University of Sydney professor joins leaders of Australia's first National Mental Health Commission

12 December 2011

Professor Ian Hickie is a leader in mental health reform
Professor Ian Hickie is a leader in mental health reform

Professor Ian Hickie, Executive Director of the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute, has been named as one of eight commissioners to lead Australia's first National Mental Health Commission.

Announced on Sunday by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, the commission will work hand-in-hand with stakeholders to change the way people think about mental health and to improve services and support for people experiencing mental illness.

The commission is a key component of the federal government's $2.2 billion mental health budget package.

Professor Hickie is a community leader in mental health reform. He is particularly recognised for detecting and treating depressive disorders and for his moves to reform mental health services for young people, who often fall through the cracks between child and adult services. He has led the BMRI since its foundation in 2003.

"It's a great privilege to be asked to participate in Australia's first national mental health commission," said Professor Hickie. "It has the potential to change the way mental health and related social services are delivered in this country.

"With the concurrent elevation of Minister Mark Butler into cabinet, the Gillard government has made it clear how important good mental health is to the social, health and economic fabric of this country."

The commissioners will provide expert and independent advice to the government on the performance of Australia's mental health system and monitor whether services are delivering lasting outcomes for people living with a mental illness, their carers and their families.

One of the commission's first priorities will be to deliver the first annual National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, delivering on a key election commitment of the Gillard government," the minister said.

"This will allow consumers and their families to tell if services are genuinely effective and meeting their needs."

Up to 1.6 million Australians, 8 percent of the population, are either permanently or transiently affected by depression or other mental illnesses during the course of a year. To tackle and lower the incidence of mental illness in the community, the BMRI, the University's flagship institute in neuroscience and mental health, brings together leading basic science and clinical research academics, clinical practitioners and partner organisations to research and treat diseases of the brain and mind, such as depression, dementia and the effects of substance abuse.

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