Janne McMahon is the kind of person who lives for helping others.
In fact, the founder and chief executive of the Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network says helping other people is the reason she gets out of bed in the morning.
“Being an advocate, it’s something that has become very meaningful in my life – it’s really changed my life,” she said.
“It’s given me a reason to stay alive and I know from lived experience that it takes a lot of personal courage sometimes to find something like that and carry on.”
Janne, who is a finalist in the 2018 Australian Mental Health Prize, has an impressive CV.
She has appeared before 10 parliamentary inquiries and has been a member of many expert reference groups, committees and working groups.
She is a member of the South Australian 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 Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the BPD National Training Strategy.
She has been instrumental in the establishment of the South Australian BPD Centre of Excellence, is a member of the Executive Steering Committee and a former patron of the Australian BPD Foundation.
In 2008, she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of her advocacy work.
But despite all the accolades, Janne remains humble and said she was genuinely stunned to be nominated for the Australian Mental Health Prize.
“I’m not the kind of person to fluff out my chest,” she said.
“This work has, for me, been a saving grace – really, it has given me a reason to get out of bed and it could not be more rewarding.
“I was shocked to be named as a finalist and also really honoured. I know everyone who has been nominated and to even be in that bunch of people is overwhelming.”
One person who was not surprised at Janne’s nomination was Christine Gee, chief executive officer of Toowong Private Hospital.
“Janne is an amazing person and for a long period of time she has given people in the private sector a voice – she has been a voice for people with mental health needs and their families,” she said.
“We were all so thrilled when (the awards finalists) were announced and I don’t know why Janne was so shocked.
“She has done amazing things, tangible projects, that have helped the treatment and care of people in the private sector.
“She has boundless energy, she is a strong person and a lovely person and she is very knowledgeable about this issue and she is also an effective communicator.”
Christine added that one of Janne’s strengths was remaining focussed on patient and carer needs – and helping to remind others of that fact.
“Janne has heaps of integrity and she reminds us why we’re there,” Christine said.
“Often in a fraught meeting, Janne will just say something that brings us back to the task at hand and remind us all why we’re there – which is for patients and their families.
“She is a straight shooter. She is wonderful in every way and she will leave an amazing legacy.”
For her part, Janne said she was just happy to have found her life’s work and was grateful to those who had helped her along the way.
“I really feel very privileged to be in this position,” she said.
“And I am really passionate about this work. It’s challenging of course and it is hard work but being able to give people a voice is very important to me.
“I have a lived experience and to be able to talk to boards and staff to better bring that lived experience voice to them, I really feel very privileged to be able to do that.
“I started off with Ramsay (health care) who have been very supportive of me and I have a very supportive husband and grown up children who allow me to travel so much and just keep going.”
The winner of the 2018 Australian Mental Health Prize will be announced at a ceremony at the University of New South Wales on October 19.