Program targets personality disorders 

A university of Wollongong project is helping make the world a brighter place for people with personality disorders, those who treat them and those who love them.

More than 150 people with personality disorders from across the state are enrolled in the university’s Project Air Strategy which is in the middle of a three-year run.

The treatment guidelines developed for the program, which is funded by NSW Health, were up for discussion at a conference at the university attended by international experts in the field yesterday.

The project veers away from the traditional approach which focuses on inpatient management and medications, instead adopting practical solutions such as psychological therapy and community awareness campaigns.

‘‘Personality disorders affect around 6 per cent of the population,’’ UOW project leader Professor Brin Grenyer said.

‘‘The main aim of the project is to provide better treatment for those who are often overlooked, and who may have received an inconsistent response from mental health services in the past.

‘‘So we are putting systems in place to manage and treat personality disorders.

‘‘We are also working on strategies to help carers and families become more involved with the rehabilitation of clients.’’

Prof Grenyer said NSW Health was funding the project as people with personality disorders presented in large numbers to emergency departments.

‘‘Preliminary findings from the project have been very good – there’s been a significant improvement in mental health staff confidence and skills and changes in attitude,’’ he said.

‘‘Clients are having significant reductions in the number of problems suffered and family and carers are feeling more engaged and empowered.’’

New Zealand academic Professor Roger Mulder, co-chair of the World Health Organisation Committee on Personality Disorders, said the UOW pilot program was among world’s best practice.

‘‘The university, and Australia, is leading the way in setting up services to help people with personality disorders,’’ Prof Mulder said.

‘‘It complements the trend we’ve seen over the past five years, which has been to have structured treatments with clear goals and clear plans, and less use of medication because it often doesn’t work.’’

Prof Mulder said personality disorders were characterised by ‘‘persistent behavioural and emotional difficulties’’ and there were two main types.

‘‘Antisocial personality disorder is where people disregard social obligations and conventions, and sometimes leads to criminal behaviour,’’ he said.

‘‘Borderline personality disorder is where people often revert to self-harm and have very intense and difficult interpersonal relationships.’’

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