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Friday, December 28, 2012

Randomised study of Group based Voice and Movement Therapy for Self-injury

This published journal article represents over two years of trying to complete four ten-week group-based studies with no funding from outside sources. I would like to thank Sophie Martin, the VMT therapist, for her fabulous therapeutic work, and the other co-authors for all their hard work keeping the whole process on track.
The therapy does seem to show promise in healing self-injury, but we still have a long way to go in further studies to prove that it may be better than existing methods.
Unfortunately, you have to get the pdf through a Uni or other library, but at least you can see what the Abstract has to say:
"Effective and proven approaches for engaging and assisting young people who self-injure are yet to be established. The current study presents findings from 4 pilot trials of voice movement therapy (VMT) in addition to “treatment as usual.” Nineteen young women (mean age 20 years 3 months, range 16-25 years) completed 10 weekly group therapy sessions and a follow-up booster session. At posttreatment, there were statistically significant improvements in emotion regulation, alexithymia, self-esteem, anxiety, somatic symptoms and social dysfunction, and a nonsignificant trend for reduced depression and self-injury. All improvements were maintained at 8 to 10 weeks of follow-up. Results suggest VMT is an acceptable and promising adjunctive therapy for young adults who self-injure."

The article is in the international journal 'Music and Medicine', published by Sage journals.
If I can, I will get a pdf to share asap.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How the US could learn from the UK and Australia

The US is a massive and proud country with its own cultures, often at the forefront of World activity. But on the issue of gun control, perhaps it might swallow national pride, and take lessons from the UK and Australia

What happened after Dunblane (UK) and Port Arthur (Australia)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States

Homicide and Suicide are very emotional issues, so it always important to have up to date facts and figures to help us make sense of the complexity. This is a great article on which to base sound judgment.

Posted by Ezra Klein on December 14, 2012 in the Washington Post Wonkblog

Maybe President Obama can make change...

Dear Colleagues,
'These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change' (President Obama)

Maybe this man CAN and WILL make changes in the world.

If he does, you just watch the US suicide rate decline....

A Haiku for Christmas

One Christmas present

The only one we all need

Peace throughout the world

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Showing Kindness Forwards

Surely we could 'show kindness forwards' to all the young people who would NOT get killed in the future, if we were to get rid of all the semi-automatic assault rifles from the US, and then from the world.
One of the greatest things ex PM John Howard did for Australia was to get rid of guns (especially semi-automatic weapons) after the massacre at Port Arthur in 1996. We have not had a massacre since that time, and the suicide rate has reduced - especially the suicide rate from gun use.

Raw video: President Obama's emotional remarks after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

President Obama's moving address after the connecticut-shooting/

Is President Obama as strong as our Australian ex Prime Minister John Howard was in 1997?

Haiku on Good Intentions

This is not my fault
Always had good intentions
On the road to hell

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spaceship Earth - Truly Awe-inspiring

This is where we breathe, live and die. This is what we leave to future generations. It is home - the only one we have. We had better begin to look after it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Haiku on Mental Health

If you know something
That improves your mental health
Keep on doing it

[Let someone else worry about the evidence]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I did not get paid by Queensland Health this fortnight

