The Board is elected bi-annually by members of Mental Health Carers NSW (MHCN). The majority of Board members (at least 51%) must be carers of a person with a mental illness. This ensures that MHCN remains connected with the needs of carers.
The Board is also advised by the MHCN Carer Peak Advisory Committee (CPAC) on carer issues and on feedback for official inquiries and processes.
Jenny Learmont – President
Jenny has been a carer for 40 years of a son who developed severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) at the age of 13, and later developed Bi-Polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and, in an effort to relieve very distressing and debilitating symptoms, resorted to drug and alcohol misuse.
For many years Jenny had no referrals for supports for herself as a carer, so in 1990, taking the initiative, she was elected Chair of the Anxiety Disorders Alliance (ADA), a Standing Committee of the NSW Mental Health Association (MHA), a position she held until 2006.
ADA commenced support groups for those with OCD and other anxiety disorders, and their carers and friends. ADA later established self-help groups for consumers, “Triumph over Phobias & OCD” usually known as TOP, and, in 2000, introduced “Small Steps”, an early intervention programme that disseminated information about anxiety disorders to primary-school teachers and parents.
ADA also established an anxiety information line, held free community anxiety forums and held two national conferences on anxiety disorders.
ADA significantly added to community awareness of anxiety disorders and to current treatments available, and contributed a great deal to breaking down prejudicial attitudes towards people with mental illness.
2006- 2015: President; Anxiety Disorders Association NSW Inc, (ADAN). The Anxiety Disorders Association NSW Inc. (ADAN), was established in 2006 to assist health professionals, carers and consumers through workshops, seminars, and conferences. Since 2007 ADAN, has worked with beyondblue, university researchers, local community groups, MHA, Life-Line, and local Councils, convening free community forums on anxiety disorders, and held a very successful, well attended National Anxiety Disorders Conference. Jenny in 2005 was a founding member and then Chair of the NSW Consumers Advisory Committee on Mental Health (NSW CAG).
She is a member of the advisory committee for the Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University, is on the General Peak Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Alcohol and Drug Peak Advisory Committee (AD PAC), is a member of Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network (NSW), and is also a member of the Anxiety Disorder Reference Committee NSW.
In 1996 she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), and admitted to the degree of DOCTOR OF MEDICINE HONORIS CAUSA, at the University of NSW for eminent service to the community. For many years Jenny lead a research team into long term non-progression of HIV in a cohort of blood transfusion recipients at The Australian Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service. Jenny is now an Honorary Associate of the Centre for Virus Research at the Westmead Millennium Institute.
Lynda Walton – Vice President
With a father who was present at Nagasaki for the clean-up following the big bomb and so suffered with PTSD and a mother who was severely abused as a child, Lynda’s was a carer from a very young age.
Lynda a single mother of 4 following an abusive 10 year marriage.
Lynda found herself in many caring rolls throughout her life, including caring for many friends with Drug and Alcohol issues.
Lynda volunteered as a mental health advocate within her local community, mostly for people from culturally diverse backgrounds including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some of which Lynda took into her home to avoid them becoming homeless.
She worked in aged care from the age of 12 and became particularly passionate about aged care advocacy when her own mother was financially and emotionally abused by Lynda’s oldest brother.
Lynda herself was diagnosed with a Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2003, said to be exacerbated by her Carer roles. 2 of Lynda’s children have generalized anxiety disorder.
Lynda has experienced a rich and fulfilling life and due to her personal history and subsequent recovery journey, has had many professional and personal achievements.
Andrew Pryor – Treasurer
Andrew is an experienced senior finance executive and leader. He has some 30 years of financial corporate experience, including over 20 years at Westfield Group, the industry leading ASX 20 property group, and over 5 years at Big 4 Accounting firm PWC.
Andrew holds a Bachelor of Commerce from University of NSW, is a Chartered Accountant and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD).
His professional experience at Westfield included as a financial Group General Manager for the last 12 years, during which he has shown to be an engaged, respected and collaborative corporate and finance executive.
Andrew is passionate towards improving the Mental Health across our society, and applying his skills and experience to the escalating battle of Mental Health particularly for our youth.
Andrew is a Carer for his daughter, now 20 years old, during her mental health journey throughout her teenage years through to today, including most recent diagnosis of Schizophrenia. This has provided experience and insight into the mental health system, including Public and Private hospitals and various treatment therapies and programs. This lived experience has provided a base for being a strong advocate for Carers.
