Presenters & Abstracts, 2020 MHIS

We are just putting the finishing touches on the 2020 MHIS Program, however we are pleased to announce the following confirmed speakers:

Dr Brock Bastian

Dr Brock Bastian is a Professor and the Dame Kate Campbell Research Fellow 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 wellbeing 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 book The Other Side of Happiness was published in January 2018.

Building more resilient adolescents: Why our best intentions are leading us astray

We all know that resilience is important. We have been told that focusing on strengths is critical for building happy and healthy children. But where does resilience and personal strength come from? The current zeitgeist of focusing on the importance of positive emotion, positive thinking, and positive self-regard may be inadvertently leading to less happiness and less resilience. In this talk I will explore how to build resilience and personal strength, how to avoid toxic positivity, and why teaching children to lean into discomfort is critical in promoting their wellbeing.

Dr Kate Derry

Dr Kate Derry is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in School of Psychological Science at the University of Western Australia. She is trained as a social and developmental psychologist and her research investigates the expression and development of sense of self and personality in children, adolescents, and adults. Kate is also one of Australia’s foremost authorities on the construct of narcissism. The core premise of her work is that how people think about themselves can determines how they function, both externally, in their work and relationships, as well as internally, in their physical and mental wellbeing. Her research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and has been presented to academic and professional audiences in Australia and internationally. Since completing her PhD, Kate has worked with organisations, clinicians, educators, and government to optimise human performance and well-being.

Narcissistic traits in children - what does it look like, where does it come from, and is it so bad?

The terms ‘narcissism’ or ‘narcissist’ are widely used and often misunderstood. What is narcissism and what does it mean, for the individual and for society? Most of us understand narcissism as a pejorative term that describes a personality disorder characterised by excessive self-importance and entitlement. Yet, in smaller doses, it often seems that narcissism is a trait that is necessary to succeed in the modern world and to be ‘liked’. Particularly in childhood, is some form of narcissism normative or beneficial to facing the challenges of the school day? And if not, why is it so popular? In this talk, I will challenge some common misconceptions about narcissism and self-esteem and explore how self-appraisal influences our emotions and performance. I will also offer some insights into how to identify narcissistic traits and what parents and schools can do to help guide the development of a stable sense of self amidst a culture of self-enhancement.

Dr Michael Nagel

Dr Michael Nagel is an Associate Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast where he teaches and researches in the areas of cognition, human development, behaviour and learning. He is the author of thirteen books on child development and learning used by teachers and parents in over twenty countries and has delivered over 300 workshops and seminars for parents and teachers nationally and internationally. Nominated as Australian Lecturer of the Year each year since 2010, Dr Nagel has been an invited guest on ‘TV New Zealand Breakfast’, ‘Canada AM’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘The Project’. Dr Nagel is also a member of the prestigious International Neuropsychological Society, and a feature writer for ‘Jigsaw’ and the ‘Child’ series of magazines which collectively offers parenting advice to more than one million Australian readers.

Everything is NOT Awesome:  Technology and the Developing Brain

Since the turn of the century, technology has greatly expanded into, and influenced, the lives of young people.  Paralleling the pervasiveness of the digital world has been an equally expansive list of challenges and concerns associated with the internet, social media and the devices they inhabit.  In this presentation, Dr Michael Nagel, one of Australia’s leading experts in the developing paediatric brain, shares what the latest science has to say about the impact of technology on young people with a particular focus on how ‘Smartphones’ may be at the forefront of a growing number of developmental problems and mental health issues.  The overall aim of the presentation is to provide some of the latest insights into current issues and challenges around young people and technology along with some strategies for combating potential problems associated with those issues.

Nick Busietta

Nick Busietta is Managing Director of virtual reality company Liminal VR.
A former IT/IP lawyer, Nick manages an award winning team of neuroscientists, psychologists and software developers who are focused on leveraging principles of neuroscience and cognitive psychology to empower people to choose how they feel and perform. In 2018, in partnership with Wellbeing in Schools Australia, Liminal was awarded a major grant from VicHealth and Creative Victoria to develop and pilot the Liminal Platform for resilience, emotional regulation and wellbeing in schools. The platform is currently being used as a tool for wellbeing in workplaces, schools and hospitals. Liminal also develops VR experiences and applications for clients, including training simulations, clinical products and marketing experiences.

Liminal Platform: Virtual Reality for Resilience, Emotional Regulation and Wellbeing in Schools
This session focuses on the Liminal Platform, an award winning neuroscience-based virtual reality platform that is being used in schools to elicit emotional change ‘on demand’ to students. The platform consists of calming, energising, pain relieving and awe-inspiring experiences which are being used by school counsellors and in the classroom. Melbourne-based virtual reality company Liminal tracks the effectiveness of each experience based on psychometric feedback provided by students. In this presentation, Nick Busietta (Liminal’s Managing Director) will provide an overview of the Liminal Platform, how it is being used in schools and the results achieved to date.

