Mental Health Forum

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Mental Health Forum


Welcome speech for Mental Health Forum

30 October 2014

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land that we are meeting on today, the Gubbi Gubbi people, and pay respect to their Elders past and present.

On behalf of the University I extend a warm welcome and thank you for joining us for this forum focusing on "maximising social and economic participation for those with mental ill-health."

In August, the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney staged a similar forum, and the NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Fenerly played a key role in that event. So when John Mendoza suggested to me that USC stage a similar event, in collaboration with the Queensland Mental Health Commission, it made a lot of sense.

This forum is part of USC’s fast-growing commitment to building community engagement and research in the field of mental health. USC aspires to collaborate with universities and research centres around the country because we recognise that issues associated with brain and mind health are of paramount concern and relevance to the Sunshine Coast community, especially given our demographics.

We are higher than state and national averages for people aged above 50 and below 15 and that means potentially more brain and mind disorders ranging from the degenerative Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to children’s mood and developmental disorders such as autism and anxiety. The region is already recognized as a youth suicide and Alzheimers hotspot. And we also have many war veterans at risk from trauma related illness.

Some of you will be aware that USC has made a commitment to developing the Queensland Mind and Neuroscience Institute which will make a major contribution to the region. This will be achieved by:

  • increasing the quantity and quality of education programs related to mental health in order to produce new, more work-ready graduates;
  • introducing professionally operated mental health clinics to serve the regional population and provide clinical experience for students; and
  • conducting cutting-edge applied research to produce new insights into significant mental health problems and develop new remedies.

The Queensland Mind and Neuroscience Institute will become a major component of a range of health and medical initiatives in which USC is playing a leading role. These are generally related to the new Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital and the Skills, Academic and Research Centre that will house the teaching and research activities in the hospital. These initiatives include the development of a new industry-focused USC Clinical Trials Centre and a “One Health” (or systems biology) program of activities underpinned by the development of new capacity and capability for individualised medicine.

USC has developed the Institute’s concept with support from Professor Max Bennett AO, Scientific Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) at The University of Sydney. Based on the BMRI’s unique model, USC developed a vision to establish a tri-functional mental health education, clinical and research facility on this Sippy Downs Campus in late 2011.

While we are yet to achieve significant infrastructure investment, we’re getting close. And we’ve put a lot of effort into this over the last 3 years, in association with great partners and supporters like Max Bennett and Patrick McGorry.

Our first wave of effort involved a proposal for funding of $20m from the Bligh Government. This came undone after the March 2012 Queensland state election.

The second wave involved efforts by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC (Ret’d) to win support from the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board, based on a potential focus of the Queensland Mind and Neuroscience Institute on Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and returning service personnel.

Following this we engaged in a third wave of activity which focussed on preparing for a potential bid through Round 5 of the Regional Development Australia Fund, foreshadowed for May 2013. While this funding round didn’t eventuate prior to the 2013 Federal election, it did lead to USC reconfirming what we hope will be a long standing relationship with United Synergies Ltd, a local not for profit organisation located in Tewantin.

Most recently our efforts have focused on establishing initial research intensive positions and I am pleased to report that Dr Mathew Summers has accepted the position of Associate Professor in Neuropsychology and Mental Health, and will commence in January next year. He’ll join the School of Social Sciences where Professor Doug Mahar is building the specialist academic capacity we will need to staff the new facility.

Last year USC established the Queensland Mind and Neuroscience Institute Foundation Board which is chaired by Angus Houston. Angus has asked me to convey his apologies as he can’t be with us. We do have five members of our Foundation Board with us today and I take this opportunity to thank Mick Palmer AO, Max Bennett AO, Patrick McGorry AO, Chris Raine, and John Mendoza for their ongoing support and for joining us for the forum.

Angus and members of the Foundation Board are committed to supporting USC’s effort to establish new infrastructure on Campus that is designed to facilitate the integrated operation of teaching, clinics and research, and has functionality and aesthetics commensurate with the standards of similar new teaching and research facilities being developed across the country. It also requires securing funding for additional senior academic staff appointments with relevant track records and the ambition to impact on their disciplines and the Sunshine Coast.

We were fortunate to have Angus on-site with us last week to meet with a local philanthropist. And I am very pleased to announce that this meeting resulted in USC’s receipt of a gift of half a million dollars. This donation will be used to inform the more detailed planning of the Institute over the next few months.

USC is delighted to have such strong support for this forum and extremely grateful to the 16 leading national experts who have accepted the invitation to outline exciting developments in mental health research and practice, and plan for the future to improve the lives of Australians with mental ill-health, particularly in the local region.

I am very pleased that the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck has joined with us to host this event. Thank you Lesley for your support.

Professor Allan Fels AO, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission had planned to participate today. Unfortunately Allan won’t be able to join us, however we are very grateful to have Commissioners – Mrs Lucy Brogden and Professor Ian Hickie AM with us.

I extend a sincere thank you to each of today’s presenters, and consumers and carers who have given their time and expertise to be here today. We have a stellar cast to discuss what is one of the most pressing policy and practice problems of our day – how to maximise social and economic participation for people with mental ill-health.

Today’s program will focus on four key topics:

  1. Policy – policy frameworks to enable higher social and economic participation for people with mental illnesses.
  2. Science – developments in bio and neurosciences for improved outcomes.
  3. Digital technologies – opportunities with digital communications for improved outcomes.
  4. Innovation in services – partnerships and service integration for improved outcomes.

We hope that the day brings forward new and deeper insights into what is necessary at policy, program and practice levels to enable greater social and economic participation for people with mental ill-health. We know this is good for their recovery, their sense of place in our community and good for our nation’s prosperity.

I wish you well today and in your on-going endeavours.

And once again — welcome to USC.

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