Mental Health at Work: COVID-19 online event

Welcome to Mental Health at Work Covid-19, an event that is organized and hosted by the New South Wales Mental Health Commission this afternoon. Thank you so much to the team for bringing us all together for the next hour and a half. My name is Natasha Mitchell. I’m thrilled to be here facilitating today I’m an ABC Radio, National Science journalist and presenter with a really big focus as some of you might know over the years on supporting conversations about our mental health, about the state of our minds about our wellbeing. We are, I’d like to acknowledge on Aboriginal land where I am here in lockdown. Melbourne is the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation And I would really like to acknowledge and give thanks to their leaders and all Aboriginal leaders in mental health for helping us all understand the intergenerational impacts of colonisation on our mental health, but also the power of post-traumatic growth and healing. And a big shout out of appreciation for me to all of you joining us with expertise and leadership that comes from your lived experience of mental health issues. Now what’s ahead in this event, We have two very strong panels. I’m very excited about these two panels, practical, real useful informed by lived experience And I also want to involve you throughout the session. So you have the opportunity to post questions to our panelists. And so get thinking, get posting. I’ve got a screen here, I’m going to be keeping an eye on them and juggling the panel and your questions at the same time. We want to make this as useful and as interactive as. We’re also going to weave in a couple of short videos from excellent speakers as well on the things that we’re discussing to that today. And what we’re discussing is mental health at work. So we know all of us individually in our lives right now that our individual and our collective resilience and our mental health is being tested, isn’t it? This pandemic has turned our lives upside down in ways that we never imagined. We never anticipated. Just back in January who would have thought that 2020 would deliver us all this. And then there were the bushfires as well before that, which were a very sobering and confronting experience And some of you might be joining now from bushfire affected communities. Some of you may have lost your jobs in this pandemic. Some of you may have lost hours Some of you might be in an industry that is on pause at the moment and that has all sorts of implications for our mental health. Some of you like me, are working from home, lots of complications involved with that. Also a sense of isolation for many of us and a sense of insecurity being removed from our colleagues in our work environments More than ever before employers, many of us joining this session today and employees contacting Beyond Blue and Lifeline seeking support at a time of difficulty and crisis And more than ever before, employers and workplaces really need to know how to understand and support the mental health challenges of their staff. So work we know matters to our mental health. It connects us to people It connects us to a sense of purpose, and it connects us to a pay packet, which is really important. But also our mental health at work matters, doesn’t it? And we can’t just remove our entire lives, strip ourselves bare of everything that’s going on in our lives. Every time we walk into our work environment, we bring all of ourselves to our work. And so, if we’re dealing with recurring issues of mental illness or mental ill health, we bring that to work too. So what needs to happen to better support us to support you? What do workplaces and employers need to do that important work and to get the best out of their workforce as they struggle sometimes too. So before our first live panel today, which will bring together a fantastic trio all who bring their lived experience to their work. I’d like to introduce now via video, the New South Wales, Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey. She has some words for us And I’ll

rejoin you just after that. Hello, my name is Catherine Lourey and I’m the New South Wales Mental Health Commissioner Firstly, I would like to acknowledge country and I’m working from the Gadigal people of the Euro nation’s land, and I pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. And I extend those to Aboriginal people joining us today in this webinar. I also would like to acknowledge lived experience of people experiencing mental health issues and those who offer them hope and support. Our aim at the commission is to advocate for better mental health and well-being for everyone Supporting and encouraging mentally healthy workplaces is a big part of it. We know that one third of our life is spent at work. Some of us, our identity, and many of our life experiences relate to work. So therefore, we also know that work environments are major determinants of health and well-being The cultures, practices, programs, and policies of all our workplaces should reflect this. We all have the right to work and to be well at work. Ensuring that workplaces promote mental health and well-being has the potential to generate benefits, including economic ones, but individuals, government, business and the community. The theme for Mental Health Month this October is tune in . At the commission. We are tuning into lived experience. That is tuning into people who have experienced mental health issues in their lives and may continue to do so. And also tuning in to those who have experience of caring and supporting someone on their mental health journey in recovery. So today we have brought together experts. Some with their own lived experience, who can share with us their thoughts on how we can tune in to stigma in the workplace, as it relates to mental health and how we can better support people to thrive and work, to return to work and remain at work. Fewer areas offer more promise in boosting productivity than when addressing the mental health of our labor force and creating workplaces that promote well-being The evidence for this is strong. The Productivity Commission estimated a loss of productivity and reduced participation in the workforce due to mental ill health and suicide. In one year alone in 2018, 2019 was estimated between 10 billion and 18 billion dollars. So the power of employment to change the course of lives is enormous and the opportunity to improve outcomes is equally as enormous. In my role as Commissioner, I get to speak with many people who have so many different experiences from across New South Wales. One thing that I’ve heard consistently through our consultations is inclusive power of having meaningful work for people with lived experience of mental health issues. Returning to work is a hugely important part of the recovery Work offers purpose, social connection, structure and independence When you think about it, those are aspects of our life that we all need to live well. Importantly, we also recognise that many people have lost their jobs or have reduced hours due to the impacts and Covid-19 are also due to the impacts of the recent bushfires and other disasters. These times are challenging for us all. But the lack of work and financial stress puts added pressures on people. And so we’ll be sharing information about resources and supports that you can access if you need these types of supports. So thank you for joining us in this webinar. I hope you find it informative and instructive so that we could all work together to improve the working lives of so many in our community and for ourselves as well And thank you to Cathrine Lourey, the New South Wales Mental Health Commissioner and of course the New South Wales Mental Health Commission are our hosts today of this mental health in the workplace event. And if you’re just joining us, my name is Natasha Mitchell. Your facilitator for the next hour and a half. Now, I also want to let you know that the New South Wales Mental Health Commission will

be sharing details of resources and support for employees and employers on the commission’s website at the end of the event. So we come to our first panel discussion on dealing with stigma in the workplace. And I think all of us who have experienced stigma., we know that it can be unpleasant, sometimes, deeply, unpleasant, sometimes frightening. It can make us fearful of seeking help when we are struggling. It can exacerbate our mental ill health. It can also block us from achieving our full potential or from others, recognizing our potential at work, It’s just bad around. So what we’re about here is understanding it better so that we can challenge it so that we can confront our own stigmatizing behaviors sometimes as well. But also how if we’re struggling with someone targeting stigma at us, what can we do to support ourselves to, I guess, manage stigma in a workplace when it comes to mental health Our panelists all have lived experience of mental illness, So they are experts on this issue. We love to receive your questions throughout, so please do get them posting. Now we want your involvement and it’s just easy to do. Just post your questions and I’ll be keeping an eye on them here and integrating them. So joining us together from a studio in Sydney, which I have to say from looked at Melbourne is extremely surreal. Tim Heffernan is New South Wales Deputy Mental Health Commissioner and a dedicated and passionate mental health peer worker, leader and coordinator with coordinare of the South East New South Wales Primary Health Network. He’s also an award winning poet. And if you’re new to the idea of work, peer work means skilled people with their own experience of mental illness and recovery, supporting others. So it’s a peer to peer dynamic. We also have Luke MacGrath with this. He has facilitated multiple anxiety support groups with WayAhead as a volunteer over recent years He created and runs a global Facebook support group for gay men living with anxiety and depression. And he has a diploma in counselling. He brings his own experience of anxiety and depression to his volunteer roles in really powerful ways Looking forward to hearing Luke. Camille Wilson is with us. She’s a member of the lived experience reference group  for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority. She is a speaker and advisor on workplace mental health, partly prompted by her own experiences, which we’ll hear something about And she’s founder and director of a group called Grow Together Now which works closely with organizations and workplaces. And if you’re managing a workplace, you may well have worked with Camille before too. So welcome to you all. Thank you so much for joining me. Now I’m wondering if I get to see you on the screen during this. I’m not sure I can’t see you at all. Ahh there you are. Welcome. So great that you’ve come together. Must be quite surreal to come into a space and people wearing masks around you, but here we are. And I guess this is the reality we’re dealing with now, isn’t it? Here I am remotely facilitating a conversation with you. You’re at work, I’m at work. This is the new dynamic and I’m interested in each of your impressions just briefly, what you think Covid-19 means for our mental health and at work. Camille some thoughts from you. So I guess I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past six months as I’m sure we’ve all had. Those people didn’t like me sitting one point five metres away all of the time. But yeah, I think we had a conversation a lot. And anyone who works mental health really has had this conversation on numerous levels. And I think we were working at the moment. Is it so much that our roles in some capacity haven’t changed? We are working the same kind of positions and they might have shifted a bit by having to be agile in this space But really what we’re doing is actually working the same roles with depleted levels of energy from working from home to having kids at home, whatever it might be. I think the ability for us to actually even give as much as we did before, Covid is actually very limiting for us It’s really challenging to consistently put yourself out there when you are challenged at home or you’re challenged by the uncertainty of your future or you have finance worries, whatever it might be for you as an individual, and I think that’s the crux of it. We’re  really depleted of energy in a time where we need actually more energy than ever. You have so nailed so many issues for us to explore there I think because part of it is how do you explain that?

