Official Opening of The Royal Australia & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2015 Annual Congress
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank the President of the College for inviting me to take part in the official opening of the 2015 Congress.
It is with great pleasure that I warmly welcome all delegates, particularly those visiting from interstate and overseas, to Brisbane and to Queensland.
And it is with great pleasure that I look forward to this, my first ever opportunity to have a public consultation with several hundred welcoming and hospitable psychiatrists.
This Congress is, of course, designed to encourage delegates to share information, knowledge and experience related to the core matters at hand: mental illness and mental wellness.
But this important professional conversation about mental health is now also echoed by conversations in the community, conducted for the most part in an understanding and positive vein.
Certainly we have progressed from times when, for instance, treatment for depression was blunt advice to “pull yourself together”, and when there was a virtual taboo on the discussion of mental illness, much less admission of it.
Just as certainly, there remain major challenges. The College’s own figures indicate that one in five Australians will experience a mental illness in any given year.
Many of us, for instance, will know through the experience of family, friends, or even of a number of high profile people willing to share their experiences, of the debilitating effects of depression. And, sadly, that the illness still results in the loss of Australians, including young Australians, every year.
In this centenary year of the Gallipoli landings, congress sessions on the mental health of veterans and serving armed forces personnel are particularly apt.
Understanding of and concern for the mental health of our servicemen and women was not always as evident. How many families retain stories of relatives from two or three generations ago who returned from war changed and withdrawn, and suffered in silence as they struggled to pick up the threads of a life once lived?
It is reassuring to see the enhanced level of attention now being paid to the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in our military.
In broader terms, both the congress program and the range of specialisations that the College now embraces are, not surprisingly, a reflection of the major mental health challenges of our times: addiction, bullying, problem gambling, eating disorders, the aftermath of natural disasters, and multicultural and indigenous mental health among them.
As acknowledged in the congress theme of “science and art in psychiatry”, medical professionals in the field are keen to use all available means to enhance the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Science can enhance our knowledge, but all of our human faculties are also needed in dealing effectively with the lived experience of individuals under professional care.
The busy and wide-ranging program of the congress, and the presence of prominent experts in their fields, will no doubt assist delegates to extract maximum benefit from the contributions that science and art, measurers and thinkers, can and do make to the practice of psychiatry.
I wish congress delegates a productive and enlightening few days at the Congress. I also urge you to find time to explore the many delights Brisbane and its environs can offer. Two of them are very close by – the cultural precinct practically across the road, and the great urban park that is South Bank adjacent to it.
I wish the congress every success, and trust you find the experience both professionally and personally fulfilling as you return to the communities which, as medical professionals, you ultimately serve.
In that spirit, I am delighted to declare the 2015 Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Annual Congress officially open.