New FIFO Mental Health Research Released

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Australian Mining

A recently released research paper has shown that levels of depression, anxiety and stress among FIFO workers are higher than those experienced by non-FIFO workers, and that such mental health problems are not determined by demographic differences such as gender or relationship status.

The research carried out by Edith Cowan University researchers Philippa Vojnovic and Susanne Bahn, released earlier this week, found that more than one third of FIFO workers surveyed (36 per cent) experienced depression, anxiety and/or stress symptoms above clinical cut-off levels, while 12 per cent of respondents experienced all three conditions.

In 2007, an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found that 20 per cent of workers nationally had experienced a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months.

In submissions to a WA parliamentary inquiry last year, government and industry organisations such as the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Australian Mines and Metals Association argued that the mental health of FIFO workers was no worse than that of the general population within certain demographic risk groups.

The present research showed that this was not the case within the sample group of 629 FIFO workers in Western Australia.

Demographic groupings such as gender and relationship status had little impact on the mental health of respondents.

However, older workers were found to be half as likely to experience symptoms of an adverse mental condition as other workers in the 18-34 years age group.

In addition, workers with tertiary education qualifications were found to be half as likely to experience symptoms of an adverse mental condition as other workers who had only secondary or vocational (TAFE/trade) education.

Vojnovic suggested that the findings should be considered “in context of intervention strategies tailored to target workers”, and that further research was required to determine the effects of FIFO employment conditions (such as high compression rosters) on mental health.

Vojnovic pointed out that positive mental health strategies had been shown to achieve improved productivity, with proven gains of $2.30 to $15.00 for every dollar invested on the mental health of workers.

It was also identified that better levels of mental health in workforces had a positive impact on rates of workplace accidents, absenteeism, bullying, and compensation claims, with annual national costs related to mental health problems of $11 billion presenting “convincing economic arguments” for carrying out mental health improvements in the workforce.

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Fierce rivals UNSW and University of Sydney team up to improve mental health

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The Sydney Morning Herald

 Professor Ian Jacobs, UNSW's vice-chancellor. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Professor Ian Jacobs, UNSW’s vice-chancellor. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Two of Sydney’s top universities will no longer compete but collaborate to tackle one of Australia’s most devastating health problems – mental illness and addiction.

In a first, Sydney University and UNSW Australia on Thursday announced a partnership across an entire field of research, affecting hundreds of researchers and staff, multiple faculties and research institutions.

It’s also a model for future collaborations, said the vice-chancellors, UNSW’s Professor Ian Jacobs and Sydney’s Professor Michael Spence.

With at least one attempted suicide every 10 minutes, and seven suicides every day in Australia, the two vice-chancellors argue the problem of mental health and addiction is too expensive, too harmful and too pervasive for each university to go it alone.

Estimated to cost around $30 billion a year, nearly half of all Australians experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives.

Every year, one in five adults suffers from anxiety, depression, or a drug or alcohol problem.

Staff from both institutions have already met with the NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley to identify priorities and future research projects.

To the average Australian, the initiative may sound like nothing more than common sense, said Professor Spence. But the rivalry between the two institutions had been legendary, with less collaboration than that seen among Melbourne universities.

 Professor Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of the University Of Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Professor Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of the University Of Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito

“These are universities that have had the Cambridge/Oxford, Harvard /Yale, kind of bitter rivalry,” Professor Spence said.

“It is a tricky kind of thing because a little bit of competition is good, and you wouldn’t want to have one mega university for Sydney because a little bit of polycentricity, a little bit of competition, a little bit of opportunity for people to disagree, spurs innovation,” he said.

UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs said “the devastating impact” of mental illness and addiction could not be understated.

The new vice-chancellor, Professor Jacobs, had been surprised that a city like Sydney – a global leader in many ways – did not have a university in the top 20 of the world.

He hoped the partnership would create a world class centre of excellence for research.

“We now have within our grasp the potential for major breakthroughs in understanding how these conditions work, and ultimately, the development of treatments to alleviate suffering,” Professor Jacobs said.

The Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward congratulated UNSW Australia and the University of Sydney and said the importance of the historical medical research partnership couldn’t be underestimated.

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Two in five new parents experience mental health issues, poll finds.

Published by:

The Guardian


Two in five parents experienced a mental health issue during or after pregnancy with their first child, according to a survey, which found many are too afraid to seek professional support.

The poll of 2,000 new mothers and fathers, for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), found that less than half (46%) of those who suffered from anxiety, depression or another mental health issue considered seeking help from a healthcare professional. A quarter of those who did not seek professional support said they were too scared to do so.

