Mental health is beyond any individual commercial agenda

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who can manage all the demands made of me both as a leader at work and as a wife and mother at home.

But there came a point in 2017 when it all seemed too much. I felt like I was giving all the time and I just didn’t have anything more to give.
Fortunately, I discovered running. Doing something physical really helped me rediscover my mental balance. And no-one wanted to do it with me, so I got precious time to myself.

But throughout the process – from my low point to my recovery – it never occurred to me to reach out to others for help. I saw myself as the problem solver, not the problem giver. I just had to try and fix things on my own.

Now, I want to make sure the next generation of young women or the next leaders don’t have to feel like that. I want them to know it’s okay to speak up.

People need peers

At KPMG, we’re focused on creating a psychologically safe culture. We want our people to know they can reach out and ask for help wherever they’re at. The way we think about it is: Be you, be well.

But it’s also important that our wellness strategy evolves.

People have told us that storytelling and role modelling are important, but they’re not enough. They say: “It’s great that the CEO can talk about mental health, but I don’t feel I can have the conversation with my middle manager.”

So, we created peer support circles and networks to provide spaces where people feel safe and comfortable to speak up and reach out to their peers.

And human leaders

We know that expectations of leaders are changing. People want leaders to be human first. I wonder if, in all our technical training, we’ve lost some sense of the humanness and the kindness of leadership.

We’ve therefore spent a lot of time helping leaders develop the capacity and confidence to ‘lean in’ to difficult conversations that they may not get 100 per cent right. Being willing to talk is what matters.

A real difference

Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia is an opportunity to be a significant force for good.

By sharing best practice, open-sourcing tools and making our insights available to other employers, we can make meaningful change, not just incremental change.

If we can make a difference to the wellbeing of workers, then we can make a difference to the wellbeing of families. And if we do that, we’ve made a real difference to the whole community.

The fact that some of Australia’s biggest employers – including head-to-head competitors – are coming together shows how important this is. Mental health is beyond any individual commercial agenda.

As businesses, we can lean on each for support, for ideas and solutions. And it doesn’t matter the size of your organisation or the industry you’re in. If you are employing humans, then we have a shared challenge and a shared opportunity to solve.

Read more on the work of the CMHAA.

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