2019 - Improving youth mental health

Theme: Improving youth mental health

The QFCC Research in the Round forum on Improving youth mental health was held in Brisbane on 28 March 2019. Two academics, Professor Brett McDermott and Dr Sarah Bendall, and co-founder and co-CEO of Project Rockit, Ms Lucy Thomas OAM, presented on their research and knowledge gained from working in this area.


Panel Members:


Professor Brett McDermott

Professor Brett McDermott is an Australian medical graduate with further qualifications in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and research. Career highlights include a Fellow of Churchill College Cambridge University; Executive Director of Mater CYMHS for 14 years and 10 years as a Director of Beyondblue. Research interests are PTSD, disaster responses, and child and adolescent mental health service provision. He is Professor of Psychiatry at James Cook University, Townsville and has published over 100 journal articles, chapters and books.

Professor McDermott’s presentation was entitled: Embracing complexity: why youth mental health problems require more than youth mental health interventions.

Professor McDermott spoke about the two revolutions that this century has commenced with; the biological explaining how stress changes our genome, and big data which drives much of social media. His discussion highlighted how aspects of both effect youth mental health.

Professor McDermott - Research Summary (PDF, 137KB)Professor McDermott - Research Summary (DOCX, 305KB)

Ms Lucy Thomas OAM

Ms Lucy Thomas OAM is a graduate of the University of Melbourne with Graduate and Postgraduate Diplomas in Psychology and a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Hons). Together with her sister Rosie, she is Co-founder and Co-CEO of Project Rockit. 

Project Rockit creates spaces where all young people have access to respect, acceptance, creative expression and real social leadership. Lucy has worked with hundreds of thousands of young people all over the world, from Wangaratta to Texas, Wollongong to Auckland, Atherton to Fremantle. 

Lucy’s work has been honoured by UNICEF, The University of Melbourne, The Foundation of Young Australians, and the global Family Online Safety Institute. Lucy is also a recipient of an Order of Australia Medal for her service to youth and the issue of bullying.

Lucy’s presentation was titled: Wired for connection: young people, mental health and technology.

Lucy spoke about how as our lives spill further online, the relationship young people are striking between technology and mental health is increasingly interdependent. Having worked with thousands of school students throughout the course of building Australia's youth-driven movement against (cyber) bullying PROJECT ROCKIT, Lucy presented opportunities for an emerging generation of 'digital natives' to build connection, community and peer support.

Dr Sarah Bendall

Dr Sarah Bendall is a clinical psychologist and senior research fellow at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. Her areas of research interest are trauma in youth mental health, trauma in early psychosis and the development and trialling of new psychological therapies for recovery in youth mental health. She is the author of over 70 research papers and three psychological treatment manuals. She has practiced as a clinical psychologist for over 20 years in a variety of settings including youth community and inpatient mental health. She currently practices at headspace in Melbourne and provides clinical supervision for psychologists working in headspace services.

Dr Bendall’s presentation was title: Trauma-Informed Care: What is it really and how should it be practiced in youth mental health settings?

Dr Bendall spoke of a lack of clarity in the youth mental health sector as to how trauma-informed care should be operationalised across our services. Her presentation discussed a model for implementing trauma-informed care in youth mental health well as practical strategies and resources for clinicians.

Dr Sarah Bendall's presentation (PPTX, 10.9MB)Dr Sarah Bendall's presentation (PDF, 1.36MB)Dr Sarah Bendall - Research Summary (PDF, 163KB)Dr Sarah Bendall - Research Summary (DOCX, 306KB)

Panel members

Dr Leanne Geppert

Dr Leanne Geppert was appointed Executive Director, Queensland Mental Health Commission in September 2018 and brings extensive experience in the planning, delivery and improvement of mental health, drug and alcohol services.

Dr Geppert is a registered psychologist with endorsement in clinical psychology, and a member of the Australian Psychological Society and the Australian College of Clinical Psychologists.

She has more than 20 years’ experience in developing, delivering and improving high quality mental health services, most recently as the Executive Director of Mental Health and Specialised Services at West Moreton Hospital and Health Service.

Her clinical and executive leadership experience spans child, youth, young adult and adult consumer groups, while her corporate roles have been relevant to all age groups and all types of mental health service delivery across the state, including non-government organisations, and the private and public sectors.

As the Queensland Mental Health Commission’s Executive Director, Dr Geppert will oversee the implementation of Shifting minds: Queensland Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategic Plan 2018-2023 and shape the development of policies and strategies that support and guide its implementation. She will also provide high-level analysis and advice regarding the strategic policy and program direction for mental health and substance misuse reform in Queensland.

Ms Denise Wilson

Ms Denise Wilson is a headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation) National Education Advisor within the Be You national mental health initiative, which assists to build the capacity of school communities to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people. This work spans prevention, early intervention, and suicide postvention. For 5 years prior to this role, Denise was the WA state coordinator for headspace schools support, a service assisting secondary school communities prepare for, respond to and recover from a suicide death.

Denise’s career began as an educator working in both primary and secondary school settings in independent and Government schools.

Denise has a passion for the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and has completed postgraduate studies as a psychotherapist. Her career as a clinician prior to joining headspace saw her work for 8 years as a clinical supervisor, a children’s counsellor for children and young people 3-18 years and their families, in the area of trauma, family violence and sexual abuse. Denise stablished children’s family and domestic violence counselling services in several locations in the Rockingham and Peel region of WA and supported separating families as a child consultant.


Caroline is a Youth Champion on the QFCC Youth Advisory Council. Through this role, Caroline, together with the other young people, champions the voices of children and young people to provide youth perspectives and advice to the commissioners on what is important to children and young people in Queensland.

Caroline is a strong advocate for children and young people living in out-of-home care as a result of her own journey in the care system for most of her life. Caroline has also worked with the CREATE Foundation for several years to promote and create systemic change in the out-of-home care sector and is an experienced presenter.

Caroline is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science and Criminology.

Caroline's interests include improving the system for children and young people living in out-of-home care and young adults living with mental health issues. 

Mr Clinton Schultz

Mr Clinton Schultz is a registered Psychologist; Senior Teaching Fellow (Bond University Medical School); Director Marumali Consultations; and Queensland Child Death Case Review Panel member. Mr Schultz has extensive experience in health with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Mr Schultz has experience in the development and implementation of programs providing cultural advice. He has experience and skills in Aboriginal cultural practice, child protection, community development, education, health, psychology and social innovation. Clinton is a Gamilaroi man, descending from the people of Gunnedah/Manilla NSW. 

Photos from Research in the Round