Mental Health & Domestic Violence - Rob Stanton

Researcher Rob Stanton

Undertaking Research Allows Me to Help More People Than I Ever Could As a Clinician

Mental Health & Domestic Violence – Rob Stanton

Personal Experience

I was a late starter to university, completing my undergraduate degree in my early 40s (not giving too much away!). A false start on my PhD back in the early 2000s turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I established Rockhampton’s first Exercise Physiology clinic, treating a diverse range of patients with chronic and complex health issues, and patients with workplace injuries. This experience really established my interest in mental health, as I could see a clear link between exercise and patients’ improvements in physical and mental health.

Twelve years later, I was lured back into academia in a research assistant role and completed my PhD in 2015. Research gives you the opportunity make a difference. As a clinician I had a small sphere of influence; just 1 patient at a time. Undertaking research and publishing the findings or presenting at conferences means I can get the message out to a lot more people who can put into practice what I discover as a researcher. It sounds selfish, but it means my influence grows and I can help more people than I ever could as a clinician.

Research at CQUniversity: Physical Health and Physical Healthcare of People with Mental Illness.

CQUniversity undertakes world-class research across a broad range of health-related fields including mental health. I can work on projects that have impact in the communities we serve, and that gives benefit to real people. That’s one of CQUniversity’s core values, and one of the really great things about being here.

Our research has academic impact as well. Because we undertake high-quality work, we can publish in high-quality journals. Some of our work has been adopted in international guidelines on exercise and mental health, has informed healthcare policy in physical healthcare in the mental health sector, and has been adapted for use in other countries to gather an international perspective on exercise and mental health.

Our work is well respected by others in academia as evidenced by the number of citations our papers receive and the funding success we have. Many CQUniversity researchers in my field also sit on editorial boards of prestigious journals.

Even though CQUniversity is a regionally based university, it's a real community. Small enough to care about you and your work, but big enough to attract high-quality researchers and world-class facilities. You really feel like you are part of something special here. This is all part of the attraction of CQUniversity. We operate in diverse locations, with campuses across Australia. We have passionate, knowledgeable experts who have ‘real world’ as well as academic experience and can take you on your own research journey.

Current Research Projects

Most of my work centres on studying the physical health of people with mental illness; in particular, how the prevalence of conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are more common in people with mental illness.

Mental illness is a growing concern worldwide. 1 in 4 Australians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime which is further complicated by their poorer physical health and reduced access to physical healthcare. Bridging this health equity gap including using physical activity to treat mental illness and improve physical health will have a significant impact on the wellbeing of many Australians.

In collaboration with colleagues here at CQUniversity, and at other universities, I have also looked closely at healthcare services for people with mental illness and the challenges they face in healthcare equity.

Naturally, my expertise in exercise has driven me to look at how exercise can benefit the physical and mental health of people with mental illness, and how we can address some of the barriers for inclusion of this universally powerful treatment as part of usual care.

My work has been cited in Australian and International guidelines for physical activity and physical health care for people with mental illness. That kind of impact shapes how health care is delivered. There's still so much to do to have physical activity part of routine care and that's where my work is headed for the future.

Research Career Highlights

Every day is a highlight, but if I had to narrow it down to a few critical things, one would be being awarded the 2015 ESSA Medal which acknowledges the best Doctoral Thesis in exercise and sports science by our peak industry body; Exercise and Sports Science Australia.

The other would be being named as a Chief Investigator on a National Health and Medical Research Council grant. Corny as sounds though, the real highlights come from working with students to spark their interest in research – that’s something I could never do as a clinician.