I just love bureaucracy.
I have been employed in Queensland since 1st September 2001 (about 11 years I guess). Its complex. I am a Professor at The University of Queensland, but also Clinical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health Services under the umbrella of Royal Children's Hospital (now under the umbrella of Queensland Children's Health Services, under the overall umbrella of Queensland Health). I have done two 5-year stints as Professor, but last time some bureaucrat at QH decided to renew me only for 3 years on the somewhat spurious grounds that I am classified primarily as a researcher. This is odd, because I have always thought of myself as primarily a child psychiatrist, a clinician, supervisor, teacher and manager. But 'they' (whoever they were) were adamant (maybe they had begun to think I am reaching my Use By Date).
So, most of my salary is part of a contract between QH and UQ and paid as a direct debit by UQ. No problem, it has happened routinely every month for eleven years. But I am also paid a clinical loading direct from Queensland Health, which includes extra payments when I am on call. This is where things get sticky, because as a result of the payroll disaster in QH there have been four episodes in the last eighteen months months where I have not been paid. It has always been up to me to sort that out...
I did not get paid for the last fortnight, which was slightly irritating. Jan said: "They will sort it out. You will only spend hours on the phone and get frustrated." I had a feeling that something was not quite right so I got on the phone.
Royal Children's Hospital (where I physically work) did not have a direct phone line for 'Payroll' registered in any listing I accessed. And the Queensland Government payroll form with lots of zeros in empty spaces sent to me by post, has no access telephone numbers. So I had to go through Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH) switchboard; they do after all share a common campus with RCH, even if you have to get credentialed for each hospital separately if you are on call for both children and adolescents 14 and over, who are dealt with separately even if on the same campus. OK, that's another story.
So, after listening to muzak for 3 minutes ("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I explained politely to Switch at RBH who put me through to Payroll at RCH. Well actually they put me through to Queensland Health 'Shared Service Partner' who handle all payrolls apparently. After waiting on the phone for 8 minutes ("all our operators are busy at the moment....")("all our operators are busy at the moment....")("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I was joined by a very pleasant young man who took my details, typed them carefully into some computer - which could not find me! Somewhat perplexed, he explained that he was physically based at The Prince Charles Hospital (5 Kms up the road), who manage the payroll for Royal Brisbane Hospital but not for Royal Children's Hospital. He spoke to a supervisor, who noted I am on 'a contract', and Royal Children's Hospital handle their own contract staff payroll. So (having wished me 'a nice day'), he went to transfer me to RCH. The process failed, and (again somewhat perplexed) he came back on line to suggest I phoned the number direct. HE GAVE ME THE NUMBER (Gold Dust!!) which I have now squirrelled away for next time.
So, having listened to some more lovely muzak for a minute or so ("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I spoke to a delightful young lady who took all my details and put them into her computer. She double checked the numbers, and came back several moments later, saying "I am so sorry, you're 'medical', and RCH does not handle medical contracts. Ipswich Hospital does that" (about 40 Kms down the road). So, having wished me 'a nice day' she gave me a number for Ipswich Hospital (which I have squirrelled away for next time).
I phoned immediately and, joy of joys, I got through immediately. Very nice young man took all my details and put them into his computer, checking that he had things right. "Oh", he said, "you're mental!" Well no, I am NOT mental, but I am a mental health worker. He laughed. "Have you worked any hours in the last fortnight, because there is nothing coming up on our system". Well, yes, I am known to work rather long hours in the service of my patients, and have been doing so since my arrival in Queensland. "Just hold on while I transfer you to Linda - she handles 'those'". ('Those' must be some sort of mental medical contract labourer who does not work much at all). More muzak.... "Look I am sorry but Linda is busy with another client. Can I have your number and I will ask her to call you back". I gave him my mobile number (not paid for by Queensland Health). "OK, thanks for calling. Have a nice day." Mmmm.
No Queensland Health phone ever gives you the number in case you want to phone back at some time. This can be problematic if you are one of those people who is wary of 'blocked' number calls, because you can choose not to answer on the grounds you do not know them. On this occasion I took the risk when, a couple of minutes later, a delightful lady with a light Glaswegian accent phoned using a 'blocked' line. "Did you work at all in the last two weeks?" I am always working. "Ok, mmm...., Oh, I can see what happened. The 'system' is supposed to give us a reminder every 6 months to 'renew' your contract. But no reminder came through". Well, I am to be employed for about the next 18 months until I retire; what can you do so I don't have this rigmarole again?  "I will have to work out a system to remind our system to remind us. I will fix it all up, and you should have a cheque in the bank within a couple of days - well, as long as you are with one of the big four banks..." I am... "OK, have a nice day..."

Jan you were right!
I did get frustrated, but if I had not spent 37 minutes on the phone, I would have stayed on their 'mental medical contract labourer' for weeks until someone noticed, and then it would have been Christmas! I just hope 'they' are prepared to pay me for the 37 minutes I wasted on their stupid payroll system.

Don't suppose any of you young things remember Flanders and Swan and "The day the gasman came to call"....

Don't you just love bureaucracy... ?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Swimming in a storm - hail and all...

Over the last couple of days there have been physically destructive storms sweeping across Queensland from the West. I guess they have not been as bad as Sandy (NY), but they have caused trouble.
So all last night there were storms - probably 3 inches of rain, lightning and thunder ++. Then, at midday, the sun came out, the pool was 30 degrees, so Jan and I went for a swim. Lovely
Then the sky began to darken very quickly, then it began to rain, and then following some massive droplets, it began to hail - many stones about a centimetre across. Wow. We could not get out for fear of being hit, the temperature had fallen drastically, but it was nice and warm in the pool. So what do you do? Answer - stay in the warm. Luckily we have some 'sails ' across half of the pool, so we could sit and watch the anger of the heavens from under a canopy. All very exciting, and just a bit terrifying.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sick of failed attempts to get more funding to further our Voice Movement Therapy research

I am sick of repeated failed attempts to get more funding to further our Voice Movement Therapy research for young adults who self-injure... :-(
Then I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how Australia ignores implementation of innovative projects.

So I wrote to Peter Beattie as follows:
Really enjoyed the dialogue in SMH about Australia's investment in implementation AFTER the original research.
We have devised a novel expressive therapy for self-harming young people. I could not get money from anywhere, so I funded it myself from private practice funds. 4 10 week groups with 10 week follow-up over 2+years. Great results, and the paper is currently in press with Music and Medicine (an international journal), despite small numbers.
Given the results, I tried for an NHMRC this year (LOL). They said our work was 'non-competitive'. I have tried other formal funding bodies here (like BeyondBlue) and in the US (like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention who had previously given us funding for self-harm research), but no-one seems interested despite an estimated cost of self-harm to the Australian taxpayer of somewhere around $60m pa. Ah, the ironies of life.

