Finalists named for top mental health award

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Seven finalists have been selected for the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize, each recognised for dedicating their lives to improving the wellbeing of people and communities across the country.

Now in its fifth year, the award shines a spotlight on Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

The 2020 candidates cover a broad spectrum of diverse and compassionate work being undertaken in many challenging areas, including the criminal justice system, suicide prevention, child and adolescent mental health, supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and advancing indigenous health, and the performing arts.

Ita Buttrose, chair of the event’s advisory group, said the prize showcases “world-class” contributions that have enhanced mental health in Australia. 

“Each finalist has worked selflessly to improve the lives of those experiencing difficulties with mental health,” she said.

The finalists were announced ahead of Mental Health Week (Saturday 10 October-Saturday 17 October 2020), and the winner will be revealed by Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley at a ceremony hosted by UNSW Sydney on Thursday 5 November 2020.

The university established the prize in 2016 through its School of Psychiatry in order to acknowledge important ground-breaking work by Australians, raise public awareness, and provide an incentive to improve outcomes and services for people with mental illness.

One-in-three Australians will have mental health issues during their lifetime, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left increasing numbers of people in a vulnerable position.

“In this especially challenging year, we as a community are even more mindful that mental illness can affect any one of us,” said Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty of UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry.

“These finalists have helped our society by their efforts, creativity and dedication to achieving better mental health in Australia. It is wonderful to see so much progress being made in this area.”

The 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize finalists 

Claire Spencer – CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, she established the Arts Wellbeing Collective to promote positive mental health in the industry. 

Dr Gerry Naughtin – Strategic Advisor Mental Health in the National Disability Insurance Agency, he works to bring empathetic policy directions that support people on their mental health recovery journeys.

Professor Gordon Parker – founder of the Black Dog Institute and now Scientia Professor of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney, he uses innovative strategies – such as writing a play and a novel – to address stigma surrounding mood disorders.

Professor Helen Milroy – the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, her development and support work has had a lasting impact on Aboriginal health and mental health across the country.

Professor James Ogloff – forensic psychologist who has improved the care of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system for over 35 years. 

John Brogden – chairman of Lifeline Australia since 2012, the former politician turned business leader has worked to create awareness of the importance of suicide prevention following his own suicide attempt 15 years ago.

Keith Wilson – former Western Australian Minister of Health and former chair of the Mental Health Council of Australia, he has been involved in ongoing advocacy through membership of several non-government agencies.  

For more information, visit the official prize website. 

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