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Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health

The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne undertakes world class trauma related research, policy advice, service development and education. Our innovative services help organisations and health professionals who work with people affected by traumatic events.

Supporting people affected by the Sydney siege

We can only imagine how terrifying the Sydney siege must have been for the hostages and their loved ones. As mental health professionals, we recognise that there were a number of elements of the siege that increase the potential for adverse mental health impact on survivors. First, it was an intentional, interpersonal assault with a direct threat to life. Secondly, it was unpredictable, occurring in an everyday setting that felt safe. And thirdly, it was prolonged, dragging out over almost 17 hours.

However even in the face of such a traumatic event, it is important to remember that people have a remarkable capacity for resilience. Feeling distressed and overwhelmed in the short term is to be expected but doesn’t mean that longer term mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will necessarily follow. What is needed now is a focus on minimising the impact for those directly involved, but also those indirectly affected.

In the immediate aftermath, those people directly affected - the hostages and their loved ones as well as police and other emergency service personnel on the scene – need a safe and supportive environment. They should be encouraged to spend time with family, friends or colleagues. Feeling able to talk about it if they want to, but just being surrounded by supportive company if they don’t.

The extensive media coverage is inevitable but could create more distress for some people - not only those directly involved, but for others in the community including those who were evacuated from the CBD yesterday. Those who have experienced an armed hold up, or other assault or trauma in the past, might find that the media coverage of the event triggers memories of past traumatic experiences. For those in the wider community, the media coverage can fuel widespread fear through the community of recurrence or similar events. These events are incredibly rare and the likelihood of any individual being involved is even more rare –but the nature of a random event like this is that it can lead to people feeling less safe and secure in their own community.

For people who are distressed, and this distress is worsened by following the media coverage, it is best to limit exposure to media. Better to ask a trusted friend to pass on any important updates rather than feeling compelled to follow the media 24/7.

As well as limiting exposure to the media, there are some key strategies that promote resilience and recovery for people who have been impacted by a traumatic event.

If people are terribly distressed, or these strategies don’t seem to be helping after the first week or so, it is important to seek help. The GP is generally the best place to start.

Online training program for GPs: Working with Veterans with Mental Health

The support for general practitioners to identify and treat Australia’s veterans with mental health issues has been strengthened with the release of a new online training program.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, has launched a unique online training program for GPs that provides an overview of the mental health issues faced by veterans and will assist GPs to more effectively identify these issues.

Called Working with Veterans with Mental Health Problems, the one hour accredited training module was developed for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs by the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (ACPMH) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and is available to GPs through the RACGP gplearning website.

The new online training program seeks to provide GPs with a better understanding of mental health issues affecting veterans including their military experience and its impact on families, the special assessment and treatment considerations for veterans, and the services and resources currently available for veterans and their families.

Joint Symposium 2014 Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, and National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Tokyo

Dr Nathan Alkemade, Professor David Forbes and Associate Professor Darryl Wade from ACPMH participated in the annual joint symposium hosted by these partner institutions. The 2014 Melbourne Symposium, held on 19 November and hosted by Professor Ian Everall, was a very successful event. The symposium featured plenaries by Dr Yoshiharu Kim, President, National Information Center of Disaster Mental Health, and Director, Department of Adult Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health and National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, as well as Dr Tadashi Takeshima, Director Department of Mental Health Policy and Evaluation, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry. The program, which was appreciated by the audience in attendance, consisted of presentations from leading researchers from both Melbourne and Japan organised into two sessions: Disaster and Trauma-Related Mental Health, and Innovation in Mental Health Research. The symposium showcased the depth and breadth of work undertaken by researchers at ACPMH, the Department of Psychiatry, and the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry.

Consultation and Supervision Service

ACPMH offers consultation and supervision services to practitioners in a range of roles (medical, allied health, counselling, rehabilitation, case management, other) who work with clients with posttraumatic mental health problems.
Available for individuals, groups, and organisations, the supervision service can be delivered in person, or via telephone or Skype.
Enquiries: Associate Professor Darryl Wade, Director of Education and Training (, or Dr Richard Cash, Senior Clinical Specialist (; phone (03) 9035 5599.

Webinar – Vicarious Trauma

1800RESPECT, a national counselling helpline offering 24 hour support to people experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence, hosts a series of free webinars for workers and professionals. ACPMH’s Anne-Laure Couineau recently presented a webinar on Vicarious trauma: Looking after yourself at work. You can access the video and a PDF of the presentation here:

Online Case Formulation Training Program Addresses Complexity of Veterans' Mental Health

ACPMH has partnered with the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) to develop a free, innovative online training program for practitioners who provide treatment to veterans with mental health disorders. The Online Case Formulation Training Program will provide an insight into the unique veteran experience and the specific mental health issues veterans face. It will help practitioners to make better sense of the often complex needs of veterans, and to develop a "road map" for more effective treatment. Find out more here.

See our Health Professionals page for more information.

GuidelinesAustralian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Promoting recovery after trauma

Now available - click here for more information


Aproved by the NHMRC, these Guidelines include recommendations for identifying, assessing and treating adults as well as children and adolescents with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.

A suite of products that accompanies the main Guidelines includes:

Trauma-focussed therapy training

  • Trauma-focussed Therapy - Working with Adults
  • Trauma-focussed Therapy - Working with Children and Adolescents
  • 2015 - Workshop dates and locations now available here.

    2014 - Last workshops for the year are in November. For locations and dates click here.

    Register online now

    Resources for practitioners

    Australian PTSD Treatment Guidelines approved by the NHMRC for practitioners and consumers
    More information
    Screening for PTSD
    More information
    Research articles Click here
    Internationally endorsed Conducting Imaginal Exposure in PTSD (clinician manual and DVD) More information

    ACPMH does not provide direct clinical care. Please go to find help for information on counselling and treatment.