From malls to lecture halls, via health clinics and office tea rooms, members of the Australian Psychological Society found settings of varied sizes in which to mark the 2010 National Psychology Week (NPW) in November last year. For some members, forums, presentations or seminars proved the most effective way to engage their community, while others used the lure of an afternoon tea or free balloons and tip sheets on an information stall to get colleagues or clients thinking about the ways in which psychological understanding can help people lead healthier, happier and more meaningful lives.
Chelsea Eacott, a school psychologist at Rockhampton Girls Grammar School, convinced the school to make itself a mobile-free zone for a day to highlight the interruption to sleep and study caused by students' overuse of phones, while on Kangaroo Island Tamsin Wendt, the sole practising psychologist, secured the services of the local MP, Michael Pengilly, to open a breakfast seminar at the local yacht club to promote mental wellbeing techniques to farmers.
National Psychology Week - held in the second week of November each year - is the APS campaign to highlight psychology and its contribution to the Australian community. The diversity of participating psychologists, and the range of locations and topics, illustrates a key strength of NPW: that participants can tailor their involvement to suit their clients, colleagues and local communities, ensuring it is as beneficial and engaging as possible.
A key part of the campaign has been the annual NPW survey, which runs alongside a wider media campaign that this year reached 3.75 million people on topics such as regional and rural wellbeing and specialist careers in psychology. The research survey investigated the use of social networking sites such as Facebook, and the effect of these popular new technologies on wellbeing. The topic chimed with concerns in the community, as evidenced by the coverage secured in radio, newspapers and magazines throughout Australia, as well as media outlets in New Zealand, India, Ireland and Canada.
Local NPW event organisers were supplied with supporting resources that included detailed tip sheets on topics such as anxiety and depression, templates for DIY press releases suitable for local radio and print posters, as well as promotional sticky notes, pens and balloons. Alex Frost, who runs a practice in Adelaide, was among the members who used these to secure interest, with an appearance on the local radio station 5AA allowing her to discuss a workshop on acceptance and commitment therapy and other events held by her practice.
Analysis by the team at National Office shows that the majority of events were open to the public such as information displays in GP surgeries or shopping areas, including this year the Indoorapilly Shopping Centre, Queensland, and Boulder Market, in Western Australia. In Cronulla, a local psychological practice held a stall with post-natal depression information at the post office, and in Bondi, the parents of preschoolers were treated to a workshop at a local library on building resilience in young children. At Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, the artist Camilla Connelly launched an exhibition, The Photo Voice Project: Life as it is with Asperger's, which included images and stories by families affected by Asperger's Syndrome, while on King Island, close to Tasmania, local rural worker Anna De La Rue led a tai chi class as part of her efforts to promote stress reduction techniques among an island community of just 1,300. Montagu Bay Primary, in Tasmania, promoted its new library stocked with resources on subjects such as parenting and mental health, from which parents, grandparents and staff may borrow books.
Forums, presentations and workshops abounded. The Australian National University in Canberra posed the question Middle Age: Magnificent or Misery? at a lively public debate featuring Associate Professor Michael Platow, Professor Don Byrne and other academic staff. Those grappling with the pros and cons of the life stage can find a recording of the event on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-ml-BueMGw. A low-cost counselling service in Melbourne held a workshop for about 20 people examining ‘Change and the art of staying the same'.
For other members, invitation-only presentations and events provided a welcome opportunity to explain psychology to colleagues and fellow allied health professionals, and strengthen professional networks. A practice in Alice Springs which provides a 24-7 counselling service to health workers in remote areas celebrated National Psychology Week for the first time, inviting fellow health professionals to a briefing complete with a sustaining devonshire tea. At Cairns Base Hospital, Donna Goodman planned a speed networking event for psychologists and other allied health professionals to discuss areas of interest, places of work and procedures for referrals. A practice in Sydney presented a quiz featuring photos of famous people who have struggled with mental health issues, prompting a discussion with colleagues about the different disorders suffered by those featured and how the sufferers managed their careers despite their illness.
At Willunga Golf Club, south of Adelaide, Jack White again took out the APS National Psychology Week Torrens Cup (just one point ahead of Mitch Durrbidge, while Judy Lunnay took out women's event). This popular event has been described by organisers as an example of psychologists practising what they preach with a "leisurely 9-holes, and a mindful walk in the park".
The Salvation Army's Melbourne Counselling Service went further at its morning tea, raffling off a pot of honey. As the organiser, Jodi Clarke, explained: "Given that we are predominately a gambler's help service, I bought a pot of gold - honey - to be raffled. The honey was meant to symbolise Jung's ideas around alchemy, gold and opus." Gold or not, the object was an example of how member psychologists have conceived of clever ways in which to get others thinking about psychology and the way it can enhance life for Australians of all kinds.
Psychologist Liz Kernahan presents a workshop for parents in Adelaide