Stigma-busting video leads way in mental health discussion

A video featuring staff opening up about mental health has been so well received by employees of a global food service company that planning for a second video is underway to keep the momentum of the #gotyourback campaign going.

The video features raw accounts by four people of their various struggles as part of a Compass Group Australia initiative to not shy away from the impact mental health issues can have on staff.

Perth-based Executive Director (Offshore and Remote) for Compass Group Australia John Sheridan employees have opted in to discussions about their own mental health in response to the video.

“Unfortunately, it is too regular, and we have people who would have either attempted self-harm or have died by suicide and I don’t think we are different to any other business,” he says.

“It was about doing something for our people and working out how to actually do something that will have an impact, with the impact just getting people to talk about it, because all the evidence says create the culture to get people to talk and it’s just the fact that they might put their hand up and reach out that is all that is needed.

“We haven’t actually stopped and gone what’s the benefit for our company because of course there’s benefits but it’s about looking people in the eye and they know we are absolutely serious and authentic about this.”

In the video, one staff member outlines the depression she faced since her father’s suicide; one speaks of her panic attacks and anxiety; another of his flashbacks as a result of post-traumatic stress due to his previous career as a policeman; while a fourth outlines his path after suffering a brain injury due to a workplace accident.

They all encourage people to seek help when issues arise and show that speaking about their problems and getting professional help has helped them.

Filmed in August and September last year, the video was first shown at the Perth headquarters before being gradually released to groups of employees at appropriate times, such as site manager meetings, toolboxes and prestarts. It has gained traction since then.

“We then showed it to our global managing director and he thought it was one of the best things he’s seen, so he showed it as a toolbox meeting in our head office in London and it is going from there,” Sheridan says.

“We never wanted it to be right everyone sit down and watch this, but more encouragement to watch it.

“I’m a firm believer that our people respond better to stories from their fellow workmates then from a management edict or a management message. They are the most powerful.”

Compass’ national health and recreation manager Hamish Johnston, who took a leading role in producing the video, says he’s proud of helping create a space and environment that makes it easier for people to opt in to discussing mental health.

“One of the things I’ve taken great pleasure from is some of the grass root initiatives, so one of our sites got a #gotyourback couch staff can come and hang out on the couch and talk in a very non-judgement area.

“We’ve now got blue hi-vis shirts that were desperately wanted by our employees to show that they care so I’m getting great joy.

“It was also shown at a quarterly review for a client, they showed it to their executive team, who showed it to their contractors and their contractors have shown it to their families and friends.”

And that’s exactly what the company – which has 500,000 employees worldwide – hoped would happen.

It means the second video, which is planned for later in the year, has led to a flood of employees wanting to talk.

All because four brave people were willing to share their stories on camera and encourage people to talk with the backing of their company.

“The best thing we have done is this video because this did more to create the environment for the comfortable opt in for people,” Sheridan says.

“The other things we do are more process and they have a role as well but I think with the video it allows easier acceptance of this process stuff that we do.”

Click here to view the #gotyourback campaign video.

If you or anyone you know needs help contact: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or beyondblue 1300 22 46 36.

► In response to CCIWA’s team of consultants regularly being contacted about mental health issues, it has developed the Managing Mental Health in the Workplace Kit. Find out more here.

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