Andrew is on the headspace FAFC Advisory Committee, providing consultation, governance and guidance on the strategic direction and development of headspace mental health services across Western Sydney.
Chris Avent – Secretary
I have a wealth of experience over a thirty year career in the field of education in my past roles as Assistant Principal; Western Sydney Itinerant Support Teacher Behaviour; classroom teacher and Senior Education Officer 1, which provide me with a deep understanding and perspective of clientele with MH and the dynamics of the MH community, with many challenging and rewarding experiences dealing with clients and bureaucracy. I have been a member and Co-Chair of YPAC since 2016.
My extensive skills and abilities enable me to understand the needs of clients and to enhance their wellbeing environment to further support their outcomes. I have the proven skills, motivation and experiences to effectively be a board member. I have made significant contributions to the successful functioning of the YPAC. I have presented at MHCN forums – Restraint and Seclusion. I have undertaken Wesley Lifeforce Suicide Workshops; Youth Mental Health First Aid Certificate; Reboot Trauma Counselling Certificate. I have contributed to paper and protocols in Western Sydney schools for Suicide Prevention; and contributed resources to the MHCN website with a focus on youth. I am a regular attendee at Mental Health Professionals Network Penrith- Nepean workshops; attendee and representative of YPAC at Generation Next Conferences; foundation Member of Operation Art – Art Therapy for MH in hospitalized children and youth as well as a carer for my elderly parents.
The unique combination of my extensive skills and experiences combined with my enthusiasm and drive make me feel confident that I can continue to make significant and effective contributions to MHCN. I am an enthusiastic, experienced and self-motivated educational leader, dedicated to the service of young people with MH and Special Educational needs and especially those with Behavioural and Emotional needs. I have excellent communication and interpersonal skills coupled with the ability to establish a rapport with a wide range of stakeholders, in a prompt professional manner. I am organised and efficient, and have the ability to work effectively as an individual or as part of a team. I am prepared to seek the advice of others to be in the best position to contribute to the MHCN Inc Board in all aspects. My partner and I have six children and fifteen grandchildren. We have had to support two of our children with MH needs and thus feel I am well experienced to be on the board.
Madeleine Fabian – Ordinary Board Member
Madeleine is a Mental Health First Aid instructor and the founder of Meeting Minds Training; a social enterprise that specialises in providing Mental Health First Aid training for young people and the adults who support them.
Madeleine holds a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Social Policy) and a Master of Development Studies (Community Development) and started her career in homelessness and youth services before becoming interested in mental health. She discovered a passion for mental health promotion while working for mental health organisations including headspace and Way Ahead (formerly the Mental Health Association of NSW).
In her work at both Way Ahead and headspace Madeleine led teams working towards stigma reduction and greater understanding and support for people living with mental illness and their families and friends.
Madeleine has a strong professional background in partnership building having worked with local, state and federal government, community groups, corporate and not-for profit organisations. She has a particular interest in the ways that the systems around us can support or inhibit our health and how we as carers, consumers, citizens and communities respond to systemic health challenges.
Amanda Simons – Ordinary Board Member
Amanda Simons is a carer as well as a social worker in the Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service located at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick. She is passionate about providing respectful and inclusive service for carers, as well as about ensuring carers are kept informed and have their concerns addressed. Amanda has a Masters Degree in Professional Writing, and previously worked in book publishing and bookselling. In 2016, motivated by her experiences as a carer to a family member who lives with mental illness, Amanda undertook a career change and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Sydney University, receiving the Academic Merit Prize three times, as well as the Bettina Cass Prize in Social Policy. Since then, she has worked for Lifeline, PIR and for NSW Health. She has been invited to speak at UNSW, Sydney University, Prince of Wales Hospital and the Australian College of Applied Psychology. Amanda hopes to use both her professional and personal experience to advocate for change in the mental health system. Ultimately her dream is to help create a more positive and hopeful world for people with lived experience of mental illness, as well as for their families, friends and loved ones.
Rob Wellman – Ordinary Board Member
I have been involved with ARAFMI since 1990 on the Central Coast and subsequently at William St (MHCN).
I have been a mental health carer for the past 18 years.
I am currently on the Peak Advisory Committee at MHCN and have attended numerous Forums and Conferences over the years.
