Senator Penny Wright to present at 6th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium

Published by:


The 6th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium theme, The Practitioner’s Voice, seeks to give voice to practitioners who are faced with these challenges on a regular basis. Be a part of the discussion by registering for the symposium to be held 12-14 November 2014 at the Commercial Club Albury.

Senator Penny Wright Lo Res

Senator Penny Wright

Senator for South Australia
Australian Greens

Presentation Title: “Learning from Listening: Ideas for Improving Mental Health Services in Country Australia.”

During 2012 and 2013 Senator Penny Wright, the Australian Greens spokesperson for mental health, took to the road and toured regional Australia – visiting the length and breadth of our continent from Tasmania to Queensland and from Western Australia to New South Wales.

Her aim was to listen and learn lots, getting feedback about the gaps in existing mental health services from people working on the frontline, and the individuals and their carers who grapple with the challenges of mental ill-health every day.

Senator Wright used the insights she gained to develop practical, comprehensive policy that she would still like to see implemented. In this presentation she will try out some of her ideas on you – and share a few stories from the road.

Senator Penny Wright was elected to the Senate at the 2010 Federal election and took her seat on July 1, 2011. She is a proud member of the Australian Greens in parliament and works hard on behalf of people at home in South Australia and throughout the nation. As Greens spokesperson for Mental Health, Legal Affairs, Schools Education and Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Wright is passionate about her goal of a more inclusive Australia where all people can participate in their community and realise their full potential. She is also the Chair the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee.

Penny’s former roles as a solicitor, university lecturer and deputy president of the Guardianship Board – in which she focused on areas such as tenancy law, mental health, social security, refugees and violence against women – all helped prepare her for her work in parliament. As a lawyer, she often worked in the ‘little end’ of town, with those who live on the margins of society – people on low incomes, people with mental illnesses and people who have been dealt a tough hand by life.

Early Bird Registrations are available until 3 October 2014 and registrations can be made online by visiting the conference website.

For more information on presenters, download the Conference Program.

Australian pharmacies prepare to stock a new version of OxyContin that is impossible to abuse

Published by:

From April 1, pharmaceutical company Mundipharma will introduce its new non-crushable OxyContin tablets and withdraw the original version of the medicine from pharmacy shelves.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has warned its members to be on the look out for people with fraudulent scripts trying to obtain the last supplies of the old, crushable version of the drug in the next few weeks.

“It is expected in the transition period around the introduction of the reformulation, there will be an increase in the number of forged prescriptions for oxycodone prescriptions being presented to pharmacies. Pharmacists must ensure that all oxycodone prescriptions are safe and appropriate,” the newsletter said.

The savings to taxpayers could, however, be short-lived because the patent on OxyContin expires in the middle of this year and generic versions of the drug that are crushable will be allowed to be sold.

Last year the United States Food and Drug Administration intervened to prevent the sale of crushable forms of the drug there after 48 attorneys general signed a letter calling on it to help stamp out the diversion of the drug to the illegal market.

Mundipharma Managing Director Jane Orr said she wanted the Australian government to consider “new standards to recognise the utilisation of abuse-resistant technologies.”

In 2012 the government’s National Pharmaceutical Drug Misuse Framework for Action called for tamper resistant technology to be promoted for medicines diverted to the illegal drug market.

Banning non crushable forms of OxyContin would give Mundipharma a significant market advantage and could delay any savings taxpayers might make from the introduction of cheaper generic versions of the drug.

This would need to be weighed against gains made in stamping out part of the illegal drug trade and reduction in health costs related to deaths and overdoses caused by the medicine.

Read More

Addiction and Drug Use will be discussed at Addiction2015 conference.

2012-14: two years down the track – the transformative power of organisational positivity

Published by:

The 6th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium theme, The Practitioner’s Voice, seeks to give voice to practitioners who are faced with these challenges on a regular basis. Be a part of the discussion by registering for the symposium to be held 12-14 November 2014 at the Commercial Club Albury.

