Suicide Prevention Australia is pleased to confirm that the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) for the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund (The Fund) has now been established.

The RAC will advise the SPA Board on a program of research funding to advance the knowledge base across the sector and ensure greater effectiveness of suicide prevention initiatives; and will assess grant applications that address The Fund’s Research Priorities.

Members of the RAC have been appointed to represent Lived Experience, expertise in service provision, and leaders in scientific research. The RAC will be Chaired by Professor Don Nutbeam, an internationally recognised public health researcher and leader.


Membership of the RAC

Members with Lived Experience and expertise in service provision were appointed through an application and selection process; while experts leading scientific research were appointed by invitation only, based on the following criteria:

  • Currently leading an national or international research Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention
  • Have received funding for research coordination under the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program
  • Have been funded by the Commonwealth Government for specific suicide prevention research activity.


Chair: Professor Don Nutbeam

Professor Don Nutbeam is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, and a Senior Advisor at the Sax Institute. He is a public health scientist with research interests in the social and behavioural determinants of health, and in the development and evaluation of public health interventions. He is widely published and cited on these subjects.

Professor Nutbeam’s career has spanned positions in universities, government, health services and an independent health research institute. He was previously Vice-Chancellor (President) of the University of Southampton, UK (2009-15), Academic Provost at the University of Sydney (2006-9) and has also served as the Head of Public Health in the UK Department of Health (2000-2003). He has worked as an advisor and consultant on public health issues for the World Health Organisation for over 30 years, and as consultant and team leader in health system capacity development projects for the World Bank.


Members with Lived Experience

Ms Sharan Nicholson

Sharan is an Aboriginal woman descending from the Wiradjuri and Eora Gadigal nations, a married mother of two children & 3 Grandchildren. Sharan has worked in roles with Department of Community Services, Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, NSW Health, University of Western Sydney, Consultant with Cox Inall Ridgeway, Aboriginal SEARCH Study Manager with the SAX Institute Sydney, and current role as Aboriginal Community Health Manager.

Sharan has held positions as a Board of Director for Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Notre Dame University Indigenous Advisory Committee, and various local, State and National Aboriginal Committee’s. Sharan holds a Batchelor of Health Science (majored Indigenous Health) degree and holds various qualifications in health and community services. Sharan is a current Investigator with various Aboriginal Research projects in the South West Area of Sydney.  Sharan has a strong passion to improving access to mental health services for Aboriginal communities and frontline members of the Emergency Services.


Mr Jorgen Gullestrup

Jorgen Gullestrup is on the advisory committee representing the lived experience of suicide.  He moved to Australia in 1988 following a six-year period of mental illness and suicidality. A plumber by trade he worked the construction industry for several years before spending 13 years as a union official with the Plumbers Union.  Due to his personal experience but also observing the loss of too many of his union members to suicide he became passionate about preventing suicide within the industry. He was the founding manager of the MATES in Construction program in 2008 and evidence based suicide prevention program working in the Construction, Mining and Energy industries. Jorgen holds an Associate Diploma in Labour Studies (Adelaide University), A Diploma of Community Welfare and Development (University of Sothern Queensland), A Graduate Certificate in Suicide Prevention and Masters of Suicideology (Griffith University).


Ms Ingrid Ozols

Ingrid Ozols, Senior Fellow, Department of Psychiatry Melbourne University; 2017 outstanding alumnus for Australian institute of Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University; 2016 Australian Human Rights Medal finalist and an active workplace mental health and suicide prevention advocate and educator of more than 18 years.

Ingrid is the founder and managing director of Mental Health at Work (mh@work®) a consultancy aimed at improving workplace understanding of mental health, suicide prevention, resilience and creating supportive cultures. Through storytelling the lived experience of surviving her own suicide attempts and others, this organisation role-models, hope, possibilities through vulnerability, compassion and the power of social inclusion to everyone’s health and wellbeing.

