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In The News

Changing tune, Carr tackles blues with millions for depression
12th February 2002
From section: News and Features
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald. Reproduced by Permission

Almost three years after arguing against the concept, the Premier, Bob Carr, will today announce the establishment of a scientific institute to tackle depression.

The Black Dog Institute will be set up on the campus of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick with the help of $8.2million in government funding.

Named after the ``black dog" moods than Winston Churchill would complain of when depression hit, the institute will be a research, treatment and training facility. Diagnostic and educational services will be provided to rural NSW via an electronic telepsychiatry service.

Its establishment comes amid an increasing focus on the problem of depression in Australia and overseas.

According to the Federal Government, the World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2020 depression will be the second biggest health problem in the world behind heart disease.

GPs in Australia last year reported depression as the fourth most common problem they dealt with in their practices, and almost 800,000 Australian adults will experience depression every year.

In July 1999, Mr Carr cautioned against the establishment of a national institute to tackle depression, as suggested by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, saying it would have too narrow a focus.

Depression was one of several mental illnesses and it made sense for them to be considered together in a national institute of mental health, Mr Carr argued.

``A specific institute on depression could also result in arguments for separate institutes for other mental disorders," he wrote in the Herald.

``This would mean competition, rather than co-operation, among research groups."

Mr Carr's proposal for a broader institute was not picked up at the time and instead a new national depression initiative has been established called beyondblue, with a brief to assist in the education, treatment and management of depression.

Last night, Mr Carr said the Government had since been persuaded by experts that depression was the biggest health issue facing the nation.

``Its scale justifies the specific institute and its work differs from the Kennett beyondblue initiative," Mr Carr said.

The Black Dog Institute will build on the work of the existing University of NSW Mood Disorders Research Centre and a clinical unit, and will work in collaboration with NSW Health.

Its priorities will include educating and training doctors and other professionals, and drawing up treatment guidelines. A think tank will develop and test services to address problems such as youth suicide.

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