 Down the Track

’2012-14: two years down the track’ – the transformative power

of organisational positivity

 Ms Rebecca Graham, Executive Director
Mental Health, Country Health South Australia Local Health Network (Keynote Speaker)

Rebecca Graham lo res

Since 2012 Country Health SA Mental Health has achieved great things against greater odds. They attribute this, in no small part, to early adoption of Martin Seligman’s positive psychology model PERMA.

The influence of this framework on how they have approached each of their challenges has proved significant.

In her keynote address, Rebecca Graham with explore how this positive psychology focus drove Country Health SA on to plan and deliver new infrastructure and services in the face of great fiscal uncertainty.

Rebecca Graham is the Executive Director, Mental Health for Country Health South Australia Local Health Network – she is responsible directly to the Chief Executive Officer for the leadership of country mental health services and the mental health reform agenda for rural and remote South Australia.

Previously, Rebecca was the Director of Mental Health Planning and Redevelopment, for the former Central Northern Adelaide Health Service. In this role she was responsible for a number of major projects including the $134m Glenside Hospital Redevelopment with its many elements from facility design and clinical planning through to media and industrial relations.

Rebecca has experience in leading complex change and has been involved with both State-wide and National mental health policy development, providing high level advice to governments and senior officials.

Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Nursing and a Master of Health Service Management and has gained a variety of work experiences including intensive care nursing and education roles in both hospitals and universities.

Early Bird Registrations are available until 3 October 2014 and registrations can be made online by visiting the Conference Website.

For more information on presenters, download the Conference Program.


Can people really be addicted to sex?

Published by:

By Neil Levy, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Is sex addiction real? That is, is it really a disorder, involving diminished control over behaviour?

Questions such as these are difficult to answer because it’s always difficult to distinguish diminished capacity to resist a temptation from a diminished motivation to resist. People who tell us they literally can’t resist might be deceiving themselves, or they might be looking for a convenient excuse.

There are two ways we can attempt to discover whether people who say that they can’t control their behaviour really are suffering from some kind of diminished capacity.

First, we can gather as much behavioural evidence as possible: with enough evidence, we might be able to build an overwhelming case that a group of people genuinely suffer from diminished capacity.

When we see the costs – social, financial, physical and psychological – that drug addicts pay to continue using, we have good reason to think they have a diminished capacity to resist.

The second way we can proceed is to use scientific evidence that bypasses people’s reports about what they can and can’t do. Again, the case of drug addiction is a good example: some of the neurological changes in the brain of addicts seem to be changes in areas involved in self-control.

What about sex?

Recently, a group of researchers at UCLA attempted to resolve the question whether sex addiction is genuinely an addiction, utilising the second method.

Using EEG, which measures electrical activity on the surface of the brain, they determined that people who met the diagnostic criteria for “hypersexuality” did not find sexual stimuli any more compelling than did control subjects.

This is unlike the response seen in drug addicts, who find drug-related stimuli much more attention-grabbing than do unaddicted controls.

This research has been interpreted as showing that sex addiction isn’t real. In the terms I used above, it might be taken to show that purported sex addicts do not lack the capacity to control their behaviour.

They simply lack the motivation; they might be morally condemned (if they are harming their families, say) rather than given a medical excuse.

But we shouldn’t place too much weight on this study. The researchers looked for a likely correlate of a difficulty controlling behaviour, but there are many others possible correlates.

All we can conclude from the study is that sex addiction is different from drug addiction, not that it isn’t real. Much more evidence is needed before we conclude that there is no diminished control.

Neuroscientists know a great deal about the mechanisms involved in control, attention regulation and conflict management. Most of these mechanisms are better studied with other methods, such as functional brain imaging, than with EEG (which was used in the study).

Before we conclude that sex addicts have no impairment in their capacities, we should conduct appropriate studies using these methods.

