Sandersan (Sandy) Onie is a researcher at the Black Dog Institute in Australia and founder of Emotional Health for All in Indonesia, one of the first research-based mental health and suicide prevention foundations in the country.

Why you should listen

Sandersan Onie envisions a world without suicide, where every person has the opportunity and means to be mentally healthy. Seeing his family struggle with mental illness and experiencing clinical depression with suicidality led him to pursue his PhD in psychology. He is now a researcher at Black Dog Institute, Australia, an adjunct professor at Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia, and the founding president of the Indonesian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Onie identified three key pillars to realize his vision. First, to reach people contemplating suicide in a relevant and scalable way he pioneered the use of tailored internet advertising with optimization features. These ads quickly link searchers of suicide-related keywords to valuable resources. Remarkably, his campaigns in Australia responded to over 120,000 suicide-related searches in just 19 days, and in Indonesia, they encouraged more than 85 percent of previously silent individuals to seek help. Secondly, for a national strategy and policy approach, Onie orchestrated Indonesia's first national suicide prevention strategy, providing the country with critical suicide data for the first time. His findings indicated that a religious approach to destigmatization would be most effective, leading him to spearhead the world's first unified religious statement on mental health and suicide at the G20 in 2022. The signing led to Indonesia being the first Low or Middle Income Country (LMIC) to be awarded a Guinness World Record in mental health. This crucial statement influenced the inclusion of suicide prevention in Indonesia's health law in 2023, making it the first LMIC to legislate suicide. Thirdly, recognizing the indispensable role of science in well-being, Onie led Indonesia's largest science event in 2019, contributed to an invited science policy brief in 2020, collaborated with the International Science Council for science reform in Southeast Asia and co-authored influential pieces for building science in the Global South.

Onie engages in community well-being, has authored multiple books and consults for governments and global companies to improve mental health. He is now expanding his work further across the globe, including the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific and is in the process of becoming a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Sandersan Onie’s TED talk