She contributes to mental health policy reform in Australia, participating as a member of many national mental health & suicide prevention boards, committees, government advisory, university and research groups, and more recently, providing lived experience advice in digital mental health services.

Ingrid was the first consumer to be appointed as a community member on the Victorian State Branch of the RANZCP and co-Chair of the Supported Decision Making project with the RANZCP. A TEDx UK speaker, Ingrid was the 2007 State finalist for Telstra Business Women’s Awards and finalist in the Social Contribution section of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneurship Awards in 2009.

Ingrid travels the country and internationally speaking (and chairing) many conferences and workshops. Having appeared widely in Australian media and radio Ingrid shares her own journey of mental illness, being a suicide attempt survivor as well as the stories of those she loves, lives and has worked with who have been touched directly and indirectly by mental illness and suicide.


Members with expertise in service provision

Ms Anna Flego, Movember

Anna is currently the Global Evaluation Lead for Men’s Health at the Movember Foundation. In this role, Anna has global oversight of the monitoring and evaluation of key components of Movember’s program investment portfolio, incorporating the mental health and suicide prevention portfolio and men’s health promotion programs.

Anna has 19 years of experience working in health care and health research and is passionate about demonstrating and promoting effective and efficient solutions to complex health problems. Prior to working for the Movember Foundation, Anna worked as a Research Fellow at Deakin University in Health Economics/ Program Evaluation. She has published in the peer reviewed literature and been a reviewer for a number of public health and health economics journals.


Dr Michelle Blanchard, SANE Australia

Dr Michelle Blanchard is the Deputy CEO at SANE Australia, a national charity working to promote the wellbeing of people affected by complex mental illness. Michelle is also the founding Director of SANE’s Anne Deveson Research Centre which partners with people with mental illness and their family, friends and colleagues to drive policy and social change. The Anne Deveson Research Centre honours Anne’s legacy as co-founder of SANE and her tireless work in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Prior to joining SANE in 2017, Michelle held leadership roles at the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. From 2011 to 2016, Michelle was also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne.

Michelle is a Non-Executive Director of youth mental health organisation batyr. She is Co-Chair of the Australian American Young Leadership Dialogue and a participant in the United States Government’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Michelle holds a PhD in Youth Mental Health, a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Psychology and Political Science, a Graduate Diploma in Adolescent Health and Welfare and a Diploma in Leadership and Management.


Dr Alicia McCoy, beyondblue

Alicia McCoy is Head of Research and Evaluation at beyondblue, an independent not-for-profit organisation that provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health. Alicia leads the team that supports the diverse research and evaluation activities undertaken and commissioned by beyondblue.

Prior to this, Alicia held senior management positions in evaluation and research in the community sector. Alicia is a social worker with clinical experience in women and children’s health and is a final year PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne. Alicia is a published author and has presented at numerous domestic and international conferences on a variety of evaluation and research topics.


Members leading research

Professor Myf Maple: SPA Director’s representative

Myfanwy Maple is one of Australia’s few internationally recognised experts in suicide bereavement.

Her PhD – ‘Parental Portraits of Suicide: Narrating the loss of a young adult child’ – was the first in Australia to examine the journey of parental suicide grief through their own narratives. This allowed for a deeper knowledge of the experiences and needs of suicide bereaved parents which positively influenced development of service provision to those bereaved by suicide.

Myf has since extended this work within the field of suicide bereavement by challenging its focus on immediate kin, to explore other groups and individuals affected after a suicide death, exposure to suicide attempts, and those with lived experience. This has led to new partnerships exploring the experience of trauma and loss on young people, who are at risk of suicide and experiencing high levels of psychological distress, while being marginalised from mainstream society.

Professor Maple’s standing in the field has been nationally recognised through her election to the Board of Directors of Suicide Prevention Australia, and was awarded the inaugural Suicide Prevention Australia Emerging Researcher Award in 2007. Myf is currently Professor of Social Work, and Chair of Research, in the School of Health at the University of New England, located in Armidale in Northern New South Wales. Professor Maple is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Professor Helen Christensen: Black Dog Institute

Professor Helen Christensen is Chief Scientist and Director of the Black Dog Institute, and Chief Investigator for the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP). She is a leading expert on using technology to deliver evidence-based interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety, suicide, and self-harm.

