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aims to expand the conversation from RUOK, to I’M Not OK in order to break down the stigma of mental health by leading by example. Instead of putting on a brave face, let’s actually be brave, and talk about our experiences so that everyone suffering in silence realises they’re not alone, and TRULY believes they can bring their full self to work. For information please visit heartonmysleeve.org


This book deals with details of suicide and depression that may be triggering to others.

Readers seeking support and information about mental health can....

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

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or visit beyondblue.org.au

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I can’t think of an example in any other sector in Australia or globally, where the CEO’s of an industry get together and expose the deepest most vulnerable parts of themselves in order to lead by example to advocate for mental health. It’s hard to put into words how proud this makes me. This is what change looks like. This is what progress looks like. The media and advertising industry in Australia are showing that “talking about, talking about the conversation” isn’t working, and they have rolled up their sleeves (literally) and have done something about it: they wore their heart out. Courageous, brave, bold, pioneering and humbling. I stand alongside these leaders. This book of stories will save lives and transform workplace culture. Thank you for your humanity”

Mitch Wallis Founder of Heart On My Sleeve

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Last year, Everymind, Never Not Creative and UnLtd ran the first ever major scale study into the mental health in the creative, media and marketing industries. The results showed a prevalence of depression, stress and anxiety in our industry (56% showed signs of depression, 55% anxiety, 57% stress), notably higher than in the general population. The study also highlighted a clear issue around stigma – only a third felt that people wouldn’t be treated differently if they disclosed mental illness in our industry. And whilst 89% of us would be happy to work with someone who has been diagnosed with depression, only 29% would tell if they themselves had been diagnosed with depression. The study was just the first step to understand the issue so that we can start improving and making our industry more mentally healthy. Since the launch of the study, we have set up a task force – the Mentally Healthy Change Group – that has been busy working on various projects specifically focusing on empowering our industry to smash the stigma around mental health. What you’re holding in your hands is one of the projects that have come out of this group of passionate volunteers across our industry. The book was inspired by the Heart On My Sleeve Movement – a social purpose movement encouraging people to speak up about their mental health. In the following pages, you will find real and raw stories of some of the most senior leaders in our industry, opening up about their challenges with mental health. We hope that by reading the stories of others, we all feel more comfortable to speak up when we need help. A big than you to all the contributors for sharing your stories so openly and honestly and being part of making our industry more mentally healthy. If you need urgent help, please contact Lifeline on: 13 11 14

Andy & Nina Co-chairs of the Mentally Healthy Change Group

Andy Wright is the MD of Streamtime and Founder of Never Not Creative, a community for the wellbeing of individuals working in the creative industry.

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Nina Nyman is the CMO of UnLtd, the social purpose organisation connecting the media, marketing and creative industry with charities helping children and young people at risk.

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I started my advertising career as the part-time mail and receptionist ‘girl’ at Young & Rubicam Mattingly – three days a week. It was all they could offer me at the time. That was less than 20 years ago in the times when men dominated the management team. Although I had a degree majoring in marketing and HR, starting at the very bottom, as a young woman, I knew I had a very steep hill to climb. But I also knew I was up for it. Determined. Resilient. I pushed hard, relentlessly, to reach where I am today.

Anyone entering our industry today and in the future needs to be better equipped through ‘career and wellbeing guidance programs’ to ensure they don’t burn out and are instead nurtured to thrive, drive and lead the industry into the new world; where a positive mindset with the belief that the possibilities are endless – is required to do so. BWM DENTSU MELBOURNE MANAGING DIRECTOR

But getting there took its toll, and it reshaped my view on the future of our industry. At the beginning of 2017, when I broke my ankle wakeboarding (a 20-year passion of mine), two days before starting back at work for the new year, I realised I was completely burnt out. I took an overdue, ‘life break’ and identified a paradox in my career; in my consuming ambition to get to the next level, I’d become morphed into someone who was tirelessly on the go delivering with little room for her more intuitive and creative side. I was on 24/7, getting up to exercise at 5am every morning and working extremely long hours, keeping up with family and friends and repeating this every day. I needed to discover what I now call, ‘work, life, flow’ and over time I did through career and wellbeing coaching. I was never given any advice on burning-out when I started my career. It was seen as normal to pull ‘all-nighters’ for pitches and keep on going.

