Monday, 18 July 2011

Introducing Professor Jonathan Bisson

Professor Jonathan Bisson is Director of Research and Development, Cardiff University School of Medicine & Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in the United Kingdom. Developing his interest in traumatic stress during his time in the British Army, Professor Bisson is consultant psychiatrist, with an active research profile, as well as a clinician and teacher in this area.

Professor Bisson’s keynote address to the Many Paths, One Purpose Expert Forum hosted by the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health on 12 August 2011 will show that evidence-based guidelines can play a key role in establishing a common response to trauma across national borders and across all stages of patient recovery.  He will also argue that Psychological First Aid should be embedded in society as an essential skill. Recently he said:
“One of my passions is working to identify the best ways of helping individuals following a traumatic event to prevent psychiatric disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Of his various studies, two widely cited randomised controlled trials of early psychological interventions following traumatic events and three Cochrane systematic reviews in the traumatic stress field have informed a new set of guidelines for helping people who have experienced a traumatic event. Professor Bisson has been working to circulate the guidelines across Europe as part of a European Union-funded project, which involved training programs and establishing collaborations between countries in the east and west to promote a common standard.

Professor Bisson emphasised that the guidelines are applicable to countries like Australia and New Zealand:

“A large part of the evidence was informed by studies conducted in Australia by groups run by ACPMH’s former Director, Mark Creamer and the work of Richard Bryant. Although much of the evidence base is transferable across different countries, we recommend that it is reconsidered in the light of cultural and organisational differences.”

He also believes that everybody can play a role in helping those who have experienced trauma, not just mental health professionals:
“What we need immediately after a traumatic event is good, practical support delivered in a sympathetic and empathic manner. That won’t necessarily be delivered by a mental health professional, it will more than likely be other individuals such as emergency service first responders, who are key to providing that initial support. I think the main role of the mental health professional in the immediate aftermath will be training front-line individuals to support others as part of a stepped-care pathway.
“Aside from any psychological interventions, people also need continued social support. For most of us, depending on the nature of the trauma experienced, that will come from friends and family. But we also need to offer social support to people who don’t have this option and equip communities to support each other. The power of an informed community response in helping individuals come through difficult times cannot be underestimated.”

Further information about Professor Bisson’s work visit:

For further information on the ACPMH Expert Forum, Many Paths One Purpose, click here.

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