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Alan Woodward receives Australian Mental Health Prize

The Bugle App

Cathy Law

03 November 2022, 12:48 AM

Alan Woodward receives Australian Mental Health Prize

Kiama Heights’ resident Alan Woodward has been recognised by his peers with the Australian Mental Health Prize, to recognise and celebrate his outstanding leadership as a mental health professional at a national level.

He has a long and distinguished career in suicide prevention and mental health with a specific interest in evaluation and quality improvement, particularly in crisis services.

Alan has contributed to service development, innovation, and policy advocacy for many years, most recently speaking at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. He currently serves part-time as a National Mental Health Commissioner.

Much of the last 20 years has been working with Lifeline Australia where he led a wide range of organisational reforms including building a very strong evaluation function to achieve better outcomes for individuals and communities.

He has only recently submitted his PhD on the experiences of people who use the Lifeline crisis line.

While the Illawarra has always been Alan’s home, he moved to Kiama with his family in 1999.

Locally, he is known to many through his participation in the Kiama Precinct and the Kiama Heights Residents Association, and he has been a contributor of wisdom to Bugle readers in challenging times.

With a background in community development, Alan is a big believer in the benefits of being involved.

“Everything tells me our mental health and wellbeing is in part influenced by our involvement in the community around us so that we have the connection with other people,” he says.

It is also important that the community itself is open, functional and inclusive.

“Never underestimate the benefits from having a strong and open community like ours, both for the community as a whole and for individuals in terms of their mental health and wellbeing.”

He welcomes the increased focus on improving mental health.

“I am an optimist and I do believe things are improving in this country, but there are many things still to be done,” says Alan.

“If you’re interested in bringing about change in mental health and suicide prevention, you’re in for the long haul – it’s important to pace yourself and work with others.”

Other recipients of the Australian Mental Health Prize, which this year have been split into four categories, are Ian Thorpe AM (for Lived Experience), Donna Stanley (First Nations leadership) and Gary Thorpe (Community Hero).

Co-chair and past winner of the Prize, Professor Allan Fels AO, says this year’s winners reflect the current mental health priorities in Australia.

“In particular, we have seen higher rates of mental illness during COVID, especially in youth, Indigenous and LGBTIQ+ communities; higher rates of suicidal attempts; greater isolation of older people, particularly in nursing homes; and pervasive mental health needs of our veterans, which are currently being examined by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran suicide.

“I applaud this year’s winners for their deeply challenging work in these critical areas.”