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Developing firm-wide mental health and wellbeing initiatives – our progress in Australia

In the third of our mental health series we discuss how our mental health advocates in Australia have implemented various initiatives in their offices over the past year.

Carolyn Aldous headshot

Carolyn Aldous leads Peerpoint, Allen & Overy’s flexible resourcing business, and is passionate about how, together, we make the legal professional a healthier and more sustainable career choice. She has 10 years of global experience within the firm, spanning Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Australia.

Carolyn was keen to take on the position of one of the Australian mental health advocates when the role was introduced in the firm in 2019, joining 43 colleagues across the global network. She has witnessed first-hand the pressures of performing at the highest levels and the impact addiction, anxiety and depression can have on an individual and their immediate relationships.

The Australian Minds Matter programme

As part of the launch of the MindsMatters global initiative, Carolyn and her fellow mental health advocates, Geoff Simpson and Michael Reed, developed a programme to provide practical guidance on a personal level. Kate McDonald, Senior HR Manager was responsible for rolling out the wellbeing programme, which included external speakers, a series of health-related webinars and the introduction of confidential one-to-one coaching sessions from an external provider.

Whilst most sessions have been facilitated by the Centre of Corporate Health, the Australian programme also included speakers sharing their personal journeys. Geoffrey Huegill, known as Australia’s Butterfly King, is a dual Olympian and an Olympic Silver and Bronze medallist. During a session run by our Singapore office, Geoffrey shared his journey, from retirement and subsequent depression to a career comeback of competing in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, where he picked up three medals. His life hasn’t been smooth sailing, and Geoffrey was genuine in sharing his personal journey, how he was forced to ask for help and how he got his life back on track.

In line with R U OK? Day in Australia and World Suicide Prevention Day, the programme focused on equipping the team with skills to engage in difficult conversations. Carolyn explained:

 “We know that sharing your own experiences requires a level of vulnerability, but also feeling psychologically safe to do so. We want to create a culture where there is space for these conversations and the programme aims to equip our team with skills and strategies to really engage in such a conversation.”

We know that sharing your own experiences requires a level of vulnerability, but also feeling psychologically safe to do so. We want to create a culture where there is space for these conversations.

Carolyn Aldous, Managing Director, Peerpoint Sydney

Mental health is a global priority for us

As a member of the Mindful Business Charter, we are committed to changing how we work together. Carolyn believes the recent pandemic has increased empathy amongst colleagues, a key principle of the charter:

“Lockdown and the recent restrictions have meant there has been a blurring of personal and professional lines; everyone has been in the same boat and it has meant that conversations which might have previously been difficult have had to be had out of necessity. We have been given the privilege to see our team members in their home environment and in many cases witnessed the juggle first-hand. There’s a sense of us all being in it together, which has led to many great conversations and new practices.”

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