Mind matters: Supporting mental health in Australia
The impacts of the pandemic have driven a renewed focus on improving mental health and wellbeing from government, media, and the community. We spoke to a group of Australian Philanthropic Services (APS) clients and friends about their philanthropic approach to the challenges of mental health.
Enormous potential for support
Mental Health Australia is our nation’s independent peak body representing the mental health sector. Nikki Hogan, Director of External Relations, acknowledges that the system is complex and multi-faceted.
"There's a range of options and enormous potential for philanthropic funding in mental health."
Nikki Hogan, Mental Health Australia
“There’s a range of options and enormous potential for philanthropic funding in mental health. You can support something practical, like donating directly to frontline services, individual projects like developing an app, or back wellbeing campaigns like R U OK? Day. Many philanthropists also consider directing their efforts towards mental health research or prevention.”
In the lead up to the May Federal election, Mental Health Australia developed a series of issue papers to help voters understand some of the critical challenges impacting mental health, covering topics like the cost of living, disasters, stigma reduction and access to housing.
Innovation and prevention
APS client Professor Philip Ward is a clinical neuroscientist with an extensive career working in mental health. His approach as a philanthropist is to identify the gaps in mental health funding – areas where government funding is not being directed.
"The concept of mental wellbeing is an area I’m really interested in. How do we help build strength and resilience?"
Professor Philip Ward, Obumu Foundation
For Professor Ward, this means looking at new and innovative ways of addressing mental health, often through community organisations. “The concept of mental wellbeing is an area I’m really interested in. How do we help build strength and resilience in everyone so that when we are confronted by a crisis we can respond in a positive way, and not be reliant on mental health services?”
Professor Ward’s interest in prevention and mental wellness funding led him to take a board position with Waves of Wellness. It’s a grassroots charity established to provide a different approach to therapy by removing the discomfort that people often feel in clinical settings. In addition to providing evidence-based surf therapy programs for people with mental illness, Waves of Wellness offers individual and corporate wellness surf programs designed to increase resilience and provide a healthy outlet for people to connect.
Supporting a deeply personal cause
For Marie Kinsella and David Conolly, directors of the Kinsella Conolly Foundation, the decision to fund the mental health space is deeply personal. Marie and David’s daughter, Georgie, was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2017 following an illness. Unable to maintain her previously high-performing grades at school, her self-esteem plummeted. Georgie’s eating disorder provided an illusion of control, whilst the rest of her world was unmanageable. The Kinsella Conolly family soon realised that treatment options in Australia were underfunded, under-resourced and unable to support the estimated one million Australians with an eating disorder (less than 25% of whom currently receive treatment).
"We saw an extreme need first-hand and felt we could help."
Marie Kinsella, Kinsella Conolly Foundation Fund
Wandi Nerida is Australia’s first residential recovery centre for people who suffer from an eating disorder. Marie says their decision to fund the private facility came from their lived experience. “We saw an extreme need first-hand and felt we could help. Part of our funds pays for those people who can’t afford the fees to stay there.”
Marie and David’s ambitious goal is to have at least one centre like Wandi Nerida in every state and territory in Australia.