Australian Mental Health Prize

Two mental health advocates tackling suicide prevention have been named joint winners of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Prize at UNSW Sydney in November 2019.

Joe Williams, a Wiradjuri man and passionate community advocate for mental health suicide prevention, and Christine Morgan, Australia’s first national suicide prevention advisor, have been announced dual winners of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Prize.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison presented the winners with their awards at a ceremony at UNSW Sydney. Learn more about the winners and finalists. 

What is the Australian Mental Health Prize?

The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW Medicine through its School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department. It recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

The importance of mental health in Australia

Mental illnesses are common and highly disabling. In any one year, one in five adult Australians and one in seven children aged 4 to 17 will experience some form of mental illness. One in three will have a mental illness in their lifetime.

  • Mental illness impacts severely on our capacity to work, to earn a living, and maintain close relationships.
  • The average lifespan of people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is shortened by 10-15 years.
  • Suicide rates are still unacceptably high, with over 2,000 Australians taking their own life each year.
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death in males under 45.

Why establish the Australian Mental Health Prize?

Australia has led the way internationally in many aspects of mental health, such as community awareness, public advocacy and innovative services. This includes innovative programs such as Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative, and headspace, the national network of youth mental health services. Our open public discourse involving politicians and high-profile individuals occurs in few other countries.

The Australian Mental Health Prize’s aims

1. Acknowledge and recognise the important and ground-breaking work that many Australians are doing for mental health

2. Raise public awareness on the importance of mental health

3. Provide an incentive to improve services and outcomes for people with mental illness

Criteria for the Australian Mental Health Prize

The Prize is awarded annually to an Australian who has made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness – in areas such as advocacy, research or service provision. The prize will recognise contributions undertaken in Australia which are of national significance.

Who is involved with the Prize?

The Prize has been established by a group of eminent Australians in partnership with UNSW.

Chaired by Ita Buttrose AC OBE, the Prize Advisory Group comprises:

  • Professor the Hon Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO
  • Judy Brewer AO
  • Jack Heath
  • Professor Patrick McGorry AO
  • Jessica Rowe AM
  • Sophie Scott
  • Greta Bradman
  • Lucy Brogden
  • UNSW Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO
  • UNSW Scientia Professor Philip Mitchell AM
  • UNSW Scientia Professor Perminder Sachdev AM
  • UNSW Professor Valsamma Eapen