SANE CEO calls for greater conversations around mental health

There is a need for further conversations about mental health in Australia, according to MLS alumnus and CEO of SANE Australia Mr Jack Heath.

Mr Jack Heath

Speaking at the MLS Alumni Breakfast Seminar earlier this month, Mr Heath, a graduate of Arts and Law from the University of Melbourne (BA, Hons 1983, LLB 1984), said many people still don’t talk about their experiences with mental illness.    

“We need to have a conversation about us, too many of us, who are impacted by severe mental illness. We don’t realise that we are apart of a bigger community if we don’t talk about it.”

“When you finally see there are so many people affected by the same thing – realising you are part of a community –makes you realise things are not as hard as you originally thought”, he said.

Two years ago, a review of mental health in Australia estimated that 700,000 Australians are living with severe or complex mental illnesses. For each of these people there are roughly five others, including family members, friends and caregivers, who will be impacted by the effects of mental illness. Therefore, approximately four million Australians are directly affected by complex mental illnesses.

Modes of care to treat mental illness are often one-on-one and almost half of people affected by mental illness aren’t accessing those modes of care.

Through its online forums, SANE offers a new platform to “tap into a reservoir of lived experiences” for both carers and for people living with mental illnesses. Professionally moderated 24 hours a day, the SANE forums provide a safe, anonymous environment to talk about their challenging experiences.

Many individuals choose to continue to participate in these forums, sharing their experiences to help others who are just starting on this journey.

Mr Jack Heath

Mr Heath’s distinguished career started as a Legal Advocate on the Public Service Board before heading abroad to the Bangkok Embassy working in foreign affairs. He then came back to Australia working as a Senior Adviser and Speechwriter for the Office of Prime Minister Keating 1994-1995.

In 1996 Mr Heath founded the Inspire Foundation, now known as ReachOut, to address the escalating numbers of youth suicide. He then worked overseas on the boards of Inspire Ireland and Inspire USA, and was the CEO of the latter from 2010-2011. Returning to Australia, he became the Senior Advisor at the Office of the Hon Kevin Rudd MP Minister for Foreign Affairs 2011-2012.

Mr Heath has been the CEO of SANE Australia since 2012. SANE is a national charity established 30 years ago to help all Australians affected by mental illness to lead better lives. He has received a number of awards in recognition of his work, including the Centenary Medal for his contribution to Australian Society.

To learn more about SANE Australia’s work visit

By Kate Edwards