Don't suppose he will have time to respond... :-(

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Mindful Grandfathering

I was on Lifeguard duty yesterday for my youngest grandson, aged 8. He is actually very competent in our home pool, more like a dolphin than a boy. So I was there for emergencies, like if he misjudged a leap onto a floating body board, or slipped on the tiles around the pool. Despite my residual minor paraplegic symptoms, I can swim, I do have a an ancient life-saving certificate, a less ancient first aid certificate, and I have been a doctor for 45 years.
The truth? I was just there to be, quietly sitting on the swinging hammock reflecting (and watching with interest).
We had been cleaning the pool with a Barracuda - an erratic device that goes all over the shop, but does seem to reach everywhere eventually - rather symbolic of an 8 year old boy rushing hither and yon. The main cleaner, and most of the connectors had been removed, but some of the blue 1 metre tubes remained floating on the surface. He filled up the tube and blew through one end, creating a fountain. This was repeated again and again. Then he found some ants on the pool surround, and methodically went round the pool flushing them away by blowing the water through the tube. Not satisfied he went back round the pool again. No commentary; just quietly involved in small boy play - calm, composed, content. I observed.
Changing tack, he whacked the water with one of the blue tubes, then whacked a large floating blow-up ball, then repeated it all. Then he joined the two ends of the tube to make a small circle about 30cms across, and put it over his head, wriggling through - again and again. That was apparently easy, but I was asked a question: "Grandpa, do you think I can get through this?" (after 20 minutes, the first acknowledgement of my presence). "I am sure you can." (Gosh that was a clever deduction) He wriggled through again and again, each time not unmaking the circle, and with a grin from ear to ear. The game changed. Standing on the side of the pool, he jumped through the hoop a dozen times, mostly surfacing with an intact hoop, and that grin. The game changed. He dived from the side of the pool, full of confidence, through the hoop, again most times surfacing with it intact, and that grin. Then he went back to searching for ants to blast away with gushing water. "Grandpa, I can't wait till midnight tonight. They are releasing 'Halo 4' and my Dad pre-ordered it. We should be able to get it tomorrow, and then we can play it. It's my favourite game."
Then the game changed. He noted the round circle of plastic on either side of the large blow-up ball: "That's just like an eye." Me: "So it is..." He retrieved a soccer sized plastic ball, and repeatedly aimed it at the eye. "Yeah, got you" Again, "Yeah, got you" Me: "Mmm, I think you missed by 2 inches that time" Big grin: "No I didn't...." Repeated success, all the time keeping afloat in the pool, keeping his balance. "Yeah, got you" Me: "Mmm, Got a feeling you missed again" Big grin: "No I didn't...." The game changed. Leaping out of the water, he punched the eye each time it appeared. "Yeah, got you". Then, with varying success he kicked Karate style at the eye - repeatedly.
"Grandpa, I loved this weekend. Wish we could stay here all the time." Wow, what a compliment...
So what did I do? Not much, except watch and reflect. My grandson did not need me to ask questions about who paid for the water he was 'wasting' on the ants, he did not need me to say: "Poor littler ants; what do you think you are doing?" Or: "You won't stop them, they will always come back." He did not need me to say: "Careful, don't slip when diving like that." He did not need me to reprimand him: "If you go on like that you will burst that blow-up ball." He did not need me to curb his enthusiasm or his aggression, or challenge his excitement over 'Halo 4' (whatever I may believe).
He needed me to understand the need to be aggressive - just to get it out of your system. He needed me to know just a little about 8 year old boys who may need to 'regress in the service of the Ego', from time to time, pretending to be 5 or 6 year olds. He needed to release loads of energy, while pretending to be a dolphin for nearly 50 minutes. He needed this short time of release before going back to school tomorrow (where his teacher has made the mistake of thinking he had ADHD, rather than acknowledging the boredom of little boys who are too bright, too quick for their own good, and get frustrated). He needed this time of replenishment before doing battle with the other 8 year old boys at school.
Oh, and he needed the optimism related to playing Halo 4 with his Dad tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Harnessing technology for better mental health services

By Graham Martin, University of Queensland

On R U OK? Day this year, this website turned the spotlight on services that help and support people who are not okay – in particular on challenges that organisations such as Lifeline experience in meeting increasing demand with finite human and financial resources.

Meeting the demand for mental health problems is not a new challenge. Nor is it one that shows any sign of easing in the near future. As we reduce the stigma related to mental illness and improve help-seeking in the community, demand for mental health services will most likely grow.

Clearly, we need to increase investment in mental health services. But more money is just part of the answer – we also need to be more creative about how we deliver services.

Australian governments may never have the necessary funds at their disposal to ensure that a telephone counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional is available for every person in every part of the country, whenever one is required. So we need to look at innovative solutions that are effective, equitable, and cost-effective.

Information technology offers one way of delivering these services. The Inspire Foundation’s experience in delivering – a national web-based mental health service for young people – shows that an effective solution is to harness the potential of new and emerging technologies. This program has been running for 15 years.

Last year, the website helped over 650,000 young Australians, at a cost of around $11.50 per person. Many of these young people accessed on multiple occasions – with over five million page views in that same year.

One of the advantages of online services is that they are able to meet huge demand at any time from anywhere, and at little cost. This makes them an ideal complement to face-to-face mental health services. Technology-based services offer the additional benefit of anonymity and 24-hour availability, making them a comfortable, safe and easy support option – especially for young people.

As more people around Australia are able to access high speed broadband, further opportunities will emerge to develop and deliver novel services that can reach and engage large numbers of people at low cost. Many organisations are beginning to think about the implications of these developments.

And the Young and Well CRC will work over the next five years to deliver the necessary research and development to further exploit the potential of technology to meet Australia’s mental health challenges.

Online services should not replace more traditional forms of service delivery, be they face-to-face or via telephone. The research clearly shows that the development of a real-time therapeutic alliance between a client and therapist remains the most powerful strategy for change.

But online information services and technology-based therapeutic interventions can act as important adjuncts to care. Where such services are routinely integrated into the wider mental health system, they will relieve pressure on traditional services by enabling people to help themselves, help each other and access professional support in between or while waiting for access to other services. And this can only help.
Graham Martin receives funding from The Australian Research Council. He is a Board Member of Inspire Foundation
The Conversation
        This article was originally published at The Conversation.
          Read the original article.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Self-help booklets for Managing Self-injury (free)

Having interviewed a large number of young self-injurers, as well as professionals from a variety of backgrounds struggling to manage self-injury, we created a number of self-help booklets.
There is one for young people
Seeking Solutions to Self-injury: A Guide for Young People
There is a second for family members
Seeking Solutions to Self-injury: A Guide for Parents and Families
And a third for school staff
Seeking Solutions to Self-injury: A Guide for School Staff

Please feel free to download them for free!

