Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented period of stress and trauma having recently experienced drought, followed by bushfires, and now the global COVID-19 pandemic. This makes the release of trauma treatment guidelines very timely.
At any point in time 4.4% of Australians have posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD – that is 1.1M people.
PTSD is the second most common mental health condition next to depression. It can have a profound impact on the individual and their family.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, being constantly on the alert, and feeling numb. Without effective treatment, people can feel overwhelmed by their problems, isolated, unable to go about their day-to-day activities, and unable to connect with their families.
The new Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Complex PTSD, launched today by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, will support high quality treatment for people with PTSD by providing a clear framework of best practice.
The Guidelines have been developed by Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne with funding from the Commonwealth Government Department of Health. The Guidelines have been approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The Guidelines are based on the highest quality research currently available, and have been developed in collaboration with a Guideline Development Group comprising Australia’s leading trauma experts, specialist practitioners working with people affected by trauma, and individuals with lived experience of trauma.
The Guidelines are published in an innovative online ‘living guideline’ format, which provides potential to update recommendations when there is sufficient new evidence to do so, ensuring that the advice is always current and up to date.
Associate Professor Andrea Phelps, Deputy Director of Phoenix Australia, led the development of the Guidelines. She said that “they are a vital tool for practitioners who provide care to people affected by trauma – providing guidance on delivering evidence-based treatment that will lead to better outcomes for those impacted by trauma.”
People with PTSD also have much to gain from the Guidelines. Associate Professor Phelps explained that “people need to know that there are effective treatments for PTSD and they can get better. We have also produced some booklets to help people understand PTSD and find out what treatments are recommended, so that they can be informed when they seek help from a health practitioner.”
Professor Duncan Maskell, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne said the Guidelines are an important resource for health practitioners and the community. “These Guidelines are world class, and will be valuable for the healthcare profession and people who have suffered trauma,” Professor Maskell said.
Sharon Bown, Ambassador for Phoenix Australia, served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for 16 years. During that time she was diagnosed with PTSD, and she recalls the challenge of trying to find effective methods to eventually overcome it. She said that “people who have experienced trauma need to be confident that there is a standard of treatment available to them that is effective and based in evidence. These Guidelines ensure that the information about best practice treatments is available, and that will mean better outcomes for people with PTSD”.
Watch the launch video.