2017 SCAP Presenters

Dr Brock Bastian is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is trained as a social psychologist and his research broadly focuses on the topics of well-being and morality.In his research on well-being, he has addressed questions such as why promoting happiness may have a downside, the cultural factors leading to depression, and why valuing our negative and painful experiences in life is a critical pathway to achieving happiness. His work has been featured in outlets such as The Economist, The New Yorker, TIME, New Scientist, Scientific American, Harvard Business Review, and The Huffington Post, among many others. His innovative approach to research has been acknowledged with the Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize, and his contribution to psychology has been recognized by the Australian Psychological Society and Society of Australasian Social Psychologists early career researcher awards. Brock is not only passionate about building scientific knowledge, but also about communicating that knowledge. He has written for popular press outlets, such as The Conversation; delivered popular talks, such as at TEDx StKilda, The Ethics Centre Sydney, and Effective Altruism Australia; and appeared on radio shows such as The Minefield. His first bookThe Other Side of Happiness is due for release by Penguin UK on the 4th of January 2018.

Dr Shannon Morton is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with a special interest in treating young people who naturally exist outside the usual boxes, and prefer to colour outside the lines. She is the Clinical Director of the “The Kooky Kid Clinic”, a multidisciplinary clinic with a difference in Brisbane, where humour and holistic, expressive therapies are used to celebrate differences, reframe medical symptoms and sufferings, and challenge stigmatizing stereotypes head on. She has previously worked in a Prison Mental Health Service, and spent many years working in a low socio-economic area, with a large number of children with externalizing disorders in her practice.

She has special interests in working with young people with Tourette Syndrome and associated challenges, those suffering from self harm, or those with unconventional tendencies that push institutional boundaries. She has assisted in research data collection for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) treatment of severe Tourette Syndrome, and was one of the youngest speakers invited to present at the World Congress of Biological Psychiatry in Paris, on the topic of refractory Tourette Syndrome in Adolescents. She has also acted as a medical advisor for the SBS Documentary “The Silent Epidemic” on the science of self injury, having worked with world experts on mirror neurons at the La Sapienza University in Rome during her research project on emotional mirror neurons, attachment, and self harm. She currently runs “The Healing Circle”, a self harm recovery group for teens, and “Bubble and Squeak”, a Tourette Syndrome support group.

We're Not Tupperware®! Wabi-sabi and Wounded Healers: An experiential, very large, group therapy intervention for all of you who hold too much, BYO tissues.
Therapist burn-out is a ubiquitous and tangible threat to all of us, as bureaucratic and clinical demands increase, resources are spread ever thinner, and our case-loads become increasingly more complex and dangerous in their presentation. The altruistic ideals that have brought us into the helping profession are challenged on a daily basis by many obstacles, and the burden of “never being enough” for the weight of the world’s suffering and expectations, can loom large and be the harbinger of learned helplessness, emotional detachment, cynicism, and even bitterness or frank depression. If you’ve ever fantasised about working at Bunnings®, this talk is for you! Over the years, the effects of vicarious traumatisation, grief and loss, and personal threats to our emotional and physical safety, can ebb away and take their toll. With time, we all become “wounded healers”, to various degrees, and we all cope with these wounds in different ways, which in itself can be isolating and painful. Starting from the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy and working our way up, how can we continuously fill up our cups when they seem more like sieves? Dr Morton will break with medical tradition, cross the room from chair to couch, and be the first to break the ice with bridging the “us” and “them” gap between wounded and healer. She will dissect in gruesome detail the many times in her career when what she had to hold became unbearable, figure out exactly why she cracked, how she survived, and why these experiences have made her a better therapist. She will then invite candid discussion and audience confessions of the very real struggles of our sacred work, demonstrating how, with self compassion and nurturance, metaphorical kintsugi, courageous honesty, peer connection and comradery, we can keep on “walking the talk” as imperfect, yet self-affirming, therapists, in this imperfect world. We are all in this together... group hug people! 

The Healing Circle: A New Tribe for Angsty Teens Promoting Recovery in the Age of Technology
Access to early intervention, or intensive, self harm treatment programs for adolescents and young people, such as DBT, is challenging for many families, particularly those with limited funds, or in regional areas. With as many as one in four 16 year old girls in Australia admitting to having self-harmed at some time, our systems just cannot keep up with demand. Young people who suffer mental health problems and self injure commonly seek contact and support from other young people who have had the same lived experience, whether it’s online, in the school yard, and sometimes, in psychiatric hospital wards. With increasing awareness of the contagion effect of self injury, how can we intervene to promote healthier peer affiliation, identification, and support-seeking within the limited resources of our education and health sectors? Dr Morton will share her experiences co-facilitating “The Healing Circle” group with a “lived experience” peer mentor and the support of a moderated Facebook® forum. Could a Healing Circle help the clusters of young people at your school who are suffering, to find a way through the tough times of adolescence together?