Self-injury in Australia; some facts and figures

Just over 8% of the Australian population claim to have self-injured at some time in their lives
Just over 1% of the Australian population claim to have self-injured at some time in the last month.
About 8% of young people aged 10-17 have self-injured. This percentage increases to about 18% for those aged 18-24 (15% for men and 20% for women), then gradually reducing over the age range. However, about 3% of those over 50 are still claiming to have self-injured.
Overall, more females than males do self-injure, but this was not statistically significant - men just use different methods, and so the response depends on what question you ask.
Everybody seems to think that self-injury is about suicidality. Clearly this is just not true. About 40% of self-injurers in the last month had had some thoughts of suicide, but only 10% had attempted in the past year. So, 90% had not attempted.... In fact some believe that self-injury, as a way of coping with emotional problems, may protect against serious outcomes.

If you want the background epidemiological research study on sef-injury completed with over 12,000 Australians, you can download it here

Go to

Go to 'Resources' Tab

Click on ANESSI A national study

Self-injury. A story on ABC 730 report

This was a program which aired on 26th July 2012 on Australian Broadcasting Company's 7.30 Report. Self-injury is a difficult issue, and something hidden and not well known in the public arena. Our research studies suggest that 8% of the Australian population have deliberately self-injuured at some stage in their lives, and that 1% self-injuured in the 1 month prior to survey (about 200,000 people.
There is a consensus that self-injurers may be treated quite badly within public institutions, and that to re-traumatise someone who is already traumatised, makes things worse rather than better. We need public debate on self-injury

If you want some background facts and figures based on interviews with over 12,000 Australians, you can download the report here 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Intriguing differences in Firearm Crime between US States

I have been looking at the Guardian report on Firearm Crime <>. As an old solution focussed family therapist, I note there is an intriguing difference between the various US states.
Looking at the extremes we can group into 2:

Group 1
Vermont (0.32), New Hampshire (0.38), Hawaii (0.54), North Dakota (0.61), Iowa (0.69), Idaho (0.77), Utah (0.78), Maine (0.84), Wyoming (0.91), Oregon (0.93), South Dakota (0.98), Minnesota (1.0); all have 2010 rates of firearm murder of 1 per 100,000 or less.

Group 2
Arkansas (3.2), California (3.37), Arizona (3.47), Mississippi (4.05), Michigan (4.16), Delaware (4.26), South Carolina (4.5), Maryland (5.11), Missouri (5.34), Louisiana (7.75), District of Columbia (16); all have 2010 rates of firearm murder at least three times higher – ie ranging from 3.2 to 16 per 100,000.

Less than 30% of murders in Vermont, New Hampshire and Hawaii are gun related, yet 80% of murders in Louisiana, and 75% in DC are gun-related.

The difference between Group 1 and Group 2 does not appear to be geographic in origin. Is it perhaps poitical or socio-economic? What are the group 1 states doing well to enable them to keep their rates of gun related deaths low?

The Guardian does not report suicides by firearm. Can anyone match the states comparing gun-related murder rates with gun-related suicide rates per 100,000?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gun Crime Statistics in the US by state

How high is gun crime across the US - and which states have the worst figures? This is the latest data from the Guardian Newspaper in the UK. 

And this is only murders occurring with guns. Given a suicide rate over 30,000 per annum, and a percentage of gun suicides over 50%, you can begin to get a true sense of the impact of firearms in the US.

I am beginning to feel I do not want to visit the USA any more...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Violent Death in the USA

So, OK, I want to understand this.
According to a Guardian UK report , there were 12,996 murders in the USA in 2010, and of these two thirds (8,775) were by firearms (67.5%).
As in many western countries, the suicide rate is higher than the homicide rate. The latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention < > indicates that 36,909 suicide deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2009, an increase of 2.4 percent over the previous year. Suicide rates in the US have been increasing since 2000. Fifty-two percent of suicides are with a firearm, accounting for about 19,000 deaths.
So, there are somewhere in the region of 27,775 deaths per annum from Firearms. That seems like a lot of death. I guess it means there will be an impact on somewhere in the region of 277,750 grieving family and friends (at a conservative estimate). And being traumatic, the grief will go on for a number of years, and maybe down generations. And, of course, repeated next year and the year after...
So why does the USA continue to have laws which allow the purchase of firearms, especially semi-automatics which seem to have been involved in the latest shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Of course the National Rifleman's Association and Lobby go on claiming that "guns don't kill people, people kill people'. But at least in suicide prevention, we know that 'reducing access to means' - that is getting rid of access to guns - has a profound and long-lasting impact on rates of suicide. In Australia, after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, the Howard government attempted to rid the country of guns - especially semi-automatics. We in Australia have not had a massacre since. Suicide rates demonstrate that guns (while still available in gun clubs and rural areas) as a cause of suicide has been markedly reduced.
When will the US ever learn?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Two Kookaburras - not sure we are friends

And then there were two - sitting on the swinging hammock. There was some conversation, but ultimately they agreed to disagree and one flew away. Anyone know whether both of them are males?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Its a Solar world

OK. We finally succumbed to the idea that going solar might be a part of our contribution to the world. It has, so far, been remarkably easy. You contact someone and sit down to discuss. You decide. You pay a deposit, and several weeks later someone arrives with ladders and 16 solar panels. Four hours later its all done. You pay the rest of the money, taking into account the rebate from the Australian government. Some weeks later, Energex may come and hook us up to the grid - if we are lucky.
So what could be simpler? I did worry about the roof - we have had leaks in the past. I did worry about standards - but was reassured. I still have a niggling feeling something could go wrong - but that is just me...