How do you articulate that to your employers, for example And we’re all desperate to hang on to our work at the moment for all the obvious reasons. Tim, what about you. What are your thoughts about the present moment and the challenges that this conversation we’re having about mental health at work? In the present moment, I think it’s a double edged thing. I think there are lots of potential drawbacks to what we’re doing but I really like to focus on the positives that we could learn as workplaces, as individuals, as communities, as societies about you know Covid, I think initially when Covid came through and were in initial lockdown, I was hearing lots of children in the streets and I was thinking about how families are spending a lot of time together all that time to bond a bit more. That’s perhaps lost its charm over time for people working, working, working at home with kids who want you to help with their homework. Thankfully my girls are a little bit older than that. But I think, you know, there are people who have been affected and have lost their work. There are people who have had to make huge adjustments. But I do, I do think we’re moving into a new way of working. It’s a blended work, work from home, work from the office, all those sorts of things, but it’s also a new way of looking at society, how we distribute work, how we distribute the money and opportunity, opportunities that we have. So I think what we are learning a lot, so it’s about how we translate that over the next 12 months and it’ really important Natasha It’s important that you raise there are challenges that from the conversations that I’ve had, people have had an ability if they have managed to keep their work to slow down a bit and to not rush around, They get to spend more time with their partners and their children Now there are other issues as well, but there are some positives to that that could be beneficial for mental health Yeah, I agree. I think we’ll, we’ll be looking at things like, you know, even the length of the working week for instance, you know, do we have to have five days Is this teaching us that we can get a lot more done in less time at home Can we utilize that work home space better than we have traditionally So, as I said, it’s got those positive possibilities if we explore them. I think it’s forced companies that were resistant to this kind of stuff beforehand. So you think of flexibility and people who work from home, I have many people in my life who have worked for industries or organizations that have not allowed working from home as an option And with Covid they were forced to have that option. And it’s really challenged those I think traditional ways of thinking of how work is and how it works and how it will be in the future. I think has huge implications on the future of work. And hopefully it does have a huge positive impact on how we have about mental health in the workplace, with that conversation of future work and flexible working. And then the question is, how do we stay connected? We are imagining for managers at the moment, how do you stay connected with the wellbeing of  your work force and with your own wellbeing, while navigating this whole new regime. Luke McGraw, what are your thoughts about the present moment and what it might mean for us and our mental health in the context of us as workers as well? Right now I tend to be the glass half full or full kind of person and look at more of the positive as come While It’s been very challenging for so many people and jobs and things like that. The awareness is probably the biggest, it’s probably ever has even globally to know the importance of it. And we took it earlier just about the awareness of it But I think it’s also clarifying what mental health is in these work environments And you can put up the posters, you can say that you do this and that, but to actually really have a closer look at the individual impact Yeah. And the other thing is that we’re actually hugely fortunate in the sense that this happened 20 or 30 years ago. How working from home would be At least we have video conferencing. And we have all these ways to still stay connected more than ever. So as far as like staying what’s a way of keeping that connection to each other, we do have more of the tools than ever. So that’s the thing. I think it’s the next stage of sustainability of that. I think, as you said,

you kind of nailed it on the head. I think of the question I get asked a lot in leadership is how do I stay connected? How do I actually noticed mental health? Now I have a not enough face to face little line How do I do it When someone is virtual, it is easy to hide away, So I do think it’s an opportunity for sustainability as well as that. Yeah, 100 percent. Right? Yeah, definitely. And it’s definitely from isolation and lockdown’s. That’s going to be, I think, the next big Let’s come to how we might have some of those conversations because this is what this is about to have. You have conversations about well-being in the workplace, in a way that doesn’t expose you to being stigmatized or be fearful of whether your you’ll be constrained somehow by revealing your vulnerabilities to your manager or vice versa. If you’re a manager, how do you initiate those conversations without inviting someone’s privacy or kind of stepping over the line into someone’s private life? I am aware that many, many of you have joined today, and I can see the attendees. Thank you so much for being part of this event with us now to really be part of the event. I want to say some of you posting questions now, so that I can integrate them into our conversation as we go. So I’m looking forward to you posting questions about what you’re hearing now. We’d love to have your participation that way. Tim Heffernan, covid-19 did present major challenges for you for your mental health. And so you’ve had an interesting few months, haven’t you. And as part of the interesting few months, actually getting back to work was vital And I’d just like to connect on that because I’d love you to illustrate why work does matter why it’s important that we stay connected to workplaces if we are able to, when we have mental health challenges And it’s a good question. Natasha, I first became unwell with my mental health condition, sort of how I became aware when I twenty three teaching high school in Albury.  And moved into a delusional psychosis and ended up in the hospital a few times. This year, But over time work has been a part of the time It’s  always very important, So I’ve always tried to resume work as quickly as possible. So despite having a diagnosis of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I’ve had a 20 year career. I have a relationship that’s we’re coming up to our 30th anniversary with Beautiful children and all normal things And I think, you know, for me, this year, particularly with was one where covid  was very seductive. So I mentioned before about how all good things were seeing in the streets, people doing more, walking, being out with families and all that sort of thing. And I managed to weave up a delusional system around which I tend to do when I become unwell, around time, moving into sort of the rapture and paradise and all that. And ended up in a mental health hospital for a couple of weeks. Which was, which was something I probably needed at the time And that’s important, But it was just too much to move into that you know, to, to reach out. But what was important to me too, was then with a very supportive work, with the Primary Health Network with south eastern New South Wales. And the commission was able to resume roles very quickly. The recovery is a process that can take a long time, And I think all workplaces should consider that idea of do you need people to be perfectly recovered from a mental health issue or do you support them back into work as quickly as you can? So you don’t have that gap in their work life Because sometimes its the gaps where  the disconnections occurred. It’s so much harder to get back into things. So, so I’m back at work at I had Easter in hospital And and since then it’s been fine. It’s been not without anxieties. And not without issues, but as a worker, as a parent, As a husband. You know, I think both those roles are critically important. You know, I think the reality of this is about Secret Service That stigma comes from ignorance, from not fully having a full picture of what, what people are who people are of people and stigma comes from ignorance and not having the full picture of what people are, who people are and sort of framing

