S2: E6 Mental Health Champions

There is some incredible work going on in our communities in rural and remote Australia. People who work to break down stigma and support others who are struggling, and individuals overcoming what seems like the world’s biggest obstacles. In this episode we shine a light on three of our mental health champions.

Jess McWilliam, Dubbo NSW won a Heywire award through the ABC for sharing her experience of suicide in her family and the impact of mental health problems in rural communities. Jess grew up in Dubbo, a regional hub in the Central West. She has lived with a diagnosed mental health condition for over half her life. Due to the severity of her depression and losing her younger brother to suicide in 2013, she was unable to complete her HSC. Jess left school and decided to pursue vet nursing, then fell in love with the bio-health sciences and applied for Nursing at Charles Sturt University in Dubbo.
Unfortunately, Jess lost her father to suicide at this time.  Remarkably she used this tragedy to propel her further to chase her dream of becoming a health practitioner to help people.  She completed a year of nursing but was hungry for more so applied to transfer into Pre-Medicine at Wollongong University.  Jess is currently studying in Wollongong with hopes of becoming an emergency medicine physician. She loves listening to peoples’ stories and finds it an honour when people share with her their precious and intimate moments from their lives.


Innes Clarke is a Nursing Unit Manager, Sub Acute Mental Health Unit of the Wagga Mental Health Recovery Program. Innes won a Murrumbidgee Local Health District Excellence Award in Nursing in 2018. He has worked as a nurse for 25 years and believes the Recovery Program to be his most fun and challenging position yet.




Melanie Meers is the Principal at Anson Street School, Orange. Melanie describes herself as a passionate educational leader with a professional and personal motto of being ‘visible~active~involved’. Across a career spanning 30 years, Melanie has worked in a number of educational positions including teacher, itinerant support officer, consultant, liaison officer, director, and principal. Melanie has worked predominately in the public sector but has also worked with the NSW Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards and Catholic Education.
Melanie is currently the Principal of a large 19 classroom NSW Public School for Specific Purpose. Her particular areas of interest are improving life outcomes for students experiencing mental health concerns and challenging behaviours, and developing policy that is practical.



ABC Heywire Competition: See Jess Mc William’s Heywire submission here:


News: One year on: praise for Riverina’s mental health unit


Help services

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, you can call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice.

Having a tough time and need someone to talk to right now? The following services are here to help. They are confidential and available 24/7.