‘An enormous honour and privilege’: Professor Patrick McGorry AO announced as inaugural Patron of he

The National Youth Mental Health Foundation, headspace, today announced that the organisation’s founder, Professor Patrick McGorry AO, has accepted the honorary position of Patron.

Professor McGorry is the inaugural Patron of headspace. The new role marks the conclusion of his time as a member of the Board.

Professor McGorry was the driving force behind the establishment of headspace.

In the early 2000s, he tirelessly advocated for a nation-wide early intervention service for young people experiencing mental health challenges, eventually leading the successful bid on behalf of Orygen, University of Melbourne, APS and BMRI/University of Sydney, to design a world-first mental health model from scratch. This model became headspace as we know it today.

Professor McGorry oversaw the establishment of the first ten centres in 2007, with 20 more locations announced by the Federal Government by the end of that year. By 2010, 30 headspace centres were operating across the nation.

It was for his outstanding contribution to youth mental health that Professor McGorry was awarded the Australian of the Year in 2010.

He has served as a board member for more than 14 years.

Today, headspace supports young people through services in 154 communities[1] across Australia, and provides online and phone counselling services, vocational services, and support in schools. In the time Professor McGorry has been a part of the organisation, the headspace model has been implemented overseas, in countries including Denmark, Israel, Netherlands, and Iceland.

Professor Patrick McGorry AO said: “It has been an enormous honour and privilege to have had the opportunity to play a role in creating, implementing and spreading what is essentially a simple idea, a youth friendly one stop shop for young people which has given them a voice in designing an evidence-based welcoming space in which their basic health and social needs can be met. headspace is designed to welcome all young people and to turn no-one away. For those who have additional needs for more specialised and sustained care, it is a safe and secure gateway to this next level, or at least a safety net, should that next step be blocked or elusive. That feature is an intrinsic and vital feature of the headspace primary care franchise model and must always be defended.”

“headspace has been a huge team effort involving a small group of true believers (the headspace consortium) at first, a much larger army of true believers as we grew, and cohorts of uniquely dedicated staff and leaders at headspace national as well as across our amazing family of centres over nearly two decades. We have found common purpose with some visionary and sympathetic political leaders, with energetic pioneers and allies in many other countries, with my colleagues at Orygen, who have also played a vital role in the establishment and re-fuelling of headspace, and of course with a series of cohorts of inspirational young people and families. I have worked continuously as a clinician in several headspace centres (especially Glenroy and Coffs Harbour) across the lifespan of the system, and have found that an endless source of inspiration, new learning and research ideas. I have seen hundreds of young people directly benefit from our work, many of whom would have been lost without headspace’s embrace.

“I would like to thank all my colleagues with whom I have served on the headspace board, and especially the young people who have sat on the board. The warmth and respect for young people and dedication to the mission demonstrated by every single director has been remarkable and rare in my experience. I would like to express my appreciation to the three Chairs under whom I have served, Wendy McCarthy, Lisa Paul, and Ben Shields, and to the CEOs and the executive teams who have done such a wonderful job over so many years. I have particularly appreciated and enjoyed working with Jason Trethowan as CEO, who took over during a challenging transition and has navigated the complexity of the recent period including the pandemic with great skill, but all the senior executives have been exceptional. I would also like to acknowledge Professor Debra Rickwood who has been a wonderful research colleague at headspace from the very beginning.

“With a rising tide of mental ill-health around Australia, combined with workforce and funding deficits, we are now at a crossroads. The youth mental health mission needs to be reimagined. In my capacity as Patron, I look forward to providing strategic advice to catalyse this urgent task.”

Board Chair of headspace Ben Shields said: “Professor Patrick McGorry has been instrumental in headspace’s success, and we are grateful for his outstanding leadership over the past two decades.

“His dedication to this work has profoundly impacted the mental health system here in Australia, as well as across the globe.

“We look forward to continuing to work with and learn from Pat as he continues to provide guidance through this role as the inaugural Patron of headspace.

“headspace remains in the steady hands of an experienced Board, including new appointee Professor Andrew Chanen, who govern our organisation and early intervention support services for young people.”

The headspace Board has appointed Professor Andrew Chanen as a new Board Member.

Professor Chanen specialises in the care of young people with mental ill-health, dedicating his career to prevention and early intervention. He is currently Chief of Clinical Practice and Head of Personality Disorder Research at Orygen and is a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne.

Professor Chanen established the field of early intervention for personality disorder and is a leading global advocate for effective, evidence-based policy. He has produced over 220 scientific publications in high-impact international journals and has received over $30 million in competitive grant funding.

His work has been recognised with several awards for advancing healthcare, including the 2023 Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Ian Simpson Award and the 2017 Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Severe Personality Disorders from the Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Centre and Personality Disorder Institute, New York.

Ben Shields is thrilled to welcome Professor Chanen to the Board.

“Professor Chanen is an excellent addition to the Board. Possessing incredible insights into the latest in early intervention research and demonstrating a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of young people experiencing mental ill-health, he will ensure headspace continues to be at the forefront of the field.

“We are very eager to work closely with Prof. Chanen as headspace continues to transform and expand to meet the needs of young people and their families across Australia.”

[1] As at July 2023 and inclusive of licensed headspace centres, satellites and outposts

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