Record donation to make mental health headway
3 July 2019 at 5:08 pm
An institute to detect and treat severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder faster and earlier has launched, thanks to the largest philanthropic gift to mental health Australia has ever seen.
The Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health was officially launched on Tuesday, named after the late Monash economics graduate David Winston Turner, whose estate has funded the project through an endowment fund.
The latest gift of over $40 million, marks the third and final gift from the David Turner Endowment Fund to mental health programs at Monash University.
It follows a donation of $5.25 million in 2015, which funded scholarships, five large-scale research projects and the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Addiction Clinic.
A second donation was made in 2018 worth $2.25 million for the research clinic, BrainPark. The donation was then matched by Monash University.
Late last year the full estate was announced, bringing the total spend on mental health to nearly $50 million.
That money will be spent at the new institute over the next five years to conduct research and treatment programs for severe mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance addiction, dementia, depression, ADHD and schizophrenia.
Professor Kim Cornish, who leads the Turner Institute, told Pro Bono News that a gift as large as this would allow them to translate their research into programs that would make a significant difference to people suffering from severe mental illness.
“As a researcher, your entire career is chasing grants for discovery, but this gift has allowed us to translate it and take programs to scale,” Cornish said.
“We can bring these programs to remote communities, all the way across the southeast corridor of Melbourne, and even nationally.”
She said one of the first projects would be to build a digital mental health platform looking at early intervention and building resilient brains.
“Whether they’re wearables, apps or cognitive training, they will look at early intervention and building resilient brains across the lifespan,” she said.
“For example, we know that even children without any developmental disorders are starting school overly anxious.
“If we can reduce that, we can improve learning capabilities and social interactions in schools before it becomes a clinical issue to help those vulnerable brains reach their potential across their lifespan.”
She said Australia was in a unique moment in history where people were able to speak openly about mental health issues, and it was time for philanthropy to play a greater role in supporting mental health solutions.
“It’s the perfect time for anyone with the means to start thinking about mental health and how best to alleviate many of the burdens that are around us,” she said.
“So we look forward to showing what can be achieved from people like David Winston Turner who displayed incredible generosity and trust in experts for delivering that real clinical and community impact.”
The gift contributes to the Change It. For Good. campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash University’s history.