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I will always be indebted to my many great bosses and mentors who have helped me manage the stress of the advertising industry. Learning to manage stress has been an ongoing journey for me. As we all know, advertising is a relentless business and calls to strike a balance between work and life, and to remember that ‘we aren’t saving lives’ never really resonated with me – I’ve always loved what I do and care deeply about the work, the customers and the people that work with me. So, walking away and leaving it for another day has always been hard for me. But what I’ve found is, the best way to disconnect is to have priorities outside of the industry. For me, that priority has been family and ensuring that I’m present with them when I’m at home, on weekends or on a half day. Just the little discipline of presence and focus has allowed me to achieve more – both at home and at work.

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It is a privilege for me as a CEO to be gifted with people’s accounts of mental health challenges across all levels of our business. I see frequent instances of bravery, strength and resilience in people tackling their individual situations. Certainly, there are more instances of people facing this challenge, but there has never been a better time for these issues to be raised and discussed. I also feel privileged to be working in the Australian industry which has embraced mental health as such a serious issue, on behalf of the people who make the industry tick. It’s a great example of other countries to follow. Listening very carefully to what people are saying about their difficulties is critical to all execs who manage people. We all have good and bad days – we hope the good ones far outnumber the difficult days – but that is not so for sufferers of mental health. We work in a high intensity industry and it’s important that our human sensitivities for nurturing, challenging and growing the careers of our people can spot and reach out to people genuinely struggling with mental health issues.


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If you haven’t had to deal with mental health issues either personally or with people you hold close; consider yourself lucky. Over the course of a lifetime, it’s unlikely that luck will hold. I know this from personal experience. Like any serious health issue, left ignored, the consequences are usually devastating. However, unlike other major health condition – cancer, heart disease, etc – mental health issues carry a stigma that increases the impact.

So, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves. Change our language. Improve our attitude. Increase our compassion. Stand up for others who can’t for themselves. It won’t stop mental health issues occurring. But it will help you or people you care about when it happens.

This is the reality for many people with a mental illness. How others perceive and judge them is one of their greatest barriers to addressing their illness. The good news is the more we normalise mental health and associated issues, the easier we make it for sufferers and their loved ones to deal with it. The more likely they are to seek and receive the assistance they need to improve their condition.


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When I launched my own agency with no financial backing and no income it was a whirlwind of excitement and nerves. As clients started to have faith and appoint Hyland as their agency I started to get night sweats. My head was full of worry. What if I wasn’t good enough to come up with a great recommendation for their business. What if they sacked me. What if they realised I actually wasn’t very good at what I did. I beat myself up for years and years with the “what if”. All the time looking confident in front of my client. I ended up giving myself stomach ulcers, many of them. I was only 33-years-old with the world at my feet and yet in my head I was punishing myself and feeding on negative self-talk. It took until the age of 40 years old when I decided that enough was enough. I was sitting on a beach asking myself at what age in life was I going to stop beating myself up, was I going to be 60 years old and still at it... I made a commitment to myself that day. Every time a worrying thought entered my brain that I would respond with a positive thought – that I would be ok, that I had done the work, that I could find new opportunities, etc etc. This little trick has helped me to move calmer through the day. Interestingly the outcome of every day since has been no different than when I was beating myself up or overlaying with a positive thought.