Zac Seidler

Zac Seidler is a Clinical Psychologist, the Director of Health Professional Training at Movember Foundation and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Orygen, The Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne. Zac has devoted the past 5 years to the goal of reducing the staggering male suicide rate, treating and researching men’s mental health with over 25 peer-reviewed articles published. Zac has worked clinically with men of different ages and presentations from adolescents in Darwin with early psychosis to older HIV+ men struggling with adjustment. Currently, Zac is creating the world’s first online program to train mental health practitioners in how to better understand and respond to men’s distress. Zac has appeared on the ABC and in The Guardian, The Age and Vice for his work.

Samantha Lee (Presenting in Sydney)

Samantha Lee is the P.A.R.T.Y. Program Coordinator at Royal North Shore Hospital. The Prevent Alcohol and Risk -Related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y.) Program is an in-hospital traumatic injury-prevention program targeting young adults aged 15-25 years. Samantha has featured on the TV series Kings Cross ER whilst working in the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital and has worked within the Intensive Care Unit of Royal North Shore Hospital. She is enthusiastic about educating healthcare to young adults. You can contact Samantha at

Kylie Crisp (presenting in Melbourne)

Kylie is a Registered Nurse with over 20 years’ experience in both acute and primary health care. Currently working as the Coordinator of the RMH PA.R.T.Y Program, Kylie facilitates all aspects of this harm minimisation program for 16-25year olds. Kylie has worked as an educator to enrolled nursing students and mentor for graduate nurses in the UK. She has developed education programs in primary health care settings as a district nurse team leader and developed home care packages for trauma patients as a healthcare manager, working closely with TAC and WorkCover. Kylie also works as a Research Coordinator for the PATCH Trial at the RMH as she holds a keen interest in investigative work and evidence based standards for patients. She has worked at the University of Melbourne Department of general practice; in Diabetes research where she implemented a Practice nurse led model of care for Type 2 Diabetes. She has presented at APNA and ARNA throughout her career.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital Prevent Alcohol Risk-related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y) Program

In the last nine years over 1500 young people aged 15-18 years have been admitted to RMH for treatment of traumatic injuries. We know that trauma in this age group is the leading cause death and long term disability. P.A.R.T.Y is an in-hospital injury prevention program that aims to reduce the incidence of traumatic injury in young people. We know from data collected from participants before they attend the program that young people still have limited understanding of what constitutes risk taking and what the results really are, that is the gap the program hopes to fill by increasing their understanding of what risk taking actually is and what the possible real life consequences are. The RMH Program began in 2011 since that time 3958 students have attended. The schools program is aimed at 16 and 18 year olds. Holding the program in the hospital means they get a real life experience, with the sights, smells and sounds of a busy trauma hospital. This combined with meeting real patients and families to hear how their injuries and possible loss have impacted on them, we hope assists participants to understand risk and consequence. The ultimate aim of PARTY is to empower young people when they are faced with making decisions independently and how one choice can impact upon their lives and those around them. By delivering a high quality program with interactive sessions across a broad social and demographic spectrum in the hope of reducing the incidence of trauma related death and disability in teenagers.

Jess Chooses Life (Melbourne only)

'Jess Chooses Life' is a 35 minute play written by well-known acting identity Alan Hopgood AM. This play has been endorsed by Mental Health Victoria.

‘Jess Chooses Life’ addresses youth suicide in the online era and how young people can reach breaking point without their parents realising. The story follows Jess, whose parents find suicidal comments on her computer when she climbs out her bedroom window. Jess eventually discusses her concerns with them, such as bullying and her friend Lindy’s suicide. The message is one of understanding and hope.

This production will be followed by a Q&A from a panel of Mental Health Professionals. 

Mind Blank (Sydney only)

Mind Blank is a multi-award winning mental health promotion charity that educates young people about help-seeking methods for mental health issues and suicide-prevention through interactive theatre. Mental health issues are presented in a fun, safe and informative way via workshops and performances. Our programs showcase a stories of lived experience mental ill-health. The performances typically take up to one hour, with 45 minutes of forum discussion for audiences of up to 180 people.

The one-of-a-kind performances are designed to be fully interactive, and students are encouraged to participate in the discussion throughout. The audience is invited to control the performance’s narrative in a ‘choose your own adventure’-style show, which simultaneously teaches them how to support the narratives of their own lives.

Mind Blank for Schools Program - The Story of Dan

Dan starts the show as a highly functioning, socially well-adjusted teen, and is an only child in a single parent family. His mother then starts a new relationship and has twins to this relationship. Dan’s world starts to fall apart following a move to another town due to family financial pressures and the necessity for Dan’s step father to find new employment. In this forum the audience is questioned as to how we can help Dan through various difficult periods of his life.

