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Why have suicide rates increased in many countries with 25% or more in the past years? Can psychiatric disorders be reduced to brain disorders? Is the DSM a valid diagnostic system? How can we stop the ever increasing burden and health care costs associated with psychiatric disorders?

Detail Summary
Date 12 July 2016
Time 13:00 - 17:00

The goal of this interactive symposium is to candidly discuss these and other difficult questions in psychiatry as well as opportunities and possibilities for change. Keynote speaker Patrick McGorry will talk about his successful reform of mental health care in Australia, for which he became Australian of the year in 2010. Editor-in-Chief of the progressive journal The Lancet Psychiatry will go into the multidisciplinary problem of suicide. Dorien Nieman will combine neuroscience, philosophy and art to address fundamental questions underlying psychiatric research and practice. Last, Jacqueline A-Tjak will talk about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy of which the objective is not happiness, but rather to be present with what life brings us, either positive or negative. The symposium is concluded by a discussion with the participants.   

The symposium is open to all


13.00-13.10 Welcome Dorien Nieman

Keynote lecture Patrick McGorry (University of Melbourne and Orygen)

The awakening giant of mental health: Equity, economics and the electorate


Niall Boyce (The Lancet Psychiatry)

The problem of suicide

14.45-15.15 Coffee break

Dorien Nieman (AMC)

Prevention in mental health care: Time for a new approach


Jacqueline A-Tjak (PsyQ and UvA)

Psychology of living

16.25-17.00     Discussion



13.10-14.10 Patrick McGorry

Title: The awakening giant of mental health: Equity, economics and the electorate

When people experience mental illness they face a form of health system apartheid, with quite different levels of access and quality on offer compared to that which the very same people can expect when they develop cancer or other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is a form of self-harm inflicted by society on itself. Many young people on the threshold of productive adult life are consigned to premature death, to the economic scrapheap or, more subtly, to a life of unnecessary suffering and underachievement. Economists have demonstrated that among the NCDs, mental illness contributes the most to reductions in gross domestic product. Most government spending on the mentally ill is not spent on direct care but on the costs of failure, notably welfare benefits and incarceration. This fiscal self-harm is compounded by an annual wave of preventable suicide. The solution is simple. We should insist on the same pattern of care as in other NCDs. Strong prevention strategies, early diagnosis, secure tenure within specialized community care as long as needed, models of care that are attractive, engaging, evidence-creating; and last but not least, equity in medical research funding to bring precision medicine and new discoveries to psychiatry. With up to 50% of humans experiencing mental ill health directly during their lives, and almost everyone being touched indirectly, the giant exists and can be awoken politically. What is needed is sophisticated political organization free of the soft bigotry of low expectations, deployment of social and traditional media, an army of voices from the grass roots.

Bio: Professor Patrick McGorry is the Executive Director of Orygen, Professor of Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne, and a Director of the Board of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. He is a world-leading researcher and clinical psychiatrist in the area of early psychosis and youth mental health, and has a strong interest in promoting the mental health of the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers. He has published extensively (over 400 publications) in the specialist literature, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Early Intervention in Psychiatry. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the current President of the Society for Mental Health Research, and the President of the Schizophrenia International Research Society. In January 2010 he was named Australian of the Year for his reform of mental health care, which included the implementation of over 70 headspace centers (for more information see Furthermore, he was honored in 2013 with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Scientific Research Award, the first time the award has been bestowed upon a researcher outside of the USA.

14.10-14.45 Niall Boyce

Title: The problem of suicide

All societies must face the problem of suicide. Attitudes towards it have evolved throughout history; today there is international variation not only in cultural views on suicide, but also in terms of overall rates, at-risk populations, legal issues, and the means through which people end their lives. A global problem in terms of scale and impact, suicide poses a unique conundrum to clinicians, researchers, and society. Suicide prevention research spans the domains of psychology, neuroscience, and epidemiology, and there is promise that this multidisciplinary approach will lead to a comprehensive picture of the trait, state, and environmental risks that result in death by suicide. However, given the difficulties of testing suicide prevention measures through randomised controlled trials, researchers must devise alternative strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of clinical interventions. Additional challenges come from the implementation of population-level measures to restrict means and address the social and economic factors that contribute to suicide risk. Suicide prevention also encompasses numerous ethical issues for policy-makers and clinicians. Collaboration and discussion between clinical specialties, service users, governments, the media, and voluntary organisations is essential.

Bio: Dr. Niall Boyce was educated at Olchfa Comprehensive School in Swansea, Wales. He studied medicine at Oxford University, and obtained a PhD in physiology from King’s College, London. He trained in psychiatry on the north London scheme, including jobs in old age, forensic, and liaison psychiatry. Niall joined The Lancet as Senior Editor in 2010, and launched The Lancet Psychiatry in 2014 as founding Editor.  He has a longstanding interest in the crossover between physical and mental illness, suicide research, trauma, and the role of the arts in expressing and exploring the nature of mental health problems.

15.15-15.50 Dorien Nieman

Title: Prevention in mental health care: Time for a new approach

Although in the western world about 1 in 4 suffers from a psychiatric disorder in a given year, these disorders are still poorly understood. The first part of the presentation focuses on limitations in current psychiatric practice and research. On the one hand inevitable psychological difficulties that people encounter in their life are labelled as an illness and treated with medication whereas on the other hand, curative treatment possibilities of severe mental disorders are scarce. The second part of the presentation describes possibilities and opportunities for change based on recent research in psychiatry as well as on insights from philosophy and the arts. In the conclusion, a new model of mental health care is proposed with an emphasis on prevention and natural recovery.  The presentation follows the contents of the book in press with Routledge with the same title, for more information see

Bio: Dr. Dorien Nieman is a registered Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Cognition lab at the Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, where she has worked since 1996. She has (co)authored more than 80 articles in (inter)national journals, several book-chapters and two books on topics such as psychotherapy, biomarkers, prediction and prevention of psychiatric disorders.

15.50-16.25 Jacqueline A-Tjak

Title: Psychology of living

Most theoretical models of psychological treatment are based on the assumption of mental illness. Western society underscores the idea that something is wrong with the psychological functioning of those who seek treatment and what is wrong needs to be fixed. Stemming from the philosophy of science called functional contextualism, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has a different take on what brings people to therapy. ACT claims that people get stuck in life because of behavioral processes that have emerged as part of our evolution. Language, or the capability to interact with our surroundings in a symbolical way is one of those processes. Not just patients, but all humans can get stuck in meaning transferred through the conventional use of language. It may lead to exponential increase of avoidance and specifically, avoidance of internal experiences. ACT processes of psychological flexibility can help people redirect their behavior from excessive avoidance and fusion with (self-depreciating) thoughts to live in accordance with overarching goals that form an inexhaustible source of positive reinforcement, giving meaning to life.


Bio: Jacqueline A-Tjak works at PsyQ in Zaandam and was educated at the Amsterdam Free University in clinical psychology. She is a registered Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist and has worked in inpatient and outpatient facilities, with patients with anxiety disorders, depression and personality disorders.  She was trained in CBT and started her ACT training in 2004. She has been trained by many different ACT trainers, amongst which Steven Hayes, Kirk Strosahl and Kelly Wilson, founders of ACT and she became a peer reviewed ACT trainer. At present she is performing a PhD project comparing ACT and CBT in patients with a major depressive disorder in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam.

Roeterseilandcampus - gebouw J/K
Roeterseilandcampus - gebouw J/K

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