Dr. Nicholas Van Dam is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist and a Senior Lecturer in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. He is the Deputy Director of the Clinical Neuroscience Translation Group. His research interests centre on the use of cognitive neuroscience methods, decision science, and computational psychology/psychiatry to better understand and delineate high-prevalence symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression, substance misuse) across the spectrum from normal to pathological with a focus on value-based decision-making processes, introspection, and assessment. His primary translational research objective is to advance the understanding of the clinical phenomenology and neurobiology of depression and anxiety disorder. He aims to better understand these conditions (and the range of normal to abnormal behaviours that underpin them). In addition to his goals to classify and predict these conditions, he is also interested in optimizing treatment and intervention approaches via identification of response likelihoods during the natural course of treatment. Dr. Van Dam has expertise in the areas of mindfulness and meditation and considers contemplative practices to be a potential treatment for high-prevalence disorders, a means to improve measurement and examination of subjective experience, and worthwhile set of practices towards personal growth. He is particularly interested in how these practices can be implemented in authentic ways that are consistent with their traditional context.

Mind the hype: Is mindfulness all it's cracked up to be?
Abstract Pending


A/Professor Michael Gordon is a practicing psychiatrist and is the Unit Head of the child and adolescent stream in Early in Life Mental Health Service (formerly CAMHS) at Southern Health. He completed his clinical doctorate in the area of adolescent depression and has a strong clinical and research interest in adolescent depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders. He has published several papers and a book chapter in the area of adolescent depression. A/Professor Gordon is also an Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at Monash University and is currently involved in a number of collaborative research projects with Monash University, including the School Refusal Clinic.

A/Professor Michael Gordon, Psychiatrist, has extensive experience working with schools on issues of mental health relating to young people. A/Professor Gordon provides training and professional mentoring for educational leaders, teachers, school psychologists and counsellors and is ideally placed to take participants through the myriad and complex issues involved in adolescent mental illness in the school context.

Suicide Assessment in Adolescents. An overview of the essentials – the theory, risk assessment and recent update  

The assessment and management of suicidal adolescents pose a major concern for school counsellors, teachers, private psychologists and parents alike. There is no gold standard for assessment and treatment. Over the last 30 years, Dr Gordon has been involved in many assessments of suicidal adolescents, taught extensively in the area of adolescent suicide and has also published on this important topic. Dr Gordon provides a review of the theory and best practice. Dr Gordon will incorporate an update on the assessment of suicidal adolescents. Further, he will presents a a truncated assessment tool for assessment of suicide risk.


Dr Karen Hallam is a Senior Research Fellow and Research Manager at YSAS in Melbourne. Karen completed her PhD in the Psychiatry Department in the area of mood disorders and followed with a Clinical Psychology Masters. Since then, Karen has worked as a Senior Lecturer in University clinical psychology programs for a decade training clinical psychologists. Most recently, Karen has moved to Youth Support and Advocacy Service to lead research in the area of youth disadvantage and substance use as a Senior Research Fellow and Research Manager. Karen's research and clinical track record focuses on youth, wellbeing and helping people figure out who they are and what they want in order to elicit change. Karen has a passion in sharing discussions of the nexus between clinicians and clients as people… namely the therapeutic alliance. This concept is often cited but rarely understood in terms of impacts on both lives. To “live in the muck” and “walk alongside” is much of what she shares with groups and in training when discussing this unique and privileged relationship.

Footpaths to Freeways: Early Intervention in Youth Mental Health and AOD

At its most fundamental level, early intervention is about getting young people back on track. There are many arguments behind an early intervention approach with the very foundation of these rooted in the recognition that young people are not merely young adults, rather individuals going through some of the most important developmental tasks in a lifetime. The adolescent brain is shaping and resolving at an extraordinary rate which effects all elements of mental development from problem solving and risk taking to social and personal construct development. In this workshop I will discuss early intervention in relation to how we are re-conceptualizing youth AOD and other addictive behaviours (including media and gaming) whilst drawing on evidence from the established literature in the mental health field. The conversation will cover the biological and sociological rationale for the approach, the evidence for the model (and lack of it in some cases!) and the very important long term personal outcomes of minimizing psychosocial difficulties. Throughout I will discuss case studies from practice settings that reflect on the work we do with young people and the approach of using the right level of support, the right tools at the right time.


