Crossing boundaries to research disorder

Sonia Neale has won the inaugural Hocking Fellowship to study borderline personality disorder.
Sonia Neale has won the inaugural Hocking Fellowship to study borderline personality disorder.

Mrs Neale will draw on personal experience of the condition while studying leading treatments in Europe and the US including dialectical behaviour therapy, mindfulness and peer support programs.

The mental-health peer support worker, author and ECU Joondalup psychology-counselling student heads overseas for about 10 weeks later this year on a SANE Australia Hocking Fellowship.

On her return, she will work with the mental health charity on information resources and services, including new on-line peer-support forums.

Mrs Neale said borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms included intense, inappropriate anger, an inability to regulate emotions, abandonment/rejection issues, relationship instability, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and impulsiveness. There could also be an over-reaction to perceived or real criticism.

‘There are professional people in the community who have BPD who are high functioning but services and the media tend to focus on people who self harm or suicide,’ she said.

‘Not everyone is self-harming and suicidal ” they tend to put BPD under one umbrella.

‘People can be functioning in their professional lives but fragmenting in their private lives.

‘BPD looks different for everybody.

‘My work will focus on establishing new services to support people, public education and awareness and de-stigmatising BPD.

‘Australia has some great general and illness-specific mental health services that help many people achieve recovery.

‘But there appears to be a scarcity of support and resources specifically dedicated to people suffering from BPD who make up around 2 to 6 per cent of the population.

‘Of this number, 10 per cent complete suicide.

‘I am passionate in promoting the message that with the right treatment, the right therapeutic support, empathy and understanding, full recovery is possible.’

The SANE Australia board said Mrs Neale’s focus on a ‘much misunderstood and neglected area’ made her a unanimous choice from 70-plus applicants.

‘I am very much looking forward to the study trip although I will miss my family ” husband Dave and three adult children ” dearly,’ she said.