Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022: Dr Sathya Rao, OAM

Service to Psychiatry. By IQRA SAEED

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After nearly 25 years of experience in the mental health field in Australia Melbourne’s Dr Sathya Rao has been recognised with the OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.

He has seen significant changes in mental health practices in his years of work, where he is dedicated to treating people with borderline personality disorder and complex trauma disorder.

“I am very deeply humbled,” Dr Rao told Indian Link. “I think it’s a recognition of the kind of work that we do at Spectrum [a service that specialises in personality and complex trauma disorders].”

A patient early in his career brought him to this particular specialisation.

“I was working in a small town in Victoria in 1997 and my first patient happened to be someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD),” Dr Rao recounted. “I had no clue how to help her.”

When he graduated from Bangalore’s National Institute for Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), one of the leading institutes of its kind in India, the science of treating personality disorders was still in its infancy globally.

Dr Rao collaborated with other specialists, and they were able to successfully help his first patient.

“That’s where my journey started. The same year, we set up Spectrum in Melbourne.”

Since then, his journey in treating personality disorders has seen a sharp upward trajectory, aided by developments in the field.

He has been the Executive Clinical Director of Spectrum since 2012, and is also a Consultant Psychiatrist there and at the Delmont Private Hospital.

“The patients that we work with are those that are often stigmatised, discriminated against and marginalised. Unfortunately, most patients go without access to treatment,” Dr Rao revealed. “When someone gets a diagnosis of BPD, their lifespan is reduced by 20 years, unbelievably.”

He emphasised that although personality disorders are treatable, about 10% of the people with the disorder are lost to suicide.

“This is something which is preventable. So I am really passionate about doing my very best and making a tangible change in this patient group,” Dr Rao says.

He also added that there are a significant number of people with complex trauma backgrounds and personality disorders who unfortunately go undiagnosed and untreated. Some of them end up in drug and alcohol settings, prison populations, while others can face family violence and child production difficulties.

Dr Rao is committed to making sure high-quality care and treatment is made accessible to all with the diagnosis of a personality disorder or complex trauma disorder. Prioritising access to mental health services, he also volunteers for a charity called the Australian Borderline Personality Disorder Foundation, of which he has been Founding Member and Deputy Chair since 2012.

He continues to be a consultant psychiatrist at four different organisations across the Melbourne region.

Dr Rao’s expertise has also seen him invited to be a lecturer at Monash University (where he is Honorary Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor) and at Melbourne University.

There has been increased attention to mental health during the COVID pandemic, but Dr Rao feels that in general there is still a long way to go to create an ideal system to provide the best compassionate care for sufferers.

Perhaps this is why Dr Rao shows no signs of slowing down.

“There’s still a lot to learn, and a lot more to contribute,” he remarked.

READ ALSO: Dr Smita Shah OAM: Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022

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