Thursday, 21 July 2011

Introducing Professor Richard Bryant

Professor Richard Bryant is a Scientia Professor and Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow in the School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, as well as Director of the Traumatic Stress Clinic, Westmead Hospital.

As a committee advisor to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), he will introduce the coming changes to the clinical diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder (ASD), as well as the addition of complicated grief as a new diagnosis, in his keynote address to the Many Paths, One Purpose Expert Forum hosted by the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health on 12 August 2011.

The addition of complicated grief to the DSM is very controversial, and the subject of much debate. Despite the widespread reluctance to clinically diagnose grief, Professor Byrant puts forth both a human and economic argument for its inclusion in the DSM. Recently he said:
“People have argued that medicine and psychiatry shouldn’t touch grief, but we have research from around the world showing that some people still have a persistent grieving response six to twelve months after a bereavement, which can't be explained by depression or anxiety, and this occurs across different cultures.
“This is a problem that affects ten to fifteen per cent of the population of bereaved people. A prolonged yearning for a loved one can lead to a range of health problems, including increased risk of suicide, psychiatric disorders, increased cancer rates, cardiovascular disorder, substance use – it's a huge public health issue. Having a diagnosis means we can identify and channel people towards getting the right kind of treatment.”

Professor Bryant will outline emerging research that shows the benefit of psychological treatment and new ways of identifying those at risk of developing complicated grief.

Less controversial, but no less significant, is his review of two other diagnoses for stress reactions after trauma: PTSD and ASD. Traditionally, PSTD was only diagnosed one month or more after a trauma because of a reluctance to over-pathologise stress reactions that were likely to disappear. ASD, introduced to the DSM in 1994, enabled practitioners to make a diagnosis within the first month after a traumatic event.

Revisions to the DSM are a critical way to reflect new research and developments in the field, and ensure that changes to diagnoses are recognised internationally. Professor Bryant’s keynote presentation will describe these changes in more detail and outline his rationale for refining the diagnoses.

Further information about Professor Bryant’s work:

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

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