In touch : Like Minds, Like Mine

Susan Devoy, one of New Zealand’s best known sporting champions, former chief executive and now chairperson of Sport Bay of Plenty, has become an advocate for employing people with experience of mental illness. She is currently appearing in new phase of the Ministry of Health’s Like Minds, Like Mine television campaign, alongside former employee, Aubrey, who is affected by mental illness.
Devoy says Aubrey brought many great gifts to his managers and colleagues, including the ability to talk about mental illness, and to learn about tolerance, patience, empathy and support. “The payback was that Aubrey was part of creating culture that you could never buy. He challenged us all the time to think about how we could help others and having someone with mental illness in your workplace teaches you whole lot of things you don’t learn in any university, or from any books,” Devoy says.
Her advice for other employers is to:
•Make it your business to find out about the condition people have. Ask them what the mental illness means to them.
•Ask the person what support they need.
•Normalise as much as possible – people don’t want sympathy.
•Build policies in your workplace that respect people’s differences.
The Mental Health Foundation is willing to work with any employers who need help or advice with having mentally healthy workplaces and policies and employing people with experience of mental illness. New research from the Foundation shows that people with experience of mental illness can and should be actively encouraged to work. It shows that where employers do not discriminate, the effect of mental illness on person’s employment is usually minimal.
•To view the Mental Health Foundation research report I Haven’t Told Them, They Haven’t Asked: Employment Experiences of People with Experience of Mental Illness, visit http://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/resources/I-havent-told-experiences.pdf

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