Common problems bring Melbourne-Shenzhen Together

Shenzhen Kangning Hospital came to Melbourne to explore the ways mental health care is delivered to people with mental illness in Victoria, with a special focus on homeless services.

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A gleaming cityscape, vibrant economy and boundless optimism are key features of China’s third wealthiest city, Shenzhen. It is these characteristics that have drawn nearly 13 million mostly young male migrants from other provinces and cities to Shenzhen to look for work and begin new lives.

Officially registered outside of the city, Shenzhen’s enormous “floating” population is creating a huge burden for the city government, including a pressing need to deal with a growing homelessness crisis. Many of these young people, cut off from regular support of families and friends, and perhaps already unwell are living on the streets, some with serious mental health conditions.

The only public psychiatric hospital available to deal with the total population of 20 million is Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, which sent a delegation of four hospital leaders to Melbourne from 22-24 February, to learn from the Melbourne experience.

Hosted by the Department of Psychiatry and led by Professor Chiyi Hu, Deputy Director of Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, the delegation explored the ways mental health care is delivered to people with mental illness in Victoria, with a special focus on homeless services.

The Shenzhen delegation visited the Melbourne Clinic and St. Vincent’s Mental Health to explore the different mental health service operating models in both private and public sectors. Delegates were inspired by the range and depth of community outreach programs operated by both private and public providers and realised the importance of multi-disciplinary teams to deliver care efficiently. Meeting with outreach team leaders from NorthWestern Mental Health Service, the delegates gained first-hand knowledge of methods used working with homeless people with mental illness.

A best practice service is always integrated with evidence based research. The delegation also met with senior professors in the Department of Psychiatry to explore the opportunities to conduct collaborative research. Biomarkers in schizophrenia, addiction neuroscience, and neurodevelopmental disorders have been identified as research priorities. Research Fellows will arrive in September 2017 to take up six-month research training placements within the Department.

At the end of the visit, Professor Chiyi Hu commented: “This visit has strengthened our ongoing collaboration between Shenzhen and Melbourne both in clinical practice and research. It has helped us focus and prioritise the many urgent mental health needs in Shenzhen. We are very pleased that the Department of Psychiatry continues to provide the training and support we need in order to provide the best mental health services possible to people with mental health disorders in Shenzhen.”

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Yue Li

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