Judith Durham - Incomparable

Photo from West Australian

We had the privilege to go to the Judith Durham concert at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre last night - "Colours of my Life' - a  retrospective which included memories and songs from her childhood in Tasmania, the four years of her time with The Seekers, and then songs drawn from the sadnesses of some of her life. That was just the first half of a two hour show. The voice is still rich although there was the odd quaver in the very early vibratos. But then she is just a bit older than I am, and I cannot say I have much voice left at all. She is fragile and slightly stiff onstage, but then again 50 years in show business must have taken its toll as would have watching her husband die from Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
The second half was exquisite. Drawn from her career as a solo singer and performer there was the new 'Brisbane' from the Cities Suite, her own version of 'Advance Australia Fair' (which just happens to be 300% more meaningful and appropriate to modern Australian society than the original)! And then there was 'Georgie Girl' which gained a standing ovation. 
Somewhere in there were songs recorded at Abbey Road, an early Elton John for which she was the first female singer, some Scott Joplin ('Alexander's Ragtime Band') played superbly on the piano (Durham was originally classically trained on piano), and several songs which included the Sousaphone - now when did you last see one of those. 
This was a night to be remembered and treasured. Judith Durham is a real lady, a national icon, a treasure. And the voice is superb, just as I remembered it back in the 70s.
She plays her last gig at the Sydney Opera House next week. Don't miss it. 

That Kookaburra again

Just a few weeks later, and our friend is much more mature. He sat on a fence just resting from the rain, and taking in the scenery. I quietly took some scraps out to the decking. He eyed my from about 10 feet, but seemed to think I was not much to worry about. Having gone back indoors, we watched until he decided somewhat languidly to investigate. After a bit, he jumped back onto the fence and watched with apparent disdain while four young crows finished the scraps.
Just love the blue flash.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bereaved through Suicide Conference Sydney2012

Spent the last 2 days at the Salvation Army Hope, Meaning and Direction Bereaved Through Suicide conference in Sydney at Leighton Hall, Uni NSW in Kensington. Excellently attended, a large number of eminent speakers including one from Ireland (Barry McGale) and four from the United States (Madelyn Gould, Michelle Linn-Gust, Jack Jordan and Jerry Reed).
I was highly honoured by Alan Staines' invitation to chair all the keynote sessions, so I had a fantastic opportunity to meet, greet and host.
Each of the keynote sessions were opened by a bereaved through suicide person (in US terms, a 'survivor'). Heart and gut wrenching, but grounding. In addition, so many of the professionals there had also lost loved ones, so the general atmosphere was collaborative and caring. My hope is that those who found themselves emotional at any time were able to get sufficient support on the day.
The final panel session sadly did not include Madelyn (who had to return to the US), but to the names above we added Judith Murray, Barbara Hocking, Barbara Wingard, Tom Brideson and Diana Sands - a regular 'brains trust'. We only had an hour and a half, but I hope all of them felt they got a fair go to make some points about the future actions necessary in this field of endeavour.
We had questions from the floor, with Dave picked up Michelle's comments about the need to work better with media, by asking about the restricted media representation of suicide (2200 pa) compared to car accidents (1200 pa) and murders (800 pa). This provoked a vibrant discussion. Kate added to this with the complexity getting media exposure regarding The Gap in Sydney. Tony raised the issue of lack of openness in investigations of suicides occurring in mental health services. Raylee commented on the contribution of some courageous bereaved who had acknowledged suicide in public death notices. Vern raised the issue of how to get helpful information about relevant services easily and quickly after a suicide in the family, and Louise commented on possibilities for online management of an active database. Jill raised new services which were trying to provide services, but this led to debate on the range of services and problems with duplication, and the fact we forget about active services over 10 years or so and then 'recreate the wheel'. Several speakers (Jack, Jerry, Barbara, Tom) acknowledged the power of the group of bereaved people getting together to make change, and and Barry opened up the new thinking about Social Media and the opportunities for access to information at the local level. Alan Staines suggested the need for a national body to bring together all the activities in support of bereaved through suicide in Australia, and this was met with general acclaim.
I reminded people in closing that "When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done", and what we need is action.
Postvention IS Prevention.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Friendly Baby Kookaburra

This baby kookaburra comes and parades outside our bedroom window each morning. Such a simply and pleasurable experience. I love being Australian. I love living here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Sydney 'Eye' Outside Tour

Just for the record, when we were in Sydney we took the lift to the 300m top of the Sydney Eye, donned protective clothing, chained ourselves to the platform (experiencing a bizarre feeling of being a convict?), and walked around, being entertained by an exquisite commentary about the view. Beautiful day. An experience not to be missed. Mind you, the experience taxed this partially recovered paraplegic with getting into the overalls, and then having to climb up and down the stairs. The 4D 2 minute video is also an experience not to miss.