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Having experienced roller-coaster mood swings and anxiety in my early twenties I worked out early on in the piece that something was not quite right with my physiology. I started seeing a counsellor while still at university and she made the suggestion that I might have a hormonal imbalance. This was nearly 30 years ago and dropping in at friendly GP’s for a blood test wasn’t yet an option. So I experimented with different vitamins/herbs/supplements until I found something that worked for me. 20 years later I got to experience something similar, but far more intense, all over again – but having learnt a lesson the first time around I was quick to find a sympathetic doctor who immediately tested my bloods, ascertained that my hormones were out of whack and put me on HRT. But just feeling out of control again was confronting. Those couple of months before I was diagnosed, wandering around car parks after losing my car in shopping centres gave me an appreciation of how frightening any kind of mental illness must be. I know how lucky I was to get diagnosed quickly – I know many who haven’t been so lucky and now live permanently in that confronting state.

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Anxiety can, and does, affect anyone. In my view there is no stigma attached. No reason not to seek help. No reason not to talk about this. My wife is a psychologist so it’s something we are both incredibly aware of but it’s also something we’ve lived through twice within our family. Anxiety and depression can be debilitating for the person suffering and for those close to them. I think the scary thing that people just don’t realise is that it’s a fine line between being OK, and not being OK.

I’ve always tried hard to practice self-care and be disciplined about making it part of my life. I meditate every day. I exercise every day. I eat carefully, and I try – as much as possible – to switch off when I go on holidays to recharge. I know that I need to schedule these things in as part of my personal self-care routine. It’s important that we take care of ourselves and each other.

What my own experience with my family, and with people close to us, has shown me is the importance of early intervention. Seeking help from doctors, nutritionists, therapists, psychologists and other professionals with the expertise to help manage it before it spirals. Time may be a great healer when it comes to heartbreak, but mental health issues require swift action. While a lot of mental health problems can be down to emotional responses and external factors around stress, much of it is about chemical imbalance in the body. Talking therapies are immensely helpful, not just in times of crisis but regularly, but there is often more to it so getting full bloodwork done can help diagnoses and treatment plans.


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The expression “health is everything” is so true, but like most precious things in life, you take it for granted until you lose it. When I was a baby Business Director there was a period where I worked like a maniac. Early mornings, late nights and almost every weekend. My boss had been made redundant and I was thrown into way more than I could handle. Instead of asking for help I just pushed through. The campaigns were going fine, so no one noticed that I was silently drowning. Despite the constant stress, I loved it so it never really felt like work, but bit by bit I stopped doing everything else that I loved and I lost myself. Usually a bundle of energy I found myself exhausted and my head was constantly consumed with work. I took a 3-week holiday and somewhere in my diving, hiking and immersing myself in full blown nature I recharged myself. From that moment I set myself boundaries that have stuck with me forever. I learnt that:

2. Using your “off switch” makes you better. Ironically when you’re off the clock you often subconsciously solve stuff anyway. And without living life properly – watching movies, going to concert and hanging with friends you will be too far away from culture which is where the work we create needs to be at the heart of. 3. Making time to work out every day keeps you sane. If you don’t have time, hijack your incidental time, like biking or running to work instead of taking the bus. 4. Watch out and protect the super stars in your team or company who appear to have it all under control. Is their workload reasonable? Have they been taking enough holidays? Do they look OK? 5. Stay true to yourself. If you’re not loving what you do, figure out why and what needs to change because it’s when you’re happy that you’re at your best.

1. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It helps you grow faster.

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I was in my 20’s, living in London and working in a fastpaced agency. The harder I worked and the quicker I got through work; the more work came my way. I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling, I just got in earlier and stayed later. After a particularly epic project in which I had more responsibility than I knew how to handle, I found myself crying on my own, late in the evening, while hiding in a boardroom. My brain wouldn’t work, and I couldn’t get through the simplest of tasks. When my manager eventually found me, she sent me home.

I realised that I hadn’t helped myself by not communicating. It was also the nearest I came to a breakdown and that was scary. Since then, I have spoken out when I have felt overwhelmed and managed my boundaries better; there is no benefit to a stressed or burned out employee. This experience has made me aware as a leader to spot the often-invisible signs of struggle so we can help them.

