DVA puts veterans at ease

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced new arrangements designed to make it easier for veterans to access mental health support.

Currently, veterans and eligible current and former members of the Australian Defence Force are able to access treatment for psychiatrically-diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders, whatever the cause.

Under the new regime, known as non-liability health care, there does not have to be any link between the mental health condition and military service for the individual to access these services.

Veterans and eligible current and former members of the Australian Defence Force who are diagnosed with these conditions by vocationally registered general practitioners and clinical psychologists will also be able to access these non-liability health care arrangements.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson said extending access to non-liability health care to those who were diagnosed by a GP or psychologist ensures people were given access to these services as quickly as possible.

“Early treatment is vitally important in addressing conditions such as these,” Senator Ronaldson said.

“The Government also previously expanded these services to include treatment for alcohol-use disorder and substance-use disorder and made changes to allow a greater number of people with peacetime service to be eligible for these treatments.”

A psychiatrist’s diagnosis will still be required for compensation claims relating to mental-health conditions.

Further information on mental health support for veterans and their families can be accessed at this link.

Read more by PS News Online, 12 February 2015

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Emerald agencies get together to improve mental health

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People with a mental illness don’t just need services specifically related to mental health, they may also be using other services such as housing, employment, government or even justice.

That’s why it’s important that all of these agencies have an understanding of what each other does so that they can help people more effectively.

Katherine Armstrong is the Partners in Recovery facilitator for Anglicare in Emerald who came up with an idea to get everyone together – she spoke with me about what she has planned…

Listen to the segment with Jacquie Mackay, Breakfast ABC 612 Radio Brisbane 10 February 2015

Mental health funding welcomed

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(via The Land)

NEW funding to boost training on mental health for youth workers in regional and rural areas across the State will improve the lives of thousands of young people across NSW, and likely prevent significant numbers of youth suicides, says the NSW Minister for Mental Health, Jai Rowell.

This week the state government announced it will subside the education of youth workers currently working across regional, rural and remote NSW, so they can undergo the Youth Mental Health First Aid course. The course educates workers on identifying, triaging and referring mental health issues.

Youth Action, the peak body for youth affairs in NSW, has been campaigning for $250,000 in funding for this issue for over a year.

Youth Action’s managing director Katie Acheson said the NSW government’s response was extremely welcome.

“This announcement shows the NSW government has been listening carefully to the voice of youth in regional, rural, and remote areas,” Ms Acheson said.

“There is a genuine mental health crisis in regional NSW.

“Mental illness rates and suicide rates have stayed high over the past 30 years, especially for young men. In some very remote areas, youth suicide rates are six times higher than the state average…

Read more by The Land 6 February 2015

Mental health risks expose companies

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download the 4 page overview (4)Mental health and wellbeing is the number one challenge facing organisations, according to a survey of safety and environmental workers conducted by safesearch.

The survey of 1,200 HSE individuals across 133 organisations is in its ninth year, and compares variations in year-on-year salaries of HSE roles. The survey also asks over 360 senior health and safety leaders a range of qualitative questions on the challenges faced by their organisation.

This year, the qualitative results show the number one emerging challenge faced by organisations was mental health and wellbeing. Eighty-five per cent of respondents said the health and wellbeing strategy is of high or significant importance within their organisations, however only half indicated they have a dedicated health and wellbeing resource.

Julie Honore, safesearch Managing Director, says “The results indicate that respondents are taking a piece meal approach to the health and wellbeing of their workforce. This area has only sat as part of the safety agenda in recent years, so companies and safety professionals are still grappling with this complex topic.

“Areas of particular concern for respondents were stated as psychological illness, mental health, fitness – particularly with an ageing workforce, drug and alcohol use, managing depression and stress management.”

Ms Honore says often a different skill set is required to tackle this issue; and it needs to be addressed strategically rather than having disconnected initiatives in place.

“Organisations that don’t call on relevant experience are exposing themselves to operational, commercial and reputational risks. Many organisations are taking a short sighted approach with ad hoc initiatives, rather than implementing programmes that have been thought through and are connected with the overall business strategy.”
“Forward thinking companies see their health and wellbeing strategy being connected to a more engaged workforce and understand this will result in appropriately managed risks and clear commercial advantage,” she said.

