As Myanmar transitions out of poverty, new public infrastructure and systems need to be established and nurtured. The national’s mental health system is presently very basic and becoming perilously overstretched as it tries to deal with the effects of entrenched poverty, civil war and natural disasters. Supported by DFAT’s Australian Awards Fellowship program, Asia Australia Mental Health is assisting in the development of Myanmar’s next generation of mental health leaders responsible for building a modern comprehensive mental health system for their nation.

Australian Awards Fellowships have been awarded to four of Myanmar’s leading mental health clinicians and academics for short term placements through St. Vincent’s Mental Health. AAMH has developed individualised programs for the Fellows that research elements of community mental health services and clinical pathways, including the management of substance abuse disorders, a growing problem for Myanmar. The three month study program has been designed with a mix of site visits, meetings with mental health and public health experts, as well as shadowing mental health workers along the variety of pathways for mental health care in Victoria.  The focus of the four psychiatrists from Myanmar is to explore cost effective interventions, rights-based approaches and multi-sector strategies, as well as the policy, training and education components needed to expand capacity for mental health services to work effectively with communities.

Leading the group from Myanmar, Senior Fellow Dr. Than Than Aye is Associate Professor and Head of Department of Mental Health, University of Medicine (2), Yangon and a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist of Mental Health Hospital, Yangon. She is teaching undergraduate and postgraduate medical students, working as clinician as well as a researcher of mental health and substance abuse areas. As an active contributor to the national development of community based mental health services in Myanmar, Dr. Than Than Aye hopes that the study placement in Melbourne will give her exposure to the Australian health management system and new community initiatives.  “I am looking to find out more about clinical team building and training, as well as what works in the community, to find community intervention models that can be adapted for Myanmar,” Dr Aye explained.

St. Vincent’s Mental Health International Unit Director and AAMH’s co-Director Professor Chee Ng will provide academic and clinical oversight of the Fellowships for the four psychiatrists from Myanmar.  “Exchanges such as these have mutual benefits,” Prof Ng explains, “All the time they are with us, we develop new perspectives about how our services might be viewed and experienced. By reflecting on these learning, we are able to improve our own services to suit what is becoming an increasingly culturally diverse client base.”


From Left to Right:
Dr. Than Than Aye: A/Prof., Senior Consultant and Head of Department of Mental Health, University of Medicine, Mandalay

Dr. Nyo Nyo Aung: Consultant Psychiatrist, Kyaing Tong General Hospital

Dr. Phyu Sin Win: Lecturer and Consultant Psychiatrist, Mandalay Mental Health Hospital

Dr. Nwe Ni: Consultant Psychiatrist, Manager, Methadone Programs, Drug Treatment Hospital, Mandalay

Professor Chee Ng: Co-Director, Asia Australia Mental Health