Vanessa Howgego - Consumer Advocate and Survivor, sharing her personal journey with The Healing Circle.


Madeline Wishart has a special interest in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), recently submitting her PhD into the psychosocial determinants of the acts and functions of nonsuicidal self-injury. At Nilumbik Community Health Service, she was the Project Officer on the Managing Deliberate Self Harm Project, and then co-developed the From Harm To Calm therapeutic group. Madeline has also worked as a youth, school and trauma counsellor. She has presented numerous seminars and workshops on managing NSSI in adolescents. She is currently working as a lecturer at Victoria University. 

The Body as a Voice: Research Informed Practice for Nonsuicidal Self-Injury
Why do young people self-injure? The urge to cut, scratch, rub, tear and burn our skin seems in direct contrast to our innate instincts of self-preservation and survival. Yet, nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a significant physical and mental health concern affecting adolescents, with an estimated lifetime prevalence in Australia of 8.1% over individuals over the age of 10 years (Martin, Swannell, Harrison, et al., 2010). Madeline has investigated the psychosocial determinants of the acts and functions of NSSI, and will present her major findings to further inform our practice as Counsellors and Psychologists in the school setting. The presentation will aid in the identification of young people who may be at greater risk of self-injuring, and address the roles of mental illness, trauma, self-esteem and attachment in the onset and maintenance of the behaviour. Madeline will also briefly discuss the current aetiological theories of nonsuicidal self-injury. Employing a functional approach to NSSI, Madeline will explore the functions that motivate young people to engage in NSSI and present skills and ideas to manage NSSI performed for both intrapersonal and interpersonal functions that can be assimilated directly into your work with students.

Georgie Harman  CEO, beyondblue
Ms Harman was appointed as the CEO of beyondblue in May 2014. She has significant and broad-ranging policy and service delivery experience in the community, public and private sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom.

From 2006-2012, Ms Harman worked at the Commonwealth Department of Health where she had national responsibility for Australian mental health, suicide prevention and substance misuse policy and programs, including those targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She was one of the architects of the 2011 cross-portfolio National Mental Health Reform Budget package. At the same time, she was responsible for the early strategy and development of legislation to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia – a world first.

Ms Harman has also worked in the community sector and in private enterprise. She came to Australia in 1999 to be the inaugural Executive Director for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation in Sydney – Australia's first and largest independent HIV/AIDS charity. She has also worked extensively overseas, particularly in non-government organisations in London.

Professor Sally Merry is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She holds positions as the Cure Kids Duke Family Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, the Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland and Director of the Werry Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, University of Auckland.

Professor Merry’s main area of research interest is in the development and implementation of effective therapies in child and adolescent mental health. She has developed an effective computerised intervention for teenage depression, SPARX, which has won international awards and is now available as a national e-therapy service in New Zealand. Professor Merry has been involved in the development and implementation of other technology-based interventions, and in testing interventions for infants. She has conducted a number of Cochrane Collaboration reviews and has been involved in the design and implementation of national surveys of the health and wellbeing of New Zealand adolescents. She is running a trial to test modular delivery of evidence-based therapies in child and adolescent mental health services in New Zealand. She has been funded to develop and test a programme of behavioural intervention technologies for young people as part of the National Science Challenge, a Better Start E Tipu E Rea.

Gamification of CBT: the development of SPARX and implications for clinical practice

SPARX is a New Zealand based computerized cognitive behavior therapy (cCBT) programme for adolescents aged 12-19 with mild to moderate symptoms of clinical depression. It utilizes an innovative, interactive, fantasy gaming environment to facilitate engagement and immersive learning. SPARX was designed with input from young people and includes culturally-relevant design features to appeal to Maori and Pacific youth. Evidence of effectiveness comes from two randomized controlled trials and a number of open trials. SPARX was launched as a national self-help programme in New Zealand in April 2014 through funding from the Ministry of Health. Ongoing functions are monitored by an independent Clinical Advisory Group and a Steering Group which includes members from the Ministry of Health. It is available free of charge in New Zealand, and is available under license in Japan. Plans for wider international access are under discussion.

By the end of 2016, there were over 10 000 registered users in New Zealand, with evidence from ongoing clinical monitoring that SPARX is effective for the target population, and also for those with more severe depression, and for younger users.

SPARX has been tested in secondary schools in Australia with good effects. Results of this study will be presented and implications for use in schools and the ways in which it could be best utilized will be discussed.

SPARX is one of the world’s first evidence based computerized youth depression programmes to be rolled out nationally. There are challenges to the successful ongoing implementation of computerized interventions as well as opportunities. Both will be discussed.

