Board Members – Google


Professor Diego de Leo, is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, Brisbane, which was designated as the National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention in November 2008. At Griffith he also directs the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, and the Life Promotion Clinic, a research facility that represents the only outpatient service in Australia dealing exclusively with suicidal clients. Since 2001, he is the director of the Master Courses in Suicidology. Professor de Leo is Past President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and co-founder and Past President of the International Academy for Suicide Research (IASR) of which he also co-founded the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Prof. De Leo has been the initiator of the World Suicide Prevention Day (2003). Member of the Editorial boards for several internationally renowned journals, he is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal CRISIS. Professor de Leo has published extensively with circa 300 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150 book chapters, 35 volumes, and over 200 conference presentations. Winner of several national and international awards, in 2007 he was given the title of Doctor of Science by Griffith University for his work on Suicide and Psychogeriatrics. On 26 January 2013 he received the title of Officer of the Order of Australia. His current research topics are diverse, and include definitional issues and data quality in suicide statistics, suicide in the mentally well, suicidal behavior across different cultures, and bereavement from suicide and other traumatic deaths.


Diana Sands, PhD, is Director of the Centre for Intense Grief, Sydney, and has for more than two decades worked as an educator, researcher, and clinician. Diana has provided counselling following sudden, violent and traumatic death, and in particular individual, couple and family counselling and group programs, for those who have lost a loved one through suicide. International leaders in the field of loss, grief and bereavement have commented that Diana has functioned as a clarion voice in Australia, calling for attention for the need for services, education and increased awareness of the problematic and stigmatized form of bereavement following suicide. Her counselling and group programs draw on a range of theoretical perspectives including narrative and family systems theory and incorporate expressive artwork. Diana has presented seminars and workshops in Australia and Internationally drawing on her clinical experience, research and contemporary meaning based “Walking in the Shoes Model of Suicide Bereavement”. She is the recipient of a Vice Chancellor Post Graduate Research Grant and Australian Government Research Scholarship. Diana is involved in various community projects that increase understanding about loss and grief and is the Honorary Advisor to the Wings of Hope Charity for those bereaved by suicide. Diana is the Deputy Chair of Postvention Australia Inc., a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement and has served on the NSW Executive Committee, National Association Loss and Grief, and as the NSW Representative for Suicide Prevention Australia. She has published a number of peer reviewed academic articles and book chapters and is the author of a book and DVD resource, “Red Chocolate Elephants: For Children Bereaved by Suicide”.


Alan Staines OAM OF (Envoy), was the Founder and Director of Hope for Life, the Salvation Army’s Suicide Prevention Bereavement Support Services from 2006 up to June 2013. He was a driving force behind the establishment of the Salvation Army’s suicide bereavement services. Alan continues to serve as a Board Member of The Salvation Army’s Hope for Life national programs. For over 30 years Alan has played a pivotal role in the recognition and development of Postvention Services in Australia. Alan was responsible for convening the Inaugural Australian Postvention Conference in 2007 and subsequent Australian Postvention Conferences in 2009 and 2012 for the bereaved by suicide. He was also responsible for developing the Australian Lifekeeper Memory Quilt initiative that provides families with a tangible and therapeutic way of remembering their loved ones. In 2013 Alan was responsible for the formation and establishment of Postvention Australia – A National Association for the Bereaved by Suicide. Alan has been actively involved in suicide prevention/ Bereavement Support programs for more than three decades. He played a key role in establishing the Salvo Care Line (1983) and the Salvation Army OASIS Youth Care Centre in Surry Hills (1992). In 1991 Alan founded and helped establish Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) and for 18 years he served on the SPA Board as National Secretary. He undertook a range of additional responsibilities including organising SPA’s National Conferences. In 2003, in recognition of Alan’s perseverance and tireless efforts in suicide prevention, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to young people through Suicide Prevention Australia and the Salvation Army. In 2004, he was honoured with Life Membership of Suicide Prevention Australia. In 2007, Alan received the Order of the Founder (OF), the highest Salvation Army honour for distinguished service. In 2013, he was awarded the Farberow Award from The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) for his significant contribution in the field of his work with the bereaved by suicide.


Richard Sands, is a co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of Clinical Genomics Pty Limited, an Australian biotech specialising in molecular diagnostics for the early detection of Colorectal Cancer. Mr. Sands is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and a Member of Chartered Secretaries Australia. Initially a Chartered Accountant with Wayland and Wayland, Mr. Sands subsequently held the position of Company Secretary and Corporate Lending Manager with Lloyds Bank Plc’s Australian subsidiary Lloyds International Limited. For the last two decades Mr Sands has been a Principal at Karridale Pty Limited a corporate advisory firm. Mr. Sands holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of New South Wales.


Dagmar Ceramidas, PhD, has worked in mental health for over 20 years in acute hospital, community and private settings with individuals and groups experiencing severe depression and suicidal ideation. She holds post-graduate qualifications in counselling and in depression across the life span and has developed a deep understanding of issues related to suicide, suicide prevention and postvention as they apply to the person themselves and to close others. Dagmar initiated, established and managed the ACT suicide prevention and awareness program before commencing OzHelp, a suicide prevention program addressing self-harming behaviour among apprentices of the building and trades industries. She served for many years as a Board Member on Suicide Prevention Australia and on the Mental Health Council of Australia. As Chair of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists International Advisory Group on Mental Health, Dagmar actively maintained a high profile for mental health intervention among Occupational Therapists internationally. Dagmar has lectured and researched in the areas of depression, suicide and dementia. Her particular interest is the protective role of faith in self-harm.


Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson (SCU) identifies as a Jiman / Bundjalung (Aboriginal Australian) woman who also has Anglo-Celtic, and German heritage. With a PhD from QUT, her primary academic and research focus is in the area of violence and relational trauma, and healing for Indigenous, and indeed all peoples. She developed the We Al-li program,  used as a foundation stone for the Masters in Indigenous Studies (wellbeing); the undergraduate degree Trauma and Healing , and the Diploma of Community Recovery. She was awarded Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she was awarded the Fritz Redlich award for Mental health and Human Rights from the Harvard University Global Mental health Trauma and Recovery program. Her book:  Trauma Trails Recreating Songlines: The transgenerational effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia, provides context to the life stories of people who have moved/been moved from their country in a process that has created trauma trails, and the changes that can occur in the lives of people make connections with each other and share their stories of healing. Judy retired at the end of 2010, so she can focus on writing and working with communities in Australia, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea educational healing work, what she calls educating.

Dr Jane Mowll is a senior social worker at the Department of Forensic Medicine, Sydney working with bereaved families, after the sudden and unexpected death of their relative has been reported to the coroner, for over 13 years. She and her forensic counselling team provide information, support and counselling to families in the aftermath of suicide and other sudden death of a relative or friend. She was instrumental in developing and currently manages a comprehensive Support after Suicide Program for bereaved families that includes a bi-monthly support newsletter mailed to over 1000 families across NSW and a monthly support after -suicide group. She has an interest in bereavement research, completing a PhD in 2011 titled: Transition to a New Reality: The experience of viewing or not viewing the body of a relative in the context of grief after a sudden and unexpected death. She is also undertaking a post doctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame, School of Medicine, Australia, as part of a collaborative research network (CRN) grant, which includes a longitudinal study of grief after both expected and unexpected death.


Estelle Dragun, is the mother of Charmaine Dragun who tragically took her life in November 2007. Estelle is a member of the Australian Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention in Western Australia and has spent a great deal of time trying to bring about awareness and understanding of suicide, talking to schools and other community bodies. Since her daughter’s passing she has been committed to stamping out the stigma associated with mental illness and making all people realise that mental health and well being is just as important as physical health and well being. To quote Estelle, “One never recovers from such a trauma and each loved one deals with grief and loss in their own individual way…There are too many Charmaine’s in this world who leave us far too soon and with many unanswered questions… It has been my quest over the past five years to learn more about mental health and well being and make a difference! It is not good enough to say a person has committed suicide and just close the door… They must not die in vain or be thought of as less than any other human being… The stigma of bereavement by suicide must be eliminated and care and compassion be the replacement… Through Postvention Australia, we can support research and enlightenment, assist families and even survivors of attempted suicide by offering care, understanding, compassion and providing opportunities for collaboration and co-ordination of service… If we are to really make a difference in reducing suicide and eliminating stigma we must work together and include those bereaved by suicide by listening with understanding and compassion, assist them in their time of need and learning from these experiences. No more must we close the door and leave well alone!”


Cindy Mills, lost her 17 year old daughter Victoria to suicide in 2006. Completely unexpected, Victoria’s death sparked a torrent of questions, sending Cindy on a landslide of guilt, self-blame, anger, confusion and profound grief that made her also feel vulnerable to suicide. Soon after the tragedy she received intensive counselling and participated in a suicide support group run by Dr Diana Sands and the Salvation Army, which she attributes to her strong recovery. Since that time she has worked with the Salvation Army to promote their suicide related services, in particular bereavement services. These include the Hope for Life Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Support service, the Question Persuade and Refer initiative for suicide prevention and the National Lifekeeper Memory Quilt. Cindy is a founding member of Wings of Hope, a harm prevention charity established in 2007 that provides education, resources and support events for people bereaved by suicide. Cindy has frequently spoken in the media of the critical need for services and support to be readily available for all Australians who lose a loved one to suicide, enabling them to work through the complexities of their tragedy and begin to heal in a supportive, compassionate environment free from boundaries, taboo and stigma. Cindy has given evidence at the 2009 Australian Senate Inquiry into Suicide and her bereavement story was featured in the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Six years after her tragic loss, Cindy continues to draw on the strengths and strategies that she acquired from her bereavement support. They ensure that the memories of Victoria capture the essence of her entire magnificent existence, rather than focusing on one tragic day. It is Cindy’s sincere hope that bereavement services are available to every Australian not only initially, but well into their unique bereavement and recovery journey.

Karl Andriessen is a social worker (Antwerp, Belgium) and a master in suicidology (Griffith University, Brisbane). Karl has been working in suicide prevention and postvention during the past 25 years in Belgium and internationally, and has published extensively in peer-review journals and books. He was a researcher at the University of Leuven, Belgium, a suicide prevention staff member at the Federation of Tele-Help (Tele-Onthaal), the coordinator of the Suicide Prevention Program of the Community Mental Health Centres in Flanders-Belgium, and a member of the Flemish Ministerial Working Group on the Suicide Prevention Action Plan. He is a Co-Chair of the IASP Special Interest Group on Suicide Bereavement and Postvention, and the recipient of the 2005 IASP Farberow Postvention Award. In 2014 Karl enrolled as an Anika Foundation PhD student at UNSW School of Psychiatry on a study on suicide bereavement.


Gary Parsisson, CEO (Ex Officio Member), lost his son Joshua to suicide in 2000 and as such has a strong understanding of the issues surrounding bereavement by suicide. Gary’s has a long career history in the Banking and Financial Service industry in a variety of senior executive roles as well as consulting. Gary has agreed to take on the role as Chief Executive Officer and will bring to the role years of volunteering experience across various sectors in the community as well as his fundraising experience gained in his current position in the Salvation Army.