Betty Kitchener OAM

Mental health is everyone's business. Everyone in the community can learn skills to help support people with mental health problems.

Change Agent

As a young woman Betty trained as a teacher and worked in special education. She later studied and worked in psychology, counselling and nursing. Betty experienced several episodes of depression during which she was not well supported, particularly in the workplace. This motivated her to increase community understanding of mental health and to develop programs that better support people who experience mental health issues.

Betty is currently the Director of the Mental Health First Aid Training Program at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre. She is the founder of the world's first Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, now a major national and international program. The MHFA program is a training course to provide initial help for people developing mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Tailored versions of the MHFA program have been developed for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Vietnamese Australians and adults who work with adolescents. There is also an e-learning course available. Over 800 instructors are now delivering the MHFA program across Australia, and over 150,000 Australians have received the training.

Betty is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne and the author of many First Aid manuals on mental health.

Betty was awarded the Order of Australia Medal, OAM in 2008, the USA Excellence in Mental Health Education Award in 2008 and the Mental Health Services Exceptional Contribution to Mental Health Services Award in 2009.