The inaugural public lecture of the ANU Research School of Psychology took place on the 10th of September, coinciding with “R U OK?” Day and the International Day of Suicide Prevention.

The lecture was given by Professor Patrick McGorry, whose involvement in youth mental health includes his roles as Executive Director of Orygen (the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health); as a Director of the Board of headspace (the National Youth Mental Health Foundation), and as professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. The lecture was on “Early Intervention and Youth Mental Health Reform Paradigms” for which Prof. McGorry’s research is widely renowned and influential.

The lecture focussed upon the importance of increasing resources for mental health care throughout Australia, especially for the 12-25 year age group. McGorry argued that the rates of care for people suffering from mental illness in Australia “would not be acceptable in any other area of health care,” citing the statistic that only 10% of those who suffer from depression have access to evidence-based care.

He also discussed the particular requirements of youth in the field of mental health, stating that 75% of mental health conditions present in the sufferer before the age of 25. Despite this, McGorry said that there was a “tremendous problem” in finding resources tailored to youth mental health care.

McGorry’s ideal model of mental health care would involve an approach more akin to that used in other fields – one where help is accessible to people in the asymptomatic stages of illness, and in which “prevention, early diagnosis, [and] sustained treatment” are key.

McGorry credited Headspace as a “soft-entry” access point to 12-25 year olds seeking mental health care. He said the aim of the foundation was to provide services to youth not only in times of crisis, but also at any time before their mental health had reached that point.

Services available through Headspace include counselling, work and study support, as well as alcohol and drug services. “The main thing is we use the science-based approach,” said McGorry of the foundation’s early treatment methods.

There are Headspace branches around Australia, with more opening in the near future. 100 branches are expected to open by 2017.

The lecture was the first of a series of annual lectures aimed at “[letting] the community know what the Research School does”, said Head of the School, Professor Michael Kyrios. The evening was also a chance to showcase the work of some of the School’s PhD students and staff, whose work was displayed outside of the theatre before the lecture’s commencement.

Kyrios said he hoped that the lectures would demonstrate the relevance of psychology to all fields of life and policy, including business, climate change, and city planning.

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