Professional Appointments and Affiliations. Consultant Psychiatrist 3/20 Collins street medical Centre, Melbourne 3000. Adjunct Professor UNSW School of Social Sciences Hon Senior Fellow Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne Chair 'Family Violence Psychiatry Network' ,Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. Member Clinical Psychopharmacology Group. Member Committee of Continuing Professional Development, Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Past Medical Director 100 Collins Street medical Centre 1991-2014 Past Committee Member and Treasurer Section of Social & Cultural Psychiatry, Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists(RANZCP) . Formerly Member of Committee of Victorian Branch Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists . Formerly Member of Committee of Education Committee Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
Main areas of activity Consultant Psychiatrist in Private and Hospital practice- special interest Domestic and Family violence, and Gender related issues in Psychiatric Illness, Anxiety and Depressive Illness. Migrant Mental Health -counselling and treatment of mental disorders in migrants, Complex PTSD , Trauma Therapy Action Research projects in Australian South Asian community on prevention of gender based violence. Public Awareness campaigns on Family Domestic Violence and Dowry related abuse. Voluntary work with Indian and South Asian community Mass Media discussions on Culture, Mental Health, Family and gender issues. Counselling and Cultural Connectivity Work with International students and medical graduates Spearheaded the anti-dowry campaign of Victoria and Australia successfully, with new anti-dowry laws implemented March 2019 in Victoria. Public speaking
Voluntary Organisational Appointments South Asian Community Ministerial Advisory Committee Founding and Executive Director AustralAsian Centre for Human Rights and Health 2012(www.achrh.org) Past Vice President Australia India Society of Victoria 2009-20013 Founding Chair AISV “Taskforce Against Domestic Violence” in Indian and Ethnic Women 2009-2013. Advocate White Ribbon Australia 2017-2019. Member The Lyceum Club Melbourne. Past Community Ambassador North Melbourne Football Club . Member Mental Health Foundation Board 2009-2015 Past Community Ambassador Opportunity International Microfinance. 2010-2014 White Ribbon Culturally Diverse communities Reference Group 2014-2018 White Ribbon Champion 2010-2017
Current Projects 1.National dowry abuse prevention action research and community building capacity 2.Community theatre project " Sneh" (Sanskrit for affection) -early intervention and prevention of family violence 3.Mutual Relational Respect interactive workshops
Published Research Publications that have influenced policy, law and medical practice
1. Colucci, E., O`Connor, M., Field, K., Baroni, A., Pryor, R., Minas, H. 2013. Nature of domestic violence, barriers to services among Indian immigrant women. Alterstice. International Journal of Intercultural Research 3(2). The rapid increase in migration from India to Australia since 2006 was accompanied by rewards and challenges. One of the challenges noted by the second author soon after was the anecdotal evidence of high prevalence of Intimate partner violence in this community. Such violence against women is perpetrated most usually by a woman’s intimate partner and most violence occurs in the home. As migrant women Indian women are vulnerable due to number of factors. One factor being the silence around this issue was profound and barriers to using services was high. As a result Australian immigrant Indian women in 2009/2010 were not well represented in domestic violence service providers and when they did present they were known to make low use of services. The challenge was to understand the culturally significant barriers to accessing services and the nature of domestic violence in the community. This study is innovative in that it used community participatory theatre to help understand the nature of cultural barriers as understood by the community itself. It was done by engaging the Indian women to stage the roles of victims and perpetrators in stories created by the women, and commented upon by the female community audience through a mediator. The dynamic process involving the community’s voice helped to expose and identify the key issues, challenges and needs of Indian immigrant families when accessing services that could assist in situations of domestic/family violence. The participants spoke about dowry practice like a contract to get an Indian-Australian groom for Indian daughters. Dowry related abuse was identified as a problem as far back as 2010 by the community . This study broke the silence in the community and it spawned a regular media opinion piece in Indian ethnic newspaper ‘Santa Banta’ on domestic violence by Dr Manjula O’Connor from 2012-2016. This article’s significance also became apparent in 2017 when the 1800RESPECT spokesperson announced on SBS Punjabi radio that Indian women were the biggest caller to the national helpline after the main stream women. The role of this study has been highly significant in raising awareness, educating the public and lowering barriers to service use by Indian women and possibly saved countless lives.
2. O’Connor M, Castle D, Cox J. 2014. What can psychiatrists do to better support domestic violence victims? Australasian Journal of Psychiatry. Victims of family domestic violence suffer significantly higher rates of mental illnesses than general population and present to mental health services in significant numbers. Yet many go undetected. There are barriers facing psychiatrists regarding successful family violence intervention outcomes. Concerted action is required to improve services and support to victims and perpetrators. This paper was specifically written to alert Australian Psychiatrist about the significance of family violence to their practice. This paper was significant in that it helped to set up the first Family Violence Working Group within the Royal Australian New Zealand College in 2014 in its Victorian Branch , and that has gone on to become a Bi National Psychiatry Network within the Royal Australian New Zealand College in 2018 .