The RCN suggests the findings point to an “ongoing stigma” around mental health, which is particularly powerful for parents and is preventing many from getting potentially life-saving support.

The poll results also highlight the lack of support for men, a quarter of whom said they experienced depression or anxiety during or after their partner’s pregnancy. Around two-thirds of men were not asked about their mental health at all during the pregnancy, the survey found.

Carmel Bagness, professional lead for midwifery and women’s health at the RCN, said: “Too many parents worry that going through depression or anxiety means they will be deemed unfit parents, and this can be a hugely damaging and incorrect assumption which is putting lives at risk and preventing people getting the support they deserve.

The YouGov poll found that the majority of people who suffered a mental health issue relied on their partner or other relatives for support. Of those who did not seek professional health, 11% said they did not know that support was available from healthcare staff.

Clare Dolman, acting vice-chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said the coalition of more than 60 organisations “wholeheartedly endorses the RCN’s call for more training to combat the stigma towards new parents who experience mental health difficulties.

“As a mother who experienced mental illness after the birth of my daughter, I am very aware of how frightening and isolating an experience it can be – and how much it can affect fathers too,” she said. “I have met many women in a similar situation and the vast majority of them recover very well and are excellent parents, but they need the understanding and support of all those around them, not just family and friends but health professionals too.”

Last year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) issued guidelines on antenatal and postnatal health, stating that healthcare workers should “recognise that the range and prevalence of anxiety disorders (including generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder) and depression are under-recognised throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period”.

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Family Drug Treatment Court Pilot Program Established

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The Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) has been established as a three year pilot program in the Children’s Court of Victoria. The aim of the Family Drug Treatment Court is to help parents stop using drugs/alcohol and promote family reunification.

The Family Drug Treatment Court is chaired by a Children’s Court magistrate and is supported by a multi-disciplinary team.  The team comprises drug and alcohol clinicians and a dedicated social worker.

The FDTC works with agencies providing services for parents in the program.  They include:

  • Residential treatment
  • Drug and alcohol counselling
  • Mental health counselling
  • Parenting programs
  • Housing programs

Professionals also work with children to help them with the journey to family reunification.

Am I eligible to participate?

To be eligible for the FDTC you must:

  • Have at least one child aged 0-3 years currently in out-of-home care
  • Live in the catchment area of the northern region office of the department of human services
  • Are seeking to have your children returned to your care
  • Are committed to ceasing your drug use and creating a safer, more stable family environment
  • Are willing and able to participate fully in the program (i.e. You do not have any significant physical or mental health issues that may make it difficult for you to participate)
  • Consent to participate fully in the program for 12 months

How does the Family Drug Treatment Court work?

Instead of going through the normal court process, parents assessed as suitable for the Family Drug Treatment Court will enter a 12 month program.

While on the program you will be required to:

  • Attend court regularly
  • Participate in drug testing up to three times per week
  • Attend your treatment appointments which may include residential rehabilitation programs
  • Work toward achieving the goals of your family recovery plan

For more information on the Family Drug Treatment Court you can phone the Senior Clinician via the Broadmeadows Children’s Court registry on (03) 9221 8100.

The Children’s Court of Victoria.

Do one in two Australians suffer from a chronic disease?

Published by:

The Conversation

 The federal minister for Health, Sussan Ley, sourced her assertion to AIHW data. LUKAS COCH/AAP

The federal minister for Health, Sussan Ley, sourced her assertion to AIHW data. LUKAS COCH/AAP

With one in two Australians now suffering from a chronic disease, it’s essential we have safety nets designed to protect patients who need ongoing, costly primary care or hospitalisation. – federal health minister, Sussan Ley, press release, October 21, 2015.

According to the Minister’s office, Minister Ley’s comment was based on the chronic disease data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in August this year.

The report looked at eight chronic diseases: arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), CVD (cardiovascular disease), diabetes and mental health conditions. Other notable chronic diseases such as kidney disease, oral disease and visual impairment were not included.

The report found that:

Nearly five in ten Australians (46%) have at least one of the eight selected chronic diseases.

What is a chronic disease?

Chronic diseases, also known as non-communicable diseases, are long term health conditions which usually develop slowly and are potentially preventable.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) focuses primarily on four non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes because they account for an estimated 56% of global deaths and 82% of non-communicable disease deaths.

