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Changing minds, changing mindsets: Curtin alumnus tackles mental health taboos in Singapore

Alumni News

In 2006, Curtin alumnus Dr Simon Collinson moved to Singapore to help establish the country’s first homegrown clinical psychology training program at the National University of Singapore (NUS), in a bid to help meet the need for mental health support in Asia.

“Asia represents around 60 per cent of the world’s population, yet there are still countries here with little or no psychological services,” Dr Collinson notes. “There is much to do!”

To begin with, he says, the way mental illness and disability is perceived in Asia needs to be challenged.

“As with many Western countries, Asian views of mental illness are heavily stigmatised,” Dr Collinson explains. “I see a big part of the challenge of mental illness in Asia is changing perceptions.”

As an Associate Professor at NUS, Dr Collinson likes to take this challenge to his students. In return, he says has been fortunate to see many “very clever” students flourish into accomplished researchers and clinicians.

Now, more than 60 clinical psychologists have graduated through the program. And, in a further effort towards establishing a greater number of mental health support services, Dr Collinson has developed the first neuropsychology service at the National University Hospital. He says the next phase is to develop clinical psychology at a broader level within South-East Asia.

“This is a huge challenge that requires time, money and patience,” he says. “As Western psychology turns to mindfulness and other approaches which are grounded in Buddhist thinking, it is only a matter of time before this heritage is applied in the development of psychology in Asia.”

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Dr Collinson supervises and mentors clinical psychology students at the National University of Singapore.

Dr Collinson graduated from Curtin University with an honours degree in psychology in 1990, before later completing his master and doctoral degrees at Macquarie University and the University of Oxford respectively.

He says his time at Curtin provided the foundational direction for his career in psychology.

“As part of my honours studies, I was allowed to work at Princess Margaret Hospital and do my research with an applied emphasis,” he says. “This formed my early interest in neuropsychology and I took this into a career in clinical neuropsychology.”

This career included several prestigious awards, including three for his work on schizophrenia. For Dr Collinson, however, the most rewarding aspect of his career is being able to use his knowledge and experience to create change in the world.

“I was fortunate to have many great influencers throughout my career who all taught me the importance of giving back to my profession and to society,” he says. “Even if my contribution is small, I hope to leave any place I have been just a little better for my efforts.”


Graduate snapshot

Name: Dr Simon Collinson

Studied: Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) (Honours)

Graduated: 1990