Mental health is relevant to every single Australian and New Zealander. Striking in the prime of life and especially with the onset in young adults, mental health problems have a much more serious effect on the economy than any other medical disease. Mental health and substance use disorders cost Australian workplaces over $11 billion every year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and compensation claims, across all industries.  Recently, the OECD has estimated that for every 10% gain in mental health, GDP would rise by 0.4%. For all of the advantages of the Australian healthcare system, it is seriously failing people with mental ill-health and their families, and like the rest of healthcare this is felt most prominently by those most disadvantaged.

Research is fundamental to developing and implementing effective mental health interventions and initiatives to address these issues. Thanks to medical research, mortality and recovery rates in cancers and cardiovascular diseases have significantly improved, there are earlier and improved diagnostics and safer, more personalised treatments that have transformed the lives of people living with these diseases. These battles are yet to be won in mental illness.  

The Society for Mental Health Research is on a mission to win this battle.  Research is the key to changing this situation for mental health and ill-health, and it is the pathway to better knowledge, prevention, treatment, and recovery. Our researchers outperform their colleagues in cancer, heart disease, and immunology, and produce outcomes that are immediately translatable into real world, human settings.  And we do all of this on less money and investment in research than any other medical disease area.

Now, more than ever, there is hope and opportunity for people experiencing mental ill-health, our families, and our communities. As President of the Society for Mental Health Research, I welcome everyone to join with us to help unlock the keys to prevention, treatment, and recovery in mental ill-health, and the promotion and maintenance of mental health, whether someone with a lived experience of mental ill-health, a researcher, a service provider, policy maker, or some combination of all. By rallying together, with a united vision and purpose, we can achieve real and sustained change in Australia and New Zealand for mental health and ill-health, and the lives of people experiencing mental ill-health and their families and communities.

I look forward to working with you all.

Professor Stephen Wood

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