Professor Christensen is currently leading a comprehensive research trial of LifeSpan, a systems approach to suicide prevention that combines nine evidenced-based strategies into an integrated community-driven intervention model. Her research also focuses on school-based prevention and early intervention programs for mental health problems and suicide. Professor Christensen has a leading role in international research initiatives, including ImpleMentAll and Optimising Suicide Prevention Programs and Their Implementation in Europe (formerly the European Alliance Against Depression).

Her professional memberships include the International Society for Research on Internet Interventions, International Association for Suicide Prevention, and International Academy of Suicide Research.


Professor David Crompton OAM: Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention

David worked in private practice as a rural general practitioner prior to commencing psychiatry training and spending 12 years in private psychiatry practice. David is a Professor within the School of Health Service and Social Work and holds academic titles with the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology. He has held leadership roles in Queensland Health and New South Wales Health and is the coordinator for the Centre for Neuroscience, Recovery and Mental Health. He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for development of community based mental health services for veterans, development of community post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and substance abuse treatment services. David’s research interest includes the impact of trauma and natural disasters, suicide and factors that influence recovery of individuals with mental illness.


Professor Pat Dudgeon: Centre for Best Practice in Indigenous Suicide Prevention

Professor Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people of the Kimberly area in Western Australia. She is a psychologist and Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. Pat is a Professor and Poche Research Fellow at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Western Australia. Her area of research includes Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. Amongst her many commitments, she is a former Commissioner of the Australian National Mental Health Commission (completed 5 year term July 2017), deputy chair of the Australian Indigenous Psychologist’s Association, chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leaders Mental Health, co-chair of the ministerial Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and member of NHMRC Mental Health Research Advisory Committee.

She is the executive director of the National Empowerment Project: an Indigenous suicide prevention project working with eleven sites in Aboriginal communities across the country, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project and the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.


Professor Jane Pirkis: National Research Coordination, University of Melbourne

Professor Jane Pirkis is the Director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne.  She has worked in the suicide prevention field for over 20 years, and is particularly well known for her contributions in the area of suicide and the media.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of Crisis and the 1st Vice President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). She and her team are providing leadership in suicide prevention research through the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program.  They are also responsible for the evaluation of the National Suicide Prevention Trial.  Jane’s work has been recognised by various awards, including Suicide Prevention Australia’s Lifetime Research Award (2010) and the University of Tasmania’s Distinguished Alumni Award (2017).


Dr Jo Robinson: Orygen

Dr Jo Robinson is a Senior Research Fellow at Orygen the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health where she leads the suicide prevention research unit. Current projects include the development of a systematic approach to youth suicide prevention across north-west Melbourne, the establishment of a self-harm monitoring program in emergency departments, a RCT examining the effects of an online program among secondary school students, and a suite of studies examining the potential utility of social media platforms in suicide prevention. She has also led the production of a series of systematic reviews that have informed clinical practice and service development.

She has a keen interest in policy development and evaluation and has led the development of two major policy reports and is regularly called upon to provide advice to both state and federal government.


Ms Jaelea Skehan: Everymind

Jaelea Skehan is an internationally respected leader in the prevention of mental illness and the prevention of suicide. She is passionate about translating evidence into practice and building the capacity of individuals, families, organisations and communities to be involved in mental health and suicide prevention.

Jaelea is the Director of Everymind, where she has worked since 2001. She is a registered psychologist and holds a conjoint appointment with the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle. Jaelea is an advocate for finding better connections between research and practice and has worked across a range of settings and sectors.  Jaelea has been instrumental in the development of suicide prevention, community awareness and policy related initiatives at state and national levels and sits on a range of advisory groups guiding suicide prevention activity in Australia and internationally.