Archive for the ‘Self Harming’ Category


Health Minister apologises to sex assault victim

Tasmanian Health Minister Lara Giddings

Health Minister Lara Giddings has apologised to a sexual assault victim sent home from the LGH. (ABC News: Cate Grant, file photo)

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Tasmania’s Health Minister Lara Giddings has apologised to a sexual assault victim who was sent home from the Launceston General Hospital (LGH) this week because no-one was available to conduct a forensic examination.

Investigations into the incident are continuing.

A sexual assault victim went to the Launceston General Hospital on Monday night for a forensic examination but after waiting several hours was told to go home because there was no-one available qualified to do the test.

Natalie Heiniger, the committee president of northern sexual assault support group Laurel House, says it is not good enough.

“It can be a distressing procedure so to actually choose to go down that road is a big choice so mentally to prepare yourself for that and then not have it happen, pretty much an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.

Laurel House is calling for more funding so the LGH can ensure a qualified forensic examiner is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

The Health Minister Lara Giddings has apologised to the victim in parliament this morning.

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Govt pledges $50m to mental health

The Federal Government has announced a $50 million funding boost for mental health services.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says $20 million will go to suicide prevention programs.

Ms Roxon has also unveiled the make-up of a new national advisory group on mental health, to be led by former head of the Mental Health Council, John Mendoza.

Ms Roxon says the new council fulfils an election commitment.

“The advisory council is a mechanism to provide the Government with independent, balanced and confidential advice from a wide range of experts to inform national mental health reform efforts, and provide continuing impetus for reform,” she said.

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Youth suicide dropping, but self harm on the rise

A young woman rests her head in her hands in a depressed pose

Experts say depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in self harm. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

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Australia has managed to reduce the number of teenage suicides but the latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare show there is a new problem that needs to be tackled, self harm.

In the past decade there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people who intentionally hurt themselves, with more than 7,000 taken to hospital in one year.

Youth suicide has long been recognised as a real and significant issue in Australian society.

But Professor George Patton from the Centre for Adolescent Health says more commonly, deep emotional pain can manifest itself as self harm.

“The act is not necessarily about killing yourself and for most young people self harm is not about killing yourself, it’s a way of dealing with emotions that you’re finding difficult,” he said.

“They may be emotions of feeling anxious, feeling angry, feeling unhappy, a mixture of all of the above.”

The latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare, released this morning, reveal the rate of self harm is rising dramatically.

In the decade from 1996 to 2006, the rate of hospitalisations from self-harm went up by 43 per cent among young people.

For young women, the increase was even higher at 51 per cent.

The institute’s Deanna Eldridge says that equates to 7,300 young people in the most recent statistical year.

“Overall it only accounts for about 2 per cent of all hospitalisations of young people, but in terms of injury it’s about the sixth leading cause of hospitalisation.

The Institute’s figures show about 80 per cent of the hospitalisations for self-harm were for deliberate poisoning.

Professor Patton says that is a reflection of the most serious cases but it is really only the tip of the iceberg and most cases of self-harm do not need immediate medical attention.

“The commonest type of self harm the young people report is deliberately cutting themselves,” he said.

“Self poisoning is the next most common and then things like deliberate risk taking, beating up on yourself or self battery – they’re less common again.”

Self harm is most common during puberty and reaches a peak at an average age of 15.

It is a problem all around the world and the rise of cases in Australia fits with similar trends in other Western countries.

Professor Patten says there is a growing feeling that the rise in self harm is actually a reflection of the growth of individualism and loss of connections.

“They are really important for young people as they’re growing up and so kids are growing up feeling that they actually need to deal with their problems themselves,” he said.

Youth depression groups, like Reach Out! have helped make progress in bringing down the suicide rate but spokesman Jonathan Nicholas thinks the figures show there is still a lot of work to do.

“We’ve made some good inroads into suicide but the journey is far from over and it says that we’ve actually got to do more in intervening early with young people and getting them to the supports they need and making sure that they are not reaching the point where they want to die,” he said.

