UQ speech pathology receives funding to reduce depression among aphasia patients

Research led by the University of Queensland to reduce symptoms of depression for people with aphasia has received $1.2 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

University of Queensland Speech Pathology School
Study speech path at UQ

Led by Professor Linda Worrall from UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the project will trial the Action Success Knowledge (ASK) program to prevent depression and reduce the impact of aphasia in stroke patients and their caregivers one year after diagnosis.

Aphasia is a language disorder that affects the spoken and written word, such as a person’s ability to talk, read, write and understand the spoken word, and can occur after stroke, traumatic brain injury, or brain cancer.

Professor Worrall said aphasia was prevalent in 31 per cent of first-time strokes and led to problems with understanding, talking, reading and writing.

“Mental health needs following stroke are recognized as a high priority throughout the world, but are rarely sufficiently addressed,” Professor Worrall said.

“In Australia, people with aphasia have a higher incidence of depression (62 – 70 per cent) than stroke survivors without aphasia. Caregivers of people with aphasia also have significantly worse caregiver outcomes than caregivers of non-aphasic stroke patients, with the increased risk of depression persisting over time.

“Hence, the problem of depression in both the patient with aphasia and their caregivers is highly prevalent and an important and neglected healthcare priority.”

Professor Worrall, also co-director of The University of Queensland Communications Disability Centre, said previous research had identified the factors for living successfully with aphasia, including active involvement in rehabilitation, engagement in meaningful activities, access to information and positive values such as dignity, respect and hope.

She said this growing body of knowledge had been transferred into the ASK program which was the first systematically developed intervention program derived from a strong empirical basis that would potentially prevent depressive symptoms in aphasia.

“Our aim is to determine whether a tailored, early intervention program such as the ASK program leads to better mood and overall quality of life outcomes than a secondary stroke prevention intervention at twelve months post stroke in both patients with aphasia and their caregivers,” she said, adding that to do this, they will trial the study in hospitals around the country that have a high number of annual stroke admissions.

“This will be the first known intervention tailored for aphasia that aims to prevent depression by providing intervention to people with aphasia and their caregivers very early after stroke.”

The UQ Master of Speech Pathology Studies program is an accelerated program for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree. The program 2.5 years in length and will prepare graduates for a career in speech pathology across any of the diverse areas in which speech pathologists practice, such as education, health or private practice.

Program: Master of Speech Pathology Studies
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Next Semester intake: July 2014
Duration: 2.5 years
Application deadline: February 28, 2014


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