Prof Jackie Curtis describes her mental health reform career in Margaret Tobin Oration

June 6, 2023
Keeping the Body in Mind Mental Health Psychosis

1 June 2023

The Executive Director of Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, Professor Jackie Curtis, delivered the prestigious Margaret Tobin Oration at the annual Congress of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Perth on June 1, describing her journey of research and advocacy for appropriate physical healthcare for people living with psychosis.

The Margaret Tobin Award was established in 2003 as a tribute to the memory of mental health reformer Dr Margaret Tobin, and honours special achievement in administrative psychiatry.

Professor Curtis described her journey in developing the Keeping the Body in Mind program, to safeguard the physical health of people taking anti-psychotic medications, at a community mental health clinic in Bondi, in eastern Sydney. This small local project later ignited into an international movement that has transformed service delivery, with the development of the Healthy Active Lives (HeAL) Declaration, the International physical health in Youth stream (iphYs) and the national Equally Well campaign.

“Our achievement in physical healthcare in psychosis was accidental in that we stumbled on something critically important,” she told the bi-national audience of psychiatrists. “But it was also intentional; our guiding principle was a deep focus on consumers, and we refused to accept compromised physical health as just an unfortunate by-product of treatment.”

Professor Curtis urged psychiatrists to become involved in quality improvement research, being vigilant about their patients’ outcomes and adjusting their treatments accordingly.

The full text of Professor Curtis’s Margaret Tobin Oration is available on then Croakey Health Media website.

A/Prof Curtis said she had been influenced in her choice of career by the experience of a family member with schizophrenia who died prematurely.

People who live with severe mental illness are some of the most vulnerable in our community and we have an obligation as a society to ensure they can live as well as possible, she said. It has been exceptionally rewarding to see the work that I and my colleagues are doing in physical health care adopted across Australia and internationally, and I am honoured to be recognised in this way by the NSW Mental Health Commission.