mental illnesses in stereotypes that are outdated and wrong. And so constricting, means that we can never have open conversations if we have a stigma attached to what is a universal experience. Let’s face it. And I just want to get a sense from you what your workplace did that you felt supported you at that time where you had to transition into hospital take leave from work, but then at what point do you then reach back into the workplace and say, hey, how are we going to navigate this? I’ve got an excellent manager who came in and supported that move into hospital and move back into the workplace and any workplaces that my privacy was always respected unless I chose to disclose to people where I had been or what was happening, most people wouldn’t have known but, but you know, the simple things like checking in and seeing how you’re doing and making sure things are good, offering reduced hours for a while. So being able to come back home from, say, three days instead of four and then gradually moving back into four, I work four days with the PHN, but really mostly it’s about just like this is just a thing that happens. So let’s just, move on with life. And, you know, I’m who I am and that’s part of me It’s not going to change. And you know, we just, we just go on and resume those roles. It’s like that. Luke McGrath four years ago, Thanks Tim, very much for that. And I think that’s very useful for people to hear that what happened this year and then how it was navigated by yourself and your work Luke McGrath, four years ago you went through a particularly rough patch in your life too, a relationship breakdown. And that brought ahead a really major, serious anxiety and lots of confrontations for you about your mental health. What did that mean for you at the time in terms of your work situation and how you were feeling in the world? Oh, it was an interesting time. I mean, for the fact that when it happened, I was only a few weeks into a full time role. Fortunately, as bad as everything was at that time, and I was fortunate to have my mother come and help me at that time. I was able to get back into a casual role in retail, so having that switch there was important to getting back into working which was still important when you do have a breakdown. I mean, certainly its a sense of normality when you’re able to go back and do that because if you slip too far away from everyday life, it’s hard to kind of get back to that. Fortunately, my manager at the time was aware of anxiety and the impact on that was open and understanding for what I needed. So that made a huge difference. And being able to have individuals like that in the workplace, especially in a managerial capacity. It’s not always that common Or they might try to do their best, but they’re not always as knowledgeable and be able to have those conversations as free flowing and understanding is what we might need with time. Sometimes a little bit too cookie cutter a little bit too rigid, you know, and it’s more awkward than anything. As if there following a script Yeah, exactly. But basically say, I understand this is happening or has happened in my life. And just let me know what you need. Like having that kind of invitation and awareness made a huge difference as far as trying to get back into work. Because not every day was a good day. Back in those times, it was very hard to know what the next day is really going to have. Especially for the first two months or so. So to know that and to know that he knew that my team knew that was a huge plus And the generosity in that transaction, that interaction of the manager who says, I’ve had this experience or a loved one has had this experience, I understand the language of anxiety, the power of that, of that letting, just letting down a little bit of those barriers to say, to have empathy and compassion without judgment. It can be quite life changing and in moments that you don’t forget to have that sort of understanding, even if you don’t have the actual experiences in your life,

but to at least have that kind of outlook that you’re open to it. Like you tell me what it’s about. You tell me what you need and, and giving that as well because not everyone has the same experiences. Really We have our own experiences along the way. So no one has ever really had the same experience. So to know that someone is open to listening and understanding and learning about it, that’s huge. You touched on really, really valid point there on this word of learning. I think we in mental health we get caught in this rabbit hole of assuming we have to know everything Right. And a leader might come to you, but I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how to fix the situation or even employee doesn’t know how to say it. How do I put the word to a diagnosis? How do I share this in a safe way? And I think if we all go into this experience for mental health in the workplace, currently, we still very much in the forefront of research and early stages of anything in the workplace for mental health and two together. So I think where I come from a learning mindset to really consider, how can we learn if we have the openness to actually discover something? I think that could be a shift in mindset. We need when we have conversations about  mental health and being open and honest when you say to someone, I haven’t experienced that before and that’s ok but I want to be here for you for whatever you’re going through right now, and I want you to help me learn. The huge thing is too is that while there might be a great relationship when you come together for a support group, you’re in a room with other people with anxiety. But each and every person in that room has a different experience. You can only know so much and appreciate so much about that kind of diagnosis or that mental issue that the individual has, but they’re on their own little path. So what’s going to work for that person is going to work for next. What kind of reaction or triggers are going to be different from the person to handle it So even if you were going to educate yourself, you can only learn so much. You’ve just got to be open. This is where I guess people feel that, employers can feel that it’s quite complicated to even start these conversations. I mean, we have enough of a struggle having these conversations in our lives with our family members and whoever else it might be, let alone in our workplaces where we kind of have to put on a front. Or we feel that we have to put on a front. I’m going to weave in some questions now as I come to you Camille and then we’ll, open it out because there’s some fantastic questions coming in. Can I just quickly say, just as far as the complexity of the human condition that we make things more complex than they actually are. So as far as like people feeling that way, usually it’s just a matter of, I mean that’s the whole point of having like the R U Ok day in an organization like that is just a simple kind of questioning and being open. So trying not to scare ourselves off the complexity of everything. So just wanted to share that. Yes, that’s really important point, isn’t it. How do we make things a little more simple and a little less stressful. Great questions coming in. Nellie asks, I was terminated from my first job in my field of expertise communications because my panic attacks became regular, but my employer blamed it on my performance when this wasn’t the case. So since then, I’ve been afraid of opening up about my anxiety in fear of losing my job. Do you have any advice on this situation for when I apply for new roles in the future? Fantastic question, Nellie and I just want to add to that Ali asks, what do you do, if you’ve gone to your manager and told them that after a particular incident that it affected you and they didn’t respond? What do you do if you’re struggling at work and at home? Because now the lines between work and home have become blurred and you need to essentially choose between preserving your mental health, preserving your livelihood, keeping your job. There’s some related themes there And Camilla want to come to you because I think you’re in an interesting position of having seen it from both angles. You worked in an H.R role corporate H.R.  role for many years and then you also had an experience of anxiety and had to have a conversation with H.R.  about your own situation. So do you have insights from that experience and seeing the gaps? Yeah, there’s so much in those questions like I could go on to my brain is reeling right now. And I think the first point I just wanted to say thank you to both my panelists is for sharing the bits and pieces of their story. It’s actually quite humbling to sit next to these incredible people to hear stories. I think the wealth of knowledge and mental health lived experience is just something to be acknowledged. And on that question, I understand completely I had panic attacks on a daily basis at one point in time, and I had them for 10 months. And for a long time, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to speak up and it was going to be OK. And no one need to know, and what I would do is I avoid people in the agile workforce like we worked at hot desks at

this time, this was a number of years ago now and I would just avoid people because I didn’t want to speak up. I didn’t want to tell them the truth and I think bad experiences, unfortunately, actually I didn’t have a bad experience. It was the self stigma of what people would think of me if I actually was honest about the fact that I had panic attacks. Because I couldn’t even figure them out myself, I couldn’t even figure out what this thing was happening. I denied that it was mental health for a good six months until I was forced to kind of face it was so, you know, I’ve definitely seen the harsh reality. I hate to, I kind of the reason I see a lot of gaps is because I have seen a lot of bad stuff in H.R., which is why I’m so passionate about it and not even H.R. sorry, I’ve seen stigmatization happen in the workplace And I think as part of the reference group state insurance regulatory authority, we actually work around this idea of disclosure. So what does disclosure mean? How does it work? What should do you do? And I think at first I went into it thinking you should always disclose. That was my, my thoughts. I thought we should encourage people to always disclose. But then someone challenged me on that and said, actually it should be a conscious decision about what you should do because there are sometimes risks There are sometimes consequences and as much as  right now in the current, we don’t, we don’t want to say that we don’t want to be the case. That’s the reality. And I’m kind of giving an honest answer because I don’t want people to think. I think it’s fantastic unicorns and rainbows because it’s a conscious decision . No, it’s not. And you don’t know where people are at, You don’t know where managers are at in their own trajectory of understanding what stigma is and how it manifests I think it manifests as discrimination and we have to call out discrimination in workplaces when it happens I agree that currently it’s not safe to disclose all the time, but over time it should get better. I’ve worked in health for the last 12 years, disability before that education. But I think one of the most stigmatized health is really bad, you know, it’s dangerous for some health professions to disclose. Professionally it can be the end of a career for people and there’s no sense in that. This is, this is still caught back in those untruths that people are believing about mental health. I think it’s about having those conversations, whilst you don’t want to necessarily expose everything about what you were living with it’s knowing your limitations still. So if you’re prone to, for example, panic attacks, knowing the kind of things that might be triggering for you, and that you might need the time and kind of expressing that to your team or to your manager or your boss, that These are the limitations of this is the kind of work environment or work conditions that I need to be around and then allowing yourself in that time to, to bring out that awareness because you’re an individual living with that. So maybe it’s more about having that conversation about mental health being able to say this is my personal experience. Interesting though because you also want to accentuate your strengths in that moment as well so that people don’t stigmatize the fact that you might have panic attacks doesn’t mean that you have all these other capabilities And in fact, I mean, the flip side of anxiety is often, you know, a great sense of motivation to do well. You know, I just want to throw into the mix a question from Anna, where is the line drawn between an employer’s duty of care regarding mental health issues and the employee’s individual responsibility. And I think a lot of people really wrestle with this, how much should ask? How much should I tell? What should I do? Is this a performance management issue? Lots of confusion, Any thoughts on that one? What an exciting topic. I think just very quickly, I think it should be purpose driven in terms of you need to know what you want to actually have an outcome. I think at the end of the day, no one rule was going to be fit for everyone One person might not want to disclose it for more reasons than just the fact that the workplace can’t support them. I think for me, I didn’t want anyone to know my most recent workplace sometimes because I didn’t want myself to come with that personal story of mine. I didn’t want to label myself. I wanted to exist outside my anxiety disorder. I wanted that escape from myself, my own recovery, and so I think we’re going to kind of move away from this one rule and actually go, what’s the purpose of opening up? What was the purpose of disclosing and what do I want to achieve as the  outcome?

