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Friday, 2 October 2015

Cold case: Malaysian tribe schizophrenia research revived

A 20-year research project into schizophrenia among Malaysian tribal Iban people has been resurrected thanks to a University of Adelaide visiting researcher.

Professor Cecilia Essau, the only Iban-speaking academic psychologist, visiting from the University of Roehampton, was invited to complete the work of late Professor Robert Barrett, a prominent University of Adelaide researcher.

Between 1986 and 2006, Professor Barrett investigated the indicators of schizophrenia in Iban people. He lived among them in remote farms in Sarawak, Malaysia, and collected medical records and first-hand video accounts of Iban people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia before he suddenly passed away in 2007.

Speaking in the lead up to Mental Health Week (4-10 October), Professor Essau says she has made some fascinating discoveries about the unique community and how they manage mental health issues.

“There is no word for ‘schizophrenia’ among the Iban people, therefore it is important to understand how the patients and their families talk about the illness,” says Professor Essau.

“The main health issues they talk about are physical illnesses such as headaches, insomnia, fever and red eyes; aggressive behaviour; wandering around and restlessness; and silly behaviour.

“Patients talk about their various health and behavioural concerns, without realising that they may be suffering from a mental health condition,” she says.

Professor Essau says culture plays a key role in how mental health conditions manifest in individuals and this is no more obvious than in the Iban people.

“Iban people live in ‘long houses’ which are home to whole families, including extended families. Immediate family members often share one room and the whole family comes together in a common room,” says Professor Essau.

“They also live in the jungle and are surrounded by animals. And I believe it is these surroundings that lead many of those suffering from schizophrenia to have powerful hallucinations involving animals. These hallucinations are so strong they have, at times, led people to harm themselves and others,” she says.

Professor Essau says these findings could make a significant contribution to academic understanding of schizophrenia in general.

“This has been a very rewarding project to work on because I have been able to learn more about my own culture,” says Professor Essau.

“Our findings so far suggest that the manifestation of schizophrenic symptoms is shaped by the belief system and traditions of the culture in which the person lives.

“However, there is still so much more to discover from this data, which could make a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex nature of schizophrenia,” she says.

Professor Essau and her research collaborator, Professor Anna Chur-Hansen, Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide, will be preparing an academic paper on her findings. [Full Story]

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lecture to commemorate the late, great Graeme Hugo AO

A memorial lecture to celebrate the life and work of the esteemed social demographer and the former director of the University of Adelaide's Australian Population & Migration Research Centre, the late Professor Graeme Hugo AO, will be hosted by the University on Wednesday 7 October. [Full Story]

Thursday, 1 October 2015

International rankings success for Uni of Adelaide

The University of Adelaide has again moved up the prestigious Times Higher Education international rankings released today, breaking into the top 150 for the first time. [Full Story]

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

What will it take to transform Adelaide into a Smart City?

A free public event bringing together members of business, government and academia will discuss the key opportunities and challenges ahead for Adelaide to become known as a truly "Smart City". [Full Story]

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Men at work: study probing fathers' work-life balance

The work-life balance of Adelaide fathers, and the culture of companies in which they work, is at the centre of new University of Adelaide research. [Full Story]

Upcoming Events

The Return

Saturday, 3 October 2015 - Saturday, 17 October 2015, 7:30 pm to 9:15 pm
Little Theatre, The Cloisters, North Terrace Campus

2015 Marjoribanks Oration

Tuesday, 6 October 2015, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Napier G04, North Terrace

Professor Graeme Hugo AO Memorial Lecture

Wednesday, 7 October 2015, 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Bonython Hall

Cultural and Familial Aspects of Anxiety in Children & Adolescents: Implication for Prevention

Wednesday, 7 October 2015, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Stirling Lecture Theatre, Medical School South, University of Adelaide

Urrbrae House Free Public Tour

Thursday, 8 October 2015, 11:00 am to 12:15 pm
Urrbrae House, Walter Young Drive, Waite Campus

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