Section: Overview
Key publications
Research funding
Supervising & teaching

Key details

Areas of expertise

  • Mental health
  • Clinical trials
  • Physical activity
  • Lifestyle interventions

Available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

About Alex Parker

Alexandra (Alex) is the Executive Director, Institute for Health & Sport and a professor of Physical Activity and Mental Health in the Institute, one of two flagship research institutes at Victoria University. The Institute has 115 research staff and 250 PhD students.

Alex leads a multidisciplinary research group that aims to measure, understand, and promote physical activity to optimise mental wellbeing and prevent and treat mental illness. Her research aims to maximise the potential of physical activity in achieving better clinical outcomes, improved functioning and wellbeing in those at risk of, or experiencing, mental health problems. Alex's research group receives support from national and international funding bodies and industry partners.

Her major research interests are:

  • investigating the effectiveness of physical activity, behavioural and lifestyle interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders
  • translating research findings into practice through workforce development and implementation studies
  • the mental health and wellbeing of elite athletes.

Through her partnerships with the key youth mental health organisations of Orygen and headspace, major career achievements include: i) the translation of her clinical research into new service delivery platforms, both face to face and digital, that now reach thousands of young people across Australia and have demonstrated impact with benefits to their mental health and social functioning; and ii) the development and validation of a measure of athlete psychological distress, that is now included within the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Sport Mental Health Assessment Tool (SMHAT-1).

Alex is also a practising clinical psychologist specialising in youth mental health.


  • PhD, University of Melbourne, Australia, 2007
  • MPsych (Clin), University of Melbourne, Australia, 2007
  • BA (Hons, Psych), University of Melbourne, Australia, 2007

Key publications

Year Citation
2021 Klepac, Pogrmilovic., Craike, M., Pascoe, M., Dash, S., Parker, A., & Calder, R. (210803). Improving the mental health of young people in tertiary education settings. Mitchell Institute.

doi: 10.26196/bat2-0676

2021 Bryce, C., Dadswell, K., & Parker, A. (210728). Alice Sloan Expedition and Leadership Program: Evaluation Report.

Year Citation
2021 Pascoe, M. C., Bailey, A. P., Craike, M., Carter, T., Patten, R. K., Stepto, N. K., & Parker, A. G. (211201). Single Session and Short-Term Exercise for Mental Health Promotion in Tertiary Students: A Scoping Review. Sports Medicine - Open, 7(1),

doi: 10.1186/s40798-021-00358-y

2021 Hetrick, S. E., Gao, C. X., Filia, K. M., Menssink, J. M., Rickwood, D. J., Herrman, H., Hickie, I., McGorry, P., Telford, N., & Parker, A. G. (211201). Validation of a brief tool to assess and monitor suicidal ideation: The Youth Suicide Ideation Screen (YSIS-3). Journal of Affective Disorders, 295 (235-242).

doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.08.053

2021 Morgan, A. J., Ross, A. M., Yap, M. BH., Reavley, N. J., Parker, A., Simmons, M. B., Scanlan, F., & Jorm, A. F. (211201). What works for mental health problems in youth? Survey of real-world experiences of treatments and side effects. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 15(6), (1502-1512).

doi: 10.1111/eip.13087

2021 Cotton, S. M., Menssink, J., Filia, K., Rickwood, D., Hickie, I. B., Hamilton, M., Hetrick, S., Parker, A., Herrman, H., & McGorry, P. D. (211101). The psychometric characteristics of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6) in help-seeking youth: What do you miss when using it as an outcome measure?. Psychiatry Research, 305

doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114182

2021 Pascoe, M. C., Bailey, A. P., Craike, M., Carter, T., Patten, R. K., Stepto, N. K., & Parker, A. G. (211001). Poor reporting of physical activity and exercise interventions in youth mental health trials: A brief report. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 15(5), (1414-1422).

doi: 10.1111/eip.13045

2021 Filia, K., Rickwood, D., Menssink, J., Gao, C. X., Hetrick, S., Parker, A., Hamilton, M., Hickie, I., Herrman, H., & Telford, N. (210701). Clinical and functional characteristics of a subsample of young people presenting for primary mental healthcare at headspace services across Australia. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 56(7), (1311-1323).

doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-02020-6

2021 Shrestha, N., Pedisic, Z., Jurakic, D., Biddle, S. JH., & Parker, A. (210701). Physical activity and sedentary behaviour counselling: Attitudes and practices of mental health professionals. PLoS ONE, 16(7 July),

doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254684

2021 Woessner, M. N., Tacey, A., Levinger-Limor, A., Parker, A. G., Levinger, P., & Levinger, I. (210528). The Evolution of Technology and Physical Inactivity: The Good, the Bad, and the Way Forward. Frontiers in Public Health, 9

doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.655491

Research funding for the past 5 years

Please note:

  • Funding is ordered by the year the project commenced and may continue over several years.
  • Funding amounts for contact research are not disclosed to maintain commercial confidentiality.
  • The order of investigators is not indicative of the role they played in the research project.

Improving Care for Patients on a Waiting List for Orthopaedic Specialist Public Health Services in Melbourne’s West (Waitlist Project)
From: Victorian Higher Education Strategic Investment Fund
Other investigators: Prof Itamar Levinger, Prof Michael Mckenna, Prof Vasso Apostolopoulos, Prof Rebecca Lane, Miss Mary Woessner
For period: 2021-2022

A Parent-Targeted eHealth Intervention to Use Exercise to Reduce Symptoms of Poor Mental Health in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder
From: The Waterloo Foundation
Other investigators: Dr Michaela Pascoe, Dr Jacqueline Williams
For period: 2020-2021
Implementing High-Intensity Interval Training for Young Adolescents in School
From: The Health Research Council of New Zealand
For period: 2020-2023
Co-Creating Community Change to Break Cycles of Disadvantage
From: Paul Ramsey Foundation
Other investigators: Dr Bojana Klepac pogrmilovic, Dr Philippa Moylan, Ms Jennifer Jackson, Aspr Melinda Craike
For period: 2020-2025
Feasibility Study of a Brief, Nuse-Led Behaviour Change Intervention to Increase Physical Activity for Prostate Cancer Survivors Living in Disadvantaged Communities
From: World Cancer Research Fund International
Other investigators: Aspr Melinda Craike
For period: 2020-2021

WIRED: Web-Based Interventions for Reducing Eating Disorders
From: NHMRC - Projects
Other investigators: Aspr Karen (zali) Yager
For period: 2019-2022
Headspace 'Decks' (Interactive Self-directed and Automated Intervention Options): Development of Content and Evaluation Framework
From: Headspace - National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd
Other investigators: Aspr Melinda Craike
For period: 2019-2020
Not disclosed
Factors that Influence Wellbeing and Life Satisfaction Beyond Elite Athletes' Sporting Careers: Identification and Prediction of Positive Retirement Outcomes
From: Australian Institute of Sport
Other investigators: Aspr Camilla Brockett, Dr Michaela Pascoe
For period: 2019-2019
Not disclosed

readyforwhatsnext: VicHealth Innovation Project on Identifying Optimal Strategies for Developing the Resilience of Young Victorians.
From: VicHealth Innovation Grants
For period: 2017-2019
Not disclosed

Physical Activity for Young People With Depression: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial to Test the Effectiveness of Incorporating a Brief Intervention into Routine Clinical Care
From: The University of Melbourne
For period: 2014-2019


Many thanks to the following organisations for their support and essential contributions to my research:

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

    Parker AG, Jorm A, MacKinnon A, et al. Physical activity for young people with depression: A cluster randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of incorporating a brief intervention into routine clinical care. NHMRC Project Grant; 2013 ($1,613,136.40)

Supervision of research students at VU

Available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

Currently supervised research students at VU

No. of students Study level Role
2 PhD Principal supervisor

Currently supervised research students at VU

Students & level Role
PhD (2) Principal supervisor

Completed supervision of research students at VU

No. of students Study level Role
3 PhD Associate supervisor

Completed supervision of research students at VU

Students & level Role
PhD (3) Associate supervisor

Professional memberships

  • Registered psychologist - clinical endorsement, Psychology Board of Australia