As a 16-year-old, Sally Manning was so depressed she could not
get out of bed. She skipped VCE classes and eventually got so down
she tried to take her life. Fortunately, the overdose did not
succeed, and she was taken to Angliss Hospital in Ferntree
The treatment there, like that recommended by her GP, was mainly
anti-depressant drugs, which made her vomit. She felt like a
vegetable, paralysed, parcelled up and without anyone who
understood her. It was pretty desperate and probably would have
remained so had it not been for an innovative Monash University
program that handed her 18 months of intensive psychotherapy. The
talking cure, as it is often called, usually costs $110 a session;
money that she and her family could not afford. But, she says, it
saved her life, allowing her to untangle many of the knots that had
kept her bewildered and stuck in a cycle of sadness.
Now 21, and in a stable job and relationship, she does not think
she will regress. Talking through issues with her therapist, Andrea
O'Byrne, helped her unravel her addiction to abusive relationships.
"The doctors and psychiatrists told me what to do," she said. "But
with Andrea, I didn't feel I was being judged. I could talk and
hear myself talk and realise what was actually going on."
The psychoanalytic psychotherapy practised by Ms O'Byrne is out
of fashion and hard to come by in the state system, mainly because
it costs more than drugs and does not have the sort of
outcomes-based evidence now in vogue.
But that could be changing. Thanks to $1.4 million from the
Pratt Foundation, Monash professor of psychological medicine Bruce
Tonge has been able to trial the talking cure and find signs that
Nearly 40 young people have so far been given free psychotherapy
and their responses matched with a control group. Professor Tonge
says the findings, although incomplete, are encouraging, with most
of those treated showing a response. Once the study is finished, he
plans to urge the State Government to put at least one
psychotherapeutically trained clinician in each of the state's
child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
Ms O'Byrne backs the idea, saying that Sally could have been at
risk without the program.
"Sally could easily have gone down," she said.
"And there are lots of Sallies out there. They don't see anyone
because the CAMHS are so under-resourced."