Aligned with the annual Guangdong Psychiatric Conference, Asia Australia Mental Health, in collaboration with the Guangdong Institute of Mental Health ran the sixth annual training program for Guangdong mental health workers.  The program was planned in consultation with leaders from the areas of Zhongshan, Luoding, Shantou, Foshan, Xinhui, Shenzhen, Jiangmen and Guangzhou.

Guangdong has a population of over 110 million people, many of whom are migrant workers in the factories that supply the world with mobile phones and computers.   Despite its comparative wealth, developing responsive mental health services is challenging.  In addition to increasing its acute hospital beds, Guangdong is focussed on strengthening community programs.

To meet current needs, this training program, led by Margaret Goding, Professor Chee Ng and Yue Li from Asia Australia Mental Health team, concentrated on case-management, maximising safety in community care and building successful partnerships with other agencies.  Trainers were experienced clinicians from St.Vincent’s Mental Health Service –  Occupational Therapist Julia Oxley, Community Senior Clinician, and  Psychiatric Nurse Graeme Doidge, Community Clinic Manager.

120 people attended, and this training program was noteworthy for the attendance of more than 50 primary health doctors who are now responsible for the follow-up and ongoing care of people with chronic mental health disorders.  Other participants were psychiatrists (16%), nurses (20%), social workers (10%) and 4 people working as vocational therapists.  They had a wide range of experience with 22%  of participants reporting less than 1 year working in mental health and 17% reporting more than 15 years’ experience.  While representing a teaching challenge, this diverse mix offered a valuable opportunity for participants to share knowledge.

Program highlights were the panel presentations and discussions showcasing best practice in Guangdong. Participants also thoroughly enjoyed interactive learning featuring role-plays using Guangdong case example and group development of care plans.  As well as learning practical skills, many participants in the training course commented that they had changed their basic approach to working with clients and their families.  One person commented, “Now instead of telling them what to do, I will ask them what they need”.

The evaluation strategy included reflection sessions and written feedback with 98% of participants agreeing or strongly agreeing that overall they were satisfied with the quality of presentations.