Dr Gomathi Sitharthan
Senior Lecturer, Psychology
C43T - T Block Cumberland Campus
The University of Sydney
|Telephone||+61 2 9351 9584|
|Fax||+61 2 9351 9540|
Building Bridges: Maternal and Child Welfare in Myanmar Conference 2012
Media Presentation I
Media Presentation II
Previously, she was the Postgraduate Coordinator Behavioural and Community Health Sciences (2001-2006), Postgraduate Coordinator-Ageing and Human Development Research Group (2006-2007), and Deputy Coordinator, Graduate Program in Sexual Health (2007 -2009). Over the years, she has taught a range of topics including but not limited to: Health Psychology, Lifespan Development, Social Psychology, Psychology for Graduate Students, Sexual Health, Counselling Skills, Stress Illness and Management Issues, etc.
Dr Sitharthan is a Registered Psychologist (AHPRA), member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), member of the American Psychological Association (APA), Member of International Academy of Sex Research (IASR), and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellor's &Therapists (AASECT).
As a Psychologist, Dr Sitharthan is interested in broad range of topics in Mental Health, Health Psychology, and Behavioural Processes and Translational Research. She has previously received two NHMRC grants and three AUSAID grants. With colleagues, Gomathi conducted several world-first clinical trials and published the results in prestigious scientific journals like Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2014, 1997), and Addiction (2006). Recently, Gomathi completed data collection from the first Australian study investigating the impact of viewing excessive of porn from over 1400 participants; and the largest study ever to investigate alcohol-induced blackouts (over 4000 participants).
In 2012, AUSAID included Myanmar (Burma) to be eligible for training and other aid assistance and Gomathi received a grant to specifically improve maternal and child health. A highlight of this training conference included a special televised message from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Gomathi received further grants from AUSAID to improve maternal health and reduce infant mortality (2013); and to reduce spread of HIV (2014).
Gomathi is keen to disseminate the research findings to the public and has provided many interviews in a range of print and other electronic media (e.g. Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Financial Review, ABC TV 7.30 Report, Daily Telegraph etc.).
Dr.Sitharthan’s research interest is in Behavioural processes and translational research.
Translational research is as old as science itself (Gribben, 2002) and can be defined as a process that unites fundamental scientific principles to solve everyday problems (Mace and Critchfield, 2010).
The scientific discipline of Psychology is in a unique and enviable position having immensely contributed to our understanding of areas such as personality, emotion, motivation, self-concept, cognition, memory, social cognition and influence, family processes, social networks, and sociocultural variations.
However, the theory, methods, knowledge, and insights from psychological science has not been fully utilized in understanding pressing public health issues in promoting, treating and managing mental and physical well-being (NIMH 2010).
The core purpose is to explore opportunities for a united science of behaviour change. This includes removing barriers to multidisciplinary collaboration, addressing what the community wants, and ensuring scientific investigations are easily and swiftly available to the public. This concept is often summarized by the phrases “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside-to-community” research (ITHS, 2012).
Research in this area includes
- Research with clinical populations (e.g. mental / physical health)
- Research with specific populations (e.g. migrant groups, ethnic groups, minority groups, high-risk groups, women)
- Research with general populations (e.g. exploring health and well-being needs, promoting uptake of healthy behaviours via new cost-effective technologies)
Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor are the examples provided intended to be exclusive of other research themes
Dr. Sitharthan has conducted research focusing on preventative methods, early/brief/opportunistic/low cost interventions, and clinical trials addressing mental health / addictive behaviours/associated comorbidities, suicide risk reduction and depression management, promoting “self-change” programs in the community, ascertaining the impact of clinical training to deliver effective health care, clinical services evaluations, facilitating the up-take of effective interventions in health services and evaluating impacts of training, exploring migrant health, etc. Recently, she has broadened her research interests and is currently actively pursuing research in the area of the Psychology of Human Sexual Behaviour and Emotional Health, e.g. Internet Pornography, Sexuality and Body Image, Sex Education, Doctor-Patient communication, and Migrant Sexual Health, etc.
