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MHWV21 - event overview image

How to Care For Your Workplace Mental Health

Ideas roundup and resources from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Week

MHWV21 - event overview image

A moving personal case study from Lifeline Australia Chair John Brogden AM and a talk from Dawn O'Neil AM, former CEO of Lifeline and Beyond Blue, were two highlights of our Mental Health and Wellbeing Week. 3000 attendees heard 13 speakers share evidence-based methods that reduce workplace stress and improve mental health and wellbeing. It followed our Month of Mindfulness with Chelsea Pottenger. All activities and events were a free resource for our virtual community. Here, we summarise the week's best ideas, and list the speakers' resources, to help you care for mental health and wellbeing at work. 

Please note: replays of each session are available on demand for all those with a Growth Faculty Leadership Pass.

Workplace Health and Safety 

Inform yourself about your duty of care. More 1 in 5 people suffering a mental health issue in the workplace is a huge red flag for organisations, says Michelle Loader, Managing Director of Fisher Leadership. Work Health and Safety legislation imposes a duty to protect workers from psychological risks as well as physical risks AND to make sure work is safe for those returning after psychological illness. 

Create a wellbeing strategy 

Start with your leaders. Michelle McQuaid, founder of the Wellbeing Lab, says, “Leaders are the lowest hanging fruit in your wellbeing strategy in terms of how you can care for your teams.” Your strategy should include these L.E.A.D factors: 

·    LITERACY: Build your wellbeing literacy to start more conversations across our workplaces. 

·    EVALUATION: Evaluate data on engagement or effectiveness of wellbeing strategies. 

·    ACTIVATION: Build an evidence-based toolbox. At a leader level, work to make cultures that care. 

·    DETERMINATION: How will you provide ongoing support? Coaching, wellbeing check-ins, etc. 

If your mental health strategy is gathering dust, start to think about what 2022 might look like?

Questions for leaders

Have the executive team ask these questions (recommended by Michelle Loader of Fisher Leadership):

·       Am I visibly championing psychological safety?

·       Are we having the right conversations?

·       Am I role modelling behaviours, policy, systems, symbols, initiatives?

·       Who is responsible for identifying our psychological hazards?

·       Who owns matching risk control measures to mitigate, monitor, and report?

Anxiety disorders

Keep an eye on “awfulising” talk in the workplace. Anxiety disorders are highly contagious, says Dawn O’Neil AM, former CEO of Lifeline and Beyond Blue. It’s important for leaders to amplify conversations that help to ease fear and discomfort. Anxiety disorders are prevalent, she says, but treatable and highly preventable. Early intervention is vital. Early manifestations can include eating disorders, addictions, repetitive behaviours, and substance misuses.


'We all make mistakes; that’s why pencils have rubbers on the other end.' These words written by a stranger and sent to John Brogden AM helped him on his journey to a fulfilling life after a well-publicised suicide attempt in 2005 and his later diagnosis of depression. John is adamant there is no shame in reaching out and getting help. He says he’s never been ashamed that he has suicide ideation, takes medication and sees a psychiatrist. “You can get through to the other side and live a fulfilling life…I won’t say normal because everyone is different,” he says. His great objective is to have all Australians feel about mental health in the same way we feel about physical health. Lifeline 24/7 helpline 13 11 14


Watch your best employees. Burnout is on the increase and it’s “more likely to affect good people” says Professor Gordon Parker AO, founder of Black Dog Institute and lead author of Burnout. It’s lower in those who see work as a job, higher in those who see it as a career, and highest in those who see it as a calling. Warning bells include lacking energy, and feeling emotionally drained, exhausted, tired, or fatigued, and less satisfied with life. Burnout includes the Sydney Burnout Measure, a series of statements that can help a diagnosis. Vigorous exercise, reaching out for support, taking a break from work, and starting new activities are strategies to help.   

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Don’t accept a poor night’s sleep. Australia’s leading sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo teaches executives this sleep routine:

1.      Block out blue light by wearing quality blue light blocking glasses.

2.      Consume lavender – lavender oil capsules reduce anxiety by 59% and increase sleep quality.

3.      Set a “good night” phone alarm that reminds you to disconnect from devices one hour before bed.

4.      Have a shower. Melatonin is produced when core body temperature drops (when shower ends).

5.      Take a magnesium-based sleep supplement. Four weeks of magnesium reduces anxiety by 31%.

6.      Read. Found by Uni of Sussex to reduce stress by 68%.

7.      Wear an eye mask – it blocks out the sleep sabotaging blue light.

Build your resilience

Remember SELF is squashed in between WORK and LIFE. Speaker and author of Your Oxygen Mask First Kevin Lawrence says you can be more resilient if you keep an eye on nourishing SELF.

