ANU mental health advocate honoured

31 July 2020

An ANU PhD researcher whose work on mental health has helped more than 6,000 people has been recognised as the 2020 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year. 

Rosemary Clifford, who is based in the Research School of Psychology, has helped develop and deliver education programs for local organisation MIEACT that have reached 6,400 ACT adults and youth in just 12 months. 
  
The award recognises a young person aged 12 to 25 who has made an outstanding contribution to their local community that has significantly contributed to the broader ACT community. 
  
As a volunteer educator, Rose's work has covered vital topics like youth suicide prevention, anxiety, stress, bullying and body image. 
  
Rose says her work on mental health is inspired by her own experiences with an eating disorder. 
  
"It's a real honour and a privilege to win this award, not just for myself but for all of those working to improve the lives of those experiencing mental health difficulties," she said. 
  
"This award, to me, is more than just a recognition of the work I do in the mental health sphere, it is a recognition of the importance and significance of all the work being done in this area and the amazing people behind it. If there is one thing I have learnt from my own mental health experiences, it is that, it takes a community to overcome mental health difficulties. You can't do it alone and you don't have to.
 
"All too often mental health difficulties are pushed to the side and ignored, we avoid it and this tells those struggling that they shouldn't speak out but by speaking out and sharing your own mental health experience you can make it okay to talk about mental health and reduce the stigma. 

"This makes it easier for those confronting mental health difficulties to ask for help. We want more people reaching out when they need.
 
"The most important thing is speaking out about mental health makes it okay to not be okay. What is not okay is going it alone when you don't have to." 
  
Her award citation notes Rose's "pivotal role...in the development and delivery of mental health education programs in the ACT." 
  
"With both her personal experience of living with an eating disorder and professional background, Rose has informed Canberrans to increase mental health literacy, address stigma and promote early help-seeking," it reads. 
  
"To have achieved this in such a short time shows the commitment and dedication to mental health awareness Rose displays while herself living with and overcoming an eating disorder. 
  
"As a community we are extremely lucky to have young people like Rosemary who are not only giving back to Canberra, but are paving a path of hope for young people who may experience mental health issues and empower them to seek help early." 
  
In addition to her volunteer work as mental health educator, Rose has worked with two-time Walkley winning journalist Olivia Roussett to document her own mental health experience. 

The digital story is now used as a teaching tool. Her expertise has also featured on ABC Canberra and ABC News.