Trauma and mental health research

Trauma and mental health research at St John of God Richmond Hospital focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

We bring together clinical and academic excellence to help determine the best practice and evidence-based care for treating patients with the aim of better understanding trauma, mental health and recovery. The research is being undertaken in partnership with the University of NSW School of Psychiatry and the Black Dog Institute.

  • Exposure to life threatening trauma is a common occurrence and about 75 per cent of the Australian population will experience one potentially traumatic event in their life.
  • Some people are at higher risk of experiencing multiple or sustained trauma including defence force personnel, those working in frontline services such as police officers and ambulance officers, people from refugee backgrounds and people living in socially disadvantage communities exposed to high levels of conflict and violence.
  • About 1 in 10 people who are exposed to a potentially traumatic event will develop PTSD, which may affect them immediately or up to 30 years after the event (Australian National Surgery of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007).
  • Research shows that PTSD is not the only effect of trauma, it is also a risk factor for developing some mood disorders.
Our research brings together clinical and academic excellence to provide the best research-based care to patients, with a focus on:
  • progress research into understanding trauma and its impact on mental health and wellbeing 
  • promoting an evidence-based approach to mental health promotion and early intervention for those at risk of developing trauma related mental health difficulties 
  • improving the effectiveness and provision of evidence-based interventions for those with trauma related mental disorders and associated functional impairment 
  • advancing community awareness of the effect of trauma on mental health and wellbeing and to provide support for those who have been exposed to life threatening and other potentially traumatic events
  • advocating for the implementation of policies that promote mental health recovery following traumatic exposure.
Clinical Psychologist and Chair
Professor Zachary Steel

Senior Research Fellow and Senior Clinical Psychologist
Dr David Berle

Senior Research Fellow and Statistician
Dr Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic

Research Fellow and Exercise Physiologist
Dr Simon Rosenbaum

Research Student and Officers
Ms Haleh Abedy

Administrative Assistant
Ms Divya Jacob
Ms Carmel Mawter
Ms Wendy Baird

Hilbrink, D., Berle, D., & Steel, Z. (2016). Pathways to PTSD. In B. Douglas & J. Wodak (Eds.), Addressing the Mental Health Consequences and Economic Impact of Trauma in Australia: Essays by Leading Australian Thinkers and Researchers. Weston, Australian Capital Territory: Australia 21 Ltd.


Rosenbaum, S., & Steel, Z. (2016). Breaking down the silos of treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: integrating mind and body. Medical Journal of Australia, 204(9), 337-338.


Rodger, J., & Steel, Z. (2016). Between Trauma and the Sacred: The Cultural Shaping of Remitting-Relapsing Psychosis in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste: Springer.


Rosenbaum, S., & Steel, Z. (2016). Breaking down the silos of treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: integrating mind and body. Medical Journal of Australia, 204(9), 337-338.

Tay, A. K., Rees, S., Tam, N., Steel, Z., & Silove, D. (2016). Six year trajectories of post-traumatic stress and severe psychological distress symptoms and associations with timing of trauma exposure, ongoing adversity and sense of injustice: a latent transition analysis of a community cohort in conflict-affected Timor-Leste. BMJ Open, 6(e010205), 1-11.

Wells, R., Steel, Z., Abo-Hilal, M., Hassan, A. H., & Lawsin, C. (2016). Psychosocial concerns reported by Syrian refugees living in Jordan: Systematic review of unpublished needs assessments. British Journal of Psychiatry, 209(2), 99-106. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.115.165084

Rosenbaum, S., Vancampfort, D., Steel, Z., Newby, J., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2015). Physical activity in the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 130-136. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.10.017

Harvey, S. B., Devilly, G., Forbes, D., Glozier, N., McFarlane, A. C., Phillios, J., Sim, M.,

Steel, Z., Bryant, R. A. (2015). Expert Guidelines: Diagnosis and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Service Workers. Retrieved from Sydney:

Steel, Z., & Hilbrink, D. (2015). Dealing with horror. In T. Frame (Ed.), Moral Injury: Unseen Wounds in an Age of Barbarism (pp. 167-187). Sydney, AU.: UNSW Press.

Steel, Z., Marnane, C., Iranpour, C., Chey, T., Jackson, J., Patel, V., & Silove, D. (2014). The global prevalence of common mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis 1980-2013. International Journal of Epidemiology (doi: 10.1093/ije/dyu038), 1-18.