Build in daily rituals that replenish SELF in:

  • Body – things that give you energy
  • Mind – things that help you think calmly and clearly
  • Spirit – things that bring you joy and sparkle

Calm, Connect, Commit

Write down the people you care most about in the world. Sophie Scott, award-winning Australian medical reporter working for ABC, said this made a big difference in her own wellbeing journey.

She shared her 3-step process Calm, Connect, Commit.

·       Calm the brain – Meditation increases your 'grey matter' and your ability to plan. Deep breathing activates the 'rest and digest' part of your system. Try this breathing exercise: Breathe in for 4 (think CALM), breathe out for 5 (think HAPPY), repeat 6 times. Do this first thing in the morning, and ask yourself 'What is the most important thing that I can do for myself today?' 

·       Connect with people that you love – Set boundaries. Exercise self-compassion. Learn to say no. Find time for people you really care about.

·       Commit to moving your body – Not just exercise but moving your body. Science is overwhelming for the impact of exercise and the brain. As little as eight minutes a day starts to make a difference. 

What more can you do as a leader?

Dr Sarah Barker, Clinical Psychologist and Health Professional & Workplace Mental Health Training Facilitator at Black Dog Institute says there are 5 steps you can take:

  1. Provide managers with evidence-based mental health training to improve their recognition of and response to mental ill-health and related risk factors in the workplace. Every dollar spent on manager mental health training generates an ROI of $10.
  2. Build mentally healthy workplaces through organisational-level strategies that facilitate worker autonomy, improved job control, and flexible work.
  3. Take immediate preventative action on workplace bullying, and sexual harassment and assault. Reduce barriers to confidential reporting and support worker wellbeing before, during and after the reporting process.
  4. Implement evidence-based protective mental health and wellbeing interventions for all employees . These can include the HeadGear app, physical activities, mindfulness sessions, and CBT programs.
  5. Account for a steady post-pandemic workplace transition. Slow down, be hybrid, be supportive, have well-trained managers, know young people are at risk. 



Good Mental Health - Leading the Way - with Dawn O’Neil AM, former CEO of Lifeline

 Australia and Beyond Blue.

Dawn O’Neil AM can be contacted at Fisher Leadership                                                          

How to lead your mental health and wellbeing strategy - Implementing a common mental health language - with Dr Michelle McQuaid, Founder of The Wellbeing Lab:

Certificate In Creating Wellbeing

PERMAH Wellbeing Survey 
Australian Wellbeing Workplace Research 
Wellbeing business case 


Therese Joyce on Checklists and frameworks for implementation of mental health and wellbeing programs in the workplace:

·        Slides

·        Fisher Leadership



Michelle Loader on Minimising and managing the risks of burnout and mental illness in the workplace:

·        Mental health whitepaper

·        Fisher Leadership


Olivia Arezzolo on Breaking the habits of sleep

·        Website


Clare Robinson on Mental Brilliance - how to deal with change and challenge in a disrupted world

·        Bonus exercises for community 

·        Clare's website 



Author Session with Shannah Kennedy on Plan B - A Guide To Navigating And Embracing Change

·        Booktopia link



John Brogden AM on How to protect your mental health, a personal case study by John Brogden AM:

·        Lifeline website and number

Kevin Lawrence on Resilience Rituals

·        Your Oxygen Mask First Booktopia link

·        Your Oxygen Mask Free Audiobook

·        Your Oxygen Mask First Self-Assessment Tool

·        Your Oxygen Mask First core chapters – Double Your Resilience and Manage Your Mental Health


Author Session with Gordon Parker AO on Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery:

·        Booktopia link



Kate Kendall on The Space Between: Yoga Postures and Breath Practices:

·        Life in Flow Booktopia link


Dr Sarah Barker on Leading Positive Mental Health Through the Changes to Australian Workplaces:

·        Free Covid-19 resources for managers & workers 

·        Black Dog Institute programs & services


Sophie Scott on The Science of Managing Your Mindset

·        Sophie’s website



There are many factors that affect a person's mental health and wellbeing at work. How courageous their culture is on creating a sense of belonging, company policies, and even the work itself can all have a huge impact on how a person feels. Caring for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace should be a top priority for all leaders.

Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace has come a long way. Mental health exists on a spectrum: healthy coping, reacting (both self-care and social support zones), and poor mental health, mentally ill (professional-care zones). All the speakers this week spoke to the point made by Dawn O’Neil AM when she said deepen your understanding, double down on prevention, and mind your words; they have an effect on your and others' mental health. Mental fitness and resilience is the target for the future. 

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