My manager then must have escalated my situation because not long after a very senior person said to me, “you’re burning yourself out so can either go to the Priory (a rehab place) or your Mum’s.” I chose my Mum’s house because it felt less dramatic and I didn’t want to make a fuss. I don’t think I actually told my Mum why I had gone home; I was ashamed and horrified with myself for being so weak. I went for a week, caught up on sleep and gained some perspective.


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For as long as I remember I would break out in sweat for no reason. Any time, for any reason. There was no pattern. And then one morning at work I thought I was having a heart attack. I asked my EA at the time to drive me to hospital. After spending the day in hospital for tests and wearing a monitor for a week I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was told to take medication called Paxtine. That certainly moderated my ups and downs but left me feeling nothing. So, I quit them, and I have since learnt to deal with it knowing that it never lasts long. And this “dealing with it” continues today and beyond. You’ll see me anxious sometimes if you haven’t already. As a leader I am supposed to be cool, calm and collected. I am not supposed to show vulnerability or weakness. And this is just another one of the reasons I get anxious. But maybe, if we can be more open about mental health, we can together just accept that as human beings it’s OK to show weakness and vulnerability, and that anxiety and depression can be normalised and supported. I’m in.

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In 2013, I was the father of two girls, a husband and a director at a large professional services consultancy. I was finding the stress of work, the loneliness of being away from a social network and self-imposed pressure of not succeeding was getting too much. I often felt that I was a fraud and a failure – failing at being a husband, a father, a college and a friend. I’d often experience bouts of depression and during these times, I often thought that everyone would be better off without me. I was seriously contemplating suicide. I’d drafted a note. I’d run through the scenario of leaving it in the kitchen to call the police and locking the garage doors so my family wouldn’t inadvertently walk in on me. I was on this path until one morning in September when I received a call that changed everything. I was told my best friend had taken his life, leaving behind his wife and daughters. It was a complete shock to everyone. He was a loud, gregarious, funny, larger than life Englishman. I would have never, never have guessed it. That moment put me on a different path. I sort professional help. I began taking medication. I began to talk about my situation. My experience has taught me that things will get better. There is help. The self-realisation that it’s a problem is the first step. The alternative is not an answer. Talking about it helps. A lot. I still have the note I drafted. But now, thankfully, it’s a reminder of what could have been, not what’s in the future. R.I.P JR

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I was born into a resilient family, I am a resilient person, I wake up each morning and embrace life – generally. But like most people I have my dark times … moments in life where you can’t find the way out, where you want to dive under your doona, watch endless hours of Netflix, eat chocolate and hope the world goes away. That is part of the human condition. I am a talker, a sharer and a reacher-outer. I am not ashamed to say when I hurt or ask for help when I fall. The ability to be vulnerable and share that vulnerability is a sign of great strength and an acknowledgment of our humanity. My motto is, it is better out than in. All you do when you hold it in is churn it around and around, usually to your detriment. What is surprising and ultimately heartening is that those difficult conversations, once had, bring great relief and hope.


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“It’s PR not ER,” or so the saying goes. But as true as that it, it’s not how it feels for most of us working in this crazy, fast-paced, competitive profession. Luckily, I’ve been able to find a positivity and resilience which allows me to manage and even thrive on the pace and vibrancy of our agency. Even so, mental illness has impacted me.

As I juggle a leadership role with two small children, it’s hard to find the moments to decompress and refresh my mind and body for the next day’s challenges. Carers need care too, so be sure to prioritise your well-being as much as the person you support.

My husband has an anxiety disorder which can at times be crippling and debilitating. Mental illness has ripple effect on families, creating uncertainty and tension. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, not knowing what to expect each day. When you love someone with a mental illness, it’s hard not to carry the burden of their emotions or blame yourself for not being able to make them feel better. Being open and honest with my colleagues and friends and building my own support system has been important to help me manage through hard times.


