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20 Years of Insights - Nichola Johnston

20th February 2019

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Centre for Corporate Health, that’s 20 years of insights into creating mentally healthy workplace, responding to critical incidents, strengthening resilience and improving wellbeing. So in honour of the last 20 years, we have asked our founders, senior leaders and senior psychologists to share their insights and most impactful stories from the work they have done with the Centre for Corporate Health.

Nichola Johnston, Client Relationships & Communications Manager

1.  What is the most interesting insight you have gained from the work we do in mental health and wellbeing at work?

I think organisations that have a culture where impression management is the norm, and by that I mean employees focussing their energy on making sure they don’t look ignorant or incompetent and don’t ask ‘stupid’ questions in meetings etc. are at risk of that culture impeding an employees ability to feel safe in putting their hand up for help when they are struggling. In a culture like this employees mask what they really think and feel which is a sure fire way to not only hide symptoms of poor mental health, but also without a doubt, stifle creativity and rob the team of learning as employees are too worried about making mistakes or looking like they have failed. On the flip side, in workplaces where employees are not vilified for failures, feel empowered to ask questions without being ridiculed or shut down and their walls are down, employees learn, grow, innovate and feel more able to reach out for support when they need it.

2.  What is the most impactful story you have heard over the last 20 years that has made you think “this is why we do what we do”

We have done a lot of really impactful work in partnership with R U OK? Day, especially over the last 5 years and every R U OK? Day when I hear the story of it’s founder and his family, the Larkin family, I am always reminded that this is why I want to work at a place that does what is does. If you don’t know the Larkin family story, I’ll give you the headlines, but I recommend reading the full story on the R U OK? Day website. Gavin Larkin started R U OK? Day because his father took his own life back in 1995 and he wanted to create something that would honour his memory and so R U OK? Day began. Tragedy struck the Larkin family again, twice when Gavin was diagnosed with cancer which ended up taking his life in 2011 and their son Gus was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour which would eventually take his young life. In the face of such tragedy the Larkin family have continued Gavin’s legacy even in the thick of their own grief. So every year I hear their story I am in awe of their resilience and I am reminded why creating awareness on mental health and suicide prevention is so very important.

3.  What is one strategy from our resilience and wellbeing training that you actually practice and that has had the biggest positive impact on your wellbeing?

More recently I have made a huge commitment to quit complaining and blaming. Instead I hold myself accountable. If I am not happy in a situation I either accept it as reality if it is something I can’t control, like someone else’s behaviour, and move on quickly without dwelling or if it is something in my realm of control I make my decision and move on. It’s about choosing to be happy in spite of circumstances rather than letting circumstances determine my happiness. I am accountable for me and I control my life. Now have I completely kicked my habit of complaining… not quite, I’m a work in progress, but as soon as I find myself complaining I tell myself the situation is what it is, I either accept it and be happy inspite of it or I make the decision to change. I find myself feeling a lot less helpless and resentful as a result.

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