Adapted from an AM report by youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle.

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Beautiful mind conquers depression, wins Brain Bee

By Natasha Johnson

Quinn McGennisken ... 'I just felt so helpless and hopeless'

Quinn McGennisken … ‘I just felt so helpless and hopeless’ (ABBC: Charles Sevigny, file photo)

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Located in the shadow of a power station two hours east of Melbourne, Traralgon is predominantly a working-class town. But it’s also home to Australia’s school neuroscience champion.

Last July, Quinn McGennisken from Lavalla Catholic College beat 750 year 10 and 11 students from around Australia and New Zealand to take the national Brain Bee title.

In the final, the then 16-year-old with a preference for humanity subjects beat a field of boys with a maths/science bent.

“There were a few misconceptions about me,” Quinn said.

“I have blonde hair and I’m a girl, so they used to put me down. So I thought, I’m going to do it just to prove them wrong.”

Quinn’s Mum runs a local takeaway store and her Dad operates mobile food vans. But her competitors came from more academic families.

“We understand that many of them were actually sons of doctors and they’d actually had special training at their local universities to assist them in this competition, whereas Quinn and I had just looked at diagrams in the textbook,” teacher Mara Bormanis said.

The Brain Bee required weeks of extracurricular study to progress through each of the three rounds which were run over several months.

“This competition is extremely tough. The subject matter is equivalent to second year medical student anatomy studies,” Ms Bormanis said.

But at the same time Ms McGennisken was displaying her intellectual brilliance, she was privately grappling with the mental torment of anorexia and depression.

“It’s like I’ve got two brains in my head, fighting against one another,” she said.

“So one’s sort of saying, ‘Don’t eat’ and the other is saying, ‘No, you do’ and ‘Be reasonable. This is normal’.”

Her illness began about four years ago after teasing at school. At her lowest point, Quinn ate only an apple a day, became physically ill and missed two to three days of school a week for a year.

“She just would go into her room and just curl up into a ball, and wouldn’t come out and talk,” mother Bronwyn McGennisken said.

Quinn says at times she didn’t want to live.

“I just felt so helpless and hopeless a lot of the time,” she said.

“It’s terrifying because you think you’re watching them die,” Mrs McGennisken said.

It was particularly painful for Quinn’s grandmother, who lives with the family. Throughout her 82 years, Joan Kerr has suffered several bouts of depression which also afflicted her three siblings.

“It was very hard seeing Quinn like that. Just blaming myself I think – ‘Perhaps it’s my fault she’s like it’. It’s very hard,” she said.

Mrs Kerr says she tried to help, but didn’t think she made much of a difference.

But Quinn disagrees.

“I was helped by the fact that I’d seen her overcome bouts of depression,” she said.

With counselling and medication, Quinn began to recover and her experience triggered a passionate desire to learn about the brain.

“When you know there are actual chemical imbalances involved and the biological aspects of some of these illnesses and just those things that go on at the more nitty gritty level, you do understand your illness better,” she said.

Mrs McGennisken says she thinks it has given Quinn an objective and a purpose that’s not focused on her body self-image.

Quinn is now planning a career in the mental health field, and in preparation for the international Brain Bee, she won the rare opportunity of working experience at the Howard Florey Brain Research Institute in Melbourne.

Institute director Fred Mendelsohn says Quinn’s achievements are exceptional even for someone doing it under the very best conditions.

“To do it with those difficulties really compounds your admiration for what she’s achieved,” he said.

This weekend in Montreal, she’s aiming for the world title.

Win or lose, her family is just relieved she’s healthy and happy enough to attempt it.

“I’m just proud of her because whether she achieves or doesn’t achieve, it doesn’t matter. She’s a good person,” Mrs McGennisken said.

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Health Dept says new northern mental health complex nearly finished

The Health Department has announced progress on building more housing in Tasmania’s north for people with mental illnesses, a month after concerns were raised about patients sleeping in backpacker hostels.