Jan 'pulling my chain'

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PLANETARIUM: Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (28/05/2012)

This was the most extraordinary evening, totally enthralling, and living up to the reports I had heard about 'Planetarium' played in London. I knew Muhly's work a little, and love his minimalist somewhat atonic style. I did not know Dressner or Stevens, and I guess that is because I am about two generations too old.
The Australian Orava String Quartet began the evening by performing pieces composed by the three composers. Muhly’s Diacritical Marks was what I had expected, and knew I would love - ethereal. 
Nico Muhly
(Photo by Matthew Murphy
from the online biog

Bryce Dessner
(Press Photo by Rene Cervantes
from the Post Hoc Management site)

Stevens' Year of the Boar, Year of the Horse and Year of Our Lord were just wonderful pieces of music, more lyrical and beautifully interpreted by the quartet. Dessner’s Aheym was true to his own description of  'metal music for violins' and there was an electric thrill to the whole piece and a sense of awe at how Orava got themselves through. If and when published, this will be a must buy!
Sufjan Stevens
(photo from SMH online)
Planetarium was not exactly an update on Gustav Holst's Planets yet the sense of other-worldliness was quickly captured in what is a unique compositional collaboration - the Generation Y tribute to the greater context in which we live. Each of our planets was interpreted in music, perhaps based on some of our mythology about the Gods of Earth, and with somewhat naff concepts - Neptune being water, Mars about war, Venus about love. Put that to one side, and the ride for each individual piece was spectacular with images sprayed onto a giant orb hanging above the artists which reminded me of the psychedylic light shows we had at parties in the 1960s. Neptune, JupiterVenus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Earth were each a delight with different styles - some with vocals, some just orchestrated. Even Pluto rated a mention.
This was a true 'rock' concert with classical overtones, exquisite work from Orava, a surprising depth of sound from seven trombones (how bizarre is that?), and merry quips between Muhly, Dessner and Stevens in between the suites.
Did I enjoy the experience ? You bet; bloody brilliant. Would I go again ? You bet. Will I buy the CD? No I will download from iTunes... I am up with the times...

Here is an official recording

Shame on the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

On Monday night we went to the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House to listen to music by Nico Muhly (see my next blog post). It was a special occasion - a belated birthday present, and part of a rare weekend in Sydney soaking up bits of culture.
As readers of this blog will know, I am still handicapped somewhat from Transverse Myelitis contracted over 2 years ago. Effectively this means I can walk, but not great distances; I can climb stairs as I do the 17 at my home in Brisbane. Anyway, we caught a cab from the hotel, and the very kind cabbie dropped us really close to the entrance to the Concert Hall. No lifts working! Apparently there is a lift that can carry handicapped people to the first floor, but it was not working on Monday. So, 3 flights of 14 stairs to manage. Well the tickets had been expensive at $90 each, so I was not going to miss out. At the first floor, I was faced with more stairs to get to the third floor where we had seats in Box B. Not just a few stairs, but another 50 or so. What do you do? You take one step at a time.
Of course after the performance, we had the serious problem of coming back down the stairs. OK, a serious challenge, and holding the handrail and Jan's hand, I managed. Actually there was no bloody choice.

It is a public shame. When I booked the tickets, I did not know there were no facilities for handicapped people. How can a great facility like the Sydney Opera House not have facilities for handicapped people? How can a public utility in a great city in 2012 be allowed not to have suitable facilities? Does anywhere advertise "We have a great performance by world class performers, at vast cost; oh, by the way if you are handicapped or in a wheelchair, don't bother to apply!'
Shame on the Opera House. Shame on Sydney.

The Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW (till June 3rd)

We just had an exquisite weekend in Sydney. High on the 'to do' list was a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW. to see the finalists for the Archibald Prize. What an array of beautiful work. What an array of artistic technique. Bliss for a couple of hours working our way through the crowd, standing in awe, trying to get a sense if why the artist chose to paint this person, at this time in this way.
Loved Kate Tucker's 'Melody'. Overwhelmed by Jodi Daley's 'Private X' and Vernon Ah Kee's 'Isee deadly people'. Struggled for some with Tim Storrier's 'The histrionic wayfarer', until I got it - and then could see just how brilliant it is with all it's allegory. Also felt the pain of Jenny Sage's 'After Jack' (we have been there, Jenny).
There is so much phenomenal talent in this country.
And then we had lunch in the Gallery restaurant. Double bliss, double artistic talent.

I just got 'craoked' by Mind Yoga

The Random Act of Kindness group on Facebook (see my last blogpost) ( seems to have meant something to many people. Just the idea that by doing something small for another being, we make the world a better place... So there have been a string of beautiful personal stories which make delightful reading. In fact each of them has made me smile.
Someone then CRAOKed me. This apparently stands for Create a Random Act of Kindness today. Nice. You can take a look at the CRAOK idea at

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Old photos never die; they, like the memories, just fade a bit...