Jenny Dunn (Sydney only)

Jenny Dunn is a qualified and experienced primary school teacher with eight years of experience in various educational settings in Australia and overseas. She has a range of experience working with students from Kindergarten to Year 12. Jenny has a particular interest and passion for supporting the mental health and wellbeing of a person so they can flourish in all aspects of life. As NSW Lead Teacher for Life Skills Group in 2018 Jenny gained a wealth of experience in developing and presenting professional developments for teachers and parents on subjects such as general wellbeing; social and emotional learning; mindfulness and managing difficult emotions and stress. Jenny has trained and mentored teachers in the Solomon Islands through the Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID) program. In this role she developed a range of educational and training programs and materials targeted at various audiences and age groups. Jenny’s programs have delivered strong learning outcomes and results, driving positive change through engaging facilitation and management. Currently as a Program Educator for Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) Jenny develops and implements programs to support the mental health and wellbeing of the community. These programs are reducing the stigma around mental health so people are empowered to improve their own mental health and wellbeing.

Megan Mills (Melbourne only)

Megan Mills is the Program Director for Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT). She has eleven years’ experience in managing programs across disability, mental health, drug and alcohol services, aged care and culturally & linguistic diverse people. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Science and is passionate about the use of education as a tool for change.

Empowering Australia’s secondary students to sustain their own mental health and wellbeing through education programs.

Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) is the primary local mental health and well-being education provider for workplaces, community groups and secondary schools across the Canberra region and surrounding areas. Since 1993, MIEACT has delivered evidence-informed programs, partnered with lived experience stories that increase mental health literacy, promote early intervention, reduce stigma and emphasise recovery.

MIEACT has identified that as schools strive to develop an environment that is inclusive, supportive and safe for its learners they require programs that enrich the development of the whole person in all aspects of learning. The development of mental health and wellbeing is vital for the social, emotional, physical and academic growth of a person. As a result of this MIEACT offers a suite of evidence-informed and co-designed learning experiences for young people.

Professor Phillip Slee

Phillip Slee is a trained teacher and registered psychologist. Currently, Phillip is a Professor in Human Development in the School of Education and is Director of the Student Wellbeing & Prevention of Violence (SWAPv) Research Centre at Flinders University. Professor Slee’s research interests include child and adolescent mental health, childhood bullying and aggression, and he has a particular interest in the practical and policy implications of his research.

Professor Slee has published over 100 refereed papers, 25 book chapters, and 15 books in the field of child development, bullying, school violence and stress, and has produced educational resources in the form of videos and resource packages. He has presented his work nationally and internationally in workshops and lectures. Presently, he is undertaking a number of international research projects on the topic of school violence with researchers from Japan, Korea, China, Canada, England, and the USA.

School Violence, Bullying, Stress and Mental Health - The PEACE Pack Intervention

School violence and the stress associated with a particular manifestation (school bullying)  is frequently traumatic for young people and can impact markedly on subsequent mental health sequela. Current data suggests that one in five Australian school students is bullied once a week or more and that cyber-bullying is associated with greater anxiety and depression than ‘traditional’ schoolyard bullying.  Educators can and do make an important and significant difference in the reduction of bullying and the enhancement of mental health and wellbeing in the classroom context. The P.E.A.C.E Pack Program: Coping with Bullying- Promoting Wellbeing was designed to facilitate this work. The program addresses all forms of bullying; physical, verbal, exclusion and cyber-bullying, with a strong emphasis on building the productive coping skills of the victims of bullying and involving students in a review of their own schoolyard experiences. Unlike other anti-bullying programs, the PEACE Pack takes a whole-of-school approach and focusses on relationship-building and decision-making among bullying perpetrators as well as bystanders, whose own wellness is considered to be integral to the ‘bullying solution’. Importantly, the PEACE Pack includes particular tools to support young people with special needs who may be experiencing bullying. Formal evaluations since 2001; involving pre and post testing and longitudinal studies and more than 12,000 students and their teachers in Australia, Italy, Greece, Malta and Japan show that the P.E.A.C.E Pack Program achieves significant reductions in self reported victimization, reductions in bullying of other students, increases in coping skills, feelings of safety at school, school belonging and benefits to the reported wellbeing of students.

Stephanie Dunn

As an experienced Teacher and Student Wellbeing Coordinator, Stephanie is deeply passionate about the work teachers and professionals do for the students in their care. She has a long passion for wellness and the promotion of mental health, particularly in young adults. In 2017 Stephanie was awarded a NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship funded by the Anika Foundation, which enabled her to research proactive strategies for Engaging the Primary Care Giver: Youth mental health education, prevention and intervention in the context of family and school collaboration internationally.

Engaging the Primary Care Giver: Youth mental health education, prevention and intervention in the context of family and school collaboration.

Schools have a unique opportunity to create an informed, inclusive and accepting support system that brings together parents, teachers and agency workers focussed on the goal of improving the quality of education and life for young people struggling with mental health. In striving for authentic engagement schools must have a clear vision and purposeful approach to fostering connectedness with a direct intention to focus on productive partnerships, not intervention. In order to achieve this, school executives must be courageous in addressing unconscious bias at a personnel or systemic level. They must be open to and engage in a strategic review of policy and practice, teacher training and mental health programs implemented to enhance mental health literacy and wellbeing for young people. In doing so, schools will be providing an experience of learning and connecting that develops within young people a coping toolkit with positive help seeking strategies that over time will continually assist them in overcoming mental health adversity, build resilient families and thrive in life well beyond the school gates.