Teaching and supervision
- HSBH1003: Health Behaviour and Society
- BACH1161: Introductory Behavioural Health Sciences
- BACH1165: Psychology and Cognitive Factor
- BACH5321 Psychology for Graduate Students
Higher Degree Completions:
- 16 PhD
- 4 Research Masters students
- Primary Supervisor to4 PhD students
- Associate Supervisor to 1 PhD student
Expectations and Experiences of Consumers Seeking Assistance from Psychologists/Clinical Psychologists
There is good evidence that access to mental health care has improved in Australia. While more people have access to care, not much is known from the consumer’s perspective what difference the treatment made. The study seeks 2500 respondents who have consulted a psychologist / clinical psychologist at any time in the past two years. This confidential survey seeks information about the frequency and length of sessions, if an assessment was conducted and results revealed, what were the most and least helpful aspects of the consultations, and if the patient felt confident in the approach and methods. The findings have the potential to assist to develop more effective health care policies to meet the needs of the community, and provide professionals with valuable insights about their practices.
Have you consulted a Psychologist or a Clinical Psychologist? We are interested in finding about your experiences. Please participate in this survey:click here: Survey
Acculturation, sexual health, mental health and help seeking behaviour of south Asian Men having Sex with Men (MSM) living in Australia
South Asian MSM is a minority group. Anecdotal evidence indicate that these men have a very low-level of self-esteem which imposes negative effects on their social, mental and sexual well-being. The current investigation, the first of its kind in Australia, aims to explore the sexual health, mental health, drug use, and help seeking of South Asian MSM living in Australia.
To participate in this study, click here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SAMSM
Help seeking for Mental Health issues among Muslim Adults living in Australia
This study will investigate acculturation, mental health and help seeking of Muslims living in Australia and will explore ways to improve the delivery and quality of counselling services for this specific population. It is expected this study will bring crucial awareness to the needs of this particular population, and necessary strategies that are accessible, acceptable, affordable, and culturally sensitive to Islamic religious beliefs, values, and practices. The investigation will also provide data/information for future research in this area. The current investigation has also translated the questionnaires to Arabic to collect information from the wider community, to ensure the generalisability of the data collected.
Please participate in this study
English Version: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VT3LYQ7
Arabic Version: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FFX3SJZ
Post-traumatic stress disorder and Sri Lanka’s 30 year civil war – A study of generational trauma
Sri Lanka’s civil war lasted more than 30 years resulting in innocent civilian deaths as well as hundreds of thousands fleeing overseas as asylum seekers. Currently, there is no literature on war trauma within the Sri Lankan Tamil population across two generations. This is a first study that will explore the effects of a civil war and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on a migrant population that has settled in Australia. This study will examine the impact of war trauma experienced by the first generation survivors and explore secondary trauma within the second generation of Sri Lankan Tamils living in Australia. The study will also examine availability of mental health support and the utilisation of support within the community.
Acculturation and Sexuality: Sexual knowledge, attitude and help seeking behaviour of South Asian migrant women in Australia
Literature on cross cultural psychology has shown strong ties between acculturation and sexuality. As a result acculturation has become a key concept in examining differences in sexuality in many ethnically diverse communities. Given the increasing ethnic diversity in Australia, attention to culture is critical in order to attain a comprehensive understanding of the factors that shape sexuality. The present study will explore the impact of acculturation on sexuality by investigating how variations in the acculturative process produce changes in sexual knowledge, sexual attitude and sexual help seeking behaviour of South Asian migrant women in Australia. The findings of this first exploratory research will provide information for the development of culturally appropriate sexual health interventions for migrants in Australia. The study will also provide directions for potential future research in this area.
The effects of genital image and body image on sexual functioning in women
The literature on the association between genital image and sexuality is limited.
Empirical evidence on women’s genital image perceptions in the general population and their opinions towards female genital cosmetic surgery is also lacking. The aim of this study is to examine/explore the relationship between genital image, body image and sexual functioning in women. The current investigation will also explore the genital image perceptions of Australian women and their attitudes towards female genital cosmetic surgery. How women feel towards their genitalia is a neglected psycho-sexual health issue and it is envisaged this study will shed light on the issues women may face. An important implication of the study is that women with poor genital image can potentially have unnecessary and harmful surgery. Solutions other than surgery needs to be explored.
The Impact of Internet Pornography
The purpose of this research is to further our understanding of Internet Pornography Addiction/Problematic Internet Enabled Sexual Behaviours.