3. O’Connor M. 2014. Teaching Empathy to men could save lives. The Age Opinion 23 November 2014. Family Violence or FV is a public health problem and affects around 1 in 3 women in Australia. Given the high prevalence of FV and the serious consequences for victims of this kind of abuse extensive research has been focused on interventions for the affected women. In order to prevent the FV it is also necessary to analyse the perpetrators of FV to attempt to develop effective future intervention programs to prevent this type of violence. Specifically, it is critical to examine the effectiveness of attempts to rehabilitate FV offenders to prevent recurrent abuse, and hence protect victim. The role of empathy was not a focus of research in FV. Yet evidence from my clinical practice revealed to me the role of diminished empathy in perpetrators. I found my clinical intervention comprising enhancement of empathy by role play and role reversal was effective with male perpetrators, generated changes in perpetrators and thereby prevented violence in their current relationships. What sets this opinion piece apart is that in 2014 the opinion piece brought to the notice of clinicians, the public and the academic community a significant omission in rehabilitation of perpetrators.
4. O’Connor M & Colluci E. 2015. Exploring social distress in Domestic Violence in Australian Indian Migrant Women through Participatory Community Theater. January 2016, Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry. In approaching the study of domestic violence and health together, the World Health Organization adapted the ecological model of domestic violence proposed by Heise which conceptualizes violence as a multifaceted phenomenon grounded in an interplay among personal, situational, and sociocultural factors. This includes the significance of cultural and social norms as contributing factors in intimate partner violence against women. The article discusses the cultural underpinnings of FV in Indian community and in this ethnographic study, data are gathered from women of Indian immigrant women of Australia. Findings show that some cultural practices have remained intact after migration. For example patriarchy, greater loyalty to the extended family system than individual safety, and practice of cultural customs like dowry that is frequently associated with demands, extortion and violence. This study exposed dowry related abuse that inspired public campaign against such abuse in Australia led by Manjula O’Connor, with subsequent legal and policy changes. The significance of this paper lies in its influence on Policy and Legal changes in Victoria. A bill due for 3rd reading in Victorian Parliament in the week starting 23rd July 2018 recommends that dowry abuse is included as an example of economical abuse in Victorian Family Violence Protection Act of Victoria 2008
5 . O’Connor M and Ibrahim S. 2018.Suicidality in victims of family violence- comparison of two cohorts of migrants presenting to outpatient mental health clinics .Australasian Psychiatry. April 3, 2018. Family Violence in women is a common problem with 1 in 3 women affected and higher rates are present in psychiatric populations. Research shows that there many barriers among psychiatrist to identify FV in women presenting to psychiatric settings with complex clinical phenomena and can be easily overlooked. This paper presents audit of two comparative private psychiatric practices serving immigrant women one of Middle-Eastern and the other of South Asian background to explore the factors that can work as red flags for psychiatrist. Findings present intersection of FV with other multiple social factors such as dowry abuse, economical control, and fear level within the home, residency status all interact to contribute towards depression and suicidality in immigrant women of Indian /South Asian origin. The significance of this paper is that it highlights multiplicity of factors that constitute underlying trauma that needs to be kept in front of mind when treating immigrant suicidal women.
6. M O’Connor. March 27, 2017. Dowry related Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Australasian Psychiatry. Dowry system is a social practice that is reported to perpetuate oppression, torture, violence, and murder of women in India and migration has helped to internationalize the practice In addition to the practice of dowry in India and South Asia, similar practices, and the risk of violence with them, also exist in Muslim communities and a number of African communities The significance of the paper is to alert health professionals that when young Indian women marry Indian men living abroad, including Australia, their husbands command a premium dowry, and inability to comply with persistent demands can lead to serious violence and mental trauma with serious consequences such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychiatrists need to be aware of DV and dowry when treating immigrant women. The departure from India also takes away the legal protection afforded by Indian laws for the young women. The significance of this paper lies in its influence on Policy and Legal changes in Victoria. The significance of this paper lies in its influence on Policy changes at the Federal Level. The paper was cited in the submission to the “Parliamentary Inquiry Into A Better Family Law System To Support And Protect Those Affected By Family Violence”. Dowry abuse received a special mention in the final report. It inspired Federal “Senate Inquiry Into Dowry Abuse” commencing 2 July 2018.
