21 March 2012

Elderly personThe third in a series of professional symposiums will be held at the University of South Australia this week examining mental health service responses in critical and crisis situations.

The one-day symposium will be held on Thursday March 22 at the Bradley Forum in the Hawke Building at City West campus, North Tce from 8.30 am.

The symposiums have been designed to bring together a broad section of professionals and social services workers to share insights and strategies for dealing with risk associated with mental illness and mental health-related crises in the community and hospitals.

UniSA’s Chair in Mental Health Nursing, Professor Nicholas Procter says the two previous events have attracted large groups of participants reflecting an environment of care and concern in the health sector and a desire to share experiences and improve service response and delivery to some of the most marginalised and isolated people in the community.

“Mental health is one of the nation’s critical community issues - every four hours somebody completes suicide in Australia,” he says.

“New research is being undertaken every day that reveals the depth and breadth of the problem and uncovers new areas of concern – including the rise in suicide among older people, a trend being noted globally in western countries, and an understanding that mental health problems such as self harm don’t magically disappear when people reach their older years.”

Country Health SA Mental Health Nursing Director Philip Galley says the format for the symposium is designed to encourage the learning and insight that comes from sharing experience. He says one of the strengths of the groups that meet as part of the Risk Assessment and Management Symposium is the capacity for information exchange and practice development.

“The symposium is designed to share new thinking in practice and by working together and sharing those perspectives and the knowledge we have as a professional community, find a deeper understanding about dealing with critical situations involving people with mental health problems and mental illness,” Galley says.

Topics to be covered in this symposium include the police perspective of suicide risk and risk management for people in custody, mental illness in migrants and refugees, therapy for self-injury, a historical perspective of the causes, risks and risk management of suicide, and perinatal mental health and risk management.

Prof Procter says the series has proved extremely popular with practitioners because it offers an opportunity to learn from formal and informal research sources.

“These sessions offer presentations of the latest academic and practice-based research in some instances and then observational and experiential research from people working with the issues in the field,” he said.

“That is a dynamic combination and quite powerful for people who are managing mental health issues in the community – it gives them a broader knowledge base and a framework in which to fit and contrast their experience.”

The Risk Assessment and Management Symposium is being staged by UniSA’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Research Group in conjunction with SA Health’s Acute Matters.

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