The South Australian Mental Health Commissioners work together to continue implementing the South Australian Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017–2022.
Mental illness extracts a huge cost personally, to families, friends, workmates, the community and the economy. 45 percent of South Australians will experience a diagnosable mental illness at some time in their life. For 75 percent of those who experience mental illness, it will onset before they turn 24 years of age.
Three part-time Mental Health Commissioners were appointed in January 2020 for three-year terms:
Professor Sharon Lawn
Professor Sharon Lawn has a background in providing clinical mental health services and provides her lived experience as a carer in both the state and national space. Professor Lawn is currently a Professor and Director with the School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Flinders Human Behaviour and Health Research Unit at Flinders University. In April 2021, Professor Sharon Lawn resigned as Commissioner for personal reasons.
Heather Nowak is a TAFE Lecturer in Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work and an advocate for people living with mental ill-health on a state and national level.
Heather is an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills trainer and Assessor and a member of the National Mental Health Commission Peer Workforce Development Guidelines Steering Committee and past member of the SA Mental Health Services Plan Steering Committee and the SA Mental Health Commission Community Advisory Committee.
She also brings her lived experience to the role and a determination to ensure people living with mental ill-health, their carers and families have the best opportunity to live a life that is full and meaningful.
David Kelly is an experienced program manager, service designer and community researcher with a 30-year commitment to working with disadvantaged and vulnerable communities to improve wellbeing and build resilience. David believes that communities change for the better when citizens of all ages are empowered as active and creative participants in community development processes rather than passive consumers of services.
In June 2021, John Mannion was announced as the replacement Mental Health Commissioner. John has a sound understanding of the South Australian mental health system, expertise in community mental health services and proven experience in community resilience strategies. He is a registered mental health nurse and has worked in many settings in both the UK and Australia. John will continue in his role as Executive Director of Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation.
The Mental Health Commissioners engage strongly with South Australians and bring together stakeholders including people with lived experience of mental illness, their families, friends and carers; the community, service providers, government, non‑government and private organisations, clinicians, academic institutions and the private sector.
The Mental Health Commissioners are currently continuing their work on implementing the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017–2022.
The Mental Health Commissioners, in partnership with the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, also contribute to the implementation of the SA Health Mental Health Services Plan 2020–2025.
The Mental Health Commissioners are not able to investigate complaints or concerns about services.
Mental Health Commissioners – South Australia (l-r): John Mannion, Heather Nowak and David Kelly.