7. Deidre Smith, Jerome Sarris, Nathan Dowling, Manjula O’Connor, Chee Ng. 22 February, 2017. Adjunctive low-dose docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for major depression: An open- label pilot . Journal of Nutritional neuroscience Depression in female patients is more common than in men. Yet many young women do not tolerate standard antidepressants, often suffering serious adverse effects. Especially if they are low in weight, and anaemic and Asian women. Food supplements are a growing area of research in treatment of depressive illness. In spite of the limitation of it being an open-label pilot study, the results are highly useful suggesting that Fish oil supplements containing DHA may provide additional benefits in patients with mild- to - moderate depression on its own or as an adjunctive treatment. This study offers a significant alternative treatment pathway to clinical practitioners for treating patients with depression who do not find psychopharmacological agents acceptable or tolerable. For example women from South Asian communities who suffer depression commonly resulting from Family Violence. It is also significant as it is published in a reputable journal .
8. Sudha Subramani , Manjula O’Connor.2018 Extracting Actionable Knowledge from Domestic Violence Discourses on Social Media. European Union Digital Library. 18(17): e2. Published 29th May 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.4108/eai.29-5-2018.154807 This research is significant as social media is playing a bigger role in modern life. It is increasingly used by survivors-victims of domestic violence. Yet the existing research on social media has paid less attention to DV and its impact on public health. The significance of this paper is to mine the actionable knowledge from large conversational datasets from social media, using novel framework, and a mathematical model that removes noise and discover the various themes related to DV from the public domain. It is a new concept and provides unprecedented valuable information and large data sets to the public health researchers, national family health organizations, government and public. It is significant as it is published on European Digital Library and in the short time space of a month since publication the paper has been downloaded 33 times. What sets this study apart is that it uses a unique mathematical formula that removes noise and opens up access to big data analytics in domestic violence research.
11.Exploring Australian psychiatrists’ and psychiatric trainees’ knowledge, attitudes and preparedness in responding to domestic violence. 2018. Forsdike K , O'Connor M , Castle D , Hegarty K . Australasian Psychiatry. 2018 Jul 26:1039856218789778. doi: 10.1177/1039856218789778.OBJECTIVE: Examine knowledge, opinions and practices of psychiatrists and trainees in responding to domestic violence (DV). METHOD: Online survey including two sub-scales from PREMIS (Physician Readiness to Manage Intimate Partner Violence Survey): knowledge (10 items) and preparedness (10 items). RESULTS: Of psychiatrists completing the survey (216), 47% had received less than 2 hours of training in DV. PREMIS findings showed moderate knowledge of, and preparedness to deal with, DV. Participants with more clinical experience had significantly more knowledge and preparedness to deal with DV. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest more training in DV for psychiatrists is needed.
9. O’Connor M. 2001 “Depressive Illness in Women” Women’s Health Victoria”, May Vol. 8, No.4, It has been a challenge to expose the issue of preponderance of common mental disorders in women to researchers and the public at large. The barrier to accessing mental health treatment was high two decades ago. The significance of this paper is to help intelligent lay pubic understand by what is meant by gender determinant of mental illness - the relative distribution and the cost of mental illness particularly that of depression and anxiety in women. This paper was important as it raised awareness in the general public around the vulnerability of women to depression and anxiety and it helped to lower barriers to accessing evidence based treatments, and to understand stigma against receiving treatment.
10. O'Connor M, Silver H. Adding risperidone to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor improves chronic depression J Clin Psychopharmacology. 1998 Feb;18(1):89-91. Severe chronic depression and anxiety responds poorly to treatment in a significant number of patients. This clinical paper is highly significant as in 1998.it provided the clinicians with a new concept in treatment of resistant depression. It was ahead of its time, just a decade after a new class of antidepressants called Serotonin enhancers (or SSRI s) and only a few years after atypical antipsychotics became available. This was among the first papers to combine the two classes of drugs as a treatment regime. Its relevance remains high as it explored a new treatment regime for a group of women who do not respond to standard antidepressant treatments, and are frequently encountered in clinical practice. It has stood the test of time and proven itself to be highly successful as a treatment regime. This clinical report has spawned multiple double blind studies confirming the original premise of the study and started a new trend in pharmacological treatments. The paper’s importance is further strengthened as it was published in a highly reputable Journal Psychopharmacology, and has been cited 68 times and remains current after 20 years.
Awards and recognition Member Selection Panel Victorian Honour Role 2010-2012 Victorian Government Multicultural Award of Excellence in Women's Health-2012 AISV Taskforce Against domestic violence In Indian Ethnic women recognised for raising Human Rights for Indian Women of Australia by The President of India January 2013. The Indian Sun Person of the Year (Female)2016 Community Health Champion MACE 2018 Repeated Recognition in Victorian Parliament and Federal Parliament since 2010 Regular media appearances on TV, print, digital and radio
Multiple Publications and Multiple Lectures/oral Presentations Detailed CV available on request
VISIT Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health ( www.achrh.org)