Going through some slides found in a box in the cupboard, clearly my father's photos we had never seen. Pictures of Jan and I as teenagers on our first visit to Australia in 1963. Precious photos of my Mother - precious because she never liked having her photo taken, and so these are gold dust. Photos of my two sons as littlies in the garden of a beautiful old house we lived in in Kent (Old Gates, Coleman's Stairs Rd, Birchington). Photos of my sister with a Dachshund we had as children (Mitzi). Photos of a dog we had when our children were small (Scamp).
So we made a decision to buy a digitizer to convert the really good ones to a format for computers. Then we can share them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bigoted Psychiatrists and Sexual Preference

Sometimes my colleagues leave me in utter despair. What do these supposedly knowledgeable people think they are doing? There is absolutely no evidence that sexual preference has any impact on the way Australian children grow up.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness (2) The FB RAK Group

This group sets out to increase the number of random acts of kindness across the world. These are usually small actions that cost nothing except a little time perhaps. RAKs do not set out to change others' lives, redirect them, or in any way control - they do not really have a purpose; you just do them because it occurred to you at the time.You don't have to 'try' to do a random act of kindness
However, they may encourage other people in their own lives, help them out of the holes they seem to fall into. RAKs may offer a helping hand, improve self confidence or self-esteem. make another human being smile, or just remind them they are alive.
There is no set upper or lower limit on how many you should do in any set time frame. However, you might like to achieve at least one RAK per day.
Please tell us what you did, or how it happened, or what you imagine the impact may have been. I guess the other side of this might be that someone shared a RAK with you. Tell us what you felt...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Due to talk at the Transverse Myelitis Association Thursday 17th May

I have been asked to reflect on my recovery from Acute Transverse Myelitis at the Transverse Myelitis Association meeting next week, and it is troubling me. Me, who can talk under water and never gets nerves. We have discussed reading bits from chapters from my book. But which chapters do you choose? Should I choose those that might resonate with other sufferers - the struggles to come to terms with being handicapped, the awfulness of being a cypher in the system? Or should I choose those that are about my recovery. I suspect there will be people there who may not have had the supports I have had, have not been able to access Acupuncture, or were just more serious at the beginning. I don't want to offend. Mmmm, what a lot of dilemmas.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What exactly is a Random Act of Kindness?

As it says, a RAK is something spontaneous and unplanned. You are in place at a time when another human needs a small amount of help. You respond without really thinking, and go on your way. You may reflect on it later, or you may forget that you ever gave a helping hand. Your soul will never forget, and the person who received the Random Act of Kindness may never know your name, and never have the opportunity to repay your kindness, but they are also unlikely to forget.
It takes seconds of your time, costs next to nothing, but leaves a glow.
Join a Facebook discussion group about Random Acts of Kindness. Contribute to the group; change a bit of your world. Remind yourself to be aware enough to offer something when needed.

Random Acts of Kindness Facebook Group.

Monday, April 30, 2012

An Overview of Resilience in working with children

This is a very nice overview of the construct of resilience, from researchers at the Australian Institute for Family Studies. Describes the history and the complexity when considering working on resilience with children and young people.
Sometimes we think we know what we are talking about, and we tend to throw terms around as if everyone has the same understanding. But there are always complex underpinnings, and relationships or overlaps with other ideas. A good introduction.

Caregiving Environments and Self-harm

Another honours student of mine is doing a research project on caregiving environments and deliberate self-harm. If you had 20 minutes and felt like helping, she would appreciate completion of her on-line questionnaire at

Perfectionism and Self-injury research project

One of my students is investigating perfectionism and self-injury for a 4th year Honours in Psychology project. If you felt like contributing and had the time, I am sure she would appreciate your responses to her questionnaire. Totally anonymous of course...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Self-injury radio interview

As far as I know this is the first time that self-injury has been explored on radio with a self-injurer and a professional sharing the same interview. It makes for interesting, if uncomfortable, listening.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Taking Charge: The final chapter

I have just added a final chapter to the book 'Taking Charge' - 'Getting on with it'. You can access it at

Now that we have this we can prepare the book for publishing. It may be ready for sale within the next month. Woo Hoo

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vancouver SRA2012 Conference 8th March

Guess I should have stayed sightseeing.
The conference centre is a great barn with countless rooms, and sparsely populated by people. Perhaps everyone else knew where to go; guess that's the problem with being a stranger in a strange land. Nobody was able to find our session in Meeting Room 1. Three international experts on self-harm and suicide prevention, and an expert on Ethics and Review Committees. OK Ethics is not everyone's favourite topic, but we were swamped by the room and the 200 chairs. We formed a Wagon wheel circle up front and huddled with the seven eager souls attending. Hope they gained something from our deliberations. Then everyone scattered.

I had trouble finding out what sessions might interest me (I did not have my computer with me, had not been able to download the SRA2012app, and though there were 3 photocopied booklets on a table, I found it hard to make sense of them). I had previously been given a photocopy of highlights - which all looked somewhat ordinary. There was no coffee - I was directed to a commercial cafe. I had missed breakfast at the hotel (entirely my fault), and there were no snacks or lunch. Ah well, escape back to the hotel.
I have chaired or been involved in running 24 national and international conferences; I have a good sense of how to make people feel welcomed and involved. This conference feels bleak and unwelcoming. Perhaps you have to be part of the 'IN' crowd....   :-(

Vancouver 7th March Beautiful again

We spent the morning touring and getting to know the city, the parks, conservatory and an 'aerial view'.

Convention Centre East where the SRA begins tomorrow
One of the really striking things is the respect Canadians have for their First Nations Peoples, as well as the environment. 400 year old trees are treated with such reverence, and there seems to be a strong sense of the how the cycles of life integrate with ecology. Impressive...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vancouver, Canada (6th March and 6 degrees) (2)

Don't you just love how chance plays a wonderful part in life? We asked the hotel to recommend a good french restaurant (we are in Canada after all). They suggested "Le Gavroche" Vancouver’s longest-standing French restaurant, open since 1978.
What lovely people. What great French cuisine - superb presentation, with just enough at each course to satisfy the taste and the stomach. Sorbet between two courses - can't remember the last time we had that. Stunning Lobster Bisque, and then the fish on black rice with Asparagus - wow. With a really nice Cote du Rhone. Then the Creme Brulée - double wow. I really appreciated this end to the first day. Makes you feel the journey is so worthwhile. Love Vancouver already.... But then I love anywhere they serve such good creme brulée....  (LOL)
What a cute little place.

