One of the country's top mental health innovators, Professor Helen Christensen, is the Black Dog Institute's new Executive Director, replacing Scientia Professor Gordon Parker, who's stepping down after 10 years at the helm.

Professor Helen Christensen, who's currently at the ANU, will take up the position early next year and will be instrumental in driving the mood disorder authority's ambitions new national e-health agenda. The appointment followed an extensive international search, the Institute's chairman Peter Joseph said.

Professor Christensen will also be appointed as a Professor within the UNSW Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Christensen has an outstanding record as a psychologist, researcher, author and mentor, and is an expert in the use and effectiveness of eMental Health and how individuals respond to modern technology, Mr Joseph said.

"Professor Christensen is the right person at the right time for the Institute. As well as being a distinguished academic, Professor Christensen cares passionately about the practical applications of research into the cause and treatment of depression. Her public policy and public health approach will be very important as the Institute pursues an ambitious national agenda," said Mr Joseph.

"Our vision and programs align to two fundamental changes taking place in Australia; the benefits of a digital economy and the National Broadband Network's capacity to deliver e-health initiatives, and investing in Australia's rural and regional communities. Everyone deserves peace of mind and everyone at Black Dog cares deeply about that," he said.

Currently Director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, Prfoessor Christensen is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Principal Research Fellow. She is also President of the Australasian Society for Psychiatric Research, the peak body for mental health research in Australia.

"I am honoured, excited and energized by the task ahead," Professor Christensen said.

"The Black Dog Institute has great people doing great work in the research, clinical, community and advocacy space. My job is to encourage and enhance those functions. Capacity building as we pursue a national agenda is essential. This can happen organically and by working with others with similar ambitions to help the community."

The appointment was welcomed by UNSW's Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Peter Smith.

"For the past nine years, the association between UNSW Medicine and the Black Dog Institute has been extremely productive," Professor Smith said. "Professor Christensen's appointment is of great benefit to the ongoing relationship between our organisations and we welcome her to this campus."

From humble beginnings in 2002, the Sydney-based Black Dog Institute has developed rapidly as a unique mental health facility in New South Wales, combining research, clinical services, education and training, as well as community support programs.

After ten years at the helm of the Institute and 26 years as head of the Mood Disorders Unit at UNSW/Prince of Wales Hospital, Professor Parker advised the Board last year of his intention to step down as Executive Director at the end of 2011.

Professor Parker will continue his research and clinical activities within the Black Dog Institute and will also remain within the School of Psychiatry at UNSW.

Media contact: Ian Dose 0419 618 606 |