that has been shown to improve help-seeking among adolescents facing mental health and/or substance use issues.


The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, recently announced the $1.3 million grant, which will fund the next stage of development for the school-based intervention MAKINGtheLINK, in partnership with Turning Point, Headspace, the Alcohol & Drug Foundation, the Victorian Department of Education, and the Australian Secondary Principals Association.


The award-winning program is designed to be delivered by teachers using proven behaviour change models to build vital knowledge about mental health and substance use and give students the practical skills to support their peers to seek help.

The grant will fund the creation of a scalable digital adaption of the original program that if found to be effective could be rolled out at secondary schools across Australia to support earlier intervention for mental health and/or substance use issues among adolescents.

Research shows that early alcohol or drug use can be an indication of underlying mental health concerns and that mental health and substance use issues commonly co-occur. 


Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that substance use and mental health are leading burdens of disease for Australians aged 15 to 24.

“We know that almost one in 10 Australians between 16 and 24 are struggling with a substance use disorder,” said Professor Lubman, who is director of Turning Point and director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre.

“And mid-adolescence is a key developmental stage to identify emerging problems and build the skills that these young people need to seek help.”

While young people are often willing to seek professional help for depression, they are more likely to speak to their friends for advice about alcohol and other drug problems.

“Our challenge is that the peers they go to for help don’t have the necessary knowledge, confidence and skills to effectively intervene,” Professor Lubman said.

“Friends are highly influential during adolescence, so young people are ideally positioned to act as ‘gate-keepers’ to mental health services.”

The grant follows a large randomised controlled trial of MAKINGtheLINK in schools, which found that students who received the program were more likely to seek professional help and report a reduction in stigmatising attitudes. 

“Since our program equips young people with the knowledge and skills needed to help their friends, we are also finding that these skills facilitate their own help-seeking behaviour,” Professor Lubman said.

“On behalf of the whole research team, I’d like to thank Minister Butler and the Medical Research Future Fund for giving us the opportunity to further develop this unique program for schools across Australia."

Researchers are encouraging Australian secondary schools to take part in the project and will be actively recruiting schools in the coming months. If your school is interested in the MAKINGtheLINK program, please contact Turning Point or Jodie Matar, Project Manager, via

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Turning Point is a national treatment, research and education centre that provides leadership in the alcohol and drug, gambling and mental health sectors in Victoria and beyond. Combining innovative research in the clinical, population health and policy fields, with service innovation, surveillance, system enhancements, capacity building and specialist support, Turning Point assists services, communities and the Victorian government and national agencies to respond to current and emerging alcohol and drug and gambling issues. Turning Point is part of Eastern Health and is affiliated with Monash University.



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