A number of schools have recently introduced the Commonwealth funded ‘Safe Schools’ program which is aimed at increasing empathy and understanding of children who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexed. The initiative stems from a realisation that bullying and stigmatisation of such children has been so severe that there has been a major incidence of suicide and ongoing serious emotional disturbance.
The ‘Safe Schools’ program is a fine example of the anti-stigmatisation approach discussed in the MHYFVic website project on ‘Stigma’. Stigma is conceptualised as a rejection of a perceived “out-group” by a dominant “in-group”. Successful resolution depends upon broadening the in-group to encompass the (former) out-group within its membership by a process of understanding and empathy for the previously rejected. The ‘Safe Schools’ program attempts to do this by talking to students about LGBTI issues and encouraging them to imagine themselves in the other person’s shoes.
‘The Age’ reports Senator Corey Bernardi as asking for withdrawal of funding as the program “prematurely sexualised” children by a “Marxist agenda”. This seems to be a fear of an anti-Christian, state-controlled mindset that will convert children to LGBTI orientation. The concerns were quickly echoed by several other conservative politicians and journalists. It all seems to say much more about the commentators than about the program.
On the one hand children must not be exposed to discussion of sexuality because of a feared instantaneous conversion to LGBTI but on the other hand the commentators lament their lack of success in conversion of LGBTI children to orthodox heterosexuality. How curious that gender identity development should be so unidirectional (in the wrong direction)! It is a wonder that there are any heterosexuals left on the planet.
Aside from the appalling ignorance of the science of child development, the other concerning aspect is the arrogance of their assertions. They do not say, “We worry that the program might cause gender confusion”, but leap straight to its termination. Is there not such a thing as seeking evidence?
By coincidence the MHYFVic committee decided to ask Associate Professor Campbell Paul, a child psychiatrist at the Royal Children’s Hospital who has made a particular study of Gender Dysphoria issues, to be the speaker at our next Annual General Meeting. He will talk in particular about the program at the Hospital for children seeking gender re-assignment. Although this was not a response to the current controversy, I am sure his presentation will have quite a lot to say about the underpinnings of sexual identity.
Annual General Meeting 25 August 2016
The 2016 Annual General Meeting of MHYFVic will be held on Wednesday 25thAugust 2016 in conjunction with an evening meal at the ‘Pacific Rim’ Thai Restaurant in Albert Park at the corner of Ferrars Street and Bridport Street.
The after-dinner speaker will be Associate Professor Campbell Paul, who will be describing the work of the gender dysphoria clinical service of the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Prior to the dinner the business of the AGM will include election of office-bearers for the coming year, and also a proposal to increase the Membership subscription fee to $50 per annum. The reason for this is simply that the membership income does not meet the running costs of the organisation.
Winston Rickards Memorial Oration for 2016
“PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR THE VERY OLD AND THE VERY YOUNG.
A PATHWAY FROM PSYCHOANALYSIS TO CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS AND A THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY”
FRANCIS MACNAB AM OM PhD DD, Clinical Psychologist and Executive Director of the Cairnmillar Institute, delivered this year’s Oration. It was an outline of his development of a psychoanalytic therapeutic community over a working lifetime of 55 years.
Early training at Aberdeen in theology combined with training in psychology focused particularly on group therapy in the context of a therapeutic community. On coming to Melbourne his work at the Cairnmillar Institute involved a therapeutic community which also encompassed one-to-one analysis, community education, training for individuals to undertake one-to-one therapy, group therapy, and research. Whilst putting theory into practice he also sought to build theory from his practice. This led to his conceptualisations of “Contextual Analysis”, the “Release Mechanisms”, and effective use of “Softeners and Soothers”.
Within the Institute specific programs were developed for particular needs. The trauma work evolved into the AFAR program. Work with the elderly produced the SAGE Group. Work with kindergarten children produced the Big Tent Project.
The core concept of contextual analysis also highlighted the common elements found in diverse programs at Cairnmillar. Attempting to regain what Winnicott called the ‘vital spark’ is a key task at any stage of the life cycle.
The full text will be posted on our website.
Child Mental Health & Children’s Court:
“Children’s Matters –
What matters to them?”