What type of accommodations with support and taking time off, whether that’s getting some camaraderie support, it very much has to come back down to what am I, what are we trying to achieve by having this conversation and really having more that relationship based outcome focused purpose driven kind of piece of work I think it’s really interesting I’m currently in two roles that require as part of the job description disclosure. So with Primary Health Network, with the Mental Health Commission, both are designated lived  experience roles and I’m working in a field with people with mental health peer workforce lived experience workforce, where people are working in quite complex and difficult jobs having disclosed their mental health, past and recovery. And I think this is an incredibly powerful way of changing that stigma and discrimination because when people see how well, how important those people are, those peer workers in their communities in the work that they do. People can see the strength and it’s there, People still have to selectively tell their story And you don’t tell your whole story all the time. But you know, it’s, it’s just wonderful to see people who are proud of who they are and wanting to, to share and help people on their journey to recovery as well. We’re talking about complexity before our peer work is simple. It’s just not doing to people, it’s being with people as they’re recovering and working with them as they navigate their way back to their personal truth. Yes, I’m looking forward to hearing from one of our panelists later on who have integrated kind of peer work approach into their workplace. Their corporate  workplace, which is interesting. Just a couple more minutes. Go on. Sorry Just really quickly. I think the most important thing is an open door. This is being open to have those discussions from management to employee. I think that’s the most important thing. You can’t go anywhere or do anything until you at least have that open door. And a lot of it’s going to be learning as we go. Respecting boundaries and just having an open door. And perhaps also seeking external support. I don’t think we all have the expertise we need to have these conversations Stephanie has asked I’d love to hear some of specific examples of behaviors and actions of a workplace where managers have responded positively to mental health needs or specific examples of where the response has been really negative. I think we’ve explored some of those in this conversation, Natalie writes the panel has spoken about the quality of being open to learning. Luke, you and your open door. What are the character qualities can we all develop as colleagues, as co-workers are important here too, in this stigma conversation, and as managers to encourage someone experiencing distress, to feel comfortable to open up. And I think ever since that last one particularly. Where do we start? What might it be? Is it sufficient to have an RUOK day? RUOK day with cupcakes? I don’t think. No, it’s not. It’s about being there and with the person. It’s about listening. It’s a lot of it’s about compassion. You know, you don’t have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes or things like that. But it’s really about being constant,  being with the person in their distress And, and they will as they move away from that and forward from that distress. Yeah, I think the best experience I’ve had when it came to my mental health was when I came into the office and I hadn’t disclosed yet at the workplace that I had an anxiety disorder and I was crying and I was trying to pull it together and tell everyone I was fine and that’s what we usually do guys. And then this lovely lady came to me. I didn’t know her and someone has asked her to meet me that morning. And she sat me down, She didn’t pull out a mental health policy or her mental first aid certificate or tell me she was anything, but she said, I don’t know exactly what you’re going through right now. And I don’t know if I ever will be able to understand until maybe one day I go through that. But when I can do is be here for you. If you want to go that time I was presenting like you want to go and present. I’ll be in the audience all you have to do is give me the eyes and I’ll be there to kind of help you out. And I think that moment was the pinnacle of what it meant to me, what mental health in the workplace means? Absolutely, It takes one person. It does sometime just take one person doesn’t it, to just say I see you. I sense that you’re struggling and I’m available. It’s not always about the doing it’s just being this silent and knowing that they’re there by your side in some capacity Absolutely. Like you have turned your experience of anxiety into

a whole suite of volunteer work both with the Facebook group you run with global participants from the around the world. Gay, Bi, trans community and also in the anxiety group support groups that you run. And I wonder what turning your lived experience into sort of a source of insightful expertise to share with others, in the way that Tim does too through his peer wor,k has done for you in your understanding of your own anxiety. Yeah It’s been, it’s been very valuable and I found being able to volunteer with the mental health in any capacity has been very valuable to me. Both in exploring my own mental health and then seeing what other people are going through as well. I highly recommend anyone that is experiencing mental health issues to volunteer if they can or to have those discussions with other people as much as possible. It’s very rewarding. But getting out there and it was great I volunteer so much. So it is a great way to not necessarily get back in the workforce in a paid job, but to still have a place to go to, you know, every other day and things like that. Yeah It’s absolutely getting purpose. And then also in an environment with other people that can understand. That was such a great thing as well. Yeah, absolutely. Understanding, I mean, Yeah And also that the power of connections, so work takes many forms, voluntary, paid or otherwise. We are nearly out of time. I was just going to say and doing the online group that I’ve done as well whilst it’s Facebook based and I would consider expanding that further, having that link towards people from different cultures and different experiences. That’s hugely rewarding and also to see where exactly you are in your life and going wow, that’s a lot happening out there in the world. Having that broader view of the situations that people go through. Any final thoughts from a Camille or Tim? I think Luke’s nailed it. It is about reconnecting through volunteering about whatever gets you out that door after you have that experience of a mental health crisis because it is an isolating experience in that space Sometimes the biggest thing is, is walking out the door the next day, walking a little bit further the next day in a different direction. Absolutely. Going forward. I think that’s just taking the first step. If anyone is watching today from three people with lived experience just take the first step because I’m sure we can all sit here and be testament to the fact that it matters. And Yeah, absolutely. You don’t have to do it in only one day, forward momentum. It doesn’t have the speed, doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, as long as you’re working on that forward momentum. That can sometimes take a few steps back as well. One leap forward and one leap back Turn it into a dance. One giant leap forward and one giant leap back. I just round off the conversation with this lovely comment from Jazelle. Not a question, but really great points about disclosure, intent cetera, from the group. I’m attending this in preparation for my Workplace Mental Health First Aid Program. Great supplement to the trainings and readings I’m doing. Thanks Jazelle, and a big hearty thanks to Tim Heffernan, Luke McGrath, and Camille Wilson. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and lived  experiences, but also expertise for this panel today on stigma. Really great to see you Fantastic, Thanks. Thank you Excellent. Now you joining the workplace mental health event brought to you by the NSW Mental Health Commission. If you’re just joining us, my name is Natasha Mitchell. We’re experiencing some fantastic panel discussions today really discussing at this time of Covid-19 after the bushfires. What are the unique challenges that we’re dealing with at the moment in terms of mental health But also, does it mean for our work selves have we perhaps lost that job? Have we perhaps had to start working from home and we feel a sort of loss of connectivity, physical connectivity to our work environment and to our colleagues. There are pros and cons, as we’ve acknowledged. Well, now we have a little video for you, and then I’ll join you again for another panel this time with people who are running programs inside workplaces or to support workplaces. Joining us now via video to reflect on stigma in the workplace, because she’s has been involved in driving and releasing a massive SANE Australia report, the national report card. It was released last week. I was involved in its launch

