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Who we are

A centre of excellence for research, education and treatment of personality disorders

Project Air is a centre of excellence for research, education and treatment of personality disorders and related complex challenges including self-harm, suicide and comorbid conditions and is the only university-based personality disorders centre with a national and international focus that has the capacity and expertise to provide a national focus of work.  Project Air has developed and evaluated a range of interventions for health services, schools and clinicians. We build capacity to help health services, schools and communities identify and respond more effectively to suicide risk, self-harm and complex mental health presentations. 

A partnership

Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders is a partnership between the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute at the University of Wollongong and the NSW Ministry for Health and Local NSW Health Districts. It seeks to engage the community, families, carers, consumers and health and drug and alcohol services and agencies, to support better treatments for personality disorders. Founded in 2001, the Strategy fosters University-Health partnerships locally, nationally and internationally.

Note: Project Air headquarters does not provide crisis services, support, counselling, advice, treatment or referrals. We support health services to provide better care Project Air works with health services, agencies, clinicians, families and carers, and consumers, to improve treatments for personality disorders. 

Read a summary of the Project Air Strategy

Project Air acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we work as the first people of this country. Project Air also acknowledges those with lived experience of mental illness and their families and carers. 

Our Mission Statement

Project Air is a Personality Disorders Strategy that aims to enhance treatment options for people with Personality Disorder and their families and carers. The Project Air Strategy endorses an integrative collaborative relational approach and thereby promotes a personality disorders-inclusive health service.

You can read our Partners for Research Impact Statement below.

The Project Air Strategy for Personality, led by Professor Brin Grenyer, represents a successful partnership between the University of Wollongong and the NSW Government -  Ministry of Health, Local Health Districts, and NSW Department of Education.  The partnership also embraces key members of the community including health professionals, schools, community and consumer groups, families and carers, and people with lived experience of personality disorder. The genesis of Project Air began in 2001 with a Mental Health Integration Project funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health that led to the initial pilot studies into personality disorder treatment. Project Air formally commenced in 2011 and has attracted more than $10 million in funding.  This initiative is a world leader in the provision of better patient care for people with personality disorder informed by world-class research by the team led by Professor Grenyer.  The achievements of the Project Air Strategy are impactful by providing better consumer and carer support, better information for practitioners, consumers, carers and families, underpinned by world-class scholarship. The Project Air team have conducted ground-breaking research with over 30 publications and at least 10 PhD completions, including evaluating a family and carer intervention, using a randomised control trial, that demonstrated improvements in relationships, family empowerment and actively supporting a relative with borderline personality disorder - the first study of its kind in the world.    

The Project Air Strategy, under Professor Grenyer’s leadership, has excelled at disseminating evidence-based information on personality disorder and better patient and carer information and research. Statistics from the Project Air website over 5 years (April 2013 - April 2018) show over 66,832 unique people have visited, with more than 32% returning. High page views include the team-produced manuals, clinical guidelines and fact sheets to support clinicians, individuals, their family members and carers as they navigate through the health service.  In addition, the Project Air team has produced and published over 50 fact sheets, and 18 original videos with more than 19,966 collective views.  Videos include powerful accounts from people with lived experience (e.g. Stephanie Leary), instructional videos on parenting skills that engage the viewer through the lives of a young struggling family, or videos on how health services have implemented project air models

Two recent webinars have together attracted more than 7,000 registrations. They have over 640 followers on Facebook and more than 6,000 email subscribers. More than 400 patients are consented into their longitudinal research study, one of the largest studies of its kind in the world. Project Air has sponsored over 12 international conferences, with impact evident by Ministers of Health or Commissioners of Mental Health opening the conference, with cumulatively more than 3,600 delegates in attendance. These conferences have highlighted both scientific research, presentations by world experts, but also powerful lived experience accounts by consumers, carers and family members on their struggles and hopes with recovery. 