MHYFVic was one of the sponsoring organisations for the very successful seminar held on Monday 29th February at the Royal Children’s Hospital expressing concerns at the unsatisfactory amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act relating to removal of the Children’s Court oversighting of permanent placement of children in out-of-home care. Information about the seminar was circulated with the previous MHYFVic Newsletter.
A highlight of the seminar was the paper by the Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC which is summarised and supplied as an attachment to this Newsletter. The following is a Press Release which was issued by the sponsoring organisations:
Legal and Child Welfare groups call for reinstatement of child protection powers for the Children’s Court in Victoria
Supporting children removed from their parent’s care to return home safely will become more difficult when changes to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 passed by the previous State Government take effect on 1 March 2016, according to legal and child welfare groups.
Concerned at these changes over 200 people attended the Children’s Matters forum at the Royal Children’s Hospital including foster and kinship carers, grandparents, as well as service providers, legal advocates, Aboriginal agencies, disability advocates and mental health services.
The LIV (Law Institute of Victoria), Berry Street, the Victoria Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), the Office of Public Advocate, and MHYFVic (Mental Health and their Families) are calling of full oversight and review powers of the Children’s Court to be reinstated and effective remedies to improve support for vulnerable children and their families. While the State Government has committed to reviewing the changes after six months’ details for the review are yet to be announced. The organisers of Children’s Matters have committed to further public meetings and to presenting evidence to the review.
LIV President-elect Belinda Wilson:
‘The LIV is gravely concerned that the 2014 legislative reforms [The Children Youth & Families Act] drastically reduce the powers of the Children’s Court of Victoria, which is against the best interests of Victoria’s most vulnerable children. ‘
Muriel Bamblett, CEO of the Victoria Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA):
‘The changes will make it more likely that children in care are separated for their entire childhood from their parents, siblings and other family members. For Aboriginal children this means separating them from their Aboriginal culture and identity. The changes wind back the clock 30 years to a discredited welfare model that was guilty of some of the worst treatment of Aboriginal children and disregard of Aboriginal families. ‘
Colleen Pearce, Victoria’s Public Advocate, Office of the Public Advocate:
‘The Public Advocate considers that babies and children from families where parents have a disability are generally far better off in their own properly supported families than being placed in permanent care or adopted.’
Julian Pocock, Berry Street director of Public Policy:
‘The Royal Commission into Institutionalised Sexual Abuse has highlighted how critical it is that child welfare systems are subjected to independent judicial review. Many survivors have made the point to the Royal Commission that while in State care they were forgotten and vulnerable to exploitation in systems where the child welfare department had unfettered powers over their care. It is not in the best interest of any family or child in Victoria for us to be returning to a discredited child welfare model that invested too much control in the Department.’
Sending children back to Nauru risks creating a generation of damaged people
The 37 asylum seeker babies and 54 children who risk deportation from Australia could face significant, irreversible mental health damage if sent back to Nauru. And the longer they’re detained, the greater the risk of damage.
A report released today by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows children previously detained on Nauru already show significant symptoms of trauma.
The word trauma is overused in everyday descriptions of stress and adversity. In a psychological sense, traumatic experiences pose a threat to an indivual’s psychological or physical integrity and overwhelm their capacity to cope or adapt.
Humans have enormous capacity to adapt and change in the face of stress. This neurological and physiological process forms the basis of what is currently described as resilience.
But there is only so much trauma an individual can endure before it causes long-term problems for mental health, cognition and behaviour. And there’s only so much difference good mental health care can make in undoing the damage.
Trauma from Nauru
In October 2015, delegates from the Australian Human Rights Commission, accompanied by two paediatricians, visited the Wickham Point Detention Centre in Darwin to assess the well-being of children and their families.
Most of the children the paediatricians interviewed at Wickham Point had spent several months on Nauru. When asked if he was scared about being sent back to Nauru, a nine-year-old boy replied:
I am scared in my room every night at 10pm when they walk and open the door for the head count. I think someone is going to take me away.
The paediatricians say the children are among the most traumatised they have seen. Nineteen of the 20 children who completed the childhood trauma screening questionnaire were deemed at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
The seven-year-old girl who drew this image explains what’s in her picture: ‘I jumped from the house to the ground and I died. My mum and dad are crying.’ Australian Human Rights Commission.