Addiction on the mind

Still, there are reasons to be sceptical that sex addiction will turn out to be an addiction that’s anything as powerful as drug addiction. Drug addiction is so intractable in part because our brains are not designed to cope with drugs’ pharmacological action.

There’s evidence that addictive drugs drive up a dopamine value signal artificially, every time they are ingested. This makes it impossible for the brain to assign the appropriate value to the actual rewards drugs deliver.

As an aside, gambling may also cause a dysfunction in the dopamine system by delivering rewards in an unpredictable manner that’s wildly different from the reward schedule our brains evolved to predict and understand.

That’s how addicts can find themselves wanting a drug much more than they really like it.

Sex isn’t like that: it’s powerfully rewarding but the reward is one that our brains were designed to seek. For that reason, it’s unlikely that the rewards of sex would ever become pathological in the way or to the degree that drugs can.

And anyway, addictions are diseases of persons, not brains.

Some people may genuinely experience a diminished capacity with regard to control over their sexual desires, even if there’s no evidence that they lack the neural capacity for control. They might lack requisite skills, for reasons to do with their learning history or psychological history.

Not all self-control problems are best understood as neural problems: well-functioning brains can drive pathological behaviour. The recent research is one more piece of evidence, but the jury remains out on whether sex addiction is real.

The Conversation

Neil Levy receives funding from the Australian Research Council. In the past he has received funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Templeton Foundation.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Addictive Behaviours and Sexual Addiction will be discussed at Addiction2015 Conference, to register or submit an Abstract for this conference please visit the website

Reach Out and Get Connected

Published by:

Congratulations to Suicide Prevention Australia on the release of their thought provoking TV commercial entitled “Reach Out and Get Connected”.

The project is about promoting the importance of reaching and connecting to service and support in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day (10 Sept).

Directed, Produced and Created by Ingvar Kenne & Jason Loucas, featuring personalities Jessica Rowe, Steve Waugh, Jesinta Campbell, Justine Clarke, Luke Carroll, Steve Willis, Mia Freedman and Alex Perry speaking out about the importance of connecting to services and support.

The Behind The Scenes video shares the back story of the project. The powerful personal story of our community supporter and Suicide Prevention Australia friend, Trish Heagerty.

Trish Heagerty, explains how the project came about and the importance of making the connection to suicide prevention services and support.

Directed, Produced and Created by Ingvar Kenne & Jason Loucas.

Talking openly about suicide is so important but, remember, your number one priority should always be self-care so if watching this triggers emotions in you, please talk about how you’re feeling with a trusted friend or family member – or get in touch with people at Lifeline (phone 13 11 14 or online chat at, Suicide Call Back (1300 659 467), Men’s Line (phone 1300 78 99 78) or Kids Helpline (phone 1800 55 1800).

Assessing Australia’s Progress in Suicide Prevention

Published by:


The Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association commends the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention for providing a discussion forum in response to the World Health Organization’s Report Preventing suicide: A global imperative.

Join news and current affairs journalist Mike Munro and a panel of experts as they discuss Australia’s response to the first ever World Health Organization (WHO) World Suicide Report.

As we know, suicide impacts many of us. In Australia alone 65,000 attempt to take their own lives each year. This statistic is alarming and sadly, it doesn’t get much better globally.

World Suicide Prevention Day marks the release of a report conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report follows the adoption of the Mental Health Action Plan which commits all 194 member states to reducing their suicide rates by 10% by 2020.

What are our strengths?  What do we need to do better?

Panellists include:

  • Indigenous leader Dr Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Helen Christensen, Executive Director, Black Dog Institute
  • John Brogden, Chairman, Lifeline Australia
  • Dr Michael Dudley, Psychiatrist and Suicide Prevention Australia Board Director
  • Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre
  • Graeme Cowan, Motivational speaker and Lived Experience representative

Date: Wednesday 10th September 2014
Time: 11 am – 12 pm AEST
Location: Online – via webcast
Cost: Free

Whether you work in the health sector, or are an interested member of the community, all are welcome to join in the forum and will be given the opportunity to submit questions to the panel.

