Real VC’s Matt Berriman resigns as Mental Health Australia chair over government inaction, saying he’ll campaign on it at the federal election

- April 29, 2024 4 MIN READ
matt berriman
Matt Berriman as a young entrepreneur.
Mental Health Australia chair Matt Berriman has resigned from the position over concerns the government is not doing enough to address the issue.

“I don’t think over the last 20 years mental health has been addressed in this country and the Labor government promised that was going to happen and it hasn’t,” Berriman told the ABC.

He nonetheless praised Mark Butler as as “amazing health minister” arguing that mental health “should be across all portfolios”, including defence, education and housing, rather just health, suggesting Butler’s ambitions were being thwarted by the PM.

His comments follow on from a speech in September last year, after the Albanese government halved the number of Medicare-funded psychology sessions during the Covid pandemic from 20 to 10 at the state of 2023, saying the prime minister is crucial to driving this change and prioritising mental health reform, but absent from the debate.

“With one in five of us impacted by a mental health condition each year, why is mental health not a national priority and getting the attention of our prime minister?” he said.

“With suicide rates continuing to be high, and over nine people dying a day, why aren’t we focusing on our own nation’s wellbeing and mental health?”

In another speech in May last year following the federal budget, Berriman said was “another missed opportunity”.

“When reading media budget reviews in the recent days, outlining the ‘winners and losers’ and continuing to see Mental Health in the losing category did disturb me,” he said.

“Coming from a professional sporting and business background, I’m used to winning and losing but this is so much more. Losing in this respect means loss of health, wellbeing, and even life. And no part of that is ok!

“The country is at a crossroad, but I am taking the government and health minister on their word that future reform will come, in a staged approached, starting by more reform by the end of 2023.”

It now appears that optimism was misplaced, telling the ABC that he’d.

In a statement issued by Mental Health Australia on Friday, Berriman said he wants to refocus his advocacy work in the lead-up to the federal election in 2025.

“I have put all of my efforts into advocating for people with lived experience of mental ill-health for the past few years in my role as Chair of the Mental Health Australia Board, and am incredibly proud of what I have achieved so far,” he said

“Now is the time to speak up loudly, so collectively we can all make as big of an impact as possible for the community to get results.”

Over the weekend Berriman posted a statement on LinkedIn saying he resigned “with a heavy heart”.

“Upon reflection internally and feedback from the community, the mental health sector, politicians, and those close to me who guided me through my darkest moments to be here today, I couldn’t be more proud of what I tried to do and what I know this country needs—and that is more equality for those of us who need it,” he said.

“It’s been one of the great privileges of my life to try and give back to something that’s so close to my heart and purpose—to help people not suffer what I went through. I’ve been lucky enough to have a second chance; many aren’t, and as many know, I won’t shy away from having hard conversations about it for the betterment of the community, whether you agree or disagree.”

Berriman thanked the Mental Health Australia team say he “certainly didn’t want to leave in this way”.

“I was hoping I could be part of the solution—the entrepreneur dreamer in me, maybe. Keep remembering that Mental Health matters!” he said.

“I will continue to find a way to contribute to helping those in need, as it’ll always be a lifelong passion of mine to give back and pay it forward for those who so kindly did to me.”

As a founder, Matt Berrimen launched the adtech startup Unlockd, which allowed users to earn extra data or call credits by watching targeted ads on their lockscreen.

In February 2018, he stepped down as CEO to address his mental health concerns, explaining why on Medium.

Unlockd was a rising star of Australian tech, having raised more than $60 million from investors including Lachlan Murdoch, But just months after Berriman resigned amid the company preparing to list on the ASX, Google changed it mind about Unlockd and banned it from its app store. By mid-2018, the startup was in administration after its revenue evaporated overnight and closed.

Google subsequently invested in an Indian company developing a similar product.

Berriman and Unlockd have been locked in a three-year legal battle in the US over alleged anti-competitive behaviour, with the tech giant dragging out proceedings.
2024 Startup Daily Best in Tech Awards - nominations open