Shining some light on a very dark place

Published 15 January 2014

happySome of the often difficult and rarely discussed issues around mental health, including the impact of suicide on young people left behind when a friend or family member takes their own life, will be on the agenda during the ‘Minds Matter’ Conference, hosted by the University of New England in April.

Leading mental health practitioners and advocates will provide keynote speeches at the event, including Dr Tom Calma from the National Centre for Indigenous Studies; Janet Meagher AM from the National Mental Health Commission; Prof Perminder Sachdev, Clinical Director of the Neuropsychiatry Institute at the Prince of Wales Hospital; and international guest Prof Matthew Janicki from the University of Illinois, USA. Producer and Presenter of the Health Report on ABC Radio National, Dr Norman Swan, will speak at the Conference Dinner.

The ‘Minds Matter’ Conference will consider issues surrounding mental health and well-being in rural and regional areas, such as questions about suicide from a number of angles with Warren Bartik from UNE presenting ‘Missing voices: suicide bereavement of rural Australian young people,’ and Associate Professor Myfanwy Maple, also from UNE, discussing what we can learn about families and the socio-economic factors surrounding suicide.

Gender and suicide will be confronted by Dr Kathy McKay from UNE who will consider the gender elements in her presentation ‘Women and suicide: beyond the gender paradox’, while the rural versus urban divide and its effect on the mental health of young gay men will be the subject of a paper presented by Dr Anthony Lyons from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.

The impact of mental illness on older Australians and the perceptions of ‘ageing’ from people with and without intellectual disability will be addressed by Dr Stuart Wark from UNE, while the challenges faced by ‘ageing-in-place’ versus ‘ageing-in-a-chosen-place’ will be considered by Miranda Cannon-Vanry.

The ‘Minds Matter Conference’ will bring together mental health researchers along with policy makers, practitioners, service providers and non-government organisations to challenge some of the existing mindsets about treating and preventing mental health illness in rural and regional communities, including perspectives on indigenous issues and research.

The Conference is being held as part of UNE’s Collaborative Research Network (CRN) on Mental Health and Well-being in Rural and Regional Communities which was established through a $4.8 million grant from the Australian Government. Partners in the CRN are the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney, La Trobe University, the University of New South Wales and the Hunter New England Local Health District.

The Minds Matter conference will be held from 3 – 5 April, 2014 at the Aanuka Resort, Coffs Harbour, NSW. Abstract submissions are open until 31 January.

For more information on the conference or to book your place visit