The current public consultation draft of Australia’s National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions has used the term “chronic conditions” to describe a broad range of chronic and complex health conditions across the spectrum of illness, mental illness and injury in order to move away from a disease-specific approach.

Things could be worse than we think

The AIHW analysis that formed the basis of Ley’s assertion was based on self-reported data. Survey participants responded to questions on whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had any of the eight listed health conditions.

The proportion of Australians with a chronic disease varies according to age group. Chronic disease is relatively uncommon in young people and becomes increasingly frequent with increasing age.


The Minister’s statement is generally correct and indeed is likely to be an underestimate. The AIHW analysis suggests that almost half of all Australians have at least one of the eight selected chronic diseases.

It is likely that more than half of all Australians have a chronic disease, if chronic diseases other than those eight are also considered, and more accurate and reliable data such as biomedical testing and medical records are collected and used.

This is a considered analysis. It is concerning that one in two adult Australians have a chronic disease and that this shocking figure is likely to be an underestimate.

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Australian researchers develop ‘world-first’ guidelines for PTSD

Published by:

ABC News

In what has been hailed a “world-first”, a group of Australian clinicians and researchers have developed national guidelines for the treatment and diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder in frontline emergency workers. At least 8,000 police, fire and ambulance officers are believed to be living with post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD, as it’s commonly known.

The guidelines’ lead author, Doctor Sam Harvey from University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute, said the nature of work in the emergency services meant people were repeatedly exposed to traumatic events.

Key points:

  • Australian researchers developing world-first guidelines to treat PTSD in emergency workers
  • 10pc of emergency workers suffer from PTSD
  • Increased suicide rate in workers with PTSD

“Sometimes that can be a trauma directed at them, such as in a case where a police officer is attacked by someone,” he said.

“But other times — and perhaps more common— it is just them witnessing a traumatic event.

“They often also suffer depression, anxiety disorders and develop substance abuse problems.” Doctor Harvey said increased rates of suicide were seen among emergency workers who developed PTSD.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has independently reviewed and endorsed the new national guidelines. Doctor Harvey said the new guidelines were tailored to emergency workers, to recognise the pattern of symptoms and make an early diagnosis.

The guidelines also explore how to treat PTSD among emergency workers, how to reduce the symptoms and the best ways to ensure the person can be transitioned back to work.

Doctor Harvey said it was difficult for some emergency workers to ask for help because of the stigma associated with mental illness and concerns about the impact on their career.

“It is complicated because the reality is that if they have suffered from PTSD, you often have to remove them from the frontline to be able to treat them.

“But I think having these guidelines will at least allow these people to be on the pathway to the best evidence-based treatment early on… and we know that helps outcomes and we know these treatments are effective with emergency workers.”

PTSD symptoms

  • Re-living trauma: Constant recurring and unwanted memories in the form of vivid images or nightmares, causing sweating or panic
  • Being overly alert or wound up: Causes sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration
  • Avoiding reminders of the event: Deliberating avoiding places, activities, people or thoughts associated with traumatic event
  • Feeling emotionally numb: Losing interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from friends and family

Source: Beyond Blue

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Join the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association

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The Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association is a non government, not for profit organisation.  The advisory board representatives have a wide background in Mental Health issues within Australia and New Zealand. The role of the Association is to advance the field of mental health through the application of knowledge about mental health. From mental health education, training and research to mental health advocacy.

The Association publishes books of proceedings after each conference and will launch its first journal this year.

Aims of the Association

  • Provide knowledge about mental health to the public
  • Provide mental health skills to interested citizens including patients, consumers and carers
  • Educate and train professionals in mental health practices
  • Advance knowledge and research in the field
  • Advocate for improved mental health and mental health services

Become a member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association today, its free and offers discounts on education and training seminars and workshops, discounts on annual conferences, access to conference podcasts and more.

Join the Association for free here.


Expert calls for mental health shake-up

Published by:

SBS News

Mental health sufferers are stigmatised by the professionals that are supposed to be caring for them, according to a globally-renowned expert calling for a shake-up of the system.

Professor Mike Slade, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, says the current attitude of mental health professionals is one of “do what we tell you to do and you will be well again.”

He says stigma against mental illness is alive and well among health professionals, who continue to maintain “hope-destroying” practices.

While developed countries have closed most asylums, they’ve inadvertently created “virtual institutions”, where sufferers who appear to live in the community are actually stuck in a “mental illness-defined bubble”.

Prof Slade is calling for a shift to a ‘nothing about us without us’ attitude, where those affected by mental health problems are involved in the debate about their future.

