2020 Australian Mental Health Prize: Dual winners named


A leading psychiatrist who specialises in diagnosing mood disorders and a children’s wellbeing advocate have been named as co-winners of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize.

Professor Gordon Parker and Professor Helen Milroy were chosen from a field of seven finalists to win the award.

Established by UNSW Sydney in 2016, the prize recognises people making a significant contribution to mental health nationally.

“In this especially challenging year, it is more important than ever to highlight the diverse and deeply compassionate work being undertaken,” said Ita Buttrose, chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group.

Prof Parker is the founder of the Black Dog Institute mental health research facility and now Scientia Professor of Psychiatry at UNSW, where his work focuses on defining mood disorders and finding the most accurate diagnosis to facilitate the best treatment.

His computerised Mood Assessment Program is used by more than 5,000 mental healthcare providers across Australia and has 80 percent accuracy in differentiating the two key depressive types and identifying a bipolar mood disorder – pilot studies have indicated this success rate has improved further with machine learning techniques adopted this year. 

“Diagnosis is extremely important in psychiatry and new artificial intelligence approaches have the potential to deliver highly accurate diagnoses to inform practitioners and their clients,” Prof Parker said.

Prof Milroy is the Stan Perron Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and University of Western Australia, and Honorary Research Fellow at Telethon Kids Institute. 

She is also passionate about combining Aboriginal and Western knowledge systems in mental health education.

“As I think back about how my life and work has changed, I am mindful of the ‘new normal’ we are now entering into and just what this means for the wellbeing of our children,” Prof Milroy said.

“Children are no more immune to mental health challenges than the rest of society, yet they are easily overlooked or thought to be resilient.

“I hope we can continue to shine a light on mental health and what else needs to happen to bring about the wellbeing of our nation, and especially that of our First Peoples.” 

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