PwC Australia gives workers Green Light to Talk about mental health

19 people in corporate attire smiling. Background is an office setting. Each person has a green lanyard around their neck.

Image: PwC’s Green Light To Talk Advocates

In 2018, PwC Australia (PwC) launched their “Green Light to Talk,” program on World Mental Health Day. The aim of the program was to cultivate an open culture where workers could comfortably share mental health concerns – resulting in positive mental health experiences in the workplace.

The program has three key aims:

  • reduce the stigma associated with mental health
  • increase awareness about the support available for workers
  • positively promote the importance of conversations about mental health at work.

As part of the Green Light to Talk program, PwC trained over 250 of its people across all levels and offices in Australia – who are known as “Green Light to Talk Advocates” – in:

  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Domestic and Family Violence First Response.

“At PwC, our focus on mental health is one of the ways we demonstrate that we care and is crucial in empowering our people to speak up when they need help.” Says Kate Connors, PwC Australia’s Chief Mental Health Officer and Registered Psychologist.

Green Light to Talk Advocates

Advocates of the program (also known as mental health first aiders and domestic and family violence first responders) are identifiable by physical lanyards, green circles around online photos; and internal support websites. They have been trained to support workers who need assistance with a mental health problem or crisis until professional help is received, or the crisis is resolved, as well as help people navigate referral pathways.

Advocates offer an opportunity to discuss mental health in a safe and non-judgmental space. At PwC, the advocates role include:

  • recognising signs and symptoms of emerging mental health issues, and/or domestic and family violence
  • openly engaging in conversations around mental health and domestic and family violence
  • challenging stigma within teams and the broader firm
  • understanding and directing workers to the range of support available
  • assisting workers in navigating and accessing support, resources and referral pathways
  • championing mental health and wellness related initiatives in teams.

PwC is continuing to look at opportunities where it can strengthen mental health focus – including building mental health literacy across the entire organisation.

“We still have areas to focus on – we notice pockets of greater engagement in the approach and pockets where engagement is lower. We’re aiming for more consistency….As a community, we need to do more to prevent mental illness, as well as improve access to support services to improve mental health outcomes. At PwC we are committed to doing more work in this space.”

And Kate continues to emphasise the importance of mental health in the workplace.

“We spend approximately a third of our lives at work. This means the workplace has an incredibly important role to play in driving health and social outcomes for our community.

Workplaces are therefore a key place where the human need for connection and a sense of belonging can positively contribute to the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

For organisations still building up support systems for mental health, Kate suggests:

  • Find leaders, who can share vulnerabilities and challenges about managing their mental health, to open conversations and reduce stigma
  • Have clear guidelines around the role of mental health first aiders/advocates to help this succeed across the organisation
  • Integrate “non-professional” support systems with professional support systems like Employee Assistance Programs and make sure mental health first aiders have support systems in place too.

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