Mental health trailblazer recognised with CQUniversity Alumnus Award

01 March 2021

CQUniversity graduate Tandi Kuwana built her career in mental health' but it was her own experience with depression that led to a breakthrough to improve mental wellbeing for those around her.

Now CQUniversity has recognised her life-changing work starting conversations about mental health in refugee and new migrant communities' naming her the 2021 Alumnus of the Year for Social Impact.

She's one of four inspiring CQUniversity 2021 Alumni Award recipients announced on Monday 1 March 2021.

Ms Kuwana' who completed her Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing in 2018' said her experience opened her eyes to the taboo around mental illness in migrant communities.

"It was a very scary place to be because clinically I had seen the worst of depression. And what I didn't know was' is that where I'm going?" she explained.

Since 2018' the Zimbabwe-born Australian has been driving community mental health initiatives through her startup My Mental Wellness Consultancy.

Ms Kuwana said her time at CQUniversity was vital to establishing the outreach service' which delivers to schools' collages' and non-profit mental health service providers.

"I moved to Australia in 2008 and was working as a mental health nurse' but sustained a workplace injury' and it took a long time for me to be certified to practice again'" she said.

"It was during that period I was diagnosed with depression."

But studying with CQUniversity' and also volunteering with migrants and refugees' her recovery came as she saw gaps in mental health awareness for those communities.

Fortuitously' in 2018 Ms Kuwana successfully applied to attend social innovation conference the Ashoka U Exchange with CQUniversity' which is the only Australian member of the global changemaker network.

The Boston' MA' event introduced Ms Kuwana to human-centred design theory' and gave her a fresh approach to supporting her community.

Since founding My Mental Wellness Consultancy' Ms Kuwana has contributed to government policy' community support programs and national conversations about mental health.

Her impact was also recognised when she was inducted into the Western Australian Women's Hall of Fame in 2020.

Ms Kuwana said her studies' and connecting with other innovators' helped give her a path to recovery from her depression.

"I was in the mindframe of wanting to be better' and I remember thinking to myself' I've found my purpose'" she said.

"There is a lack of understanding for refugees and migrants about what mental health is' and a lot of shame about struggling to cope."

"So when I do share my story and they can relate to it' so many people say to me' I've experienced the same and I didn't know it had a name."

CQUniversity is set to share the Alumni Award recipients' stories in its new podcast series' How to Change a Life.

Launching on Monday 8 March' search "How to Change a Life" on your podcast app' and select "follow" to alerts for the weekly episodes.