Cara Thiele, General Manager, Health, Safety and Environment, ManpowerGroup ANZ says now more than ever health and safety professionals need to keep abreast of emerging risks that have not traditionally sat as part of the safety portfolio.

“To ensure risks are managed appropriately and to gain traction leaders must know when to access subject matter experts beyond the traditional realm of safety, particularly experts in mental health risk management.”

Source: safesearch health safety and environment remuneration survey 2014/2015

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Prof Tony Jorm, University of Melbourne to Speak at Mental Health Conference

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banner-bg15The 16th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise from 12 – 14 August 2015. The conference theme “Mental Health Future For All” will address the broad spectrum of mental disorders including Anxiety, Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, Bipolar, Dementia and Suicide.

The Organising Committee is excited to announce Prof Tony Jorm, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne as a Keynote Speaker for this years conference.

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Prof Tony Jorm, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Prof Tony Jorm is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow.

His research focuses on building the community’s capacity for prevention and early intervention with mental disorders.

Prof Jorm is the author of 27 books or monographs, over 500 journal articles and over 30 chapters in edited volumes.

He has been awarded a Doctor of Science for his research and elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and is a member of the Research Committee of Australian Rotary Health.

Prof Jorm is a past President of the Australasian Society for Psychiatric Research and has been listed in ISI HighlyCited.com as one of the most cited researchers in Psychology/Psychiatry of the past 20 years.

To register for the conference, please visit www.anzmh.asn.au/conference.

Major Funding Boost for the Treatment of Personality Disorders

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Pictured left to right: Professor Brin Grenyer (Director Project Air Strategy), NSW Minister for Mental Health Jai Rowell MP, Karina Whitehurst (consumer advocate), Wendy Smith (Psychologist), Wayne Borg (Psychologist), Professor Judy Raper (Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, University of Wollongong), at Sutherland Mental Health Hospital.

In December 2014, the NSW Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Jai Rowell announced a $115 million funding boost to mental health services in NSW. On 20 January 2015 at Sutherland Hospital he announced that the package would include $1.8 million over the next two years to extend the Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders work with more health services in NSW.

Based at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, the Project Air Strategy is the outcome of a competitive tender won by the University of Wollongong in 2010 to create a more personality disorders-friendly health service through the application of evidence-based research and the development and evaluation of treatment guidelines and resources. The strategy has since become a clinical centre of excellence for the assessment and treatment of personality disorders, providing high-quality training, consultation and resources to health staff across NSW.

The Minister announced that, during this financial year, $600,000 would be spent on implementing Project Air training programs (which recognise National Health and Medical Research Council’s Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Borderline Personality Disorder) in NSW hospitals and setting up dedicated rapid-response psychological clinics for people in crisis. Further expansion during the next five years is planned.

Australian data from the national survey of mental health and wellbeing shows that personality disorders affect about 6.5 per cent of the population, with one in six hospital admissions to NSW mental-health units each year involving personality disorders. Due to the extreme emotional distress caused, up to 80 per cent of those with personality disorders self-harm.

The Director of the Project Air Strategy, clinical psychologist, Professor Brin Grenyer, said that people with personality disorders face significant challenges holding down jobs and relationships and getting the help that they need.

“People with personality disorders tend to present with histories of trauma, interpersonal breakdown and comorbid problems including drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicidal behaviours,” he said.

“Fear and stigma also remains a significant issue for this patient group, not only from the community but by hospital staff who don’t always know what to do when they are faced with patients displaying annoying or manipulative behaviours.

“The good news is that new, holistic, person-centred approaches can help people re-build their relationships, self-esteem and capacity to work. A significant priority of the strategy is early intervention with young people with emerging problems. Similarly, the impact of the disorder on carers can be intense and can affect their own mental health, so it is important to provide resources and support for family and carers.

“The funding announced by the Minister will allow us to continue our important work and expand the reach of the training to all services across NSW. This is good news for sufferers, their families and health professionals who seek to support them”.


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Allan Sparkes CV,VA, Beyondblue Ambassador to Speak at Mental Health Conference

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banner-bg15The 16th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise from 12 – 14 August 2015. The conference theme “Mental Health Future For All” will address the broad spectrum of mental disorders including Anxiety, Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, Bipolar, Dementia and Suicide.

 The Organising Committee is excited to announce Allan Sparkes CV, VA, beyondblue Ambassador & Suicide Prevention Advocate as a Keynote Speaker for this years conference.