Under Professor Grenyer’s leadership Project Air has also been impactful by improving clinical practice and outcomes. The team has developed a whole of service framework for the treatment of personality disorder – world first to take this approach.  Clinical guidelines for a whole of service approach have been published and have been cited by the NHMRC. Project Air has had a significant impact in training over 4000 staff (nurses, psychologists, allied health workers, psychiatrists). Of those trained, 97% responded they would recommend the training to a colleague. Post-training reports show significantly increased clinical skills, confidence and changed attitudes in clinicians. To date 17 new clinics following the Project Air model to treat the disorder have been opened in health services across NSW.  Notably, clinics in Liverpool and south western Sydney were recently opened by the Minister for Mental Health (https://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW236603.html). Longitudinal patient data demonstrates that people graduating from these clinics experienced significant improvement in symptoms, quality of life, and productivity in their daily activities from initial assessment to follow-up at 12 months. They also reported significantly lower ratings of suicidal ideation and attempts, and reductions in deliberate self-harm. The initiative is now also being applied through a partnership with the NSW Department of Education involving a collaborative project across the State, involving school counsellors disseminating accredited project air training to school teachers on early recognition and intervention for emerging problems of self-harm, personality disorder and suicidal risk in youth. 

The success and achievements of the Project Air Strategy have been recognised by Government and Internationally. The Project Air Parenting with Personality Disorder intervention won first prize at the 4th European Society for the Study of Personality Disorders, with the citation “integrating this intervention into current treatment programs will protect children and contribute to the prevention of intergenerational transmission of the disorder.” The team has received the prestigious Mental Health Matters Award for Cross-sector Partnerships presented by the NSW Minister for Mental Health and Governor of NSW (Marie Bashir) at Parliament House. This award recognises the collaborative nature of Project Air with Consumers and Carers in enhancing partnerships.

(Project Air, March 2018)

We’ve been around since 2001 and have collaborated with government, NGOs, Universities and research groups, and private practitioners from around the globe. We have worked over the years with many community groups and organisations to improve the treatments for personality disorders, including NSW Health, NSW Family and Community Services, Triple Care Farm, We Help Ourselves, Network of Alcohol and Drugs Agencies, Department of Defence, Uniting Care, ARAFMI. 

2001-2009
Our story began in 2001 through funding for a Mental Health Integration Project by the Commonwealth Department of Health, to establish an Affect Regulation Clinic for Borderline Personality Disorder. This was collaboration between Northfields Clinic at the University of Wollongong and local psychiatrists and mental health clinicians.

2010-2014
This model of University-Health partnership was expanded in 2010 when the Project Air Strategy was awarded a competitive tender to work with NSW Health to improve services for personality disorders. This pilot work was undertaken by the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and Northfields Clinic at the University of Wollongong, in partnership with the South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health Districts, Justice Health, and Orygen Youth Health in Melbourne.

2015-current
In 2015 NSW Health reaffirmed its commitment to the Project Air Strategy to be implemented across NSW Local Health Districts. Project Air won the Mental Health Matters Award (Mental Health Association of NSW and Mental Health Commission) for Cross-sector Partnerships.

Project Air Strategy for the Treatment of Personality Disorders is accountable to the Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Program Councils of NSW Ministry of Health 

We acknowledge consumer and carer advice provided by people through their work on consultative committees, advisory groups or through individual projects

Natalie Watson (NS LHD), Consumer Representative
Stephanie Leary, Consumer Advisor, SANE
Eileen McDonald, Carer Representative and Advocate 
Janne McMahon (Consumer and Carer – Private Hospital Network)
Kylie Pillon, Consumer advisor, NSW Consumer Advisory Group
Karina Whitehurst, Consumer Advisor, SES LHD
Sonia Neale, Consumer advocate
Jonathan Harms, CEO Mental Health Carers ARAFMI NSW
Peter Heggie, Carer Advisor, ARAFMI
Bradley Morgan, Director, COPMI, National Initiative
Mahlie Jewell, Consumer Advisor, BEING 