Prof Slade wants the mental health system to employ more people with lived experience of mental illness.

Instead of focusing only on patients, the system should be working with employers, educating them on how to accommodate workers with mental illness.

Mental health needed to move from a treatment-based model to a citizenship model, focusing on supporting people to make their own way rather than providing interventions.

“Living well for most of us does not happen in the hospital or in mental health service settings” Prof Slade said.

“It happens as we live our lives in our chosen community.”

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Does positive thinking really improve mental health?

Published by:

ABC News

How often have you been told to “look on the bright side” or “focus on the good things” when times are tough?

It can feel as though every self-help book, TV show and family member wants you to stop feeling sad, angry or depressed, and find the silver lining in every difficult situation.

Proponents of positive thinking would have us believe it is one of the best ways to boost self-esteem, find happiness and even prevent some mental illnesses, such as depression.

But just how effective is it?


Associate Professor Anthony Grant from the University of Sydney says the term “positive thinking” has been poorly defined and is often misunderstood.

For many people, it means saying daily affirmations, focusing on the good in every situation and putting on a happy face, even when it is the last thing we feel like doing.

But Associate Professor Grant warns that trying to be permanently optimistic about life is highly unrealistic – and generally makes you worse off in the long run. “It just doesn’t work. When people don’t allow themselves to think about problems or sadness or any other emotion apart from happiness, it’s not helpful at all,” he said.

“In difficult periods in your life, you need to allow yourself to grieve and have a whole range of emotions, because that’s part of the natural healing process.”

One popular aspect of so-called positive thinking is the belief that whatever we think manifests in our lives, but Associate Professor Grant says that is “clearly not the case”. “The notion that we create reality through our thinking is just wrong,” he says.

“The mindset we have and how we use our thinking capacity has a big impact on how we experience the world. But there are lots of things that happen that are completely outside our control.”

Psychologist Suzy Green, from The Positivity Institute, warns that seeing the world only through “rose-coloured glasses” can be dangerous. Dr Green says she is a proponent of “realistic optimism”, which she describes as “optimism with its eyes wide open”.

Anxious people, for example, tend to automatically focus on the negative or threatening aspects of a situation, but Associate Professor Grant says it is possible to change these thought patterns to refocus on things that make you happier.

Dr Green says research has shown optimistic and hopeful people are mentally and physically healthier. “They have higher levels of goal attainment and general wellbeing, because they have a belief that there’s another way, so engage in activities that are helpful,” she says.

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Rural doctor reflects on changes in treating mental health

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ABC Rural

Queensland rural doctor and academic Tarun Sen Gupta has seen many changes in the treatment of mental health.

Queensland rural doctor and academic Tarun Sen Gupta has seen many changes in the treatment of mental health.

We often talk about the patients in rural communities dealing with mental health issues, but what about the doctors who help them?

Many young medical students are sent to rural and remote communities as a requirement for their studies, preparation not offered to those before them.

Queensland doctor and academic, Tarun Sen Gupta has worked in medicine for more than 30 years. At the age of 24 he was sent to Richmond in north-west Queensland, with very little knowledge of how to appropriately treat mental health issues.

“It was a terrific introduction to rural medicine, but maybe what I wasn’t really prepared for was the stress that things like drought and wool prices were causing,” he said.

“Behind closed doors you would talk about depression and anxiety and I had to find ways to help those people.”

As a young doctor treating people with depression and other mental health issues, Mr Sen Gupta found it difficult to stop that becoming a stress in his life.

Even today many of the cases Mr Sen Gupta treated stay with him, particularly the many farmers he met during his six years at Richmond. He found often patients suffering from depression had turned to substance abuse or violence.

“These were often tough people from the land, really resilient but they were worn away year after year of things going wrong,” Mr Sen Gupta said.

While he did treat his patients successfully, Mr Sen Gupta admitted today’s medical students are much better equipped to deal with mental health.

He trains medical students at James Cook University in Townsville, and said he has seen many changes and developments in student preparation.

James Cook University student, Michael Johnston, has just returned to Townsville after placement in the remote New Zealand town of Ashburton.

When the 20-year-old arrived he was told of the high prevalence of mental health issues within the small community. Many of the patients he spoke with were struggling farmers, and it overwhelmed him in the beginning.

The opportunity to help those patients has now confirmed what Mr Johnston always knew: he wants become a rural doctor. “As a medical student I’ve seen countless cases of people with mental health issues. “It’s really eye-opening and it makes me want to work harder to be able to help people with these issues.”

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