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The Black Dog Institute, based at the Prince of Wales Hospital in New South Wales, is an organisation dedicated towards raising clinical standards in diagnosing and treating mood disorders. It takes its name from the term used by Winston Churchill to describe his own episodes of depression, an illness from which he suffered for recurrent and prolonged periods.

The Institute is mainly funded by the New South Wales Government via the Centre for Mental Health. It is headed by Professor Gordon Parker, an internationally-renowned expert in the mood disorders, and its staff includes researchers, clinicians, educational, project and administrative officers.

The Institute builds on the strong research and clinical base of its predecessor, the Mood Disorders Unit, and expands its focus to include new areas of activity, including providing educational programs for general practitioners, psychologists and others, telepsychiatry, rural and remote clinics, population health approaches, and a Consumer & Community Resource Centre.

A key theme underpinning the Black Dog Institute’s work is the view that the mood disorders are complex conditions that are generally poorly understood and poorly treated. The Institute rejects the commonly used model for naming and treating depressive disorders – which views depression as one disorder, merely varying in its severity. Instead, it believes that there are distinct and different types of depression, each with their own features and causes, and that an accurate diagnosis of the individual’s particular sub-type is required in order for treatments to be rationally applied.

Consumer & Community Resource Centre

Why a Resource Centre?

What kind of information and resources the Consumer & Community Resource Centre will make available

Types of information to be made available

Off-site as well as on-site service


Other activities / events

Community groups working in the field of depression and mood disorders may be able
to use the premises for their own educational activities.

What the Resource Centre won’t be

What activities will consumers and the community be able to participate in or undertake themselves?

Consumer and community consultative framework



Consumer & Community Resource Centre
The Consumer & Community Resource Centre is an exciting new initiative being developed by the Institute. It will be an integral component of the Black Dog Institute and, it is hoped, will become the centre for excellence for community information about depression and mood disorders. It will aim to:

  • make available to consumers, carers and the community at large high quality, yet practical, information and other resources about depression and mood disorders;
  • develop strong links with consumers and the community, thereby allowing people who are affected first-hand to have substantial input into the resources and activities of the Institute;
  • coordinate a range of consumer, carer and community activities that help to promote an understanding of mood disorders as well as assist people in their recovery process.

    Why a Resource Centre?
    With its expert base of clinicians and researchers, the Institute was uniquely placed to be a central source of information on depressive illnesses. However, the thinking behind the Resource Centre was predominantly that it should be a consumer, carer and community-oriented centre, on the understanding that consumers and others experiencing a depressive illness first-hand are themselves a rich source of information and wisdom on the sort of information most needed by people experiencing such illnesses.

    The idea of having a Consumer Resource Centre arose soon after the launch of the Black Dog Institute in February 2002. The following month, a meeting of interested consumers was convened to discuss the idea and, since then, a smaller group has continued meeting to assist with the development of the Centre. In March 2003 the Institute appointed a Project Officer (Sue Grdovic) to help progress the Resource Centre. An overview plan for the Consumer & Community Resource Centre was developed in consultation with a broad range of persons and organisations and has been approved by the Board of the Black Dog Institute. Detailed implementation planning work is presently underway.

    The Resource Centre will not have a physical venue until the Black Dog Institute’s new premises are built, due by late 2004, but it is hoped certain elements of the Resource Centre will be operational by the middle of next year (notably the website). Other off-site activities, such as information sessions and public meetings will also be convened.

    What kind of information and resources the Consumer & Community Resource Centre will make available
    The Consumer & Community Resource Centre will primarily exist to assist people to obtain access to high quality information and other resources about depression and other mood disorders. In keeping with this overall aim, the Centre will have the following core areas of focus:

    1. Develop and provide information and other resources relating to mood disorders

    2. Provide a website tailored to the needs of consumers and the community, as a core element of the Institute’s overall website

    3. Convene information sessions and other activities to promote greater understanding of mood disorders within the community

    4. Develop links with consumers, carers and the community at large to enhance the work of the Institute and to facilitate Institute expertise reaching a wider audience.

    Types of information to be made available
    The kind of information that the Resource Centre will make available will include the following:

  • Information aimed at helping people understand and manage their illness, including available treatments, prepared by Institute staff.
  • Practical information for consumers and others on navigating the health system and what to expect when dealing with a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, hospital, again prepared by the Institute possibly in conjunction with consumers.
  • Consumer prepared information – with an emphasis on practical and helpful information on managing recovery; and on stories that are uplifting, ‘respiriting’ and constructive to others.
  • Information oriented specifically towards family members and friends.
  • Key documents relating to government mental health policy and legislation
  • Key referral information such as 24 hour mental health service contacts for people in distress.
  • Lists of organisations providing support groups.
  • Videos and books will also be available for loan, or perusing on site
  • Findings of research conducted by the Institute will be rewritten in consumer friendly language and made available.
  • Culturally appropriate materials will be developed in conjunction with Transcultural Mental Health Centre and Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and others.

