CEO Update - Celebrating our strength and the people who make us strong

Lachlan Searle

This week I received another reminder of how lucky I am to doing the work that I do, alongside some truly inspirational people.

Coming so closely after we gathered with sadness to mark the loss of our dear friend and colleague Jackie Crowe, it was good to gather again on Monday and celebrate the achievements of some of the inspirational people working to advance better mental health.

This week the Australian Mental Health Prize was awarded jointly to Janet Meagher and Allan Fels. While I do not envy the judging committee the task they had to select winners from such a stunning list of candidates, it would be impossible not to recognise the tremendous contribution of these two winners.

Janet Meagher is a longstanding consumer advocate and former National Mental Health Commissioner who is well known to many of us, and has been an inspiration to many of us.  I was lucky enough to meet Janet in my very first days on the job, and she has been a constant source of wisdom, encouragement and challenge ever since.  Janet is generous with her time and energy, and I know for a fact she is just as willing to share her formidable insight with a consumer colleague as with a Minister of government. While I suspect Janet is a fundamentally private person, she has none the less thrust herself into the public discourse, raising her voice for those who are so often voiceless.

Allan Fels is well known to us as the outgoing co-chair of the National Mental Health Commission, but lesser known to most for his role as a mental health carer. What a gift to have someone with Allen’s depth of learning and broad economic experience also carrying forward the day-to-day challenges of caring for a family member living with mental illness.  Mounting arguments for the productivity gains to be made by improving mental health services alongside the best of the nation’s economists.

And let’s not forget that the baton was passed to these two fine winners by last year’s equally fine inaugural Australian Mental Health Prize winner, Kim Ryan. Surely no more enthusiastic advocate for mental health reform exists!

Amongst other finalists (including Patrick Hardwick, a Mental Health Australia Board member), amongst other nominees, in service organisations, in homes, in workplaces, in universities, in the public service, in governments, the mental health sector we all work in is generously endowed with people who bring lived experience, skill, wisdom, persistence, enthusiasm and more to the shared task of reform.

Most days we are focussed on the failure or frustration of our efforts – the slow progress, the insurmountable challenges, the under investment, the ongoing discrimination.

This week was a chance to focus on the positive, on the inspirational, on the progress, and on the hope. I have been privileged to work alongside the winners of the Australian Mental Health Prize, and will continue to draw on their wisdom and strength.

I would encourage you all to review the list of 2017 finalists for the Australian Mental Health Prize and to find some inspiration for your own efforts.  I’d also encourage you to think about the friend, colleague or family member who you might nominate for next year’s award.

Let’s celebrate our strength and the people that make us strong.

Warm regards

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

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