In March the parents of a psychiatric patient raised concerns that their son was sent to stay in tourist accommodation after being discharged from Launceston’s Ward 1E psychiatric unit.

The Health Department today said its $2m accommodation complex in the northern Launceston suburb of Rocherlea is on schedule to be finished in August.

The Northern Manager for Mental Health Services, Susan Crave, says the units will provide a home for people with mental illnesses, but won’t eliminate the need for other accommodation.

“I think they’re very separate issues,” she said.

“I think the backpacker issue, you know, is a totally different one.

“When we look at a range, we always have to look at a wide range of accommodation for the various clients that we’re seeking to accommodate.

“This facility is set up, the ten beds are for long-stay clients, so it’s up to 24 months,” said Ms Crave.

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AMA anger over 2020 snub

AMA President Dr Rosanna Capolingua

Snubbed: AMA President Dr Rosanna Capolingua (File photo) (AAP: Mark Graham)

Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Rosanna Capolingua has accused health bureaucrats of trying to drive down the standard of health care in Australia, after she was excluded from Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit.

The heads of other peak medical bodies will be attending but, despite putting her name forward, Dr Capolingua has not been listed among the 1,000 delegates to the summit next month.

Dr Capolingua says organisers may have been frightened of what the AMA has to say about the quality of patient care.

She says it remains to be seen what outcomes the summit will deliver.

“The feelings that I have from administrators and bureaucrats across the country, from the states, is that they are trying to push down the standards of medical care in this country, and we must prevent that from occurring,” she said.

“We must make sure that Australian patients receive the very best, and that our health outcomes improve.

“If the AMA was represented at the 2020 Summit we would make it very clear to all the other attendees that we have this concern about the standard of medical care being pushed down in Australia.

“We would be inviting others to understand what the agendas are, and resist.”

Dr Capolingua’s predecessor as AMA head, Mukesh Haikerwal, has been invited to the summit. Other attendees in the health section include former AFL footballer James Hird and Winter Olympics gold medalist Alisa Camplin.

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Marketing influences antidepressant prescriptions: study

Pills spill out of a bottle.

The research found drugs which are well branded and marketed are more commonly prescribed than similar alternatives. (File photo) (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

New research into marketing by pharmaceutical companies has found that doctors and psychiatrists are being influenced by the branding of antidepressant drugs.

Dr Steven Ward from Perth’s Murdoch University will publish research later this year which compares the chemical ingredients of antidepressants and the marketing of them to health professionals.

The research has found drugs which are well branded and marketed to health professionals are more commonly prescribed than similar, less marketed alternatives.

Dr Ward says GPs also rate drug company representatives as their second most important source of information on pharmaceuticals.

“We relied on looking at, was brand name that important or was it the actual drug, or the chemical differences in the drug that were the driving factor? We find that they’re equally important,” he said.

“That’s very surprising, regardless of medical training, I expected it to be less important, particularly for psychiatrists.”

He says the pharmaceutical industry spends $21,000 per Australian doctor each year marketing and branding drugs.

“With for example financial planners, there is a requirement to disclose any gifts, inducements etc,” he said.

“Here we have a group of people who are making important decisions and if there are any inducements and so on, there may be a role for some sort of transparency in that process.”

Australian Medical Association president, Rosanna Capolingua, has rejected the findings saying doctors prescribe the medication they believe will benefit the patient most.

“Often when a new drug is launched, information is distributed,” she said.

“You may see doctors using that new drug on a patient because it has new benefits.

“It may have better qualities than other medications and you’ll see that trend occur.”

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Turning point for Disability Services

Disability Services in Tasmania is set for its biggest shake-up since it was de-institutionalised almost a decade ago.

A State Government commissioned review has so far identified significant problems in the allocation of funding, with no emphasis on measuring how clients benefit.

North-west residents in particular have less support and access to disability services than those in other regions.

Liz Forsyth, who heads the review for KPMG, has indicated a single point of contact for people with disabilities is one of the likely outcomes, as well as a new funding model.

