Mental health research pioneer honoured by ANU

24 April 2015

The founder of the ANU National Institute of Mental Health Research (NIMHR), Professor Scott Henderson, has been honoured for his contribution to mental health in Australia.

Speaking at an event for the Institute's 40th anniversary, Director Professor Kathy Griffiths awarded Professor Henderson the inaugural Mental Health Research Award.

Professor Henderson played a key role in shaping mental health research.

"Professor Henderson established NIMHR at a time when mental health research was highly neglected," Professor Griffiths said.

The Institute has become an international leader in online services for people with mental health problems. In 2001 the NIMHR launched the MoodGYM online self-help service that now operates in six languages and has been used by a million users in 22 countries world-wide.

Earlier this month a leaked National Mental Health Commission review recommended the amount of funding for mental health research be doubled.

Professor Griffiths said it was important that innovative research continued to be the catalyst for changes to Australia's mental health services.

"Mental health research has come a long way, but in terms of Australia's mental health services unfortunately I can't say the same thing," she said.

"The report showed the same problems with Australia's mental health system that were around 20 years ago are still an issue today."

The Institute also officially launched the NIMHR Endowment Fund to attract funding for future research and programs.

"We need to diversify the funding base," she said.

"Suicide is responsible for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents in Australia. Mental illness costs two and a half trillion dollars worldwide but receives far less funding than other national health priorities."

Professor Henderson said the online services delivered by NIMHR were able to reach people who might not usually come forward to receive help.

"At the moment one of the great impediments is the huge amount of stigma associated with being mentally unwell," he said.

He said he was delighted to be the recipient of the inaugural NIMHR Mental Health Research Award.

"I very much appreciate it, at this stage in life this type of recognition is greatly appreciated."