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Growing awareness for mental health issues: Australia's first National PTSD research centre

The National PTSD Research Centre is to open at the University of Sunshine Coast. Picture Shutterstock
The National PTSD Research Centre is to open at the University of Sunshine Coast. Picture Shutterstock

While mental health issues have long taken the backseat when it comes to funding, Australia is taking new ground, and there is new hope with the opening of the first-ever National PTSD Research Centre at the University of Sunshine Coast.

Did you know that approximately 11 per cent of Australians live with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and that women are more likely to develop it? Why the statistics of this particular psychiatric disorder are so high in Australia is a question a lot of people have asked. Now, with the opening of Australia's First National PTSD Research Centre, the future for mental health is looking a lot brighter.

In this article, we're going to uncover the reality of PTSD and the need for more mental health support, research and professionals.

What is PTSD?

PTSD, short for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and also referred to as "shellshock" and "combat fatigue" during the World Wars, is a psychiatric disorder that could occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a singular or series of traumatic events or a set of circumstances. Those affected by PTSD would have experienced the event as something emotionally or physically harmful and, in a lot of cases, life-threatening.

The effects of PTSD may affect one's mental, physical, social, and/or spiritual well-being. Individuals suffering from PTSD may often experience flashbacks, nightmares and disturbing thoughts and feelings about the experience, and it haunts them long after the experience.

Other symptoms of PTSD often include:

  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling hypervigilant or on guard for fear of danger

People suffering from PTSD will often struggle to maintain or meet the needs of friends and family members. Many parents with PTSD experience a negative impact on their parenting abilities. The symptoms of PTSD usually cause issues with closeness, communication, trust and problem-solving. As a result, loved ones often respond negatively as they don't understand the condition.

What is the treatment for PTSD?

Working closely with a psychologist is one way people suffering from PTSD can try and achieve a sense of normalcy. Hence, there is a big need for licensed psychologists in Australia.

The main forms of treatment for PTSD include psychotherapy and medication. The psychotherapy may include Cognitive therapy, Exposure therapy and Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).

Raising awareness about PTSD

With PTSD being a psychiatric disorder, there is still so much that people need to learn about it. It is vital to raise awareness about this condition so people understand it more and, therefore, show more empathy. More people showing empathy for patients helps banish judgment and fear and can greatly reduce the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence.

Another important reason to raise awareness is that PTSD is often under-recognised by practitioners, which could lead to patients not receiving the proper mental health care. But here's the good news...

With the $8 million investment from the Commonwealth, in addition to philanthropic funding, Australia is en route to better caring for PTSD patients. Alongside this staggering investment, Australia has also managed and is privileged to have recruited one of the world's leading researchers and clinicians in PTSD, Professor Allan Burnett.

The innovative work Professor Allan Burnett has done with regard to PTSD is absolutely ground-breaking, and his reconciliation therapy has benefited people around the world, including France and, soon, Ukraine.

What will the new research centre mean for Australia?

There are a few of the tough issues professionals dealing with PTSD have not been able to find the answers to. With a department completely dedicated to studying PTSD, maybe we'll finally get some answers. The research done at the National PTSD Research Centre at the University of Sunshine Coast aims to provide expert clinical services to support the mental health and well-being of those living with PTSD, rapidly translating research findings into clinical practice.

The centre will also deliver education about PTSD around Australia to promote better care, support and understanding for individuals living with PTSD.

Final thoughts

As we bring awareness to PTSD, it highlights the need for passionate professionals who seek to make a difference in the fight against mental health issues. There are many universities, including online universities, offering brilliant programs that aim to train professionals to treat mental health issues and disorders.

For those who have finished their degree or are working and want to further their studies in psychology, it's still a possibility. Taking a postgraduate course in psychology, like taking your graduate diploma in psychology, will give you the tools to make a difference. It could also be the first step to becoming a registered psychologist. Any step towards having a world with better mental health conditions should be celebrated.