Raphael, Beverley

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MB BS 1957 MD 1977 MD honoris causa (Newcastle), DPM MANZCP MRC Psych FRANCP FRC Psych FASSA

Beverley Raphael is Professor of Population Mental Health and Disasters within the Medical School at the University of Western Sydney, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Australian National University, and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry from the University of Queensland. She was appointed Foundation Professor of Psychiatry at Newcastle University in 1978, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Queensland in 1987, and Director of the Centre for Mental Health in the NSW Health Department from 1996–2005. She is a pioneer in our understanding of the mental health response to grief and trauma.

After graduating from Medicine in 1957, Beverley worked in general practice until 1963. She then began her specialisation in Psychiatry, working as a Registrar in Psychiatry. She then began work with the Community Mental Health Service of NSW, concurrently becoming Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney (Concord Hospital). In 1977, she received her Doctorate for her thesis on a randomised controlled trial of preventive intervention for recently bereaved widows at higher risk of adverse mental health outcomes. This seminal study enabled her to formulate connections between grief and response to trauma with the development of psychiatric morbidity. This was highly innovative for its time and has enabled Beverley to lead the way in research into preventative crisis intervention and trauma response work in the Asia-Pacific Region. She says:

My research initiatives have covered a number of different fields but with core themes of vulnerability, resilience and opportunities for prevention in mental health… They have covered these themes in community-based and epidemiological studies and in a wide range of collaborative frameworks.

In 1978 Beverley became the Foundation Professor of Psychiatry at Newcastle University under the Deanship of David Maddison. At the same time, she was adviser to the Hunter Region for NSW Health, as well as being chair on numerous service development and planning groups for mental health.

Moving to Brisbane in 1987, she became Professor and Chair in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Queensland, and Director of Mental Health Services at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. She also served as Chair on several national advisory committees, including a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Working Party on Guidelines for Assessment, Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Adolescent Depression; and a Veterans Research Program for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. From 1990 to 1994, she was Director of the National Centre for HIV Social Research at the University of Queensland.

Beverley has led the mental health response to mass Australian diasters like the Granville Rail Disaster, the Ash Wednesday bushfires, the Newcastle Earthquake and more recent regional disasters such as the Bali bombings and the South East Asian Tsunami.[1] She says of her work:

Mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing health services, both in Australia and across the world, and is a particular concern at times when we are confronted by disasters, terrorism and violence. Traumatic experiences and violence and social disadvantage are major factors that impact on mental health, and need to be actively addressed because of the huge social and economic costs associated with them…
While most people cope well with disasters and trauma, we need to better understand and build resilience. Australians are fairly resilient people, despite having seen their fair share of disasters over the years. But that resilience has been shaken somewhat in recent times due to events such as September 11, Bali and the London bombings. The old belief that Australia is the ‘lucky country’ where traumatic events like that just don’t happen, is slowly fading. Even though they were on foreign soil, the Bali and London bombings hit many Australians hard, given our connections to those places, and the seeming randomness of the attacks.[1]

Beverley has also played a key role in the development of mental health policy, including the development of a Population Mental Health model. She also chairs the National Mental Health Promotion and Prevention Working Party.

She is currently the Professor of Population Mental Health and Disasters attached to the Medical School, at the University of Western Sydney. In her role as Professor of this unit, which is supported by NSW Health and the University of Western Sydney, she aims to “boost the nation’s capacity to deal with such mental health issues and play a central role in coordinating the national mental health response in the face of such disasters and adversities.”[1]Beverley chairs the National Mental Health Disaster Response Committee which coordinates national responses for health aspects of terrorism and disasters.

Beverley was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1984 for her services to medicine, “particularly in the field of psychiatry”.[1] In 1994, she received an Australia Day Award as one of the Top Ten Achievers; she received an Honorary Doctorate from Newcastle University in 2002, and was the recipient of a Life Time Achievement Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Syndrome in 2004.

Beverley has also taken up the role of Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Australian National University, coordinating academic development in this field for its new medical school.

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Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Raphael, Beverley. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.