Inaugural Australian Mental Health Award Launches
14 July 2016 at 11:35 am
For the first time, the contributions of researchers, advocates and service providers in the mental health sector will be recognised by a national award.
The Australian Mental Health Prize, established by the University of New South Wales and launched on Wednesday, will seek to find “unsung heroes” who support the one in five Australians who experience mental illness each year.
Ita Buttrose, chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group, told Pro Bono Australia News she also expected the award to uncover new treatment methods which could improve the way mental illness is addressed.
“The award is going to recognise an Australian who is, or Australians who are, doing remarkable work in the field of mental health and mental health treatment. It may be a carer, it may be a researcher, it may be a therapist – we don’t know,” Buttrose said.
“We want to know, we want to hear from people and we want them to nominate people and we want to find out what’s working for people with mental health problems in Australia so that we can deliver more of the same.
“We know there’s a lot of good work going on in Australia in the mental health area, but we’re a very big country, and there are people with mental health problems all over the country. And maybe there’s someone in Bourke who’s doing something fantastic, well if there is we want to hear about this person.”
She said, with the prevalence of mental illness well known, it was important to recognise those working in the sector.
“If you look at the figures, one in five Australians in any given year will experience mental illness. One in seven children aged between 4 and 17 in any given year will experience a mental illness. And over a lifetime, one in three of us, so the prevalence is very high,” she said.
“We know all the systems that we’ve got running, we know the organisations that do great work, but every now and again there’s an unsung hero, and we suspect there’s probably an unsung hero in the mental health area that we’d like to hear about… we want them to be recognised for the great work they’re doing.”
Buttrose said she became interested in the award through her work as national ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia
“Through my work with… dementia, not that dementia is a mental illness, it’s a neurological illness, but nonetheless we are talking about the brain, and I find anything to do with the brain absolutely fascinating,” she said.
“I see the brain as the last great medical frontier, and I’m working very closely with people… in the dementia area, for instance Professor Henry Brodaty [who is also on the advisory board].
“I’ve worked with Henry at Alzheimer’s Australia so we know what we’re looking for, and we work very well together as a team.
“The brain is the last medial frontier and I find it absolutely challenging and wonderous all in the same breath.”
The prize will be awarded annually to an Australian who has made a nationally significant contribution to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
“We’re looking at the impact, the impact of the work that they’re doing, what it’s achieving, what its contributing, how it’s benefiting – so it’s the impact,” Buttrose said.
Nominations for the award are open until 31 August, finalists will be announced during Mental Health Week in October and the winner will be revealed on 28 November.