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Allan Sparkes CV,VA, beyondblue Ambassador & Suicide Prevention Advocate

Allan Sparkes CV,VA is one of only 5 Australians in the past 40 years to be awarded the Cross of Valour, Australia’s highest decoration for bravery. He is also one of 10 Australians to be presented the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the holder of the NSW Police Force Valour Medal and the Royal Humane Society Galleghan Award.

After 20 years as a front line Police Officer in the New South Wales Police Force, his career ended due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder. Suicidal and his life in tatters, he set about to re-establish his life. His recovery involved intensive psychotherapy, medication and determined effort. In 2009, with his wife and two young daughters, he set out to achieve a life- long goal and re-build his life, setting off in a yacht from England and sailing 16,000 nautical miles back to Australia.

Allan is a member of the National Leadership Group of Suicide Prevention Australia, a beyondblue Ambassador, a Soldier On Ambassador, an Inspirational Speaker and author. Allan also assists with the NSW Police Mental Health Intervention Team, the NSW Police Post Trauma Support Group.

Allan’s belief is there is a critical need for a more concentrated and proactive approach to suicide, PTSD and associated mental illnesses in our Police Forces, Emergency Services and Australian Defence Forces.

Broader education and knowledge are vital to maintain the health, wellbeing and careers of the people who are critical to our society.

To register for the conference, please visit www.anzmh.asn.au/conference.

Mental health is a global issue – here’s how neuroscience can cross international boundaries

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By Barbara Sahakian, University of Cambridge

Neuroscience holds the key to understanding the brain – and to developing more effective treatments for people with mental health disorders.

But if we are to translate the many neuroscience discoveries into better brain health and well-being for people globally, we will also need strategies and official recommendations on how these findings can be implemented. In a paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, we suggest some ways that evidence from neuroscience can be used to improve global mental health.

Mental health issues are found across the world and in every population. According to the World Health Organisation, around a third of the adult population worldwide suffers from a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

But treatments for depression and methods for preventing suicide, for example, are not evenly spread. There is also clearly a gap between mental health research and services. So it is important to find treatments for mental health disorders that can be delivered in culturally diverse low and middle-income countries, where there are challenges of poverty, stigma and a lack of clinicians with specialist training in mental health.

The roots of resilience

Neuroscience can help us understand the underlying molecular factors behind mental disorders, as well as where and how to focus research and treatment.

We know that some people have a greater ability to successfully overcome a stressful challenge, for example. Take war and conflict. The same experience may still lead to a good outcome for someone who is more resilient, whereas a less resilient person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Understanding the neurobiology of resilience and finding effective ways to instill this resilience and cognitive reserve in others could help us tackle particular disorders.

Known methods of prevention and treatments can also be modified for use in other countries. For example, treating depression, reducing stigma and promoting positive factors for good brain health such as education and exercise, could have a marked impact on suicide in developing countries.

Translational neuroscience is also providing new ways of looking at conditions such as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can cause cognitive problems to memory and motor skills, for example – and the reason that patients with schizophrenia may not be able to return to work, or have a good quality of life at home, may primarily be due to this cognitive impairment. This is because anti-psychotic medications already treat psychotic symptoms. This new approach led to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accept cognition as a target for treatment in schizophrenia, where previously only psychiatric symptoms such as psychosis were the main focus.

Currently we know that early detection, and early effective treatment, of mental health problems is important for determining the functionality, quality of life and well-being of patients. This accords with what has been known for some time in regard to physical illness such as cancer.

Yet there are rarely systems in place for early detection of mental health problems – and people continue to experience illness for many years before it is diagnosed and treated. Getting this right is still an issue in the developed world, but an even more pressing one in low and middle-income countries.

Learning from each other

Tackling global mental health is not a one-way thing, but an exchange: knowledge from low and middle-income countries can also inform what we know about the effects on the brain of social and financial deprivation across a range of populations – going beyond research only on populations in developed countries or those with strong research histories – and may also give an insight into both the mechanisms and mitigating factors for mental disorders.

In addition, learning to adapt clinical trials of pharmacological and psychological treatments to include different cultural and environmental factors and meaningful measures within this context would be greatly beneficial. This could also inform a new methodology for developed countries, where there has recently been considerable discussion as to how we can improve drug discovery and clinical trials.