and it is a magnificently interesting document. I highly commend it to you. With us now is Dr. Michelle Blanchard, She’s deputy CEO of SANE Australia and the founding director of SANE’s Anne Davisson Research. Over to you Michelle Stigma is the attitudes that we hold towards somebody because of their experience of a mental health issue. And often we think that stigma is just about people’s public attitudes, but stigma actually has a couple of different components So stigma can be self stigma, which is the way that we feel about ourselves when we might be experiencing a mental health problem and public stigma, which is the way that the wider community views people who might be experiencing a mental health problem. And then what we call institutional or structural stigma, which is where the systems and processes by which our community functions and the institutions in it, are in and of themselves, stigmatizing or discriminatory towards people who might be experiencing a mental health problem. So it’s really important to think about all of those different aspects of stigma if we’re going to create a community that is completely free from stigma and discrimination Recognizing stigma can sometimes be really difficult because sometimes the behaviors that are stigmatizing So we often talk about that in terms of discrimination, are actually not as obvious. So there’s more obvious forms using derogatory language towards people who might be experiencing a mental health problem or actively preventing people from being able to participate. But actually some of the forms of stigma that are more difficult for us to shift are the ones that are just below the surface. And they’re the kinds of things that can often be barriers for people in being able to participate really fully in their community. So for example, in a workplace, it might be a policy that doesn’t provide for flexible work. So it may be something that then makes it difficult for people who might be experiencing a mental health problem and need a little bit of flexibility. Whether that’s in terms of the times of day that they work, or the location that I work from, those kinds of things play out in the stigmatizing way. So there’s lots of things that we can do about stigma. I think as individuals we can think about the way that we support those in our community who are experiencing mental health problems. And that really comes down to treating people with care and treating people with compassion. But I think there are also other things that we can do, or we can call out stigma and discrimination where we see it. So if we see someone using derogatory language or we, we come across a process that acts as a barrier to participation for people affected by mental health problems. Then making a point of calling goes out and aiming to change those systems and processes that make it really difficult. So one of the things that we often hear from people who might be experiencing a mental health problem is that it’s difficult to, to call these things out and to challenge those processes. It’s pretty exhausting if you feel like you have to do that all the time. So the more that each of us in the community can take responsibility for making sure that our communities that our workplaces are free from stigma and discrimination, the better So on the 12th of October SANE Australia in partnership with our friends at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, launched our National Stigma report card And that included responses from almost 2000 people affected by complex mental health issues. And we looked at how stigma and discrimination affected people right across their lives, whether it was in their relationships with others in employment in education, in accessing income support for example And what we found is that while we’ve made huge advances, when it comes to better community understanding of issues like depression and anxiety, we still have an enormous way to go when it comes to more complex conditions like schizophrenia or personality disorder. Some of the areas where people told us that

stigma and discrimination impacted their lives the most were in terms of their relationships with those closest to them, but also employment. So being able to feel safe in a workplace to share what might be going on in terms of their mental health and wellbeing was a real challenge for a lot of people and people feared being stigmatized or discriminated against. And so we really feel that it’s incredibly important that we’re investing efforts in destigmatizing some of these more complex mental health conditions, which unfortunately is still quite poorly understood in the community. So as a result of the national stigma report card, SANE’s calling on the government to invest in a 10 year program of work to really eliminate stigma and discrimination towards people affected by complex mental health issues. We know that eliminating stigma is about much more than just more community awareness around mental health problems. It’s actually about tackling the systems and processes that often act as barriers for people to participate in the community and to access the care and support that they need. So you can head to nationalstigmareportcard.com .au So read a little bit more about what we found and have a look at some of the recommendations that we’ve made to reduce stigma and discrimination in our community And thank you so much to Dr Michelle Blanchard for joining me or as all of us in fact, there are one hundred and twenty three of you joining us from across New South Wales, possibly from across Australia, possibly from internationally as well Thank you so much for joining us for this webinar today on mental health in the workplace. Particularly in the context of a pandemic, which raises all sorts of interesting questions and challenges, and opportunities for having more of these sorts of conversations about mental health and relationship to work. I should just say that Michelle is deputy CEO of SANE Australia and head to the National Report Card website. It is a vital reading. I found it a real wake up call that document and it’s well worth looking at. So for our next panel, I’m excited to have with us three people all who work in quite different contexts, But we’re going to be talking about creating mentally healthy workplaces. And we really want to hear some living breathing examples of how that happens and how workplaces how managers, employers respond to some of the questions and challenges that were raised by our lived experience panel around stigma And joining us, Emma Hogan, secretary of the Department of Customer Service, with the New South Wales government, has a massive department with lots of front facing roles. After a long and diverse career in the private and corporate sector, Emma has recently been named as ambassador for Safe Work, New South Wales we’ll find out what that’s all about. But essentially, these selected people are designated as champions of change when it comes to mental health at work. They are going to be walking the talk and aiming to reduce stigma of mental health by tackling barriers and sharing their experiences to Thank you for joining us Emma, great to have you Thanks for having me. We have Johanna Franklin with the She’s project leader Everymind. Everymind is an institute dedicated to delivering successful mental health and suicide prevention programs They’ve been doing so for over a quarter of a century. Johanna leads a really special initiative out of Everymind Ahead for business project Now it’s all about mental health and wellbeing. Support for small business owners across Australia. And I know if you are joining us from the small business industry, you are dealing with a lot of challenges and a lot of uncertainty right now. So thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. And we hope that we can offer resources to support you through this conversation, but also the work that Johanna is going to talk about. We have with us also Lanie Cassity who’s head of People Operations, Mental Health at KPMG, Australia. Thanks for joining us. Lanie. Lanie focuses on developing leadership capability and mental health literacy across all levels of an organisation, big corporations. She’s led the development of robust, internal peer support networks, and platforms for storytelling to really try and normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace. It’s no mean feat in a large corporation. We are dying to hear about that. KPMG is also

a founding member of a brand new alliance called the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia. Just launched this month. So we’ll find out about that too. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you Now, just a reminder, please post your questions because we’d love to weave them in as early as we can for our panel. Love your thoughts from each of you on what challenge you think Covid-19, the moment that we’re living through right now, this extraordinary, historical moment presents for you in this conversation about mental health in the workplace. Emma. Yeah, Thanks, Natasha And thanks everyone for having me. Gosh, what a year it has been Yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about 2020. So I have a team of ten thousand people, primarily work either through Service NSW, or Revenue, New South Wales or in our regulatory teams like fair trading, safe work, or SIRA or all manner of them. And so we had a really interesting time in that everybody who was customer facing needed to continue to be customer facing because they were considered and are considered essential workers. And everybody who worked in an office which was probably over 5000 people suddenly had to work from home or work remotely. And one of the distinctions that I’d learnt this year is that we haven’t asked everybody to work flexibly. We’ve asked everybody to work remotely. And they are two very different things. And the reason that I mention that is because when it comes to mental health, especially I think that working remotely has provided some people with mental health benefits and for others, because it hasn’t been a flexible model, it has not provided mental health benefits. And in fact, it’s had quite the opposite response So we’ve been pulse surveying all the way along. And at the beginning, everyone was really united by this common why everybody wanted to beat Covid and everyone was doing what it took. But now recently we’ve got definitely a spectrum of response of people who are feeling disconnected Don’t necessarily want to come back to work full time, but do want to reconnect with humans outside of their home. And I think people are finding it more and more difficult for their dining room table to also be their desk. And so we are now trying to work through how can we do better coming out of this when it comes to flexibility? And how do we actually consider mental health as a core pillar? I guess of how we approach flexible working. Moving forward, I agree with the panel earlier, We have proven during this time that presenteeism is irrelevant and that we can be very productive. But I think every individual is different, just like the mental health of every individual is different. And accordingly, we have to have an accordian of options, I think, to be able to accommodate mental health and never has that been more proven than this year. And I don’t know how you’d even fathom doing that when you’ve got ten thousand staff. That’s just beyond my capacity to even imagine that But what does it mean to take a pulse survey, I think people will find that interesting to be connected? Yeah, So we ask everybody at the beginning or not beginning in April and again in August, how do you think we’re supporting you with Covid? Are we doing the right things? Do you need more from us? Less from us? What’s impacting you the most? And we were able to sort of manage our progress and manage the difference between how people were feeling in April versus how people are feeling in August. And we’re just starting another one now. We’ve also done lots of conversations. Team leaders have really stepped up and talk to the people a lot more. And the attitude has changed from the beginning of people doing what we were calling quarantining or drinks on a, on, a  Teams meeting on Friday to being quite different. The novelty’s worn off were definitely into a more regular operational business rhythm. And for some that’s been really positive and for others, not so much. So we just monitoring the sentiment by asking our people how they feeling and making sure we action what they tell us That’s the challenge, isn’t it? We’ll come to that, But you can get all that data and then it’s what you do with it and feeling kind of solid as an employer to know what to do with that information. That data Johanna Franklin, you engage with the small business sector. Now they are experiencing unique challenges at the moment. Many of the businesses have had to be put on hold. Some have even fallen over and I wonder how you see the present moment in terms of the scale of support that’s going to be needed for small business employees and