Some were experiencing nightmares, bed-wetting, flashbacks and physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations, vomiting and nausea.
Asked about their hope for the future in another questionnaire, as an indicator of their resilience, more than 95% of the children and adolescents received the highest possible score for hopelessness. Around 90% received the highest possible score for despair.
There was little access to paediatric psychiatrists and psychologists with appropriate training to be able to adequately care for these children.
How trauma affects the brain
The brain is particularly vulnerable to stress in the first three years of life. During this period of rapid growth and organisation, a rise in stress-related hormones may impact the development of emerging neural networks.
Studies in animals and humans show stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin are implicated in brain changes and longer-term vulnerability to stress. The question of threshold – how much stress is damaging – remains open.
There are also ongoing questions about how much recovery can occur over time and what sorts of interventions might be effective. There is little evidence to guide the development of treatment programs.
The long-term issues for traumatised children are frequently serious, with effects on emotional health and cognitive function. In cases of sustained and severe trauma in the early years, changes in brain functioning have been found to persist into adolescence and young adulthood.
This is ‘my dad, me and my mum behind the fence at Nauru,’ the six-year-old illustrator explains. Australian Human Rights Commission.
Trauma can result in ongoing difficulty in managing stress, memories of early trauma and problems with mood and anxiety. These can be debilitating conditions with implications for all relationships, work capacity and parenting.
Some of the most stigmatised and misunderstood conditions (such as so-called borderline personality disorder), become much more comprehensible if their traumatic origins and responses are understood.
Immigration policy must protect young brains
Protecting the brains of children during critical periods of early development is a priority in the child protection and mental health systems. It must also be a priority in Australia’s immigration response.
Infants of asylum-seeking parents who are detained are exposed to multiple developmental risks and traumatic experiences. Parents are often depressed and despairing and in seemingly unresolvable situations of ongoing and indefinite detention.
Older children are impacted by the lack of safety and threat of child assault, and exposure to behavioural disturbances, violence and even suicidal behaviour. As one 15-year-old girl told the paediatricians:
When I think about the rape that is happening in Nauru I think it will happen to me. I miss my friends. I am staying here – we came in the same boat but they are free. Sometimes I think if I hurt myself we will get out.
Akin to children in a war zone, asylum seeking children on Nauru are haunted by their experiences. Parents feel profound guilt about having a child in this situation and little is available in terms of support or treatment of the inevitable depression and anxiety.
We must condemn any government policy that damages children and vulnerable individuals, and is directly implicated in the production of mental disorders. The potential return of infants and children to Nauru can only be seen as an action condoning child abuse with the clear potential for producing a generation of damaged individuals.
Dr Marc Seal PhD
Group Leader, Developmental Imaging, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
The Royal Children’s Hospital Flemington Rd Parkville, Victoria 3052 AUS
E firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
M 0423 606 185 | T (03) 9936 6678
More on children in detention :
An additional reference which may be of interest to readers is an article by Dr Sarah Mares in Australasian Psychiatry (2016) Vol 24(1), 11-14, entitled “Fifteen years of detaining children who seek asylum in Australia – evidence and consequences”.
The conclusion states : “The evidence that prolonged immigration detention causes psychological and developmental harm to children and families and is in breach of Australia’s human rights obligations is consistent. This is now partially acknowledged by the Government. Attempts to limit public scrutiny through reduced access and potential punishment of medical witnesses arguably indicates the potency of their testimony. These harmful and unethical policies should be opposed.”
HISTORY CORNER, 1896
The Child and Family Guidance Center in Dallas, Texas, is the second oldest child guidance center in the United States, having been established in 1896. The CGFC of today, however, is an amalgam of different historical themes and different agencies with separate auspices.
This column in the MHYFVic newsletter will begin to tell the story of the seven Child guidance clinics funded in 1923 by the Commonwealth Fund (Harkness family philanthropy).
The 1896 service was called the Family Guidance Center. The 1923 service was called the Dallas Child Guidance Clinic. In 1993, the Dallas Center for Help of Abuse and Neglected Children (CHANCE) joined with DCGC. Three years later, the services combined as the Child and Family Guidance Center. The service is managed by a private not-for-profit organization called Health Grove.
