Why stories and conversation are important to mental health

Mental health in focus: Janine Cullen, Emily Squires and Brendan Bate. Pictures: Greg Ellis.
Mental health in focus: Janine Cullen, Emily Squires and Brendan Bate. Pictures: Greg Ellis.

The importance of stories in talking about the subject of mental health was highlighted at a Corporate Mental Health Lunch in Wollongong on Friday.

Three different perspectives were given by guests Emily Squires, Emma Blee and Professor Peter Caputi.

Mrs Squires, in a Q&A with Brendan Bate, shared her personal story of losing both her father and husband to mental health and reflected on how difficult it can be to see the signs. She hoped by sharing her story and experiences it would help others.

As Australia Post’s head of enterprise safety Mrs Blee talked about managing mental health in the workplace, developing strategies and how managers need to also be aware of their own needs if they are going to do the best for their employees.

She revealed the challenges of managing mental health in a workplace with 34,000 employees. Many of whom are out in the field in 20,000 vehicles daily across Australia. But Ms Blee said the same principles apply to workplaces of all sizes. She also shared some of her own personal challenges and how she addressed them.

University of Wollongong head of psychology Prof Caputi revealed some of the findings from the latest research on mental health in the workplace.

His research papers have been published internationally. But he started his presentation by reflecting on what a great job the previous speakers had done sharing their own personal experiences.

“I want to thank Emma and Emily. I think what we have experienced in the two speakers before me is the power of story telling. And that is something we are losing. We are loosing the capacity to have a conversation and have a chat. And that is a very important part of the process of living with and dealing with mental health.”

Prof Caputi said men in particular need to talk more about how they are feeling.

“I think what we learnt from those stories today was a message of hope. And that is very important in the recovery process when we are dealing with serious mental illness,” he said.

“The Invictus Games are on at the moment and Prince Harry and a whole bunch of other people are talking about there stories. But underlying all of that is hope. It is a story of hope and the power of coming together as a group.

“The workplace is also a social place. It is also about people working and talking together. And connectivity is very important.”

Reflecting on research: University of Wollongong's Professor Peter Caputi emphasised the importance of being able to talk.

Reflecting on research: University of Wollongong's Professor Peter Caputi emphasised the importance of being able to talk.

All funds from the Illawarra Business Chamber hosted corporate lunch will go to One Door Mental Health Illawarra to support the Light and Hope Mental Health Clubhouse operating in Wollongong.

One Door’s chair Janine Cullen said with the help of fundraising The mental health clubhouse will soon operate five days a week. 

Managing safety in a workforce of 34,000: Australia Post’s head of enterprise safety Emma Blee.

Managing safety in a workforce of 34,000: Australia Post’s head of enterprise safety Emma Blee.

This story Why stories and conversation are important to mental health first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.