Former NSW Opposition leader John Brogden delivered a powerful message in Wollongong on Friday at a Mental Health in the Workplace Luncheon hosted by the Illawarra Business Chamber.
The chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and chairman also acknowledged Lifeline’s regional chief executive Graham Gould and his team for doing a great job on the South Coast as a time when the latest statistics showed a 20 per cent increase in the number of suicides in Australia. But there are some positive things happening that are helping. “Today we live in a period of enlightenment where we talk more about mental health in a very open and honest way accept for one exception which is mental health in the workplace,” he said.
Mr Brogden spoke of his own public journey with a mental illness and how he had adopted a post political public policy. “That is that we talk about, we think about and we feel about mental illness in exactly the same way that we think about physical illness. My message to leave you today with is that there is no shame in having a mental illness. Don’t feel that you can’t talk about it. Don’t feel that you will be stigmatised unnecessarily.”
Mr Brogden said the more we talk about mental illness the more we normalise it for those who experience it. “We need to bring the discussion about mental illness out of the dark corners of our lives and out of the dark corners of our workplaces and bring it out into the open and shine a light on it”.
Mr Brodgen said when we are talking about something that affects one in five of us at some stage in our life “we cannot ignore it”.
Lifeline now receives one million phone calls a year and managed to answer 90 per cent of them. And Mr Brogden said those numbers had more than doubled in seven years. He said there were many great services in the community but more still needed to be done. He said government funding could only do so much. Communities and individuals also had to do what they can and be prepared to ask the hard questions when someone indicates they are not okay. Because that is the way to get them the help they need.
The fundraising lunch was run with the help of KPMG, Pillar and Commonwealth Bank, Brendan Bate Wine Agencies, Highlights on Mental Health, Illawarra’s Top Model, Angela Ayers and Paul Martell and Centro CBD.
It also supported Highlights on Mental Health and the Light & Hope mental health clubhouse in Wollongong.