Support World Suicide Prevention Day on Wednesday, 10 September 2014, visit for more information.

Internet Addiction: prevention and treatment

Published by:

Internet Addiction disorder is a global and significant problem

Prevention and treatment of  Internet Addiction is to be discussed at the Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference, to be held at the Outrigger Surfers Paradise, 5th – 6th March 2015.

Prevention and treatment of Internet addiction

Prevention strategies for at risk groups of adolescents and children and specialised treatments programs are to be discussed at Addiction 2015, which will cover behavioural addictions.

Dr. Kimberly Young is the founder of The Center for Internet Addiction. Below is summary of her findings from the 2014  Internet Congress on Internet Addiction Disorders held in Milan:  Future initiatives based on the Congress are determining:

1] Defining Internet addiction (be it problematic Internet use, pathological Internet use, technology addiction, or other terms, we need to define a clear set of standardized criteria).

2] Consider how co-morbid psychiatric syndromes and personality traits play a role in the development of Internet addiction disorders.

3] Consider how age of onset (and age in general with the introduction of technology) influences childhood development and what parents and families need to know for prevention and what resources are available to them as well as to schools.

4] Conduct outcome studies to investigate the best practices in treating Internet addiction disorders among adolescents and adults.

5] Examine the role of culture in the development of Internet addiction disorders and how public health policies through government and healthcare systems can enable more effective responses for providing resources, prevention, education, and treatment.

ADDICTION 2015  – The Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference will be held at the Outrigger Surfers Paradise, 5th – 6th March 2015. If you require more information please email The Call for Abstracts is open and can be submitted online

WHO report maps global suicide problem for the first time

Published by:

By Reema Rattan, The Conversation; Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation, and Warren Clark, The Conversation

One person takes their own life every 40 seconds, equating to 803,900 deaths across the world every year, according to the first World Health Organization report on suicide prevention released today. “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative” calls for co-ordinated action to reduce suicide worldwide.

Diego De Leo, director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, who was involved in the preparation of the report, said there had not been any previous reports because suicide was an example of negative behaviour rather than a disease, so it did not fall within the jurisdiction of an international entity.

“But this is a fundamental step before we can begin on worldwide suicide prevention,” he said.

The report shows suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds across the world.

Professorial fellow in mental health at the University of Melbourne, Tony Jorm, said suicide stands out in this group because the general death rate is quite low in the young.

“If you’re dealing with older people you get cancer and heart disease as major causes of death but these are very rare in young people because they’re physically healthy,” he said.

But De Leo added that this was the age when people had to build their lives and that, coupled with a lack of experience, made them more vulnerable.

The report also showed men were more likely to die by suicide than women, especially in developed countries where they were three times more likely to die at their own hands.

Male: female ratio of suicide by age group and income-level of country, 2012.


Jorm said suicidal thoughts among women were more common in developed countries, but men were more likely to act on such feelings and thoughts.

“Men tend to be more impulsive than women so they are more likely to die by suicide,” he said. “They’re also more likely to use lethal methods so they’re more likely to die on their first attempt.”

De Leo added that in poor countries, the number of women who died by suicide was often higher.

“In many developing countries, young women of marital age are subject to a lot of pressure,” he said. “They may be forced into marriages that they’re not able to tolerate or face abuse that may render their life hell so their suicide rate is higher.”

Jorm said differences in suicide rates reflected social expectations and gender roles that needed to be looked at on a country-by-country basis, and socioeconomic issues also played a role.

“In Japan, for instance, the global financial crisis and its impact on unemployment had a drastic effect on the suicide rate in males,” he said. “There are a whole lot of specific factors in particular countries that are important, and then there are very general things across countries.”

Global suicides by age and income level of country, 2012.


