Maddison O’Gradey-Lee, Orygen Global’s youth mental health advocacy fellowship co-founder and advisor, has been awarded the 2022 Diana Award for her work in youth mental health.

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, The Diana Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.

O’Gradey-Lee said it was very exciting to be given such an honour.

“Growing up, I always admired Diana and her advocacy on topics which were taboo, such as mental health,” she said.

“To receive an award that’s based on Diana's values and legacy is really special.” 

Orygen Global is supporting countries and communities around the world to implement youth mental health programs, and supports the mental health needs of young people locally.

“We’ve made so much progress in the stigma that surrounds mental health, but there still is a lot of stigma and young people are concerned to speak up and share their stories, their concerns to seek help."

With over 54 hours of content and mentoring support, in 2021 the Fellowship involved over 28 global partners and impacted the lives of 12 young leaders from 12 regions.

When O’Gradey-Lee and her co-founder Nataya began consultations with advocates around the world, they heard a similar narrative about the isolating experiences and lack of training opportunities for youth mental health advocates who were driven by their own lived experiences.

“We wanted to create a program that gave youth mental health advocates a space where they had tools, knowledge, education about how to be an advocate and how to utilise those skills and develop on what they are already working on and create larger change in their communities,” she said.

The fellowship has helped youth mental health advocates have a better idea of their future careers after completing the program, as well as a supportive community of fellow advocates.

Apart from her work with Orygen Global, O’Gradey-Lee is also a Master of Clinical Psychology/PhD candidate at UNSW and mental health lived experience advocate whose research focuses on improving the assessment of mental health in young people, particularly Indigenous young people.

“The reality is that everyone has mental health, as we do have physical health and it fluctuates. That’s part of being human.”