    Off-site as well as on-site service
    The Resource Centre will be both an on-site as well as an off-site Centre in that people will be able to visit the Centre but it will primarily aim to provide information via telephone as well as via the Internet, regardless of where people live in NSW. Only a modest telephone enquiries service is proposed, given that such a service is already expertly provided by organisations such as the Mental Health Association of NSW and SANE Australia. It is not our intention to duplicate services but, instead, to focus on those areas where we can add real value.

    In terms of on-site facilities, people will be able to visit the Resource Centre to peruse materials on-site, search through web-based resources, or possibly speak to a consumer volunteer.

    The website will be a key information conduit. In addition to including core information about depression and mood disorders and how and where to get help, there will be provision for sharing consumer stories, helpful hints written by consumers, links to other reputable organisations, and frequently asked questions, among other categories of information. It is not our intention to have an interactive website, with message boards or chat rooms. Such a service is already provided through depressioNet, an excellent website devoted to sufferers of depression and their families and that hosts message boards and chat rooms.

    Other activities / events
    The Resource Centre will facilitate a range of activities and other events for consumers and others in the community. The kinds of events that have been considered to date include:

  • Information sessions on topics of general interest to consumers and others – presented by Institute experts, by external guest speakers, or by consumers or carers.
  • Annual events such as an art or writing competition – possibly in conjunction with an organisation such as the New South Wales Writer’s centre, to support consumers through their recovery process.
  • Training for consumers in areas of interest, such as advocacy, running support groups, and presentation skills. Such training could be run by consumers or others with particular expertise.
  • Occasional social activities, to support the work of the Resource Centre.

    Community groups working in the field of depression and mood disorders may be able to use the premises for their own educational activities.
    It is also hoped to develop a group of consumers and members of the community who would like to be involved in activities of the Institute and Resource Centre, which would be called the Black Dog Consumer and Community Group. This group would receive news of events and happenings and possibly be involved in other Institute activities such as research, other in-house activities or public events. The Black Dog Consumer and Community Group would also meet periodically to gather broader input into Resource Centre activities.

    What the Resource Centre won’t be
    The Consumer and Community Resource Centre will not be a counselling service, drop-in centre or a convenor of support groups, although support will be provided for support groups such as training, links, or support materials. Nor will it be a mental health advisory service or a source of alternative health care. People who approach the centre seeking treatment will be given appropriate information and directed to one of the mainstream mental health services.

    What activities will consumers and the community be able to participate in or undertake themselves?
    Consumers and the general community will be able to participate in or carry out a range of activities within the Resource Centre, including obtaining access to resources of particular interest to consumers (and to support consumer advocacy work); attending or convening information sessions; convening a support group; and developing other projects of interest to consumers. Consumers and others will also be invited to prepare information and resources for sharing with other consumers via the Internet or in printed form, subject to protocols to be developed by BDI for publishing of consumer-prepared information.

    Consumer and community consultative framework
    To facilitate consumer and community input into the Resource Centre, an Advisory Committee will be established, initially on a trial basis for 12 months.

    It is proposed that the Advisory Committee be composed of consumer and carer representatives, a member of a community organisation (such as Anxiety Disorders Alliance, Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill, or a local community group); a representative of a peak mental health organisation; representatives of the Black Dog Institute; and 2 open positions to be filled on a temporary basis and as the need arises by people whose expertise in a particular area is needed.

    The consumer, carer, community and peak mental health NGO members of the Committee would be selected by inviting expressions of interest and a selection process. The Board of the BDI would have final responsibility for selecting members. Members would serve for 1 year, after which time a fresh selection process would occur.

    The role of the Advisory Committee would be to:

  • Provide consumer, carer and community input into the resources and activities developed for the Resource Centre;
  • Suggest future projects and activities that could be carried out by or through the Resource Centre;
  • Develop and coordinate suggestions for projects and activities conducted by consumers and others, on BDI premises;
  • Coordinate and provide feedback on Resource Centre and Black Dog Institute activities.

    It is hoped that fruitful links will develop with other key organisations operating in the mental health field, including the Mental Health Association, the Transcultural Mental Health Centre, Carers’ NSW, and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, among others.

    The Institute is excited about the Consumer and Community Resource Centre and believes it should bring a number of benefits:

  • It will make a significant contribution to mental health literacy within the community at large by being a source of reliable, high quality information about depression and mood disorders.
  • It will operate as the ‘public face’ of the Black Dog Institute, thereby helping to promote the Black Dog Institute, and providing a mechanism for Black Dog Institute literature and materials to reach a wider audience.
  • It will both encourage and facilitate consumer and community contact with the Black Dog Institute – thereby allowing Black Dog Institute researchers and staff to benefit from consumer and community input and allowing consumers and the community to benefit from greater interaction with BDI.

    To find out more about the Resource Centre, or to share any ideas you may have, contact Sue Grdovic (the Project Officer for the Resource Centre) on 02 9382 4516.


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