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.

Riot not Diet! Looking For What’s Healthy in School Prevention Programs for Eating Disorders, and Managing Kids with Eating Issues in the School Environment

Issues around food and body image are affecting children earlier and earlier. The combination of an image-obsessed social media and celebrity culture, and the ready availability of enticing, cheap junk food ads targeting children, has led to contradicting health campaigns. Kids are confused about what their bodies need to be strong and healthy, and struggling to feel comfortable in their own skins, between two warring camps. As the rates of childhood obesity continue to climb, 34% of 5 year old girls show a moderate level of dietary restraint, with half already demonstrating internalisation of the “thin ideal”. Media exposure and peer conversations around “fat talk” were stronger predictors of dietary restraint than any other individual factors (Damiano et al., 2015). Is it any wonder then, that amongst 12 to 17 year olds, 90% of females and 68% of males have been on a diet of some kind (Tucci et al., 2007)? The prevalence of eating disorders at any one time in Australia is 4% of the population. Of these 47% have binge-eating disorder, 12% bulimia nervosa, 3% anorexia nervosa, and 38% other eating disorders (Butterfly Foundation, 2012). Eating disorders are associated with significant morbidity and mortality, being considered the most lethal of psychiatric conditions, due to related medical complications and suicide. Schools are in a unique position to promote prevention, screening, detection, and early intervention of eating disorders. By harnessing the influential power of peer trends, and utilising teenage rebellion to critically analyse and challenge the two extremes of the “thin ideal” and “oral hedonism” being thrust upon us by the media, young people can find that they are so much more than a number on the scales. How can you create the dissonance for change in your school? Let’s start some food, body, and self esteem riots!! Food fights not included.


Rachel has been a registered psychologist since 2002.  She consulted to various organisations for years, working with doctors, nurses, teachers, pilots, lawyers, managers and executives, and gained broad experience in coaching individuals and groups. She is skilled at helping people cope with stress and trauma, relationship conflict, and personal change. In 2006, Rachel was awarded her PhD which looked at psychological burnout and resilience.

Being Perfectly Imperfect: Cultivating Shame Resilience

Shame is an emotion so powerful that the mere mention of the word shame triggers discomfort and avoidance in people. Yet, shame is important because it plays a role in a wide range of mental and public health issues such as self-esteem, depression, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, suicide, family violence, and sexual assault (Brown, 2006).

Many life experiences can produce feelings of both anxiety and shame for children, such as unrealistic expectations, criticism, humiliation, abuse, neglect, lack of privacy, indifference, and poor parental boundaries.

In adults and teens, shame trigger areas often include cultural factors, such as appearance and body image, sexuality, family, parenting, professional identity, mental and physical health, aging, religion, and surviving trauma.

Shame is a master of disguise, meaning we may have trouble recognizing and managing it. We often feel shame before we think it; that is, our bodies react first. Research suggests that shame is most harmful when it goes unacknowledged and is not spoken of.

In this workshop, we will learn about the difference between shame, guilt, embarrassment and humiliation. We will look at Brene Brown’s (2006) shame resilience theory (SRT) which describes how people respond to feelings of shame.

This workshop will take you through the four steps of SRT and offer practical exercises to better understand this emotion. Research on shame resilience suggests that people who can recognise shame and understand the areas where they are most triggered are then able to transform shame into courage, empathy, connection, and freedom (Brown, 2007).


Emotional Mirror Neuron and Empathy Development in the Age of Screens: Can We Actually Use Tech to “Emolve” In The Right Direction?