We acknowledge the formal advice provided by people through their work on consultative committees, advisory groups or through individual projects

Associate Professor John Allan, NSW Chief Psychiatrist (2009 - 14)
Janice Carroll, Director Intensive Support Services, FACS-CS (2013-14)
Dr Scott Clark, Clinical Director, Mental Health Drug & Alcohol Service, Western NSW LHD (2014-15)
Melissa Clements Director, Disability, Learning and Support, Dept Education & Communities (2013-14)
David Coyne, Executive Director, Clinical Governance and Innovation, FACS-ADHC (2013-14)
Myra Craig, A/Executive Director, Statewide Services, FACS-CS (2013-14)
Susan Daly, NSW Health Senior Policy Officer (2010 – 12)
Professor Frank Deane, Professor of Mental Health, University of Wollongong (2010-13)
Clair Edwards, Director of Nursing & Deputy Director of Mental Health Services, Sydney LHD (2014-15)
Dr Marcia Fogarty, Representative of Mental Health Clinical Advisory Council (2010 -13)
Kevin Harris, A/Deputy Chief Executive, Operations, Juvenile Justice (2013-14)
Dr Sandra Heriot, Community Services, Director, Psychological Services, FACS-CS (2013-14)
Dr Adrian Keller, Clinical Director, Justice Health (2008 – 2013)
Pauline Kelly, A/Director, Community Capacity, Aboriginal Affairs, Dept Education & Communities (2013-14)
Associate Professor Beth Kotze, Mental Health Kids Advisor (2008 - current)
Danielle Maloney, MH-Children & Young People (2010-current)
Dr Louise McCutcheon, Orygen Youth Health (2011 – 13)
Professor Russell Meares, University of Sydney at Westmead (2008 – 15)
Anna Morris, Director, Child Wellbeing, Dept Education & Communities (2013-14)
Professor Louise O’Brien, Academic Advisor (2009 – 2013)
Vince Ponzio, Director, Integrated Services Program, FACS-ADHC; and Justice Health (2013-14)
Tania Skippen, Associate Director, MH-Children & Young People (2014-current)
Alison Soutter, Manager Regional Psychological Services, FACS-CS (2013-14)
Professor Jane Stein-Parbury, Professor of Nursing, UTS (2010 – 11)
Dr Sandra Sujic, Drug and Alcohol Service Advisor (2010 – 2013)
Noha Sutton, Family Focussed Recovery Program Manager, MH-Children & Young People (2014-15)
Chris Willcox, Specialist Service Advisor, Hunter New England (2010 - 2013)
Professor Kay Wilhelm, Psychiatry UNSW and St Vincent’s Hospital (2010-13)

International visitors

We acknowledge the contribution of the following visitors to the Project Air Strategy 

Professor Anthony Bateman, Consultant Anna  Freud Centre, London; University College London, Honorary Professor in Psychotherapy University of Copenhagen
Dr Steve Gillard, St George's University, London UK
Professor Silvio Bellino, Centre for Personality Disorders, University of Turin, Italy
Dr Paola Bozzatello, Centre for Personality Disorders, University of Turin, Italy
Associate Professor Martin Sellbom, University of Otago NZ
Professor Eric Fertuck, Personality Studies Institute, NY USA
Dr Alan Fruzzetti, Linehan Institute / McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School USA
Professor Otto Kernberg, The Personality Disorder Institute, NY USA
Professor Marshall Korenblum, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre and University of Toronto
Professor Kenneth Levy, Cornell Personality Disorders Institute/Penn State University, USA
Dr Shelley McMain, Centre for Addiction & Mental Health/University of Toronto, Canada
Dr Nancy McWilliams, Rutgers University, USA
Dr Dolores Mosquera, Institute for the Study of Trauma & Personality Disorders, Spain
Professor Roger Mulder, University of Otago NZ
Professor Else Ronningstam, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School

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