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From Edinburgh to Frankston – the psychiatrist passionate about helping people with mental illness

Clinical Director of Mental Health Richard Newton

Experienced psychiatrist, keen fly fisherman and Peninsula local, Associate Professor Richard Newton, has re-joined the team at Peninsula Health as our new Clinical Director of Mental Health.

“Part of what drives me is trying to improve services to people in the community with significant mental health problems,” explains Richard, who has returned after almost a decade away at Austin Health.

“I’d prefer to be doing that within my own community.”

There have been many changes to the mental health service since Richard left.  The Adult and Youth Prevention and Recovery Care facilities have opened, the Adult Acute Inpatient Mental Health ward 2 West has undergone a major refurbishment and the purpose-built Psychiatric Assessment and Planning Unit (PAPU) has also opened. 

“It’s interesting coming back nine years later and all of these things are in place,” says Richard.

“There’s a terrific group of staff – it’s nice seeing some old faces but there’s also some new people coming through who are passionate and committed.”

Richard has been helping people with mental illness since he first started his medical training in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“I’ve always wanted to be a psychiatrist since I went into the clinical part of my medical school training,” recalls the Chair of the Victorian Branch of the College of Psychiatrists.

“Medical students get a four month elective period to go and study somewhere else and I came to Melbourne and worked in mental health.”

After returning to Scotland to finish his training, Richard has spent the majority of his career working in Australia.

One of the first items on his agenda at Peninsula Health is to build stronger relationships with GPs, non-government organisations in the area and Mental Health Community Support Services.

“One of the tragedies in mental health is if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia or a major psychotic illness then your life expectancy is potentially shortened by 15-20 years because of the increased risk of physical illnesses,” explains Richard.

“It is a call to arms we have to respond to.”

“We need to make sure that our patients, many of whom struggle to access GPs and do health promotion and prevention activities for themselves, get access to properly targeted general health and wellbeing services so their risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease is reduced.”

September 14 isR U Ok? Day’, which aims to raise awareness of mental illness and encourages people to ask each other how they are feeling and have open, judgement free conversations.

Richard believes while there has been a big improvement in awareness of mental health and mental illness in the community, there is still more to be done.

“I really want to reduce stigma and discrimination against people with significant psychiatric illness.”

 “One of the big attractions for me coming back to Peninsula Health is the huge body of work that’s been done to ensure that Peninsula Health is truly welcoming for diverse groups within the community.”

You can find out more about Peninsula Health’s Mental Health Service online here.

Ask R U OK?

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental illness, you can contact Peninsula Health’s Mental Health Triage Service 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1300 792 977.
You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.