25 October 2017

First Australian Psychiatrist Appointed President of the World Psychiatric Association

First Australian Psychiatrist Appointed President of the World Psychiatric Association

Professor Helen HerrmanAO, the head of vulnerable and disengaged youth research at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, has become the first Australian president of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA).

Professor Herrman, who is also a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, assumed her role as president earlier this month, after being inaugurated at the WPA World Congress in Berlin.

Professor Herrman thanked members who elected her to the position of president, and said she was delighted and honoured to take up her appointment. Professor Herrman said she was looking forward to demonstrating the key role psychiatry could play in addressing some of the world’s biggest community issues.

“As an organisation, we particularly want to look at opportunities to engage in international development initiatives that currently do not benefit from strong representation from psychiatrists,” Professor Herrman said. “Initiatives related to people facing circumstances of adversity, vulnerability and disadvantage”.

Professor Herrman, who is qualified in public health and psychiatry, has had a longstanding career in mental health, including many years as director of psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, as a regional advisor to the World Health Organization, and currently as the head of vulnerable and disengaged youth research at Orygen, Australia’s leading youth mental health research organisation.

She has been a professor of psychiatry at The University of Melbourne for more than two decades and, earlier this year, was recognised in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday honours list for her distinguished and outstanding lifetime contribution to psychiatry, public health, and community mental health service reform.

Acknowledging Professor Herrman’s historic appointment, the executive director of Orygen, Professor Patrick McGorry, said most people with mental illness in the world still received no care or poor quality care, which represented a huge challenge for humanity.

“Professor Herrman is a great humanitarian with warmth, intelligence, research skills, extensive international networks, and deep integrity,” Professor McGorry said. “It is very positive indeed that a female Australian psychiatrist has achieved this special and richly deserved honour.”