I received an “Award” for outstanding carer from the local Rotary Branch in 2010, a Certificate of appreciation from Volunteering Aust. and ARAFMI in 2013.
I have helped a few people and families navigate the mental health system in N.S.W.
Catherine Wendell – Ordinary Board Member
Catherine has been employed in the community service sector for 12 years. She has extensive experience in working with both consumers and carers and families in mental health with community managed organisations. Catherine is currently employed with One Door Mental Health and manages a team of Carer Advocates in the Hunter New England Region for the Family and Carer Mental Health (FCMHP).
Catherine has a lived experience of being a carer and supporting family members through the mental health system towards recovery. She understands and empathises with carers and knows the daily struggles they face. It was 12 years ago when Catherine was seeking out support for herself that she connected with FCMHP and joined a support group. She then attended carer education programs and went on to facilitate these programs. Catherine worked as a Carer Advocate for many years before going to work in a consumer support program.
Her extensive professional experience includes a Bachelor Degree in Science (Food and Nutrition), adult training and assessment and working and studying in the legal service sector. Catherine has delivered many training and education modules to various groups and individuals both within the mental health field and in health and nutrition sectors.
Living in the NSW rural Upper Hunter town of Scone, Catherine knows and understands rural and regional NSW and the need for support to people in these areas. Carers are often isolated in small communities and deal with stigma and limited services. Catherine is determined to see improved support for young carers, having delivered education sessions and fun days to young carers in the past.
Catherine has seen the mental health system through her own carer experience and working extensively in the sector. She has a great desire to see carers acknowledged and valued.
Jodie Roberts – Ordinary Board Member
Jodie grew up in the southern highlands with her parents. One of four siblings, and as a child Carer of her father, a returned Vietnam Veteran, suffering depression, anxiety, substance abuse and psychotic episodes. With a diagnosis of PTSD, her father is now a TPI and struggles with mental health daily. Jodie’s Grandmother also lived within the family unit and the care for her was ongoing through dementia and ageing needs.
Jodie always found an outlet for self-care through sport. As a child and teen, she was highly successful hockey player, representing at NSW level. Post schooling, Jodie went on to study Physical Education teaching at the Australian College of Physical Education University in Sydney.
Jodie spent the beginnings of her career teaching overseas in Hawaii and then in the NSW Independent school system.
Eventually settling in country NSW – Cootamundra. Jodie met and married her husband and they went on to have 4 children. Their second son was born in 2005 with a congenital virus called CMV (cytomegalovirus) and has severe disabilities. Brain damage, cerebral palsy and is nonverbal. He is incontinent, in a wheelchair and requires daily care.
14 years of caring for a child with disabilities has taken its toll on the mental health of the entire family including the other kids as sibling carers. Their first Son, struggles particularly, and in his early teens was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum) and psychosocial disabilities. Crippled at times with severe anxiety and depression and signs of pathological demand avoidance, anger management and mental health supports have become vital. The younger two siblings are fairly balanced, but Jodie is always very aware of their mental health status and as a family unit they continue to grow and thrive together although at times, as a consequence of their daily lives, Jodie and her husband have been consumers of the mental health system themselves.
Jodie facilitates a Carers group in Cootamundra and wider on her social media platforms, informing and empowering Carers.
Jodie advocates for others and is a voice in media and publications.
She spends time at conferences and seminars training and familiarising herself with the NDIS and positive pathways forward for Carers both in disability and Mental health.
Jodie has been a NSW Carer Representative for Carers NSW since 2008, and has recently become more involved with MHCN and their Peak Advisory Committee. Jodie also contributes at times with the NSW Mental Health Commission.
In 2015 Jodie was awarded “Carer of the Year” for the Continence Foundation of Australia, although she feels every Carer is equally deserving and accepted the award more for the recognition of Carers across Australia.
Jodie believes that self-care is of utmost importance as a Carer. You need to look after yourself to in turn look after those you care for. When you selfishly take time to become a better “you” you then become a better Carer, wife, mother, friend, co-worker etc etc.
Jodie gave up her teaching career since becoming a full-time carer, but she still finds keeping active as her outlet. Jodie enjoys running daily and also participates in Virtual running competitions for various charities. It’s all about balancing that mind and body.
Jodie is friendly, outgoing and always enjoys a good laugh.