News > MHPN in conversation with Professor Mark Creamer

MHPN in conversation with Professor Mark Creamer

On his vision for the series, behind-the-scenes of podcasting in lockdown, and key insights of ‘Trauma and Resilience’.

Last year MHPN released its inaugural podcast “MHPN Presents” with two key series: ‘Ageing Well’ and ‘Trauma and Resilience’. In 2021, we are releasing three new episodes for the Trauma and Resilience series; and another series will be announced soon. We caught up with trauma expert Professor Mark Creamer, host and presenter of Trauma and Resilience, to discuss his vision for the series; and the insights gained through producing the series’ three episodes.

Trauma and Resilience is a six-episode series exploring trauma and post-traumatic mental health. Featured guests include trauma experts, mental health practitioners, and individuals with lived experience of traumatic events. In the first three episodes, listeners learn about the history of the field; the nexus between trauma and mental health; and strategies to increase resilience. The latest three episodes explore treatment for and recovery from, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In episodes 4 and 5, listeners learn about the benefits of trauma-focussed therapies as well as the ongoing debate surrounding the efficacy of pharmacological, emerging, and alternative treatment options. In episode 6, listeners hear from individuals with lived experience as they discuss their traumatic events and respective recovery processes.

As a frequent and skilled facilitator of MHPN’s webinars, Professor Mark Creamer was excited to work with the MHPN Presents team as the series’ host and presenter for Trauma and Resilience. In contrast to webinars, Mark observes that podcasts are a “more contained” platform with less focus on live audience participation. Although podcasts offer limited opportunities for live engagement, Mark notes the advantages of podcasts when enacting interdisciplinary practice through discussion:

[Podcasts allow hosts] to have a bit more control of the discussion, to explore topical issues in more depth, and to have the time to build up the relationship between the host, guests, and listeners.

Given MHPN’s focus on strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration, Mark was conscious of ensuring each episode accommodated listeners from diverse disciplines, areas of expertise, knowledge, and practices. Balancing over three decades’ working knowledge of post-traumatic mental health alongside the insights and contributions from other experts was a key challenge that required careful consideration during the series’ production and post-production. In reflecting on his early conceptualisation of the series, Mark notes:  

What I wanted to do, first of all, was to set some ground information; to make sure that we’re all working off information on the same platform. There’s a danger sometimes in jumping straight into treatment without really understanding what the [traumatic] reactions are, how they develop, and why they develop in some people and not others. I think that kind of background information is quite important before we then go on and think about how we might help someone. The first three episodes are dedicated to [exploring] background information and the second three episodes look at treatment and recovery.

Mark and the MHPN Presents team had initially anticipated recording and producing the series together in person. However, due to COVID-19 transmission risks in Melbourne, it was collaboratively produced at a distance in line with state government directives. Despite some initial production concerns, Mark acknowledges that the physical distance revealed new opportunities for inviting and interviewing international guests:

“[Through video calls] I could just as easily talk to someone in New York or Los Angeles or London, as I could talk to someone who was in Melbourne. So [the limitations] opened it up completely, and allowed me to call on my international colleagues. Personally, I think it worked really well.” 

In episode 6 - the latest episode of the series - listeners hear from three guests with lived experience of diverse traumatic events. The episode expands upon the series’ earlier focus on clinical understandings of trauma through integrating firsthand accounts of trauma, PTSD, and the recovery process. According to Mark, it was invaluable to the series’ exploration of post-traumatic mental wellbeing to involve lived experience accounts. As Mark observes: 

“Everyone's reaction to a traumatic experience or potentially traumatic experience is different, therefore [practitioners and individuals] must be very careful not to judge people too quickly and say that they should be coping better because the reasons why they are reacting are so complex”. 

Mark’s sentiments are echoed in recent publications that similarly call for meaningful integration of lived experience within Australia’s mental health system. The Productivity Commission’s recent inquiry report on mental health emphasises the need for a National Stigma Reduction Strategy which “[relies] on the leadership and direction of people with lived experience, including as national ambassadors for mental health”. Similarly, the recent report by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System acknowledges the ongoing need to consult and centre individuals with lived experience in the development of treatment pathways for trauma.

In the context of increasing interest in, and public conversation on trauma and mental health in Australia, episode 6 of Trauma and Resilience offers an insightful account from three individuals with lived experience. While Mark acknowledges that trauma is an emotionally-charged topic, he is optimistic that ongoing public interest in the field will continue to drive awareness of trauma, its impact on mental wellbeing, and its prevalence as a common experience shared by many of us throughout our lives. Thinking back on the series’ main aims, Mark hopes that mental health practitioners from all disciplines will find the episodes informative, engaging, and useful for their practice.

Above all, Mark hopes to leave listeners with three key learnings: 

“Firstly, there’s no right or wrong way to respond when you’ve gone through a very frightening or distressing event - everyone’s reaction is different.

Secondly, the reasons why some people develop problems and others don’t come down to a very complex interaction of all sorts of different factors [unique to individuals], both pre-trauma, during trauma, and since the trauma. 

Thirdly, I [would like to] leave people with some hope that we’ve made enormous progress in terms of being able to treat these conditions successfully and I would encourage both people who have been through trauma and those who are working with survivors of trauma to make sure that they get access to evidence-based treatment and as early as possible.”

Want to hear more? Episode 4 of Trauma and Resilience will be available for listening on Wednesday 24 March 2021 with episode 5 and 6 released weekly thereafter. You can listen to all MHPN Presents series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and our website.

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