Professor Pat McGorry is a leading psychiatrist, researcher and mental health advocate. He is executive director of Orygen Youth Health, president of the International Association for Youth Mental Health, founder of Australians for Mental Health and founding board member for Headspace Australia. In this episode, Pat shares the defining factors that led him to be so passionate about the youth mental health field, and how he uses his expertise to mentor others.
“You identify with certain aspects of a mentor, you see that you would like to be like that… you identify and take in some of those qualities and try to evolve your style and personality.”
Daisy Winney 0:00
Welcome to the Mondo mentor podcast, a place where we connect with some amazing people to reveal how you might be just one connection away.
I’m your host Daisy Winney and today I’m here with Professor Pat McGorry, leading psychiatrist, researcher and youth mental health advocate. Pat is executive director of Orygen Youth Health, president of the International Association for Youth Mental Health, founder of Australians for Mental Health and founding board member for Headspace Australia. Welcome, Pat. And thank you for talking to us at Mondo Mentor.
Pat McGorry 0:50
Hey, Daisy, how are you? Just went for a swim.
Daisy Winney 0:52
Good started your morning off right?
Pat McGorry 0:54
Yeah, good to wake up so I can talk to you.
Daisy Winney 0:57
Exactly! Alright, so thank you for talking to us this morning at Mondo Mentor. So I guess the first question I wanted to ask you is what actually led you to become a psychiatrist and to be interested in mental health? Were there any defining factors?
Pat McGorry 1:11
Well, I was a medical students in the 1970s. And at that time, there was a lot of anti-psychiatry literature and thinking, because, you know, psychiatry was still done in a very crude and 19th century type way with asylums, and, you know, very neglected, rundown sort of approach. And it was, it was definitely, even though as part of medicine and healthcare, it was, it was like an apartheid system, really, you know, just two sets of approaches, the quality of the of the staff, was very sort of variable. And a lot of these issues still persist. But it was so striking, just from a human rights perspective, that something needed to be done with areas, I was a bit reluctant, because I thought, I don’t want to be part of a system like that. So I looked at ways that you could do it work in the area differently, but they didn’t seem to be very soundly based, you know, they weren’t based on evidence or science or, or even sort of a body of knowledge, really. So I decided, when I was training in medicine, internal medicine in Newcastle, they set up a new medical school, and it was a very inspirational Professor of Psychiatry, Beverly rafail, it was very humane and compassionate person. And, and they started a new training scheme for, you know, to specialise in psychiatry there as part of that new medical school. So I thought I’d give it a go. And, you know, I suppose I got the opportunity later on, into to begin to try to change things. So in a way, if you want, if you want to reform things you’ve got to be involved is what I concluded, and I was very attracted to it. Because, you know, it’s, it’s so it’s so tied up with being a human being, you know, that you can have mental health problems and trying to understand why they happen, how, you know, major illnesses like schizophrenia occur, what, it really is such a fundamental thing and fix the very heart of what we are as human beings. And yet, yet, you know, to understand it better, and to be able to help people in a more effective way seem to be a, you know, an incredibly powerful thing to do.
Daisy Winney 3:12
Definitely. And have you ever had a mentor in your life? I know, you just mentioned Beverly, from where you studied in Newcastle, was she a mentor to you, or was there anyone else?
Unknown Speaker 3:21
Yeah, there, I had a couple actually, who were academic psychiatrists, you know, you saw the people who were just straight clinical psychiatrists, probably, that would be, I think, quite a hard life if you didn’t have any other variety in it. So. And also, I could see that the way these people were positioned with, you know, teaching and research and clinical care as part of their sort of skill sets and roles, that that’s the way you can influence and change things too. And it was it was, it was a curiosity and wanting to learn and discover more things, you know, whereas a straight clinician probably just is just providing services and care, which is also, I love doing and it’s probably my favourite thing still. So they were they were role models, and also, mentors for me both Beverly Rafael and Bruce Singh, who’s one of the other academic psychiatrists in Newcastle at the time.
