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About Julia

Julia joined the Hunter Institute of Mental Health in March 2017, as a Research and Project Officer with the Suicide Prevention team. Julia completed a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons 1) in 2012, and is nearing completion of a PhD in Psychology in 2017, both with the University of Newcastle.

Julia has experience in concepts of health psychology, child and adolescent mental health, health promotion, and research methodology particularly relating to the evaluation of complex health and mental health interventions. Her postgraduate work is focused on mental health problems and resilience in adolescents aged 12-16 years and is a small component of a larger collaborative project with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Population Health Research Group and thirty-two high schools in the Hunter New England Local Health District.

She is completing her thesis by publication which includes seven chapters, five of which form publications relating to: overall prevalence of mental health problems in adolescents in a regional sample of adolescents, as well as difference in prevalence for groups of adolescents; evaluation of a school-based intervention targeting the strengthening of resilience protective factors on improving mental health and health behaviour outcomes in adolescents; and a systematic review of the effectiveness of resilience-focused school-based interventions on seven mental health problem outcomes in children and adolescents.

Julia’s current role with the Hunter Institute is as a Research and Project Officer on the Life in Mind project. The project is being undertaken to inform the development of a flexible and interactive online portal as part of a professional communication, professional development, and messaging strategy to support a nationally coordinated approach to suicide prevention in Australia. 

“I enjoy working at the Institute due to the extreme meaning of the work completed here. Many of our projects lead to positive changes within the community, to policy and practice, and have the potential to contribute to reductions in incidence of suicide and prevalence of mental health problems in Australia.”

Julia is passionate about enabling people to recognise their strengths and available wider community protective factors; to develop and maintain positive mental health, development, and life trajectories; and breaking disadvantage. She envisions her current and future role as an early career researcher in Australia developing into effective collaboration with government, non-government and community partners; transparent dissemination and quality translation of evidence-based research findings; a positive influence on related policy; and face-to-face work with children, adolescence and families through innovative, strength-based approaches. However above all, she enjoys good company, good food, coffee, running, travel and most of all hanging out with her beautiful two year old niece.

Career highlights

Completion of a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours (Class 1) at the University of Newcastle, Australia (2012); recipient of the J A Keats award for the best honours thesis in cognitive and quantitative psychology (2012); recipient of an Australian Research Training Program Scholarship (2013-2017); presenting her PhD work at the 13th International Congress for Behavioural Medicine, Groningen, The Netherlands (ICBM, 2014); University of Newcastle 3-Minute Thesis Finalist (2016); and attending the IACAPAP World Congress, Calgary Canada (2016) as one of twenty child and adolescent mental health early career researchers internationally to be awarded a spot in the Donald J Cohen Fellow Program at the Congress. Julia is also soon to attend the 4th International Association for Mental Health Conference, Dublin, Ireland (2017) to present her PhD work.

Published papers

  • Dray J, Bowman J, Freund M, Campbell E, Wolfenden L, Hodder RK, Wiggers J. Improving adolescent mental health and resilience through a resilience-based intervention in schools: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial, Trials, 2014 15:289.
  • Dray J, Bowman J, Wolfenden L, Campbell E, Freund M, Hodder RK, Wiggers J. Systematic review of universal resilience interventions targeting child and adolescent mental health in the school setting: review protocol, Systematic Reviews, 2015 4:186 DOI: 10.1186/s13643-015-0172.
  • Dray J, Bowman J, Freund M, Campbell E, Hodder R, Lecathelinais C, Wiggers J. Mental health problems in a regional population of Australian adolescents: Association with socio- demographic characteristics. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 10:32: DOI: 10.1186/s13034-016-0120-9.
  • Dray J, Bowman J, Campbell E, Freund M, Hodder R, Wolfenden L, Richards J, Green S, Lecathelinais C, Oldmeadow C, Attia J, Gillham K, Wiggers J. Effectiveness of a school- based universal intervention targeting student protective factors on mental health problems in adolescents: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Journal of Adolescence, Volume 57, June 2017, Pages 74-89,
  • Hodder R, Freund M, Wolfenden L, Bowman J, Gillham K, Dray J, Wiggers J. Systematic review of universal school-based resilience interventions targeting adolescent tobacco, alcohol or illicit drug use: review protocol. BMJ Open, 2014, 4:5, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen- 2013-00471.
  • Hodder RK, Freund M, Bowman J, Wolfenden L, Gillham K, Dray J, Wiggers J. Association between adolescent tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use and individual and environmental resilience protective factors, BMJ Open, 2016 6:11, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-01268.
  • Hodder RK, Freund M, Wolfenden L, Bowman J, Dray J, Nepal S, Kingsland M, Yoong S, Ekhari P, Wiggers J. Systematic review of universal school-based ‘resilience’ interventions targeting adolescent tobacco, alcohol or illicit substance use. Preventive Medicine [accepted for publication, April 2017.