Professor Helen E Herrman

Citation for the Award of Doctor of Medical Science (Honoris Causa)

Just as good mental health underpins personal success for individuals, a health system that provides quality, inclusive mental health care for all its patients will support broader economic and social objectives.  Professor Helen Herrman has spent her career researching, providing education and clinical care and advising on the delivery of mental health services so that governments and societies might meet their moral obligations and economic targets.

Professor Helen Herrman has combined psychiatry and public health throughout her career to improve the mental health of marginalised groups.  She is acknowledged internationally for her expertise in psychiatric epidemiology including mental disorders in homeless people and prisoners; clinical service development including community mental health and mental health in primary care; and mental health promotion. As Professor and Director of Psychiatry at St Vincent’s Health and The University of Melbourne from 1992-2007 she was instrumental in developing community-based services. Her current research is focused on improving mental health for young people, on supported decision making in mental heath care and on depression in primary health care.

A highly collaborative leader, Helen Herrman has forged the development of international partnerships between academia, health service providers and policy developers to influence good practice and promotion of mental health.  Over 25 years she has worked with a range of local, regional and global organisations, providing advice to committees, reports and consultancies on mental health and quality of life.

In roles with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) she led projects to develop strategies, policies, publications and guidelines on the promotion and implementation of mental health programs.  She led the development and implementation of a mental health strategy for the Western Pacific region; is Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for research and training in mental health; and continues to provide advice to Asia Australia Mental Health, a consortium she was active in creating to provide mental health research and training programs throughout Asia.

Her research excellence is demonstrated by her strong publication record of 200 peer reviewed scientific papers, editorials and book reviews, eight edited books, 30 book chapters and 23 monographs and reports.  As head of the Research Division and Director (Academic) for Orygen she has played an important leadership role in youth mental health research. Her contributions to research leadership are also evidenced by her membership of the Australian Government Medical Review Council and appointment to the NHMRC Principal Committee on Prevention and Community Health.

Professor Helen Herrman’s professional and voluntary contributions have been widely recognised. She holds an International Distinguished Fellowship of the American Psychiatric Association, an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the World Psychiatric Association in 2011.  She was awarded a College Citation by the RANZCP for her contribution to national and international psychiatry and is on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

In 2017 Helen Herrman will take up the presidency of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), the first Australian to fill this role. Her election to this distinguished office is a tribute to her commitment to and impact on the field of community mental health in clinical, academic and service development roles and to her leadership of international mental health initiatives.  Her plans for her tenure include improving inclusive mental health services for women and young people.  She is clear about the moral and economic imperative for governments and health care providers to improve mental health services for marginalised groups.  Her exceptional capacity for influencing mental health care policy, delivery and promotion, augers well for a future of important international transformations in mental health.