All parents, educators, and clinicians share concerns about the impact of increasing technology use, and over-reliance on virtual socialization, on neurodevelopment, emotional regulation, empathy, and social skill development. Despite many peak industry bodies releasing position statements with recommended limits for screen time in children, few households are meeting these limits, and such guidelines are at times at odds with the “Australian Digital Education Revolution Policy”. As we enter a “Brave New World” with today’s children needing to be “tech savvy” for future career prospects, as well as remaining socially connected in an increasingly virtual youth culture, will our children be the “first generation of cyborgs”, or do we need to look fondly to the Amish for inspiration, and “go off the grid” during critical periods of neurodevelopment? Child Psychiatrist Dr Shannon Morton will recap our understanding of emotional neurodevelopment to date, providing a synopsis of research regarding emotional mirror neurons, the neurobiology of emotional regulation and empathy, and the psychosocial and environmental pre-requisites for healthy emotional development. She will then summarise emerging research about the impact of technology on brain development, before handing over to Psychologist, Parent, and Ex-Teacher Dr Rachel Hannam, who will provide a practical tour of current technology apps, devices, and programs aimed at promoting healthy emotional and social development. Where is all this heading? Where do you stand on this debate? What will be the next “emolutionary” step, and is your school prepared?

Dr Melissa Weinberg, Psychologist, Academic & Researcher

Dr Melissa Weinberg is a psychologist, academic, and research consultant specialising in subjective wellbeing, resilience, trauma, and sport and performance psychology. Her work explores the quality of life of different population subgroups, including elite and professional athletes, young people, carers, veteran populations, Holocaust survivors, and people with chronic illness and cancer. Melissa’s research focuses on measurement and methodological issues relating to subjective wellbeing, and she has authored book chapters, scientific journal articles, and research reports in this space. Her research has captured the attention of media outlets including ABC and CNN, and she has appeared on various TV and radio programs as an expert on the science of happiness. Melissa is an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Centre on Quality of Life at Deakin University, and currently works as a Sport Psychologist in private practice and within the AFL system.

Subjective Wellbeing and Loneliness in young Australians
Abstract pending

Carol Sandiford

Carol is a registered psychologist and passionate youth advocate, having been involved in youth mentoring for over 25 years. She has seen first-hand the benefits of a positive neutral role model in a young person’s life and is committed to ensuring that every young person in Australia has someone they can talk to. Carol is the Research & Evaluation Director for Raise Foundation, one of Australia’s leading youth mentoring organisations, ensuring that the work at Raise confirms to best-practice industry standards and continually proves and improves the impact for Australia’s youth. Carol is in the final stages of a PhD at Monash University investigating the impact of participation in mentoring programs for young people in Australia who are at-risk of disengaging.

“I could open up because they didn’t know me” – the power of mentoring relationships for at-risk students.

Hayden Ashby
Hayden was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2014. Hayden recently finished his Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT) course in May this year and is currently studying to become a Personal Care Worker, with the hope of working with the elderly in the future. Hayden has spoken of his experiences with BPD and DBT at Propsychs 2018 SCAP and 2019 MHIS Conferences.

A Young Person’s Experience of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

Sebastien Grech, Minus 18
Seb is a Workshops Coordinator and Presenter for Minus18 and has travelled all over Australia delivering to both Teachers and Students around how to respect and support LGBTIQ young people. Seb has identified as gender-diverse from a young age which has empassioned him to become a leader within the LGBTIQ sector, championing change for queer young people all over Australia.

Stand with Pride

Minus18 is proud to present 'Creating Inclusive Classrooms' an abridged version of their Schools Workshops for Staff on what it takes to create an inclusive environment for LGBTIQ students at School.

Emma Sue San, School Psychologist

Emma is a School Counsellor who works in schools in Western Sydney, NSW. Emma is passionate about supporting young people suffering from mental health issues. She has a keen interest in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and in 2018, completed a Premier's Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship study tour of New Zealand, United States of America and the United Kingdom to explore the implementation of DBT Skills programs in schools to improve emotional regulation and distress tolerance strategies and decrease self-harm, suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms. She is now implementing DBT Skills programs in both mainstream and special education settings.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in Schools

Participants of this session will learn about the application of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills in schools. DBT group and individual intervention will be explore through a tiered system of support model. This model aims to provide an overview of co-ordinated, proactive psychological prevention and intervention of mental health issues in our young people. This session will include practical examples of DBT skills of emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness, which can be used with students.

And more, stay tuned.......