employers. Thanks Natasha.  I think, one really important thing to note and acknowledge for small business, Covid has been huge and that this isn’t the only adverse event they face this year and last year. We’ve come out of a very intense bushfire season. Lots of small business haven’t recovered from that and Covid has hit so on top of that recovery. And they have got he prospect of going into another bushfire season if they’re in bushfire affected areas, whether it’s that or drought. So it’s tough they haven’t caught a break and I think for small business owners and the people they employ, their families, because small business are so engrained in family and friends it’s been very tough for them And I think one of the things we hear so much this year is self care, but its so important and for small business owners mental health in the workplace really starts on the individual, really trying to put time aside to do the things that protect them from mental ill health. Going for a walk, reading a book, that kind of thing we encourage and to work we’re doing with Ahead for Business with planning that time and self-care and really setting up those protective factors. Isolation was mentioned a lot in the first panel. And it’s another huge thing for small business, whether they’re working physically alone or just the burden of all the responsibilities they have to take on often they are doing the finance, doing the marketing, being the H.R. department. That mental load can also really make you feel isolated if you don’t have lots of colleagues to share So I in some sense, Emma talking about that distinction between working flexibly and working remotely I think small business owners often live  this reality full time. They are running a business from their kitchen table. It never leaves their psyche. Their work role is who they are in their entirety, isn’t it? And that presents some real challenges for our mental health and our self conception. Yeah, absolutely And another important thing to note is, and this happens in the larger workplaces too, not all small business can adapt and pivot in this really difficult time. If you are desk based, maybe you can work from home. But your local butcher they’re different, they can’t kind of adapt And really there’s not a lot of options for them. And yeah, that impact at the individual level. A healthy business owner will allow to support your staff and let your business thrive. So it’s tough for them, but there’s lots of stuff out there and lastly just to mention from where we started this project 3 years ago the mental health and wellbeing awareness for small business has come so far. There’s a long way to go, but we’ve really got across the whole health sector. Yes And I also absolutely want to hear some of the specifics in the Ahead for Business project that you’ve been running. If you are joining us, we would now love to have your questions pouring in to the portal that I’ve got here on the side screen. And I’d love to be able to answer your questions for our panel and weave them in along the way So don’t hold back the feel welcome to participate. Lanie Cassidy at KPMG. You’re in a big corporate. And that presents its own unique challenges. Doesn’t it? In terms of how you respond to the mental health needs of your workforce? Lots of people are racing to meet their KPIs, These corporate pressure, you know, every workplace that we’re talking about, you have interesting crossovers, but there are some unique, unique aspects to working inside the corporate sector as well. Aren’t they? Absolutely, And I think we, we saw that more than ever when Covid hit And we all had to work remotely and work from home. And particularly we pulsed along the way just to check in and see how our people were doing. And one of the key things that we did here was that people were exhausted. And I think that that comes from, obviously the fatigue of the pandemic But in a high performance culture, you’ve got individuals that are just going and going and going. And I think for

KPMG and the discussion that we’re now having is, as we move into our new reality across different ways of working and carving out our different working hubs. So we’ve got our three working hub model that we’re working through, which is home, office and client. But I think as we do that particularly being from home and that remote working, it’s really important that we give permission and empower our people to establish daily habits, rituals, and behaviors that really support not just balance, but also recovery, self-regulation and routine. And really place that emphasis on the power of switching off. In a high performance culture, in a corporate, I think that that sometimes we’re our own worst enemies and we will just keep going. And so we’re really focusing on that side of things to create that culture and permission for people to not just keep going when they are working from the home hub. So that’s something we really saw across Covid. Yes, I’d love to just follow up on that though, because how important, Emma might relate to this too, how important is what messages leadership give in this situation? I mean, it came up in the first panel too, it’s in terms of switching off. It’s also in terms of how vulnerable do they let themselves be to initiate conversations How do you build also a culture of trust? Not just at a time like this, but more broadly, that allow people to articulate that they are having mental health challenges, but not feel like they’re going to lose their job. Or somehow be held back from career progress because of stigmatizing attitudes about what mental health means Absolutely, that’s a great big question, but a great question. Inclusive leadership is really important and leadership vulnerability. And I think, naturally you saw that come out across the pandemic. But it does help show that our leaders are humans. And one of the things that we heard from our people as well from those poll surveys was, it was just really wonderful to see my leader in their home as a human, and I think it is natural organic thing that happened with Covid. It was, we all come into each other’s houses and we were forced to do that and realize, hey, we’re all humans and we are all here to feel as well. So I think that where that was the silver lining with Covid, in that those work barriers were kind of stripped down. The other thing is storytelling I think is really important because that goes back to leadership, vulnerability, and something we’ve started our journey on a little while ago at KPMG, We sharing stories of not just lived experience but just how people thrive and stay well, but I think that the lived experience really resonated with people to get comfortable to say, well, my leader might not have always had it together. So it’s okay and, and it’s okay for me to not be okay And I can still be brilliant. And that was really important that storytelling piece. And so you do have a peer support network at KPMG? Now, what does that look like? What is that about And is it, is it a safe place, do people participate? One of the first things that we were really intentional is not calling it a mental health first aid network. And the reason for that is because that acronym or that word implies that they’re there needing to be fixed. And we just completely were against that. Initially when we built the program a few, a few years ago, it essentially was a program that sat in HR. And I probably sat here a few years ago and saying, I’m not sure it was really well utilized because it was an H.R thing. So one of the things that we wanted to do was expand in scale and really have a true peer support program so that when individuals come into work, they had their peer that was also their friend, but also their colleague that was equipped to be able to talk to them and lean in and engage and also recognize that they might not be doing that well. So it is a safe space. It’s certainly an evolved program from where it was a few years ago. And I think that that’s because it’s a true peer to peer support program now, and it’s across all levels of the organization So we’ve got our graduates that sit in the program or the network we call it up to our partnership. And that goes back to that leadership commitment and leaders demonstrating that they’re really involved in supporting our people. In addition to that, our programs bridge across. And I think part of what we’ve done across our initiative is take out the technical element of our training because I think somewhere along the way we lost that human element of we just actually need to feel

