Letter from
Director and CEO
Fabienne Mackay

To whom it may concern,

With Christmas approaching, many of us are wondering when we will see loved ones next and how we will connect with them this Christmas. It has been another challenging year as again we’ve had to focus our collective attention on preventing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Thank you for your support of our diverse research in cancer, mental health, infectious diseases and chronic disorders. We could not do it without you.

I hope we can continue to make an impact together into next year, to shape our future.

With the unprecedented time we’ve all had, mental health is receiving more attention; but if we look to our youth, especially teenagers and young adults, the challenges of recent times have had a profoundly disturbing impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

And we are only starting to see the tip of the iceberg of that impact.

Mental health issues are a lot more common than people may realize – almost half of all Australian adults will face mental health issues during their lives, and the symptoms often appear when in youth.

This Christmas, together with your help, we are rallying to assist the young people of Australia with the development of early intervention programs to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Early intervention and easily accessible help are key to preventing more severe consequences, such as self-harm and suicide, from developing.

But, we need your help please. It is an emergency.

When we look at the public health costs in Australia and the costs to society, mental health disorders are in the top two.

Tragically, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 49 years in 2019. In 2019, in Australia, 3,318 people died by suicide.

Incidences of child and teenager mental health issues were increasing before the pandemic, and now we are seeing the problems escalate.

Many young Australians are experiencing an overwhelming sense of loneliness, lack of purpose, insecurity about the future, and a lack of mental health resources available to help them.

Young Australians are more likely to take their own life than die in motor vehicle accidents. It is inescapably clear that we failing our young people, and they desperately need our help.

QIMR Berghofer’s Professor James Scott and his team within our Child and Youth Mental Health Group want to intervene and support young Australians long before they ever get to the tragic situation of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The team are focussing on early-intervention, where helping young people to find their sense of purpose has been shown to help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and prevent their problems persisting into adulthood, or developing into more severe mental health issues.

These programs are important for our young people and their families who are desperately seeking help, and often cannot easily access it in our overwhelmed healthcare system.

One of these young people is Alison’s teenage son, Tom. Read more about her story, and how devastating mental health issues can be on not only the child, but the entire family.

Will you help us tackle this youth mental health crisis? Your Christmas donation will help build a program that offers potentially life-saving help to thousands of young Australians.

Our initial research was made possible by the generosity of the Wellcome Trust, however, the funding ends at the end of 2021. We need your help to extend the research and develop and launch this new program.

Research and funding can have a great impact, as it has done for other diseases. Breast cancer, for example has an almost 100% five-year survival rate with early intervention. When women are diagnosed at later stages though, that five-year survival rate is only 32%. Like cancer and other diseases, early intervention is crucial in tackling mental health issues, and the funding of early intervention programs needs to urgently catch up.

Your donation can help researchers like Professor Scott ease the mental health suffering of our youth and their families this Christmas.

At QIMR Berghofer, 100% of your donation goes directly towards supporting medical research.

Without early intervention, less severe illnesses like anxiety and depression can become ongoing adult conditions, and can rapidly descend into more serious and deadly situations, such as self-harm, addiction, substance abuse, and suicide. There are already too many young lives lost.

Thank you for your generous support of our amazing researchers, and the countless young Australians that desperately need your help, and ours. You are making a real difference.

However you can celebrate Christmas this year, I wish you a safe, happy and health holiday season.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Fabienne Mackay

Director and CEO

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

P.S. Christmas is a difficult time for many Australians. This festive season may be even more challenging for those suffering anxiety and depression. Please help us develop new intervention programs with a tax-deductible donation before 30 December.


  • Breast cancer survival rates – AIWH – Cancer in Australia 2019 – Report
  • Motor vehicle death statistic – AIHW National Mortality Database
  • Suicide rates – Beyond Blue Statistics


Thank you for your support of youth mental health.

At QIMR Berghofer, 100% of your donation goes directly towards supporting medical research, to teams like the Child and Youth Mental Health Group.

If you or a loved one need someone to talk to, call: