Friday, May 10, 2013

We have moved to our new Blog at Mental Health

We have migrated all the material from this site to our new blog home.  The move coincided with the launch of new Facebook site.

Looking forward to seeing you in our new home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Harnessing technology to improve mental health

University of Sydney cross-disciplinary researchers are harnessing the benefits offered by advances in online technology to develop innovative programs improving mental health in young people.

Associate Professor Rafael Calvo, director of the Software Engineering Group at the School of Electrical and Information Engineering and Professor Ian Hickie, Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, are collaborating with the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (Young and Well CRC) to develop new online interventions to support young people's mental health.

The Young and Well CRC is an Australian-based, international research centre that unites young people with researchers, practitioners, innovators and policy-makers from over 70 partner organisations.

Associate Professor Calvo said together the researchers are exploring the role of technology in young people's lives, and how it can be used to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those aged 12 to 25.

"The research focuses on how digital technologies can be used for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders as well as for promoting psychological wellbeing," he said.

"This focus comes from the common understanding that digital technologies have made their way into all the aspects of our lives that, according to psychology, influence our wellbeing -- everything from social relationships and curiosity to engagement and learning.

"The potential of these technologies to be used to help those experiencing mental health problems has motivated researchers to investigate how internet technologies like e-mail and social media platforms like Facebook could support those when they need it most, particularly young people.
"The engineers who build these internet technologies have seldom focused on the psychological impact of these tools, until now."

The researchers and the Young and Well CRC are engaging in multidisciplinary approaches that bring software specialists together with psychologists and other mental health experts to create new technologies, specially designed to support mental health and wellbeing.

"These technologies help those suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, as well as those who are healthy but want to further develop positive attributes like resilience, empathy, optimism, gratitude and other factors shown to have an impact on life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing," Associate Professor Calvo said.

The three-year project will build upon the Inspire Foundation's initiative to conduct research that informs the development of a range of online interventions including:
  • a Wellbeing Hub where young people can download tools and applications to improve their wellbeing
  • a semi-automated triage system
  • an online clinic to provide direct support to young people experiencing a mental health difficulty.
These resources are mapped to the Australian school curriculum and will be offered at no cost to schools.

This research, together with case studies from around the world, are being described in Associate Professor Calvo's forthcoming book Positive Computing: Technology for a Better World, to be published by MIT Press. Positive Computing is an emerging field of research and practice dedicated to the investigation and design of technologies that support psychological wellbeing and human potential.

Associate Professor Calvo believes that by bringing together research and methodologies well-established in psychology, education, neuroscience, engineering and human-computer interaction, we can begin a new era of digital experiences that are deeply human-centred.

Source: The University of Sydney

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New mothers are anxious – not depressed

A study has found that anxiety is more common than depression among new mothers.
Researchers surveyed mothers of healthy babies before birth and then followed them up at several points after birth.

They found that more women suffered from anxiety than depression and that this was associated with greater use of health services and lower rates of breastfeeding.

Read more at Penn State College of Medicine

Monday, March 25, 2013

The 14th International Mental Health Conference - Call for Papers Open

The 14th International Mental Health Conference will be held at Outrigger, Surfers Paradise on Monday the 5th and Tuesday the 6th of August 2013.  Optional workshops will be held on Wednesday the 7th of August. The conference will focus on the complex mental health issues of Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia.

The human, social and economic consequences of mental health disorders and illness are great, and there is a growing realisation of the serious limitations of focusing solely on treatment and rehabilitation. Addressing these factors to improve mental health requires that many organisations from diverse sectors within the community recognise how they can and do contribute to the promotion of mental health and well being.

Featuring Australia and New Zealand's finest clinical practitioners, academics, and mental health experts, the conference will motivate and inspire professionals (and future professionals) by sharing information about;

  • On-going research and findings
  • New knowledge developments: implementation of programs and strategies.
  • Latest evidence and guidelines on early diagnosis and successful patient management.
  • New treatments.
  • Research validation of early intervention strategies and treatments.
  • Prevention Strategies: examine and review effectiveness
  • Translational Research - from lab bench to the clinic and individual patient.
  • Discussion on research and best practice

Keynote addresses, submitted papers, workshops and case studies will examine how approaches and techniques can be incorporated into daily practice.

The conference streams will focus on Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia and address; Primary Interventions - Promoting Recovery - Preventing Relapse - Policy Initiatives

Confirmed Speakers
Professor Philip LP Morris  - President Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association
Professor Philip Mitchell - Professor and Head of the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales; Convenor of Brain Sciences UNSW; Chair of the NSW Mental Health Priority Taskforce; Consultant Psychiatrist, Black Dog Institute, Sydney; Guest Professor, Shanghai Jaitong University; and Board Member of the Anika Foundation.
Professor Elizabeth Beattie - Director of the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (DCRC) - Carers and Consumers (based within the School of Nursing at QUT).
Professor Michael Berk - Chair in Psychiatry at Deakin University. Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and the Mental Health Research Institute.
Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert - , BA Mphil PhD - Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research - Faculty – Department of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Peer Review Advisory Panel:
(Chair) Dr Julia Bowman PhD, Senior Lecturer, Occupational Therapy Program, School of Science and Health
Professor Elizabeth Beattie, Director of the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (DCRC) - Carers and Consumers (based within the School of Nursing at QUT).
Scott Fanker, Service Manager, Mental Health Services, Liverpool Hospital

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Nationa Mental Health Commission of Australia - MOU

Louise Bradley

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the National Mental Health Commission of Australia have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding to share knowledge and successful practices in mental health research.

MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley signed the memorandum today while participating in two days of meetings with leading mental health organizations and Commissions from around the world in Sydney, Australia. Hosted by the National Mental Health Commission of Australia, the meetings focused on sharing best practices and experiences, providing the represented organizations with opportunities for collaboration that benefit not only their own countries, but international audiences as well.

The memorandum outlines how the two Commissions will actively seek opportunities to work together in areas such as mental health and the workplace, international knowledge exchange and stigma, with cross-promotion of work informed by the lived experience of those experiencing mental health issues,their families and support people, and the mental health sector.

“Improving the lives of people living with a mental health issue or illness is an urgent global priority. Learning about best practices and different approaches to mental health services and programs in other parts of the world and sharing information about our experiences in Canada will lead to improvements both at home and abroad,” said Bradley.

"As a national mental health commission that is just starting out, we have appreciated the exchange of ideas and experiences with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and are delighted to formalise this collaboration through an MoU," CEO and Commissioner of Australia's National Mental Health Commission, Ms Robyn Kruk, said. "We hope the Sydney meeting of international and national Commissioners and other leaders will be a seminal and useful event."

The MHCC and National Mental Health Commission of Australia began discussing options for formally sharing information last August.

Bradley also co-hosted an event at the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney, with Consul General Mario Ste-Marie, where she discussed the MHCC’s role as a catalyst for improving the mental health system and its initiatives related to workplace mental health, housing and homelessness, stigma and knowledge exchange.

Reducing access to the means of suicide

Reducing access to the means of suicide

By Samara McPhedran, Griffith University and Kairi Kolves, Griffith University

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk’s recent announcement that barriers are to be erected on the Story Bridge in an effort to reduce suicides is very welcome. Studies consistently show that barriers have a high likelihood of reducing the number of suicides at a particular location, making them a useful and successful tool for tackling iconic suicide “hot spots”.  But the impacts of barriers on suicides at one location are not representative of what we can expect of means restriction (limiting access to methods of suicide) more generally, as a suicide prevention measure.

In fact, research into barriers and suicide can create an artificial and overly optimistic impression of the efficacy of means restriction.

Reducing access to lethal means

Means restriction may seem a simple way of preventing suicides. It includes measures such as erecting safety barriers on bridges, detoxifying domestic gas, and restricting access to firearms, poisons and drugs. It can be enacted through legislation, making it politically appealing.
However, society, culture, and context matter. Means restriction can be very effective, but it can also have quite different impacts across different locations and populations. Sometimes impacts may only be short term, rather than long-lasting. And what works to reduce suicides for one group or in one location may not work for another.

Measures to prevent suicide through means restriction must be evidence-based and designed to reach vulnerable people who are most at risk of suicide. They must also be integrated with a wide range of other suicide-prevention measures.

Importantly, means restriction is most likely to be effective in reducing overall suicide rates when it targets commonly used, highly lethal methods that account for a high percentage of suicide deaths overall.
But if the majority of suicides in a particular group or location involve methods that cannot be easily curtailed, means restriction is not likely to deliver any real changes in suicide numbers. Unfortunately, in Australia, the method that accounts for the highest percentage of suicides is hanging – a highly lethal method that is almost impossible to restrict. This highlights the importance of early identification and intervention, before an at-risk individual reaches a crisis point.

Method substitution

So if means restriction has the potential to reduce suicides using one method, will people just shift to another method?
One on hand, some suggest that if substitution happens, then restricting highly lethal methods may still reduce deaths. When substitution occurs, it may involve less lethal methods, increasing the chances of survival.
On the other hand, if a method with relatively low lethality is restricted, then it is possible that people who may have used that method will instead use a more lethal means, resulting in a lower likelihood of survival.
But the extent to which method substitution occurs, following means restriction, remains a topic of considerable debate. Different studies on means restriction have produced inconsistent findings. Some show that suicides using alternative methods rise substantially after means restriction, while others find little or no evidence that any substitution took place.
Also, the likelihood of substitution seems to vary across different groups and contexts. For instance, women seem more responsive to means restriction, while men appear more likely to substitute other methods.

Suicide prevention

So does means restriction save individual lives?
This question is perhaps the hardest to answer. Although it is possible to assess changes in suicide rates by particular methods for populations (such as the Australian population overall, or men, or young people), it is far more difficult to show this at the individual level.
To do this, we would need to know the numbers of people who were restricted from accessing one method of suicide who did, and did not, die by some other method of suicide.
Population-level data does not tell us this. All it tells us is whether deaths by particular methods change overall. This is useful information for policy evaluations, but it means we must be cautious not to conclude that specific lives that would otherwise have been lost, have necessarily been saved.
Population-level data also has its limits. Usually, other interventions occur alongside means restriction. Improved treatment for mental illnesses and reductions in risk factors for suicide, for example, also influence declines in suicide rates. Using a range of evidence-based interventions is good practice, but also makes it hard to distinguish the effects, or for that matter the cost-effectiveness, of each specific intervention.
Ultimately, if we are to strive for the best possible suicide prevention strategies, we need to recognise that the apparently simple measure of means restriction is far more complex than it may first seem. And perhaps most importantly, we must also keep trying to better understand what happens in the lives of those individuals that means restriction does not save.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline’s 24-hour helpline on 13 11 14, SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263 or the Beyondblue Info Line on 1300 22 4636.

Samara McPhedran receives funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Queensland Health and the Australian Research Council.  Kairi Kolves receives funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Queensland Health and the Australian Research Council. She is on the advisory committee of the Lifeline Foundation and is a member of the headspace Outreach Teams to Schools expert advisory group.

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