Dr Wayne Warburton  is a Senior Lecturer in developmental psychology and is also a registered psychologist. He has a strong research interest in the fields of aggressive behaviour, aggressive personality styles, media psychology and parenting. He has a number of publications in scientific journals and books, and has co-authored various international reports and statements. He has received numerous awards for his scholarship and is passionate about making scientific findings in psychology accessible and relevant to parents, professionals and policy makers.

Negotiating the 'dark triad': Working with callous/unemotional personality styles

The ‘dark triad’ are the three best documented callous and unemotional personality styles – narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Sometimes it can be hard to separate these personality styles because all three are characterised by low empathy, exploitativeness, curtailed emotional responsiveness and high levels of aggression. However each personality style also has unique features that help with identification, and which inform the management approaches that are most likely to be effective. This talk will look at the unique and common features of the dark triad personality styles and provide advice for managing each one.

Dr Jenny Donovan is the Executive Director of the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation in the NSW Department of Education. She established and has led the Centre which is an innovative hub for evidence-based policy and decision-making in education. CESE provides data, analysis and evaluation to inform and improve effectiveness, efficiency and accountability across the entire spectrum of the NSW education system.

Previously, Jenny was the Deputy Director of a not-for-profit research and assessment organisation attached to the University of New South Wales. Jenny began her career as a high school teacher in Sydney’s western suburbs, and has held many roles in both operational and policy arms of state public service.

Measuring and improving student wellbeing at school

This presentation will discuss findings from an annual survey of over 250 000 students from around 1500 schools and show how students’ wellbeing at school interconnects with their engagement with school and learning, and their experiences of effective teaching and classroom practices.

The presentation will also discuss preliminary results from a recent qualitative survey of school leaders in NSW, which shows the extent to which wellbeing and mental health are priorities for schools.

The annual student feedback survey called Tell Them From Me asks students from Years 4 to 12 questions on engagement, wellbeing and effective teaching practices. Measurement of wellbeing through the survey is the first step to improving outcomes for students. Through Tell Them From Me, schools are provided with reporting tools to measure students’ self-reported levels of optimism, happiness, bullying, relationships with friends and teachers, and sense of belonging, among other things.

The data helps schools identify priorities for improvement as part of the planning and reporting cycle. Schools are supported in their work to improve student wellbeing through a wide-ranging suite of wellbeing programs and initiatives. Tell Them From Me data can then also help schools monitor the impact of their initiatives.

A/Professor Michael Gordon is a child psychiatrist, the Unit Head for child and adolescent stream of Early in Life Mental Health Service (ELMHS) at Monash Health and the Acting Unit Head for Perinatal and Infant Stream of ELMHS. Michael has written a number of papers and book chapters on adolescent depression. He is also an Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at Monash University and is actively involved in a number of research projects into adolescent depression.

Turning a teacher into an ally. How to optimise teacher ‘buy-in’ in order to reach better outcomes for students suffering emotional and social problems.

 All school staff want the best for their students. However, teachers and well-being staff can be at loggerheads with each other over the understanding and management of students with mental health problems. In some cases it seems that teachers and well-being staff are speaking two very different languages for which there seems no interpreter. At times, there can be splits in the child’s management, despite very caring school staff being involved in helping the child. The paradigms used by teachers to understand students are different to the tools that well-being staff use to make sense of the same student. This can result in the child being lost in translation.

Causes and possible solutions to bridging the gap between teachers and well-being staff are discussed.

Dr Despina Ganella is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Developmental Psychobiology laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Her main research interest is developmental anxiety, with a focus on adolescents. Her work involves a rare combination of the use of preclinical rodent models of anxiety with human neuroimaging research.

 In addition to this, Dr Ganella is an active science communicator, and works towards increasing awareness of mental health research through media and community outreach work. She regularly visits schools to educate the public about neuroscience and mental health. She is also passionate about equality and diversity in science and serves on the Equality in Science Committee.

Neurodevelopmental Correlates of Fear Learning and Extinction

The increased prevalence of anxiety disorders during adolescence is thought to be due to fear extinction deficits involving immature ventromedial prefrontal cortical (vmPFC) function, which has been demonstrated in preclinical rodent studies. Extinction forms the basis of exposure based therapies used to treat anxiety disorders in the clinic. Dr Ganella has investigated the neural correlates of fear conditioning and extinction learning using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in adolescent and adult humans and has found significant age-associated differences during extinction recall in the vmPFC as well as other brain regions. These findings suggest that fear and extinction learning may be mediated by different neural circuitry in adolescents, and have implications for understanding risk factors and developing novel treatment strategies for adolescent anxiety.