The report lists a number of measures that governments can take to prevent suicide including responsible media reporting of suicide, policies to reduce harmful alcohol use, follow-up care for people who have attempted suicide, and restricting access to the means of suicide.

“A New Zealand study found that shifting the car park at a jumping point back further so you had to walk to the point reduced the suicide rate from that spot because people had time to reflect,” Jorm noted.

“If people are going to do it impulsively because something bad has happened, and if they don’t have the means readily available, suicidal thoughts are more likely to reduce. But if people have a long-term plan and are feeling suicidal over a long period, it might be quite a different situation.”

De Leo said suicide prevention needed a whole-of-society approach.

“We need education, employment, social welfare – all working together in a coordinated manner. Then you may reduce the impact of financial difficulties, relationship problems and unemployment and all the other things that lead to suicide,” he said.

Jorm agreed.

“You need to look at factors in society that place people in distressing long-term adverse circumstances and reduce those,” said Jorm. “But you also need to work at mental disorders because people can feel suicidal when they are not in those adverse situations. There are internal and external factors and you have to target both.”

If you have depression or feel very low, please seek support immediately. For support in a crisis, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 in Australia. For information about depression and suicide prevention, visit beyondblue, Sane or The Samaritans.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Addiction and the brain: how the immune system takes over

Published by:

By Mark Hutchinson

How do you know you are sick?

No, really… Think about it.

If you have suffered through another winter of coughs and sniffles, and you are about to be hit by the spring allergies, you will know the feeling of being tired and grumpy, where everything seems to hurt that little bit more and you wish everyone would just leave you alone.

What’s even worse is that your favourite foods and music don’t seem to cheer you up when you are that sick with the latest bug.

But how can being sick change how you act and feel? Your immune system is working overtime dealing with the bug. It must just be draining your batteries and that is making you feel so rubbish, right? Well, maybe a little, but actually not enough to make you feel the way you are. So how?

Everything you feel and think happens in your brain, so there must be a connection between the bug or the immune system and our brains… Bingo, that’s it!

Our immune system is constantly talking to our brain, keeping it updated on any changes to our health. So if we do get an infection our brains can change our behaviour to deal with the illness in the old tried and true way, with rest and recuperation (with a little grumpiness thrown in for good measure).

But the brain “talks” a neurotransmitter chemical language. Can the immune system “talk“ this same way to our brains?

So here is the curve ball: did you know your brains are actually more “immune” than “brain”?

Hang on, what about all the cool videos flying through the brain with all the wiring sparking and sending messages everywhere? There weren’t any immune cells there.

Mostly sparks and wiring? Not quite.

Well, despite the common perception, no one has that much air in their heads! That space is filled with immune cells, called glia. They actually outnumber the neuronal wiring ten to one. These immune cells are critical to the health and well-being of our brains. They also help translate the immune messages for our brain to tell us that we are sick.

How sick is the addicted brain?

This realisation that the immunology of our brains contributes to so many aspects of behaviour and cognition has led to paradigm shifts in the fields of psychiatry and mental health. A recent exciting development has been the discovery that changes in brain immunology contribute to drug addiction.

Now, of course dopamine is still the key reward neurotransmitter of the brain. But the immune system that surrounds the dopamine systems of the brain also seem to be very sensitive to drugs of abuse. So much so, that in preclinical studies it is possible to make rats like alcohol, opioids and methamphetamine a lot more, just by turning on the immune cells in specific brain regions.

This has significant drug addiction treatment implications. It means that treating drug addicts from a “brain” perspective might only solve part of the problem. The “other brain”, the brain immune cells, might need a little love and attention as well.

In fact, studies being conducted with the support of the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) in the United States have shown significant promise in treating opioid and methamphetamine addiction with brain immune-targeted treatments.

What does it mean for addicts?

Current drug substitution programs such as methadone maintenance programs provided in Australia are cutting edge, innovative and provide a world class health service to our drug addicted brothers and sisters.

