Public invited to free mental health discussions

17 November 2010

The latest psychiatric treatments, developments and research will be presented to healthcare professionals and the public when the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) hosts the 2010 Australasian Society for Psychiatric Research Annual Conference at the Swiss Grand Hotel, Bondi Beach from 5 to 8 December.

The ASPR Annual Conference is the principal research meeting for psychiatric and mental health research in Australia and New Zealand. The program will consider changes within the brain and how these relate to the changes in emotions, cognition and behaviour which are characteristics of the major neuropsychiatric syndromes.

International keynote speakers at this year's ASPR include:

  • John O'Brien, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, Newcastle University, UK
  • Ranga Krishnan, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Duke University School of Medicine, Singapore
  • 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, Orygen Youth Health

This year's conference includes two public discussions aimed to encourage public and consumer participation in major issues affecting the mental health of Australians.

The first public discussion will look at mental health care funding priorities and will be held on Sunday 5 December from 6 to 7.30pm as the conference's opening event. The event will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the direction of mental health services in Australia from leading mental health professionals including 2010 Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry.

The second public talk, to be held on Monday 6 December from 6.30pm, will discuss the best strategies for reducing the harmful effects of alcohol on young brains. The event will include presentations from Professor Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney and Professor Maree Teesson from the University of New South Wales' National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. BMRI Executive Director, Professor Ian Hickie will chair the discussion.

"Currently the greatest opportunity available to us to reduce the adverse effects of the environment on brain development affecting both mental illness and cognitive development lies in reducing the adverse effects of alcohol on developing brains," he said.

"It is an issue for which we need to find a public consensus and promote further science".

Professor Hickie said the BMRI was thrilled to host this year's ASPR.

"As the BMRI develops as a major centre integrating basic and clinical neuroscience, and its application in mental health, this is a marvelous opportunity for us to bring together international and national expertise to share new findings in key clinical areas such as youth mental health, vascular disease and its impact on the ageing brain and the impacts of new models of early intervention services in preventing major psychiatric illness," he said.

"The scientific theme of the congress will focus on how better understanding of the glial-neuronal networks that determine mental ill-health may lead to new preventative and therapeutic strategies.

"This area is a real strength of the BMRI and our recently recruited international staff will now make a significant contribution to this intellectual development in Australia."

Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 0403 067 342, 9351 4312,