AAMH hosts 6 Australian Leadership Awards Fellows in 2011

November 17, 2011

Asia Australia Mental Health was proud to be involved in Round 8 of the Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships (ALAF), where the Australian Government supports the building of essential people-to-people links to support development and foreign policy objectives.

In 2011, funding from AusAID provided an opportunity for 6 individuals from China, Cambodia, Laos and Fiji to enhance leadership in Community Mental Health in the Asia Pacific.

Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships are for professionals with leadership roles that can influence social and economic policy reform and development outcomes in a broad range of fields relevant to Australia’s foreign policy or development agenda.

2011 recipients – Program Summaries

Dr. Liu Jin: Vice-Director, Office of National Mental Health Reform, Ministry of Health, China, & Vice-Director of Department of Public Mental Health

Dr. Liu Jin is the Vice-Director of the Office of National Mental Health Reform Program, Ministry of Health, China and the Vice-Director of the Department of Public Mental Health. She is an experienced psychiatrist, specialising in child and developmental psychiatry, and participates in many projects as a consultant for the Ministry of Health, including national mental health legislation, policy making, training, advocacy, budget application and management, and project management.

In the past decade, the mental health system in China has undergone great reform, with an increasing focus on implementing modern models of community care. For more information on China’s mental health system, and their history of collaboration with AAMH, see the China project page.

Dr. Liu came to Australia in order to gain an understanding into the manner in which mental health systems in Australia are organised to support children, adolescents and their families. The ALA Fellowship allowed Dr. Liu to visit a variety of community-based mental health sites, as well as the Royal Children’s hospital and the Bouverie Centre. She also took part in meetings and seminars organised by Mindful (Centre for training and research in developmental health. Throughout the final week of her placement, Dr. Liu visited the Goulburn Valley Mental Health Clinic in Shepparton, to experience first-hand the implementation of the community health model in a rural context.

Dr. Fujun Jia: Director of Guangdong Mental Health Institute

Dr. Fujun Jia, Director of the Guangdong Mental Health Institute (Guangdong, China), visited Melbourne on an ALA Fellowship for 8 weeks from February-April 2011. As a senior consultant of the Guangdong Mental Health Institute, Dr. Jia came to the fellowship with the intention of learning more about community psychiatry and consultation-liasion psychiatry.

In the past decade, the mental health system in China has undergone great reform, with an increasing focus on implementing modern models of community care. For more information on China’s mental health system, and their history of collaboration with AAMH, see the China project page.

During his time as an ALA fellow, Dr. Jia spent time with various St. Vincent’s community care units, as well as meeting with directors of various NGOs, and travelling to visit a rural mental health clinic in Shepparton, Goulburn Valley Mental Health. This opportunity to experience rural mental health programs was appreciated by Fujun, who noted that the community model of rural areas is suitable in some Chinese contexts.

Dr. Chhit Sophal: Deputy Director, Cambodian National Program of Mental Health

Dr. Chhit Sophal is the Deputy Director of the Cambodian National Program of Mental Health (NPMH). He also leads the Cambodian Protecting Children in Disasters Program, a collaboration between NPMH and AAMH. This AusAID funded project recognises that children are often the most vulnerable population group affected following a major disaster, focusing on the needs of children at up to 12 months post-disaster, and aims to provide support for both care-givers and communities. He is also part of the International Advisory Council for AAMH, along with Prof. Ka Sunbaunat, the Director of Cambodian NPMH.

This ALA Fellowship has allowed Dr. Chhit Sophal to attend the “Building Partnerships in Community Mental Health” conference in February 2011 in New Delhi, India. He then travelled on to Melbourne, where he spent two weeks meeting with managerial and research staff based at St. Vincent’s Mental Health. His meetings covered project evaluation, data analysis and research guidance, technical support, project proposals, research possibilities, and he also planned continued collaboration

As an active player in the Mental Health Program development in Cambodia, Dr. Sophal Chhit will be able to not only use the knowledge gained to guide policy formation, but also to research and evaluate the changes already implemented.

Ms. Phallyka Chou: Vice-Head of Centre for Mental Health and Drug Dependence, National Program for Mental Health, Ministry of Health, Cambodia

Ms. Phallyka Chou is the Vice-Head of the Centre for Mental Health and Drug Dependence, Ministry of Health, National Program for Mental Health, Cambodia. The people of Cambodia have experienced four decades of severe regional and internal conflict, leaving a heavy burden of mental illness among many other legacies. One symptom of continuing mental distress has been, since the 1990s, the wide-spread use of illicit drugs. The Cambodian government has made drug abuse (and the related areas of HIV transmission and mental illness) a priority in its Health Support Strategic Plan for 2008-2015, with strong support from international partners.

Through the ALA Fellowship, Ms. Chou had the opportunity to visit a number of community based mental health services, as well as attend a two-day Dual Diagnosis Foundation workshop. She reflects that her experience as an ALA fellow provided her with insights into what constitutes community mental health services, and how these can be developed in the context of Cambodia.

Mrs. Elenani Vuru: Head, Counselling Unit, St. Giles Hospital, Fiji

Mrs. Elenani Vuru has recently completed a double degree in Psychology and Social Work, and works at the St. Giles Psychiatric Hospital, Fiji. She has experience working as both a psychiatric nurse and is the head of the counselling unit at St. Giles.

Until very recently, mental illness in Fiji was stigmatized and mental health care was centralised, with St. Giles Hospital being the only psychiatric hospital in the country, aside from some irregularly run mental health clinics (started in 2005). In 2010, the government of Fiji issued a New Mental Health Decree, and has actively instituted a number of programs aimed at de-stigmatizing mental health in the community. The work of the Fijian Government has been named by the World Psychiatric Association as a 9-month “Paradigm shift in Mental Health”.

As an ALA fellow, Elenani attended a mental health conference, as well as spending extended periods of time in NWMH Aged Service, MidWest Area Mental Health Service, Clarendon Clinic, as well as other community mental health services.

Dr. Jinsuda Phabmixay: Mental Health Unit, Mahosot Hospital, Lao PDR

Dr. Jinsuda Sorphabmixay works at the Mental Health unit of the Mahosot Hospital (Vientiane, Lao PDR). In addition to teaching and working at the hospital, she also teaches staff at the Department of Mental Health, University of Health Science.  She visited Melbourne for 10 weeks in 2011, after finishing a Master of Public Management (MPM) in 2010 at National Academy of Politics and Public Administration (NAPPA). Her goals for this fellowship related to implementing mental health public promotion; to understand more about the global mental health community; and learn more about programs in community mental health.

Within Laos, mental health services are scant: The Mental Health Unit (opened in 1975) is located at Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, and this is the only facility which employs psychiatrists. The military hospital also has a psychiatric unit (established 1978), but has no psychiatrists, and both facilities do not offer much in the way of community based mental health care.

As an ALA Fellow, Dr Sorphabmixay had the opportunity to spend one week at North West Mental Health Aged Service, two weeks with the Mid West Area Mental Health Service and four weeks in various St. Vincent’s Mental Health clinics. She also attended the International Mental Health Art Symposium and AAMH International Mental Health Conference in November 2011.