Methadone programs aren’t widely available in developing countries.

But surprisingly, such programs are not widely available in many developed countries owing to negative political pressure that “you are just giving the junkies what they want for free” and “if they just tried harder they could just stop”.

But think about it; if your brain immunology is telling your brain you need your next fix, you have an uphill battle on your hands: ten immune cells to every neuron. That just isn’t a fair fight. This means that immune targeted therapies might be a much more politically palatable option in the future to compliment existing substitution therapy programs.

So where to now? When will we see an end to drug addiction with this new understanding of brain immunology?

Bottom line is, we don’t know. But at least now we can start to integrate the exciting developments in brain immunology with the many decades of neuroscience drug addiction research to provide hope to the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts worldwide that a cure could be in sight.

Mark Hutchinson is a panelist at the University of Adelaide’s public research forum this evening on Tackling Addiction.

The Conversation

Mark Hutchinson receives funding from NHMRC, ARC, NIH & National Cancer Foundation. He is affiliated with the University of Adelaide, Science Technology Australia and is on the editorial board of Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Neuroscience of Addiction will be addressed at the Addiction2015 conference

Addiction 2015 – call for abstracts

Published by:

Addiction-Conference-Logo.pngThe Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference 6th March 2015. The Australian and New Zealand Addiction 2015 Conference will address the treatment and recovery of alcohol, other drugs and behavioural addictions.

Addiction 2015 will be hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMH) The focus of the Addiction 2015 Conference will be on different types of addiction, prevention, assessment, treatment and recovery and the prevalence of mental health and substance abuse.

The Addiction 2015 Conference will take a collaborative approach to look at addiction holistically. This multi-disciplinarian program is suitable for a range of medicine and health care professional focused on addiction issues.  Delegates will include alcohol and drug workers, addiction treatment professionals, health-care clinicians, researchers and academics

Call for Abstracts

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

Presentations will be selected to provide a program that offers a comprehensive and diverse treatment of issues related to the Conference theme. Authors will be notified by e-mail of the outcome of their abstract submission.

Streams include the following

Policy &  Research
- Alcohol
- Tobacco
- Drugs
- Behavioural Addictions
- Special populations and addictions
- Workforce Development
- Mental Health and Addiction
- Treatment
- Therapy
- Medicines in Addiction
- Recovery

Important DatesCall for Abstracts

Abstracts open: June 2014
Abstracts close: 21st November 2014
Notification to authors: 1st December 2014
Author acceptances: 12th December 2014
Draft program available: 15th December 2014
Close of early bird: 22nd January 2015

Oral Presentations

Oral presentations should be of 30 minutes duration (20-25 minute presentations with 5-10 minute discussion). Papers not selected for oral presentation might be given the option of poster presentation instead.


Workshops will require an interactive format to facilitate active learning, such as discussion, activities, small group role plays.

Workshops will be delivered for 90 minutes. The format should focus on offering participants an interactive information session. Presenters will be entirely responsible for the workshop facilitation.  Submissions should include an outline of the workshop objectives:

  • Background
  • Who should attend
  • Structure of workshop
  • Intended outcomes

Poster Presentations

Poster presentations are visual displays of material to be presented and constitute an interactive and communicative medium, usually combining text and graphics information. Posters may be on any topic relevant to the conference themes.

Posters will be displayed in the exhibition area and for the duration of the conference. It is expected that presenter should be available during meal breaks to discuss it with conference participants. Specific information regarding size and mounting requirements will be provided with the notice of acceptance.

Peer Review

All accepted presenters will have the opportunity to have their full paper peer reviewed published in the Conference Proceedings with an ISBN. Please indicate if you will be presenting an academically oriented, professional paper for consideration for publication in the conference proceedings for which you request peer refereeing on the submission form.

All submissions must be completed electronically via the online submission form. For more information please contact the Secretariat on