Projects (International Collaboration)
Building Bridges: Strengthening collaboration and building the collective contribution of overseas Burmese health professionals to maternal and child health in Burma
Myanmar (Burma) was isolated from the international stage for decades and as a result has not had access to much available information for the dissemination of health care. Funded by AusAID, and held at the University of Sydney for the first time, the above project explored ways to reduce the unacceptably high maternal and infant mortality rates in Burma. Experts from Australia, USA, Canada, UK, Burma, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Brunei participated; and included clinicians, health service planners, academics, representatives from governments and researchers.
A highlight was a special video link presentation by the Nobel Laureate Hon Aung San Suu Kyi who gave a special message in Burmese via video link. The video presentation and the English translation can be viewed at: Newsstory
Other notable presenters and speakers included: Professor John Hearn(Deputy Vice Chancellor - International, University of Sydney), Professor Heather Jeffery (Chair of Maternal and Child Health, University of Sydney), Dr Raymond Way (President Burmese Medical Association Australia), Ms Janelle Saffin (Member of Parliament), Mr Trevor Wilson (Former Ambassador to Burma), Professor Peter Cameron (President of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine, Alfred Hospital, University of Melbourne), Mr Justin Baguley (Director of Burma Division, AusAID), Professor Stan Ting (Professor of Clinical Paediatrics, Texas Technical University), Prof Thein Htut (University of Queensland), Dr Thane Oke Kyaw-Myint (Consultant Paediatrician, Canberra, ACT), Professor Aye Aye Thein (Neonatologist, University of Medicine, Myanmar), Professor Aye Aung (Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, University of Medicine, Myanmar), Professor Monique Skidmore (Pro Vice-Chancellor - International, University of Canberra).
Making a Difference: A pilot leadership development program to Promote Maternal and Child Health in Myanmar
Following the success of the Building Bridges, 12 health practitioners and administrators from Burma were recruited to participate in a 3-week medical leadership training program. Funded by AusAID as part of the Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship program, a mixed group of practitioners (from paediatrics, general practice, psychiatry, psychology, government, NGO’s ) were trained in best practices, health policy, medical administration, research and ethics, clinical aspects of maternal and child health, promoting mental health, peri-natal psychiatry, developmental psychology, evidence-based clinical practice, public health, prevention and early intervention, advocacy and leadership skills, promotion of holistic health (medical and emotional), community mobilisation and engagement, and joint ventures in academic and research activities.
This program also facilitated meetings with the Sydney Medical School, Medicare Locals, AMA, RANZCP, DOCS, and other medical and psychiatric facilities; to promote ongoing collaboration between Australian and Burmese institutions.
"Mapping for Change: From Government to Grassroots to Reduce Spread of HIV in Myanmar".
In Myanmar, HIV mainly occurs in sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men and their sexual partners, and injecting drug users who share contaminated equipment. Unfortunately, coordinated discussions among government ministries, NGO’s, community organisations, and other representative groups, either do not occur; or are unsystematic and non-inclusive. To address this serious limitation, this project which is a first of its kind addressed: health (including mental health and well-being), law and fiscal governance. Fifteen delegates who have the capacity to address HIV-related problems from the Government to the grassroots level were involved. The 30-day professional training project focused on: developing health-related cooperative engagement and conducting joint activities, engaging minority groups in decision making process, legislation to promote HIV health policies (including harm reduction), and use of fiscal governance to improve Myanmar’s health crisis.
The attending Fellows were selected from: NationalLeague for Democracy,National Health Network (NLD),Ministry of Health-Government of Myanmar,National AIDS Programme-International Health Division, Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation,Myanmar Medical Association, and Maternal and Child Welfare Association.
This is a collaborative project between Monash University, Macquarie University, Burmese Medical Association of Australia and various local training agencies such as ASHM, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), National Association of People With HIV Australia, and Scarlet Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association.
