How to better include families in the treatment and recovery process for young people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) was the focus of a one-day conference recently held at Orygen.
The conference featured leaders in the field of personality disorder with presentations on genetic and environmental contributors to BPD, approaches to early intervention, relational clinical care, an overview of service programs, digital interventions and a range of perspectives from family members and those with lived experience.
Professor Andrew Chanen, Orygen’s director of clinical programs and services, said usually conferences on BPD were aimed at either clinicians or families and those with lived experience.
“This conference aimed to bridge a gap by including family members, supporters and those living with BPD to join with clinicians in hearing from international and local experts on new evidence and approaches in the field of BPD,” Professor Chanen said.
“BPD is a serious mental illness that is estimated to affect up to three per cent of the population, equally in males and females.
“People experiencing BPD can encounter difficulty managing emotions, and their relationships, effectively. They can also have problems with impulsivity, with their sense of self, their thinking, and with feeling suicidal,” he said.
Dr Louise McCutcheon, family worker and joint founder of HYPE, Orygen’s prevention and early intervention program for young people with BPD, said our mental health services are not fit for purpose, and many with BPD do not receive treatment and are turned away.
“Orygen’s early intervention program, Helping Young People Early (HYPE) has demonstrated that time-limited treatment, early in the course of the disorder, can make a difference,” Dr McCutcheon said.
“When your loved one receives the diagnosis of BPD it can feel especially alienating and painful.
“There are many misunderstandings about BPD that result in stigma and difficulty accessing the care that is needed. Even when a person is offered care and treatment for BPD, their family and supporters often feel excluded from the process,” she said.
Brigit, a youth mental health advocate who attended the conference, said parents, siblings, care-givers and significant others who are on the frontline 365 days a year have valuable insights to share with clinicians and researchers.
“It is important for services to support and include family members and caregivers in the treatment of the person with BPD. This will promote the best recovery from what can be a harrowing and life-threatening path,” Brigit said.
Professor Andrew Chanen said the success of the day was undoubtedly the focus on family perspectives.
“Involving parents was not an afterthought. We can’t make progress with complex problems such as BPD without including everyone,” Professor Chanen said.