A moment in time, I hope, will make a real difference in mental health for Australians

There are moments in life that you know will remain earmarked pages of your story long after they have passed.  

Professionally and personally, last week was one of those for me, as I was joined by 18 inspiring business and community leaders at the Ambassador’s Briefing for the launch of Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-in.  Each of these amazing people remind us that we can all play a role in changing the face of mental health. 

Check-in 2016 Ambassadors.

Australians don’t currently undertake mental health assessments unless we end up in a GP or Psychologist’s office. It perpetuates the myth that mental health is ok, until it is not ok.  As a Psychologist, I have lost count of the number of people that have wished they’d made life easier for themselves by talking about their own mental health earlier. Society has achieved a lot from increased awareness of mental health – but we are not making much ground in changing mental health, with up to 33% of the population in some sectors having a diagnosable disorder with most not even being aware of it.
The Check-in aims to address 3 key challenges facing mental health:
  1. Mental health is traditionally associated with people who are not functioning well. There is a gap between those who suffer and those who sympathise, when it really effects us all. 
  2. Mental health has never had an objective test – adding to the stigma that separates it from physical health and has many people see it as a sign of weakness we would never attribute to someone suffering asthma or diabetes.  Low iron is a lunch room discussion but not low mood.
  3. Most people don’t pay attention to their mental health until it is problematic. In fact only 35% of people with a mental health diagnosis ever receive professional help at all.

Our Ambassadors are putting their hands up to say we should all check in on how we are travelling.  At the same time, they are sending a message to all Australians- there is no shame in mental health.  It is time to understand mental health with a dashboard equivalent to an aeroplane cockpit, and not a simple pass or fail assessment. How is my mood, my anxiety, my sleep? How self aware am I? What’s my resilience? And when I need them, are my coping strategies working? 
Ambassadors were approached in the hope that their influence across sectors would help send the message that mental health is everyone’s business. Their receptiveness was overwhelming. When we asked our Ambassadors to share with each other why they had agreed to be involved, their contributions were as sobering as they were generous.  

“A new graduate we employed- a friend of my brother, took his life the day before he started work with us” said one.

Another Ambassador, a priest a few places further along leant forward “I buried that young man”, he shared.  “And we are still burying too many young men.”

“I have three kids – and I worry about what will happen if we don’t start talking about this more.” said another leader.

And still another “Our sector takes health and safety so seriously. Yet for every one death from a workplace accident, 6 people in our sector will take their own lives.”

Organisations can check-in to reduce the $11b impact mental health has on workplaces in Australia every year, and to provide each employee with a personalised wellbeing program. As individuals, we can check-in to make small steps toward better mental health -starting with ourselves. 

Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-in is a big step toward changing the future. Combining the world’s first objective test of mental health and an innovative online survey to see how the mind and body are tracking from the privacy of home, Australians receive a comprehensive assessment and personalised program. It is simple and private – with a customised, early intervention mental health program delivered to your email inbox.    Thanks to Medibio’s ground breaking technology and the passion of the Vital Conversations team, we believe it is time Australia did mental health differently.  Launching Oct 10 and running for 4 weeks, you can check it out at www.mentalhealthcheckin.com.

Mental health in Australia is not a quick fix. But we can do a lot better, and we should. 

It’s time. 

Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-in is dedicated to Geoff Rasmussen – for his humility, encouragement and wisdom.

With gratitude to Check-in Ambassadors
From Photo: 
Rear: L-R Maree Gooch – Belay Consulting, Vin Gleeson – Wesfarmers, Mark Fitzpatrick – St Vincent de Paul, Paul Andrew – Lotterywest, Alec O’Connell – Scotch College, Dr Paul Davey – Australia Veterinarian Association,  Dr Neale Fong – Chairmain of Bethesda, The Very Reverend Richard Pengelley – Dean of Perth,  Justin Gilmour – Integro,  John Fogarty – St John of God Murdoch Hospital, Sean Matheison- Medibio, Matthew Taylor – HBF.

Front: Scott Park – Scott Park Group, Peta Slocombe – Vital Conversations,  Fiona Beermier – Intework, Dr Kate Hadwen – PLC,  Brad Rogers – Bis Industries,   Adrian Arundell – Azure Capital Ltd,  

Absent Ambassadors: Justin Carroll – PwC, Russell Gibbs – Hawaiian, Tammy Tansley – Tammy Tansley Consulting, Martin Ralph – IFAP

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