“It’s about improving service access for people with disabilities and their families, ensuring that we can bring together the services around the person rather than the person having to fit into the service system,” she said.

“It’s looking at getting earlier intervention so families can be supported to maintain their family member and it’s about improving geographic equity in the system as it exists today.”

KPMG’s final report should be handed to the State Government by the end of the month.

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Professor defends anti-depressant study

Prozac is a commonly used anti-depressant (file photo).

Prozac is a commonly used anti-depressant (file photo). (Reuters: Darren Staples)

According to new research, millions of people taking commonly prescribed anti-depressants might as well be taking a placebo.

The study – the first to include unpublished evidence from the major drug companies – was co-authored by Professor Irving Kirsch from the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull in Britain.

It examined the clinical trials submitted to gain licences overseas for some of the most commonly used anti-depressants used in Australia, including Prozac and Effexor.

The study does say the drugs are effective in extreme cases of depression.

But Professor Irving told the ABC’s European correspondent Rafael Epstein the study also suggests the benefits of the drugs may have been exaggerated by companies cherry-picking the best results for publication.

IK: “The published data is biased is the sense that those trials, those clinical trials that have shown the least benefit for the active drug compared to the placebo … are likely not to get published.”

RE: Do you think that having access to all the data bolsters your findings?

IK: “Yes, it gives us an unbiased and a more accurate assessment of what the effects of these medications are compared to a placebo.”

RE: So is your conclusion that these drugs … they don’t really do much good?

IK: “It looks like, for many people, the major component of what is making them better is not the chemical that is in the drug. Now there is one exception, and that’s in the extremely depressed patients – those at the very extreme end of depression. They tended to not respond to placebo, but did continue responding to the drug.”

RE: The people who make the drug Prozac say that there is extensive scientific and medical experience to demonstrate that drugs like that are effective anti-depressants.

IK: “Our study was an analysis of their data. We didn’t do our own study. We analysed all of the data that the manufacturers of Prozac sent to the US regulatory agency when getting the drugs licensed – so it is not our data. It’s their data that suggests that the drugs give a limited benefit over placebos.”

RE: One of the spokesmen for GlaxoSmithKline said that you only looked at a small subset of the total data available. Is he wrong?

IK: “We looked at all of the data that the company submitted to the FDA.”

RE: So he’s wrong?

IK: “We didn’t look at other data because – with the other data which, for example, was collected after the licensing and approval process, we don’t have access to the unpublished data and what we wanted to have was an unbiased estimate of the effect of these medications.

“Until the drug companies make public all of the data that they obtained, that is the only way that one can get an unbiased estimate.”

RE: Does that mean you’d like to see the drug companies forced to publish all their data?

IK: “Yes, the data ought to be available so that physicians, patients and regulatory agencies can know exactly what the effects are, how much of those effects are due to placebo effect and for whom these medications are effective and for whom they are not.”

RE: But you think they are over-prescribed?

IK: “I do think that they are currently over-prescribed, and that there is an under-utilisation of alternative treatments right now.”

RE: By alternative, do you mean people simply talking through their problems with a professional?

IK: “That would be one alternative and, in fact, the research shows that psycho-therapy and especially cognitive behavioural therapy seems to be as effective as anti-depressant medication, but without the side effects and with a lower relapse rate.”

This isn’t the belief of the editor.

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Youth-based ‘Headspace’ opens

A new health service has opened in Albany to assist young people with mental disabilities and those with substance abuse problems.

The service is part of the Federal Government’s $50 million Headspace program, designed to improve the way mental health services are delivered to people under 25.

Albany Headspace coordinator Bronwyn Cutler says the program offers health services, counselling, drug and alcohol advice, and vocational support.

Ms Cutler says the group plans to expand the program to other regional towns around the great southern.

“Headspace has come out of a Government recognition that there’s a growing body of evidence around mental health issues and substance abuse issues in young people,” she said

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