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Addressing the elephant in the room

Pic: Puka Up founder Wayne Schwass

In Australia, there are more than 65,000 suicide attempts every year. For every death as many as another 30 people attempt to end their lives, according to Lifeline.


The statistics are alarming but they reflect reality. Many people who experience mental health conditions don’t seek the help they need for a range of reasons and often don’t talk about it due to societal stigmas.





AFL legend Wayne Schwass has a personal stake in changing that.


Having been on his own journey with mental health for 25 years, Wayne founded social enterprise Puka Up. As one of Australia’s leading mental health advocates, he believes issues to do with mental health and emotional wellbeing are highly complex and can’t be resolved simply by talking about them alone.


“Getting people into the conversation and discussing [mental health] is important but we need to do more to have a viable solution strategy,” Wayne says.


Alexis George, Deputy CEO of ANZ has had an interest in mental health since experiencing the suicide of an employee in a previous organisation.


It’s about being supportive and listening when someone wants to talk,” she says but admits many people still don’t understand the real impacts of mental health conditions.



While mental health conditions can impact anyone of us, Wayne believes there’s a level of ignorance, even a lack of understanding they’re legitimate medical conditions.


“I find it frustrating because people who have these experiences and live with these conditions aren't doing it for attention,” he says.


Drawing on his personal experience, Wayne says “If we could snap our fingers, pull our socks up and just smile and get over it, we would. It's not that simple”.


Wayne’s social enterprise Puka Up continues to work tirelessly to help normalise mental health and emotional wellbeing while promoting the importance of empowering people to be able to bring their whole selves to work.


“I think it's an aspirational goal to create an environment where people feel empowered to turn up as their true self,” he says. “That takes time [and] investment not only financially but in programming, workshops and initiatives that acknowledge people as the best version of themselves.


“The impact the business will receive as a result of that will be profound not only financially but also from a productivity, retention, culture, work satisfaction and job satisfaction perspective.”


ANZ recently introduced a Mental Health and Wellbeing Network with the aim of creating a positive workplace culture to ensure those who experience mental health difficulties and those who support them, do not feel alone and receive the support they need.



If you or anyone you know needs help or support with mental health or emotional wellbeing, please visit www.pukaup.com or www.lifeline.org.au



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