comfortable to have a conversation. And so our leaders have gone through some really organic and different training around how to have a mental health conversation. So I think to your point earlier around, feeling comfortable to disclose by equipping our leaders to let them know that they don’t need technical training to actually connect and care has been a big part of the shift in focus around stigma reduction and breaking down those barriers. Yes, very interesting, We’ve had a question from I think it’s Chloë I love to support persons with mental health issues. Most of the time though, don’t know the full story and worry about saying or acting wrongly and making the situation worse. Managers would not tell or can’t ask the person directly and therefore have been avoiding persons with issues and leave them alone. How can we help? Emma, I want to come to you on that one, but I think that’s a great question because embodies so much doesn’t it? I also will come to you on the point that Lanie made, that it was just an H.R. thing that people didn’t really take it on. Because I think that, that lack of you know, there’s a lot of kind of desire to want to do something and brand it in a corporate way or a departmental way as your RUOK Cupcakes and you know, your RUOK cupcakes. And, you know, the reality is that some of the workplaces that do that are quite toxic or undergoing dreadful stress redundancies, etc So let’s come to that secondary. But that point about how do you start having a conversation without treading on someone’s toes? Well, I might go in reverse and come back to Chloe’s question. So I’ve had my own what I call a dance with my own mental health. And when I very first started as the Secretary, we did this in conversation with the Secretary so the team could get to know me and I explained my story and why mental health was important to me and the dance that I have had with it. And just in doing that, even though I don’t always like to tell that story, I know when in a position of power and no matter how down to earth I try to be, with the Secretary title comes this perception or reality of power. And so I know by telling those stories in leadership positions, it gives other people permission to do the same, But it also sets the expectation, not that I want or what my leaders to tell stories they’re not comfortable with, But it is my expectation that we have an open environment, where people feel free to speak up and mostly and most importantly, and this is to Chloe’s  point is to feel free to learn. So I think Camille and Tim and Luke talked about it earlier. You can’t go and study this and be really and wait till your perfect and then and get all your certificates and then come out and say OK, I’m ready to help anybody who has a mental health challenge. I’m good, You have your mental health certificates line up your desk. But I think if you genuinely approach people with empathy and you genuinely let people know that you’re here to talk, you’re here to help and even if you don’t have the answers you will help the person try to find the right person to get the answers. To me that’s the culture I really want to create. So one of our cultural pillars is people and inclusion at the heart and mental health really falls into the inclusion component of all the way in which we work. How can anybody be their best selves at work if they don’t feel included? And if there’s a stigma around mental health, then they can’t form part of that and that includes me and I’m, and I’m the, you know, the most senior leader. So it takes a lot of work, 10,000 people. You don’t just turn up and say, we’re all going to be accepting overnight. It takes role modeling, it takes walking the talk, it takes learning. It takes admitting mistakes and saying, you know what, I try to help someone the other day and I did this and  I realized later I shouldn’t have and I just want to share that experience with everybody else. And if we can create a culture where it’s just okay to talk, share, and learn, as long as you have authenticity in that, I think you can only get better and better now. It’s a fine line tough. It’s a fine line because you don’t want to tread into territory that you’re not equipped to deal with. So what I’m trying to challenge my leaders to think about. What’s performance management and what’s compassionate management. There is

a fine line there when it comes to mental health and well being.  And managers really struggle with that. Okay someone’s underperforming What do I do with this? That’s true, But I think we have to ask human questions. Are you OK is not something we should ask once a year, That’s something we should be asking all the time. If someone’s normally a usually a really good performer, but suddenly seem to be struggling more regularly late or just off. I would be encouraging our leaders not to go straight to a performance conversation but go to a RUOK Conversation. Now like I said, I don’t get to turn up and wave a magic wand and 10,000 people know how to do that, But it is certainly a culture we’re trying to create. We’re trying to learn from each other. And we’re trying to learn from other organizations. And you know, Camille, is on, who you met earlier, the Lived Experience Advisory Council. And we talked to those guys a lot to say we’re going down the right path here. Would this make sense to you? And I think just by learning and exploring opportunities and talking to people who’ve done great work in this space, we can only get better for it And we won’t get it right. 100 percent of the time But I think if we’re trying to move in the right direction. Yeah, I think that’s a really good point as well Around, sorry, just before you go into thinking that somebody is an underperformer, really trying to understand what’s going on for that person is the first thing that you should be doing. So I, I completely agree with that comment Johanna Franklin, the interesting context. I mean, let’s climb inside the small business space where you’re working and have developed this portal of resources to help guide people through these conversations in a small business, you might be a sole trader, So you are your colleague or it’s a moving cast of colleagues in terms of your clients, perhaps. Or alternatively, it might be a family business that you’ve grown into from childhood. And now you’re, you have to take the reins from dad or mum, you know, these conversations take on a whole other dynamic in those sorts of environments, don’t they? Yeah, I think definitely, And small business as you mentioned are so ingrained within family and friends network if you work in a more rural area, Your GP may be you next door neighbour or your neighbour’s wife, or a client It might even be harder to have the conversations. That’s for the business owner. Then you might have one employee, or be with the employee every single day and have a very professional relationship, and although you spend all of your time together, you might not feel that is a person you want to talk to Just jumping on the back of having those conversations, If you have noticed that they are maybe different, coming in late as Emma mentioned, and things like that, it’s good also to say I’ve noticed and is everything OK. If they don’t want to talk to you, is there someone you want to talk to because I think in that small business arena it’s just offering alternatives to them and really it’s really difficult in such a closed network. And the family may be the trigger for your mental health challenges and you’re working alongside them in the very business that you’re running together. So very, very difficult how to disclose that you’re having a challenge in that situation On the other hand, you know, big corporations have employment assistance programs sort of contracting to provide independent counseling or therapy support for employees confidentially. So how do you work with small businesses to encourage them to seek other resources for their staff or for themselves? Yeah, great point. So our Ahead for Business digital hub has a lot of stuff it’s totally free, a lot of information for small business, you know, whether it’s an established small business, someone starting out or whether it’s with a family member and they think their partner is struggling there’s a lot of information, tools to look at to get started on that journey to identify mental health issue there’s the directory specific to small business support and a businesses stresses screen –

just really quick two minute screen and small business owners can use it to identify the main stresses they are facing we have a mental health check up and if the check up identifies that person is struggling with a mental health issue we provide a pre-populated letter to a GP. So it’s a way to start that really difficult conversation, something really practical There’s other stuff out there, Beyond Blue, Covid-19 helpline So they have the headsup website too. There’s loads of resources that are free.  But how do you, how do you reach the people that need to know this? Because if you’re stuck in the mud of your own reality, running a small business, you’re not necessarily going to go onto Google and go help. Yeah, it’s such a great point I think. One part of Ahead for Business, is much bigger than the digital hub, is really getting ingrained in those communities Getting the people that work with small business. Intermediaries, most small businesses should have a financial adviser or an accountant legal support, insurance, those kind of things. That’s a really good way to infiltrate the small business community Peak bodies that small business are part of, again it’s that messaging on mental health knowledge, decreasing stigma, but that there is support there Yeah. And I think that it’s also about spreading the word about aheadforbusiness.org.au, It’s as much as you know, I found during lockdown, Melbourne during this Covid period., every small business that I frequent who happens to be open to providing services, I do ask them the question. I talk to them about their reality in the, in the moment of that transaction so that they do know that there’s a wider community around them, and that’s vital. I, I’m going to try some questions into the mix from our audience. Thanks so much for posting them. It’s great to see them coming in. I read parts of Kay’s question because I think it’s salient to the time that we are in. Kay asks. I went through a prolonged traumatic experience during the bushfires earlier this year. When I returned to work, I asked my manager if I could initially return on reduced hours as I was physically exhausted. My manager denied this request saying that it would make things too difficult for the team. So I pushed on even though I was very depleted, along with bushfire recovery and Covid I’ve since gone on to experience a year of never ending restructures, job instability, unrealistic deadlines and workloads and this has put me a greater risk of mental health difficulties And the actual traumatic experience of the bushfires. Managers need to listen to staff and consider preserving mental wellbeing before a person is in crisis. I prioritise taking these steps myself and it’s come at a cost of my loyalty and commitment to the organisation. So the employer has lost out. How can we make employers listen and support us when we’re trying to be proactive about protecting our mental wellbeing? I read all of that because I think it encapsulates so much about our modern working realities. But that idea of loss of loyalty and commitment. This is an issue of that, isn’t it Lanie or Emma or Johanna who would like to take that on? I think I’m happy to start it but more go back to – inaudible – . Well, thank you for sharing that example and sorry that you had to go through that. That would have been really difficult. I think part of it comes back to leadership capability. And as a large corporation, it’s really important that we empower and equip our leaders to be human first That’s really important, When individuals disclose or they feel comfortable to share or kind of a point to their needs, then if they can’t get a response that’s going to be supportive, that’s just really going to kill culture and what needs to be eventually healthy workplace. So I think the real important part is not just for us at KPMG, but as a corporation, It’s just having a conversation and leaders having that conversation with individuals to listen to listen first and really just understand what’s going on for that person versus