Daisy Winney 4:12
And you’ve had obviously many achievements throughout your career, including Australian of the Year in 2010, being one of them. In what ways do you think these mentors contributed to this success?
Pat McGorry 4:23
Well, I think both of them were, they were people who could respect and have affection for and respect for psychiatrists is still an issue. You know, our colleagues and the rest of medicine don’t give psychiatrists enough respect as equal specialists, if I can put it that way. So there’s a pecking order. So there were people who could respect and suppose I was, even though I’ve been a pretty good student all the way through school and medical school. I didn’t have enough self belief, I suppose. It took me a number of years to get that and both of those people helped me to develop self belief and confidence that I could do things, you know, so, but I always had, you know, even from being a young adolescent, even a sense of social justice and wanting to change things, you know, like a sort of, I don’t know how to describe it, altruistic, sort of, you know, and I grew up in the 1960s, when students were writing all around the world, there were revolutions happening in 1968, in particular, you know, in the communist block, and also in the US, and, and in Europe. So it was a very turbulent time, when I started, I was impressed by, you know, the need for, you know, a revolution in the way things are done and change and reform. So, I always had a feeling for those things, but I’d probably didn’t quite have the confidence about the mentorship to, to really go for it.
Daisy Winney 5:50
Yeah. And now as an advocate yourself, for mental health, especially amongst youth, how important do you think it is for you to now take what you’ve learned from your mentors to become a mentor yourself for the people that you cross paths with?
Pat McGorry 6:03
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I mean, I’ve tried to do that, like, I’ve established this, obviously, with a lot of help from whole cohorts of people. But we’ve developed this thing called Orygen, which is a Medical Research Institute for Youth Mental Health in Melbourne and we provide a lot of care and education, and policy, or a whole lot of other things in that Institute, as well. But in the 20 years, that that’s been in existence, we have created, and they’ve created themselves as well, of course, but 12 full professors have emerged from that sort of process. So and I think I played a mentorship role with, you know, a number of those quite a number of those people really, in different ways. And, and I’ve also worked with people like minded people around the world who, you know, younger colleagues who have come to work with us, and then gone back to their countries and, and, and they’ve taken on leadership roles in early intervention and youth mental health in their own countries. So I suppose, without, without sort of consciously sort of devoting, say, a day a week to mentorship, you know, it’s been a process, it’s been a relationship process, I suppose. And people identify that the way I did too, you identify with certain aspects of a mentor, you, you see that you would like to be like that, and yet you identify and take in some of those qualities and, and try to evolve your style and personality, I suppose in different ways as well. It’s a similar thing to what happens when you’re a child and you model your personality and identity on your parents and also other adults around you. It’s a complex process. And, and you can it’s like a supermarket, you can you know, in some ways, you can take bits of what you like, and my from from number of people.
Daisy Winney 7:43
Yeah, definitely. And I think you summed it up perfectly there. But in the simplest term, what does the word mentor mean to you?
Pat McGorry 7:50
Well, I suppose you’ve got to walk the talk. So you’ve got to sort of show what, what can be done. And even if even if you’re doing it for, you know, a number of reasons that the fact that you are displaying it, you know, is one to one thing, I suppose a mentor is a guide as well, you’re you’re unselfishly caring about the progress of another person’s career and life. So it’s an unselfish thing like, like being a parent, like being a supervisor or or, you know, sort of a manager?
Daisy Winney 8:26
And is there one valuable life lesson that stands out that you’ve learned from your experiences or from being a mentor or having been mentored?
Pat McGorry 8:37
I suppose, just just determination, so that you just persist, once you’ve worked out what what it’s what you’re trying to do, you never accept that can’t be achieved. So, so I meant by self belief, I suppose. And there are a lot of things that have happened in my career that people kept telling me you will never happen. So, but persistence, and actually, you know, I suppose also, working with collaborators, or colleagues or allies, allies is probably a better word. To achieve it, you have to approach it in a very sort of strategic and sort of organised way, and always have a sense of urgency about it, too, because life is short. And if you accept what people will tell you, well, this, this, this may happen, but it’ll take 10 years or something. Well, you know, you just you can’t go that you’ve got to always have a sense of impatience as well, I think.