Creme Brulée - Mmmm...

Vancouver, Canada (6th March and 6 degrees)

The flight from Australia was direct, and so a bit long. But we are here safe and sound, and exploring this beautiful city. We took a short walk to the Convention Centre on the first day, It had been raining for days, but 6th March was bright sun, beautiful views and sharp intakes of icy air...

On Tuesday we did a tour to the Salmon Farming, then the Suspension Bridge at Capilano, then  up Grouse Mountain. We lunched on top of the world, and I walked on snow for the first time since my transverse myelitis.
Vancouver Bay, seen from Grouse Mountain
"Great Skidoos. I was just looking, honest..."

Monday, February 27, 2012

THEMHS Summer Forum 2012

Just coming down from 2 very intensive days of discussion about Self-injury, Self-harm, and Suicide at the THEMHS Summer Forum in Sydney. I take my hat off to the organisers for organising the forum - not the most popular of topics, and yet one of the most important in every day mental health practice. Clinicians really struggle with this one, and lack of knowledge and ill thought through strategies can lead to serious stigma - which in turn may block help-seeking.
The blog for the forum is at

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Family plays Blues together

I am so proud of our talented family. The Mad Martins from Adelaide are using family time and their musical talents to play blues together.
Just love 'Slow Blues', Hannah's 'Be what you wanna be' and Rory's 'Are we there yet?' Great piece of work in the studio you guys...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Great self-help videos for young people - from the UK

I think its good that someone is making these videos - they may educate staff as much as young people. They are a bit glossy, and the comments on each video reflect a mix of like versus not like. The accents sound like they emanate from Manchester.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Challenging my Depression (4)

Much has been written about Aaron Beck’s cognitive triad within depression – that ‘I’m no good’, that ‘the world is no good’, and ‘none of that is going to get better’. OK I know there is much more to the theory, and that Beck’s work goes much deeper into how our minds control emotion, so what I am about to write may seem superficial to some purists, but who cares?
Let me start with our world. Whichever way you look at it, and whether you are depressed or not, our world is looking very shaky and subject to immense and rapid changes that appear to be out of control. The recession we are not quite out of keeps threatening to reappear, and seems to have been caused (as so much is) by greedy people thinking they are really clever, and needing so much more than a few million dollars to live out the rest of their empty lives. Countries all over the world are billions, if not trillions, of dollars in debt, and politicians seem to have little ability to control further increases. There has been a shift of power from the west toward the east, that is India and China, who seem to be able to engender growth, maintain better stability, and (at least for the moment) lend money to the profligate west. Look, the shift may be a good thing. Let’s face it western countries seem to have made such a mess of things – perhaps someone else should have a try. And eastern countries are based much more on the family as the unit of importance rather than the individual focus – me, me, me – of the west. That might be a really good thing.
I don’t really have a view about some of these things. I watch the television news, which is always skewed towards death and destruction – “Ooh isn’t it awful?” (and then has a heart-warming story from somewhere close geographically, about 20 minutes from the end, just to make us all feel better). I can’t influence any of that. For instance the changes going on in the middle east are cataclysmic, but there is nothing that I can do to influence the path of peace. I have to watch from a distance and contain my worries about escalation to world conflict. I don’t believe ‘my vote’ has any currency or any influence. You wonder how countries run themselves when all politicians do is argue every day, often on fatuous grounds, until they all end up looking like raving loonies. I don’t have a voice in this country; I certainly don’t have a voice in any other country.
Well hang on.... My world is not just about the fact that everywhere seems in self-destruct mode. Actually my world is about my family – my extended family - and how they are coping with their lives. In particular its about how my wife and I manage our day to day lives, continue to love and support each other, and maintain some patterns of life that keep us reasonably happy. Its about my work – my clinical work and how I bring my experience to bear to help others make the changes they want, my teaching and how this might influence clinicians to become the best they can become, my research programs and how these might create new knowledge to help those who struggle with despair, my staff and how we can help them to become better clinicians, teachers and researchers for the next generation, the journal I edit and how it can publish new thinking on prevention of ill health, wellness, and mental health promotion.
You see what I have done here... I can’t change things I can’t change. But I can influence things around me. I can use the best skills I have with my patients. I can think hard about the essence of our work, and teach people in the best way I know how. I can think through the implications of our research, make sure we publish what we can, and then work out where to go next. Within my own little world, I can do... So, I will do...
If I thought of all the big stuff that is going on, I would get really depressed. It IS awful, and I wish it were not. It IS depressing, but I refuse to let it wreck my little circle of life. In challenging my own depression, I have to keep that world stuff out of my mind as much as I can. Well, how do you do that while you are watching the evening news? You have to be clear that other people’s (or peoples’) problems are theirs. They have to take their own decisions, do the best they can for their own people and their own country. And the politicians? Actually they make me laugh. I find their wriggling antics highly amusing. They are all grandstanding, strutting stages that are often too big for them, always looking for some clever angle to ensure they stay in power next time. I enjoy watching them just to see what silly things they get up to next. Its always good for a laugh – and laughter is very good medicine to help me challenge my depression.