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Six finalists, with decades of experience in challenging the boundaries of knowledge about mental health care, have been selected for the 2018 Australian Mental Health Prize. The significant work of the individuals addresses all facets of the mental health sector including research, investment, innovation, prevention, partnerships, and improving awareness and understanding.

The prize, now in its third year, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

The finalists’ work includes tackling structural barriers and transforming the way mental health services are delivered; addressing future mental health workforce pressures; training hundreds of young scientists; improving the ability of people to seek help; and facilitating the voice of those with lived experience of mental illness.

“This year’s finalists are catalysts for significant sector change and have made a major impact on the mental health landscape at all levels, in our communities at a grassroots level, as well as nationally and internationally through shaping policy and improving understanding,” said UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor Philip Mitchell.

'With so many people affected it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenge before us as a nation. That is why it is important that we highlight the incredible achievements and persistence of the dedicated individuals working in this field.' - Ita Buttrose

“Over the past three years it has been inspiring to see how the Prize has elevated the recognition of those working in the field of mental health,” he said. “So many people dedicate their lives to ensuring better outcomes and care for those with mental illness. Their work deserves to be applauded.”

Ita Buttrose, Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group, said the Australian Mental Health Prize highlights the extraordinary work that is happening in Australia.

“One in three Australians will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. With so many people affected it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenge before us as a nation. That is why it is important that we highlight the incredible achievements and persistence of the dedicated individuals working in this field. Their work is making an incredible impact and saving lives every day. They deserve to be commended.”

Leading international researcher, clinician and advocate for youth mental health and former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, will announce the winner at an award ceremony at UNSW on October 19.                                                                   

About the Australian Mental Health Prize 2018 Finalists

Gavin Andrews, Sydney (Paddington) NSW

In a 60-year career in mental health, Emeritus Professor Gavin Andrews has been an innovator, clinician, teacher and researcher. He is among the world’s most highly cited scientists in this field. He is responsible for preparing the first ever set of clinical practice guidelines in psychiatry; the first National Survey of Mental Disorders; and a range of online courses for people with common mental disorders. Gavin thinks that the field is poised to offer cures to half the people who develop a mental disorder. Given good diagnosis and treatment, he says, the person who is not improving in 30 days should “ask their doctor why”.

Matthew Johnstone, Sydney (Balgowlah) NSW

Matthew is a passionate mental health and wellbeing advocate. He develops and delivers illustrated programs, videos and talks on mental health, resilience and wellbeing. Matthew has written, illustrated and photographed eight books, six of which have been local and international best sellers. His first book, I Had a Black Dog, details his journey with depression and has been published in over 15 countries. The video version created for the World Health Organisation (WHO) has had more than 30 million views on their combined media platforms, the most viewed video in the history of WHO. Matthew has done creative consultancy for the Black Dog Institute, The Golden Door Elysia, Geelong Grammar, the government of Norway, CommBank, Sydney Trains and many other major corporates. His work has been endorsed by Stephen Fry, Edward de Bono, WHO and Google.

Janne McMahon, Adelaide (Felixstow) SA

Janne has worked as a mental health consumer advocate since 1997. She is the Founder and Executive Officer of the Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network (Australia), the recognised peak Australian advocacy organisation for the private sector. She has appeared before ten parliamentary inquiries, has been a member of many expert reference groups, committees and working groups. She is a member of the SA Health Practitioners Tribunal, a Board member of Mental Health Australia and was a surveyor for 15 years. Janne gained funding for the development of the NHMRC Clinical Practice Guidelines for BPD and the BPD National Training Strategy. She has been instrumental in the establishment of the SA BPD Centre of Excellence, is a member of the Executive Steering Committee and former Patron of the Australian BPD Foundation. In 2008 she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her advocacy work.

Vivienne Miller, Sydney (Balmain) NSW

Vivienne has worked in mental health services in Australia and England for more than 45 years in many capacities: crisis intervention; suicide prevention and intervention; group analysis; management of quality improvement programs; creative arts therapy; therapeutic communities; and activity-based programs. She is a co-author of the National Standards for Mental Health Services (1996) and an advisor to the National Mental Health Workforce Standards. Since 1996 she has held the position as Conference Director of the largest, most inclusive mental health conference in Australia, TheMHS Conference, run through TheMHS Learning Network Inc. TheMHS attracts more than 1000 clinicians, managers, team leaders, consumers, families, educators, policy-makers and researchers annually and organises national mental health service achievement awards. Currently Vivienne is involved in developing a Museum of the Mind inside a Mental Health and Arts Precinct in inner Sydney.

Jonathan Nicholas, Sydney (Tempe) NSW

Jono Nicholas has a 21-year history and commitment to improving youth mental health. With almost 10 years’ service as the CEO of ReachOut – Australia’s leading digital mental health service for young people and their parents – Jono has advocated for a change in thinking and that technology and smartphones can and will transform the way mental health and wellbeing services are delivered.  In June this year Jono announced his departure from ReachOut and is currently the Managing Director of the Wellbeing Outfit, an advisory firm that improves organisational performance by improving the wellbeing and resilience of their staff. Jono has background in psychology and public health.

Jane Pirkis, Melbourne (Fitzroy) VIC

Professor Jane Pirkis is the Director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has qualifications in psychology and epidemiology, and her work focuses on how to improve the mental health of populations. She is particularly well known for her work in suicide prevention and has conducted world-first research looking at how the media in all its forms might be used as a force for good to save lives. Her work has informed Australian and international guidelines for journalists on safer ways to present suicide-related stories, and she recently partnered with Movember and Heiress Films to make and evaluate Man Up, an ABC documentary and social media campaign on suicide and masculinity that was viewed by millions. Jane is the Vice-President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the Editor-in-Chief of the premier suicide prevention journal Crisis.


The Australian Mental Health Prize: The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW through its School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department, and recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness.