June 2005

Newsletter No. 6

Psychiatry Conference, Sydney, May 2005 The New Newsletter The Stigma project IACAPAP Conference

Newsletter No 6
01/06/05 14:04
MHYF Vic Newsletter No. 6 June 2005

Psychiatry Conference, Sydney, May 2005

The 40th Congress of the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists was held recently in the Convention Centre at Darling Harbour with about 1000 psychiatrists from all over Australasia and from other countries.

Although it was an annual conference of the College, which has only 10% of its membership in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry, there were nevertheless many presentations of direct interest to MHYF Vic members.

The first keynote address by Dr Mary Target reminded us that we still need an understanding of the mind at the same time as most of the attention is aimed at better understanding the brain. Medication and other short-term interventions often also need psychological treatments if they are to be effective. Administrators sometimes put barriers in the way of providing psychological services because they are “expensive”, but they may well make the difference between the whole treatment working or not working. This has definite relevance to the MHYF Vic project group working on improved provision of child and adolescent mental health services.

The second keynote address, given by Professor Stan Kutcher of the World Health Organization, showed that four of the top five causes of loss of years of productive life were primarily mental health issues. Grossly inadequate funding was being given to mental health despite clear evidence that money spent on mental health would be returned by improved productivity. Many countries do not have a Mental Health Policy at all. The global burden of mental health problems, both economic and humanitarian, is worsening. The great tragedy is that much of it is treatable or preventable but is not being treated or prevented. Although the presentation was mainly referring to under- developed countries, the conclusions were equally relevant to Australia where mental health services are also seriously underfunded.

Professor Michael De Bellis from the University of Pittsburgh spoke about the serious impact of long-term stress on child development. Stress of various types, including child abuse, can have life-long effects. The emotional effects are a form of post- traumatic stress disorder but there may also be an adverse effect on brain development which permanently reduces the child’s potential. These findings apply not only to victims of abuse but particularly to children in Immigration Detention Centres.

Associate Professor Helen Milroy is a descendent of the Palyku people from the Pilbara region of Western Australia and is the first Aboriginal to have qualified as a specialist child psychiatrist. She works at the Bentley Family Clinic in Perth and is on several state and national policy committees relating to indigenous health and welfare. She gave a moving account of the difficulties in overcoming the entrenched cycles of poverty, social disadvantage, educational and employment barriers facing indigenous Australians.

The other important thing about Conferences is the chance to ‘network’ with colleagues. MHYF Vic had many members and friends at the Conference, which gave an opportunity to plan further developments. The photo shows Dr Howard Cooper, Director of the child psychiatry training program (‘Mindful’) in Melbourne, with Associate Professor Harry Minas, Director of the Centre for International Mental Health (based at the University of Melbourne). Howard is chairman of the Scientific Program Committee for the 2006 IACAPAP Conference, which is a most important event on the MHYF Vic calendar for next year. Harry is particularly interested in seeing that people of diverse cultural backgrounds are adequately helped by our mental health services, and that all consumers have an opportunity to voice their concerns. This is one of the most important roles for MHYF Vic.


Dr Howard Cooper and Assoc. Prof. Harry Minas.

The New Newsletter
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The Stigma project
The project group described in our previous Newsletter, aimed at ‘Improving understanding and reducing the stigma associated with mental disorders’ will have its first meeting on Monday 18th July 2005 at 7.30pm.
Any member wishing to contribute to this project can contact the Convenor, Dr Allan Mawdsley on 9645 5348.


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