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Professor Ashleigh Lin recognised with major award

Youth Focus Board Member and University of Western Australia researcher, Professor Ashleigh Lin, has been recognised at the WA Mental Health Awards for her outstanding contribution to youth mental health.

Professor Lin won the Minister’s Award for her work in the field of youth mental health research in WA, with a primary focus on marginalised groups, including LGBTQIA+ young people, and Aboriginal youth.

The Minister’s Award recognises Professor Lin as an ‘all star’ in the sector, celebrating her significant achievements and overall contribution to improving mental health in Western Australia, and in benefitting the outcomes for individuals, families and communities across the State.

Based at the School of Population and Global Health at The University of Western Australia, Professor Lin is passionate about improving the mental health of young people.

Professor Lin says: “I’m focused on research that will help young people to thrive and meet their full potential. Research and investment into early intervention is an essential part of achieving that, because it gives young people the opportunity to access services that start them on their recovery journey as early as possible.

“My research is based on collaboration, and I’m passionate about co-designing projects in partnership with young people and their communities.

“My focus is to ensure that marginalised and disempowered groups have a voice.”

Since 2020, Professor Lin has been a Board Member of Youth Focus, WA’s only specialist non-government youth mental health provider. In this role, Professor Lin contributes her exceptional expertise and knowledge of the youth and mental health sectors to inform Youth Focus’ services for WA’s young people.

During her career, she has published more than 200 academic papers and book chapters in this area and is recognised as a leader in youth mental health research in Australia. In particular, her research is focused on the mental health of marginalised groups of young people, who have a higher risk of poor mental health and face barriers to accessing appropriate services.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Western Australia,” she explains. “It knows no socio-economic or geographical boundaries – and there may be no outward signs of a young person in crisis or at risk.”

For this reason, Professor Lin dedicates her career to preventing youth suicide, and to ensuring that young people in Western Australia have the opportunity to thrive.

“Although many young people are at risk of poor mental health, some young people have a much higher risk due to their experience – and so often these are the people with the greatest barriers to getting support. In order for marginalised groups to access early intervention, they need to be able to count on safe and culturally appropriate service provision, and research can help achieve that.”

Born in South Africa and raised in WA, Professor Lin began her career in Melbourne, followed by several years in the UK, but she returned to WA because she felt that her skills could make an important difference locally. She wanted to grow the body of mental health research developed in the State, and raise awareness of the importance of this work to meet the unique needs of the WA community – and particularly, marginalised young people in the community.

Professor Lin is motivated by the immediate impact that her work has and loves that the projects she’s leading are changing lives now and will continue to do so in the immediate future.

“I’m very proud to receive this award, which is a reflection of the importance of research and early intervention in supporting young people and their mental health. I’m grateful to all the young people and their communities who I’ve worked with, and I honour their incredible contribution to our understanding of mental health in Western Australia and nationally.”