John Brogden speaks on mental health

Published 14 September 2007

Former NSW Opposition Leader and a passionate advocate for mental health awareness, John Brogden, will be the guest speaker at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus on October 11.

The Challenging Ideas lecture, which will form part of Mental Health Awareness Week, will include the launch of Southern Cross University’s Rural Mental Health Scholarship program.

Mr Brogden, the chief executive officer of Manchester Unity Australia, was appointed the Patron of Lifeline NSW in May 2007. From 1996 to 2005, he was the Member for Pittwater in the NSW Parliament and was the youngest person to become Leader of the Opposition, when he was elected in March 2002 at age 33.

He resigned that leadership amid intense media scrutiny following a well-publicised personal crisis that culminated in a suicide attempt. He has since spoken publicly about living with depression, saying the most critical thing is for people to talk openly about mental health issues.

Southern Cross University psychology lecturer Dr Anna Brooks said mental health was an enormous issue in regional and rural areas.

“This public seminar will help to raise awareness of the mental health problems suffered by so many people in our community,” Dr Brooks said.

According to the National Rural Health Alliance rates of suicide are consistently higher in rural towns than in metropolitan and regional areas. In communities with a population of less than 5000, the male suicide rate is one-and-a-half times the capital city rate, and the suicide rate of males aged 15-24 is almost twice that of their city counterparts.

“It is such a big problem in rural areas and it’s been exacerbated by the drought. Often people in these areas don’t seek help, and if they do there’s no help available,” Dr Brooks said.

“The lack of trained professionals in mental health has been the driving force behind the University’s Rural Mental Health Scholarship program.

“We know that people who are trained in regional areas are much more likely to stay and develop their careers here.”

Dr Brooks said the University was seeking support from the business community for the scholarship program, which will provide scholarships worth $5000 a year to selected students in the four-year Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) degree at the Coffs Harbour campus.

“We will be targeting non-metropolitan applicants to encourage those students from rural and regional areas to stay here for their training,” she said.

The public seminar will be held on Thursday, October 11, at the Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour campus, Hogbin Drive, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. The cost is $15. For bookings contact Karen Howes on 66203354 or email

For information about the scholarship program contact Rebecca Park on 66203463.

Photo: John Brogden will be the guest speaker at Southern Cross University's Coffs Harbour campus on October 11.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.