“Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Don’t be too proud to get help.”
That’s the advice of mental health advocate Craig Hamilton, who was invited by our Mt Owen team during Mental Health Week to have an open discussion about mental illness and personal and team well-being.
Born and raised in the Hunter Valley and a former underground coal miner, Craig is best known as a broadcaster with the ABC, lending his voice and commentary to national and international rugby league, rugby union and cricket matches.
On the eve of the 2000 Olympic Games, Craig experienced a psychotic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Craig shared his story in his memoir Broken Open and speaks about his experiences around Australia and internationally.
During his visit to Mt Owen, Craig spoke at four sessions with more than 100 employees at each and shared some of his experiences with his mental illness.
“In mining, there’s been a macho culture,” Craig said.
“It’s a tough job with a lot of banter and you have to have a thick skin. And men are generally reluctant to talk about things that are bothering them.
“My role was to share my experience and to be open with the team. I share their background. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to work on site. And I know the stigma with mental illness,” Craig said.
Being open and seeking help was central to Craig’s talk.
“For me it got serious and it needs to be talked about. My focus was to talk about how to keep an eye on yourselves and your mates.”
Craig talked through how to:
- Recognise the signs and symptoms of depression
- Approach someone who may be struggling with their mental health (a colleague, friend, family member)
- Manage mental health and wellbeing with lifestyle changes.
He shared his personal well-being plan – noting the importance of physical health on mental health:
- Eat well
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise often
- Cut alcohol
- Don’t smoke
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Manage and limit stress.
- Educated and aware
Educated and aware
It was Craig’s second trip to Mt Owen. In the four years between visits, he has seen a step change in mental health awareness.
“When I go out to sites, I always ask people to put their hand up if they have experienced depression or know someone who has. When I first visited Mt Owen, a couple of people put their hands up and not many people asked questions.
“This time around almost everyone put their hand up and we had a real variety of questions. It’s good because there’s a lot of knowledge out there now.”
Supporting each other
Craig was pleased with the support organisations and businesses like Thiess are providing their people.
“I think it’s fantastic that companies are investing in their people like this. It’s proactive engagement with their workforce not reactive,” Craig said.
“It gives their people the tools to stay well and healthy. It increases morale on site because people can see their company cares about their health and well-being. It’s a win-win.”
If you, or someone you know, needs help please contact:
- Lifeline or call 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue or contact 1300 22 4636
- Thiess Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or call 1800 056 076 (24-hour counselling) or visit http://www.gryphonpsych.com.au