helping to manage all of these clients or I’ve got all of these deadlines, and naturally that is what plays out in the mind by default. But even if that is the natural, finding that human first, human first, listen. Because then if you listen, then you can understand and try and help. But then I would say, I’m feeling for those middle managers who kind of are getting it from high on, and getting it from their staff. It’s a tough one to navigate. Lisa has written as an employee how does the panel recommend initiating changing organizations where there is a culture of the RUOK cupcakes and get a toxic reality or inauthenticity. And Nellie writes in a related way. I recently opened up to my employer about my anxiety, which felt good, But they only listened. They did not respond with any words of support, nor express any understanding All they said was, keep us in the loop on your anxiety. How can I direct my employer to use some tools? Yeah, I think it’s a tough one because if I take it back to the scenario I was talking to before, we’ve got 10,000 people So you can imagine at least 2,000 of those are people leaders in some way, shape or form whether they’re a team leader in a service center or a call center all the way through to senior executives. And it requires not just an education, but a willingness. Not everybody is naturally empathetic not, you know, again, people often freeze or someone opens up nd that’s an issue that I’ve not dealt with before. I’m not sure what to do or what to say. So I think it is upon employers to kind of create the culture that allows people to learn and grow, create the resources and training for leaders and managers provide free direction to resources that are outside of the workplace. Safe work have lots of ideas for those people who don’t feel comfortable talking to their leaders And I do think it’s going to be a continuous continuous journey. And you know, some people might completely open up, but they don’t want a response. They feel well just having been listened to. Others want a conversation. It’s a very tricky, tricky dance, But I think it can only be met with empathy learning and understanding. And also to be really honest with you there  is only so much we can achieve unless you have a CEO or a boss who’s truly on board and truly supportive all the way through the organization. Otherwise you might have a great team locally. But if you sort of move outside of that, you might not get the same outcome So that would be my advice. I’m sorry, but I have a three, 30 speaking engagement and we’re running late I have to jump Thanks Emma Right. Thanks And we are going to, thanks so much that Emma Hogan Home Secretary for the Department of Customer Service, 10,000 staff. I just want to also roundoff with you Johanna. For people in small business who are feeling the pressure and assuming that that’s just the pressure of small business, the reality of small business is high pressure. How do they recognize, where would you advise that they start to think about recognizing when they’re tipping over? Yeah, I think like you said, there’s really unique challenges for small business we’ve mentioned isolation cash flow and managing staff. We’re a prevention organization, bang the prevention drum constantly but it’s setting up those structures when you can find the time, we have a well being plan, those things will protect you when times get really tough, setting up your network when you are going to go through periods of stress and things might settle a little bit and then it might be prolonged yeah, jump on to  Ahead for Business – there’s a lot of staff to support you it’s those first steps, jump on, have a look, come back off. Digest and then go back, have a  little look and you can register and track your progress, It’s tough but there is lots of support for small business. Thank you so much for getting the word out about Ahead for Business.  Lanie, Final comment to you about what you’d like to see in the corporate sphere. Because of course, you’re involved in this national alliance now linking up different big workplaces to try and build the conversation around mental health. Yeah, absolutely, And I think I share the sentiment. There’s more to learn and corporations have done

a bit, But I think that they just scratched the surface And I think that that’s the power of the alliance in that it’s business led, but expert guided and 15 founding members. and participants so far, we’ve also got a Website, but in terms of the structure it’s a deep level of engagement and how that plays out in an organization is there are board members of the alliance that are CEOs of corporations. So it’s a boardroom conversation. And then founding members like myself that represent the organization. So it’s a boardroom discussion and commitment So this is the Corporate Mental Health Alliance, Australia brand new, correct launched last week. So, you know, the power of the alliance is businesses, big businesses, medium and small, coming together across the board collectively to talk about this and share what we’re doing and just really have that conversation around creating mentally healthy workplaces What that means sharing and learning together. It’s never been more powerful, I think, to actually even have competitors come together and share what we’re doing so that we can learn from each other. So really, really powerful. And if I could use the words from the CMHA UK global ambassador and CEO Poppy. And she quoted this on the launch last week. We have to be radical and relentless in our expectation of ourselves, of our communities, and of our workplaces to be better on mental health. And I think that that’s what our North Star is at Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia Beautiful. Thank you so much. I’d love to thank you both and I thanked Emma at the Department of the Department of Customer Service in New South Wales, But Lanie Cassidy from KPMG. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. And from Johanna Franklin from Everymind and the project Ahead for Business. Thank you so much for joining us in your support of small businesses across Australia. Thanks Natasha. Fantastic. And thank you for all your questions that have come in to really appreciate it. Really beautifully open and frank and honest that we just got to wrap the event with a very short video from Georgie Hartigan. And she’s a senior peer support worker from the Being Warm Line or the being warm line.  And she’s going to talk about how it supports people experiencing mental health challenges as peers supporting peers And then I’ll be back with you at the very end to wrap up the event And share some resources with you Being supported as a warm line service for anyone in New South Wales who’s looking for someone to talk to and connect with. What’s unique about our service is that we are peer based and peer run Basically what that means is when you call through to us, you’ll be speaking to somebody who has lived experience. And we found that a lot of the people that we support find it very helpful to be talking to someone who gets it and understands what they’re going to going through. So we operate, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And then from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m One of the main focus of our calls is social isolation and loneliness. And I think we all know how detrimental loneliness can be for people’s mental wellness as well as their physical health So we try to provide a safe space in which people can discuss those issues that they are having. And obviously this is kind of become more of an issue during Covid pandemic when people are more physically isolated. So it’s basically just about providing that safe space and trying to, you know, work through some of those concerns or issues that are facing them as well as providing relevant referrals when, when we see fit as well Rather than giving advice, we kind of just try to hold that space of hope and provide that time on the phone with people to really express what’s happening with them. Obviously there’s been a lot of employment loss during Covid and that’s caused some serious concerns and issues for the people that we’re supporting. One of those things is a lot of people have lost their social support network as well as their actual employment. That includes a lot of the people that call us have support workers, and if they’re sick, they can’t attend and that’s causing a lot more isolation as well. So we just try to provide some coping strategies to get through that time as well as, as I mentioned before, providing referrals when necessary so that they could be for all the phone lines crisis phone lines, as well as just local community activities or groups that might be in the area as

well. So my story of becoming a peer worker is I was quite heavily involved in youth mental health in the LGBTQ plus space. And being able to provide that kind of lived experience that I had with the young people. I was supporting, It really showed me the value and the importance of what we’re doing here and being able to provide that understanding that empathy and nonjudgmental space And that’s the kind of thing that I wish that my younger self that had access to when I was dealing with my own mental health issues in terms of how to become a worker. I know the MHCC run course a Cert 4 in peer support. And there’s also a lot of other training and courses that you can do on top of that to really expand that skill set Thank you so much to Georgie Hartigan and Georgie works at the Being supported mental health peer support line as a senior support specialist. And I’ll get that number out actually because I think that’s a useful resource. 1800 151 151, That’s the Being Supported mental health peer support line. So that’s where people can get access to peer workers who are familiar with the experience of mental illness. And can support you or put you on to other resources that I think you might find useful. And also relevant to today’s discussion. Another resource, the Beyondblue coronavirus mental wellbeing support service. That’s 1800 512 348, 1800 512 348 But you can get to that from the Beyondblue website. Now we’re going to scroll some other resources for you as a PowerPoint slide show. Just a round off the discussion. This event was recorded. You can share it with others by using the link that you use to access today’s event. The New South Wales, Mental Health Commission thanks you for joining us today. My name is Natasha Mitchell. They would love to hear your feedback about the speakers you’ve heard today and about the event to help them inform future events like this one and stay will look after each other. We’re going through an interesting time. It’s been my great delight to chair this session for you to take today and have a great weekend