The CGFC has had an alliance with another important provider of welfare and mental health support since 1924: United Way in Metropolitan Dallas. United Way was begun in Denver, Colorado, in 1887: “In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together…It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but they didn’t walk into a bar; what they did do was recognize the need to work together in new ways to make Denver a better place” (from their website). They raised $21,700 in their first year for local charities and to provide coordination of relief services. The idea grew across the USA.
The CGFC serves over 12,000 individuals a year, including over 7,500 children. CFGC is a key provider and referral source for mental health and related services in North Texas. Among the many services are: Clinical Assessment, Psychiatric Evaluation, Case Management, Medication Management, Individualized Counselling Services, Family Counselling Services, Rehabilitation Services, Parenting Classes, Social Studies, Divorce Education. The CGFC Primary Treatment Centre offers outpatient or partial hospitalization care for people of all ages. Their areas of expertise include youth with serious emotional disturbance, transition-age 18-25, adults with serious mental illness, and persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
The mission of the CGFC is to “provide quality professional services, training and research services designed to prevent and alleviate emotional and behavioural problems in the lives of individuals, children, and families”. The CGFC has a main centre and five satellite locations. It provides: Family and Community Education programs (parenting, separation and divorce, anger management, truancy prevention, academic skill development); Therapy-based services (assessment, psychiatric consultation, medication management, individual, group, and family therapy, substance abuse prevention and intervention, corporate consultation and employee assistance); and Professional Training (psychology, psychiatry, social work, and continuing professional education for all professions). As an example of their innovative approach, the CGFC’s Safety Net program provides an intensive drug and alcohol intervention program. The program strives to decrease dropout rates among at-risk youth by providing on site prevention services. Services are provided in 29 high-need schools in Dallas, Collin and Rockwall Counties.
We will be endeavouring to contact Dallas’ CGFC to partner a service in Melbourne to explore their history and learn lessons from it. Any agency interested in partnering with Dallas CGFC, should contact me
COPMI national initiative funding discontinued
Emerging Minds has been advised by the Australian Government that the COPMI national initiative will no longer receive funding after June 30, 2016.
The COPMI national initiative has received 15 years of sequential funding that has produced highly regarded, evidence based, co-produced resources and best-practice guidance in addressing the previously hidden needs of children and families where a parent experiences mental illness. Our international reach has supported increased understanding of research, practice and policy responses in relation to the needs of this group.
What we are doing
Emerging Minds is currently exploring how we can maintain access for professionals and families to the COPMI website and eLearning courses that many have come to rely on. In the meantime, we encourage you to continue integrating this work into your practice and to utilise the eLearning courses, hardcopy and online resources available from the COPMI website.
How can you help?
In order to develop a plan to sustain this work, Emerging Minds needs your help. We would like to understand what COPMI resources you may have used and how they have assisted you or your work. This will also help us to develop a story about the impact and the successes of the COPMI national initiative over the past 15 years.
To assist our planning, we invite you to complete a short survey. If you have any comments, stories or feedback about the COPMI initiative, please share these with us.
Sincerely, Emerging Minds
OUR UPDATED WEBSITE
After much thought our website has been significantly revised to give casual visitors immediate information about what we do and what we stand for, whilst at the same time allowing members to go straight to specific sections such as Projects or Newsletters or Events, without having to navigate past reams of information.
Now that the main revision has been implemented we are working on tasks of development of Projects to give us the evidence base for our advocacy. There are quite a few items under development at the present time which are not yet reflected in the website but over the next few months we expect to see a burgeoning of activity.
Visit us on mhyfvic.org
2016 MHYF Vic Committee
* President : Jo Grimwade
* Vice-President : Jenny Luntz
* Past President: Allan Mawdsley
* Secretary : Celia Godfrey
* Treasurer : Anne Booth
* Membership Secretary:Kaye Geoghegan
* Projects Coordinator, Kylie Cassar
* WebMaster, Ron Ingram
* Newsletter Editor, Allan Mawdsley
* Youth Consumer Representative, vacant
* Members without portfolio:
Suzie Dean, Miriam Tisher.
Mental Health for the Young & their Families in Victoria is a collaborative partnership between mental health & other health professionals, service users & the general public.
PO Box 206,
Parkville, Vic 3052