In the media
(2015) Why porn ruins people but not society. 4.4.2015. http://pickle.ninemsn.com.au/pornography
(2013) Inaugural Survey of People Who Have Been Referred To a Psychologist– University Of Sydney, November, Australian Hospital and Health Care Bulletin. http://www.hospitalhealth.com.au/news/inaugural-survey-people-referred-psychologist-university-sydney/
(2013) Mental Health Survey.25 Oct, The Senior, http://www.thesenior.com.au/Health/Health-News/mental-health-survey
(2013) Pornography on mobile devices fuelling addiction, brokenness.October 23, The Alabama Baptist, http://www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=29668
(2013) Why do teen girls want 'porn star look'March, Malaysia Chronicle, http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=71962:why-do-teen-girls-want-porn-star-look&Itemid=4&tmpl=component&print=1#.UqaaObA9LIU
(2013) Sexualisation of Society. Teenage, March, ACL. http://www.acl.org.au/2013/03/pick-of-the-day%E2%80%99s-news-%E2%80%93-thursday-21-march-2013/
(2012) Australia-first meeting tackles unacceptable maternal and child health in Burma.Apr 15, Asian Correspondent.com, http://asiancorrespondent.com/80450/australia-first-meeting-tackles-unacceptable-maternal-and-child-health-in-burma/
(2012) Porn research questions messages of sexuality.ABC TV 7.30 Report (09/05/2012), http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3499376.htm
(2012) Porn addiction can be unlearned. May 11, Sydney Morning Herald, Life And Style. http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/porn-addiction-can-be-unlearned-study-20120511-1ygy6.html
( 2012) Between the Bed sheets. Financial Review,(4.8.2012) http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac;jsessionid=1F612A66986D8F71C987A8A6C9F761D8?sy=afr&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=1month&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=brs&cls=54&clsPage=1&docID=AGE1208041T5V95UKBMA
(2012) Porn addiction on the rise as technology removes barriers to access.NineMSN, Health and Wellbeing,14 May,http://m.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8467004&site=health
(2012) Study exposes secret world of porn addiction.10 May, Medical Xpress http://medicalxpress.com/pdf255849577.pdf
(2012) Poor wellbeing for excessive porn users.Psychiatry Update, May, http://www.psychiatryupdate.com.au/latest-news/poor-well-being-for-excessive-porn-users
(2012) Porn addiction can be cured, Australian study findsThe Daily Telegraph. May, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/porn-addicts-can-kick-their-drug/story-e6freuy9-1226353857755
(2012) University of Sydney study exposes secret world of porn addiction.May 10, Porn and Sex Addiction. http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/university-sydney-study-exposes-secret-world-porn-addiction-2012
(2012) People start watching pornography at early age.The Indian Express, May. http://m.indianexpress.com/news/people-start-watching-pornography-at-early-age/947704/
(2011) Lust, caution as addiction to online pornography grows. The Australian, (3 September), http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/lust-caution-as-addiction-to-online-pornography-grows/story-e6frg8h6-1226126673876
(2011) Young men’s expectations skewed by pornography.September, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 3–4 http://www.acys.info/yfx/issues/number_181/septembers_news/young_mens_expectations_skewed_by_pornography
(2011) Plenty of porn, not as much love. Sydney Morning Herald, (17.9.2011)http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/plenty-of-porn-not-as-much-love-20110916-1kdnk.html
(2010) Constant craving: the secret lives of sex addicts. Sydney Morning Herald, (6 January), http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac;jsessionid=A14C8F1EB9A33E7F18A3ED11647010D5?sy=afr&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=1month&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=brs&cls=54&clsPage=1&docID=SMH1001061E5EM50Q0OP
Health Systems and Global Populations
PhD and master's project opportunities
- The effects of genital image and body image on sexual functioning in women
- High Risk Behaviours of Young Muslim Adults Living In Australia
- Stress and coping among Indian sub continent Adolescents
- Predictors of Acculturation and Stress amongst Asian Indian immigrants
- Sexual Health of South Asian Men living in Australia
- Best Practice Management of Male Sexual Dysfunction in Australia: What do Men really want from their General Practitioner?; Weerakoon P, McCann B, Ramanathan V, Sitharthan G, Shuttleworth R; Eli Lilly Australia Pty Limited/Research Support.
- A controlled trial of an opportunistic intervention to reduce suicide risk among alcohol and other substance misusers; Sitharthan T, Sitharthan G; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- A controlled trial of emotional cue exposure for relapse prevention in alcohol abuse; Kavanagh D, Sitharthan T, Sitharthan G, Saunders J; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.