When it comes to treatment, another important recommendation for promoting a closer relationship between global mental health and neuroscience is to incorporate neuroscience predictors, for example findings in genetics, and endpoints, such as cognition, into trials in low and middle-income countries.

The Research Domain Criteria framework was developed to find new ways of classifying mental disorders based on behavioural and neurobiological measures. Behaviour can be objectively observed and measured and has a neurobiological basis. For example, excessive impulsive behaviour can lead to problems for people whether they have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mania, or substance abuse. Therefore a treatment for impulsivity would be useful for people with a range of disorders. Modern approaches of genetics, neuroscience and behavioural science can be used to better understand mental illness. And these can all work across populations.

Special considerations

Ethical considerations are also crucial to an understanding of global mental health, since groups who are especially at risk of mental health disorders include people living in poverty and those exposed to war and conflict.

A particular consideration of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and the Human Brain Project, has been mental health inequities, which increases the likelihood of experiencing disability and premature mortality, stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.

Bringing together neuroscientific and global mental health strengths in both research and treatment could lead to real gains in improving mental well-being, quality of life and how well people function with their disorder. At present, while early detection and early effective treatment for physical health problems is becoming the norm in developed and developing countries, there isn’t the same parity of access to treatment for those with mental health problems – especially in developing countries.

Improving equality of access to early detection and effective treatments for those with mental health problems will ensure justice in flourishing societies throughout the world.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article.

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Hazelwood mine fire: 10yr health study launched in Latrobe Valley

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Sprinklers work to put out the fire in the Hazelwood open-cut mine in February 2014. Supplied: Keith Pakenham, CFA (via ABC News)

The head of the Hazelwood health study says no stone will be left unturned in assessing the health impacts of last year’s mine fire in south-east Victoria.

The long-term health study was launched at the Monash School of Rural Health at Latrobe Regional Hospital yesterday.

It is calling for expressions of interest from residents affected by the fire to join a community advisory committee that will help shape the study.

The committee will also include representatives from the health sector.

Head researcher, professor Judi Walker, said the new committee would distribute a survey to residents affected by last year’s mine fire.

“Then we’ll be able to determine who it is that we want to work with more closely on targeted clinical aspects of the study, whether it’s cardiovascular, whether it’s cancer, whether it’s child development, right across the board,” she said.

Professor Walker said about 5,000 people would be recruited for the 10-year study, which would also look at additional data on deaths and cancer rates.

“Obviously we need to know any work that has been done, it’s really important that we have access to that information so that we can assess its appropriateness and make sure that no stone goes unturned,” she said.

Morwell residents have welcomed the launch of the health study.

The secretary of Advance Morwell, Keith Brownbill, said he did not suffer any health effects from the 45-day mine fire.

However, he said many people did and the study would determine whether their exposure to the smoke and ash had led to serious health problems…

Read more by ABC News 28 January 2015

Tell us where you would like to conference in 2015 (Snapshot Poll)

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The 7th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium values your feedback – tell us where you would like to conference in 2015:

No poll available

ImageGenBallarat, Victoria

Where the past, present and future meet.

Ballarat gets your heart pulsing and taste-buds dancing with wine bars, breweries, award-winning restaurants, festivals, tracks and trails and oh so much more. It’s a melting pot of cultural and sporting events, gastronomic treasures and hints of the past. It’s a place steeped in the history of the Eureka Rebellion and the golden era of the 1850s. It’s the heritage backdrop to your totally modern escape.

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Yarra Valley, Victoria

Travel through rolling hills strung with vines, secluded natural valleys set against blue mountain backdrops and lush greenery and pastures, past towering trees and pristine rivers to verdant villages like Marysville and Warburton. Dine in style and marvel at the profundity of fresh local produce at tables in Healesville and Yarra Glen. Visit Healesville Sanctuary wildlife park, home to native Australian birds and animals like platypus, koalas, Tasmanian devils, lyrebirds, echidnas and more. Place yourself in the spot where Victorian winegrowing started and pay homage to the grape at the cellar doors of winemaking institutions or discover exciting new gems. Sample the wines and stay around for a tour and linger over a meal as you discover the regional passion for food, with fresh local produce matched to the wines in vineyard restaurants.

Snapshot Poll – Ends Wednesday, 4 February 2015