Coast mental health expert finalist in national award

Sunshine Coast mental health expert John Mendoza.
Sunshine Coast mental health expert John Mendoza. John McCutcheon

SUNSHINE Coast mental health expert Professor John Mendoza has been named as one of seven finalists for the first Australian Mental Health Prize.

The mental health and suicide prevention advocate, policy analyst and researcher is committed to sector reform and reducing the rate of suicide in Australia.

Now a member of staff at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Prof Mendoza has worked in alcohol and drug and mental health for nearly 35 years.

He is a former CEO of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, former CEO of Mental Health Council of Australia and former chair of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health to the Federal Government.

He is also the director of Connetica, a leading research organisation which aims to transform mental health care, and a board member of Maroochydore's Headspace.

He lost a nephew to suicide in 2014 and uses his knowledge as a former senior public servant and his personal experiences to educate the community about the issues associated with mental illness and suicide.

The finalists are being recognised for their work across a number of different areas, including suicide prevention, youth mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mental health first aid and mental health nursing.  

Established by UNSW, and chaired by Ita Buttrose, the Prize was launched earlier this year by Dame Quentin Bryce to recognise Australians who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of mental health, or the prevention and treatment of mental illness, in areas such as advocacy, research or service provision.  

Prof Mendoza made headlines in 2010, when he quit his position as leading mental health advisor to Prime Minister Rudd in protest at his government's attitude to mental health.

He wrote a scathing resignation letter to Health Minister Nicola Roxon and accused the Federal Government of having a "tin ear” when it came to listening to the country's leading authorities on the issue.

In his resignation as chairman of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health, he accused the Rudd Government of having "no vision or commitment to mental health” and falsely laying claim to increasing funding to the field.

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