Daisy Winney 9:31
Yeah, definitely. Is there one professional memory that stands out to you or are they a few?
Pat McGorry 9:36
A couple, actually, um, my dad was a doctor. He treated tuberculosis and also chest diseases and coal miners, and he convinced me to do medicine. I didn’t really want to do it. I was much more attracted to artistic sort of subjects, you know, to be honest. But being an Irishman, he thought that security of employment was pretty important, you know? Because Ireland, you tend to have to migrate to immigrate if you didn’t have a secure job. So that was in his mind. So he said, we’ll just do medicine and you’ll find something to do just have that security. So I did do that. And then I found psychiatry. So he was right. You know, it was there was an area that was really great for me. But before I, before I did psychiatry, I think I told you, I did internal medicine. And I worked in the UK for a couple of years. Like I, when I was there, I did the College of Physicians examinations, which was a very hard thing to pass. And I read it, it was great. And I was able to do that even though it didn’t really wasn’t relevant to what I did later. So much, but but but it made my dad very proud. So I think that was one that one really sort of emotional memory for me. And I suppose the other big thing like career wise, was, I got nominated to be a fellow of the Academy of Science. And a lot of people, I’ve had critics in terms of the reforms that I’ve been trying to do, and one of the ways they try to attack you is by saying, well, your research isn’t isn’t that good? Or, you know, there are flaws in it. And the evidence isn’t there. So, no, it was they try to diminish you as but by labelling you as just an advocate just an enthusiast rather than a scientist. So, so when I, when I was elected to be a fellow of the Academy of Science, I felt very reassured by that, and very happy about that, because I was the first psychiatrist to my knowledge to be elected in Australia to that role. So that made me, I suppose it helped me to deal with some of the resistance that we were getting.
Daisy Winney 11:30
People who are saying these things, well, there’s, you know, no research till you go out and do it. So the evidence would be in Orygen and helping establish Headspace and things like that, which has helped millions of Australians, even me and my friends, you know, we will use Headspace’s services. And if you weren’t there, I’m not sure it would have happened. So congratulations on all of that.
Pat McGorry 11:49
Fantastic, that’s great to hear Daisy. Just on that point, you’re quite right. And in the sort of stuff that we do, you’ve got to create the cultures and the platforms in which the research can actually occur. That’s the, that’s another massive benefit. We’ve been able to bring big brands into Australia, because those platforms exist for research, you know, so. So research isn’t just something that you do, and then you implement it. It’s a much more complex process, like you just said.
Daisy Winney 12:14
Exactly, exactly. I think my last question is, if you could teach everyone in the world one concept, what concept do you think would have the largest positive impact on humanity?
Pat McGorry 12:25
Well, I suppose that, you know, there’s higher order things like, like love and compassion, and those sorts of things, you know, obviously, that and hope and optimism, those sorts of things are very powerful, but within within a slightly more narrow focus, I think, within mental health care, the biggest thing that would be transformational would be if we could focus on early intervention, you know, so obviously, prevention of mental illness would be the best thing. But that’s a very hard thing to do. We do now how to intervene early to recognise when people are really struggling, and then give them the right sort of help. And most people will actually be helped dramatically by that. And if that was done everywhere, the world would be transformed and strengthened, so and people would be able to flourish and have happier lives and more fulfilling lives. So I think early intervention would be the thing.
Daisy Winney 13:13
Definitely I 100% agree. I think you’re right. It would be a happier place. If if we get that and hopefully we get to that goal. So thank you so much for talking to me today. That’s been great.
Pat McGorry 13:24
Thank you, Daisy. And it was lovely talking to you. And yeah, and hope the listeners enjoy it too.
Daisy Winney 13:29
Thank you, Pat.