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My grandfather, on my mother’s side, was an officer in the British Army. His only child, my mum, was brought up on a philosophy of ‘stiff upper lip’ and strength in silence. My grandfather, on my dad’s side, died of shell shock not long after my dad was born in the middle of World War II. No one ever really spoke to my dad about his dad. Emotion and vulnerability were not comfortable topics. It’s not overly surprising that my family has a history of struggling with mental health and self-medication. I’m lucky that my parents took their experiences and tried hard not to perpetuate them.

People that thrive on praise in an industry that loves nothing more than brutal competition and anonymous commentary. For me, there is no trick. I see a therapist when I feel I need to. I periodically stop alcohol altogether for weeks or months at a time. I try to respect my own need for time alone and, probably most important for me, I try to tell the truth about how I feel so that my friends and colleagues can be me allies. Honesty is hard and I am often still the best actor in the room. It takes enormous self-awareness to know yourself and share yourself fully. It has taken all of my 40 years to get this far and it’s is still a massive work in progress.

They tried to teach my sister and I that asking for help takes strength. That putting your fears in the hands of professionals takes bravery. That acknowledging your weaknesses, so that those that love you can love you totally, is terrifying and liberating. Despite their best efforts, I wobble, frequently. At least in part because the industry I love can be terrible for people like me. People who never feel good enough. People who slide easily into depressive episodes when too much alcohol or too little sleep become the norm.

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I lost my mum when I was 20 years old. My dad died when I was 13 and I have no siblings. My mum was everything to me and I suddenly felt alone. I thought I was fine, I thought it was my job to look after everybody else, so I ‘carried on as normal’. However, my version of normal was far from it. I was drinking often to avoid confronting the grief. This impacted all elements of my life and spiralled out of control in my late twenties. More time off work and a relationship breakdown made me realise that I needed to change something, so I decided to quit work and travel. Until then, I had been in self-destruct mode. My parents didn’t reach 40 and I had convinced myself that I was on the same track. Seeing the world opened my eyes to new things and made me realise I wanted to make a positive impact. After traveling, I met my wife. She held me accountable, stuck by me and made me realise what was important. I still find life tough. I am not always the best version of myself but having purpose and focus helps enormously.


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“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Isak Dinesen I am really not an inspirational-quote-type person generally but for me the ocean is where I go when I need to get my act together, let go of pain and renew my energy levels. Life is certainly a wild and unpredictable ride. As much as we all attempt to present collected and professional personas at work there is often a whole lot of stuff going on in our lives. My mental health journey is one of two parts – one, mental wellbeing challenges and two, a family life impacted by mental illness. The first part of the tale would resonant with many in our industry and in particular women. In my early thirties, I had two small children including one who really didn’t love sleeping or being anywhere but connected to my body. I had a fabulous career that I was trying to keep going while working remotely at weird and long hours to ensure I had enough time with the kids during the day. And I was beating myself up for not continually expanding my skills – so I was trying to study part time as well. Plus, I was stubborn as all get out and insisted on cooking healthy food via complicated meal plans. I was a control freak pretending she wasn’t a mess.

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I experienced an incredible amount of pressure to not let any balls fall. Not only for my own pride but I also felt a lot of pressure to perform for many of the younger women in the industry who saw me as a role model. Anyway, slowly friends and kids chipped away at my stubbornness, my son started sleeping, and I admitted I probably had to change a number of things in my life. Only then, did things started to feel a little less intense. The second part of my story is ongoing – with mental illness impacting our family every day. My wonderful smart, sassy, book loving daughter has suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety for the last six years. We continue to search for solutions that will return her to the wonderful life I know an 18-year-old girl should be living. The impact on her has obviously been immense but it also flows through to the rest of the family including me as a worker, boss and colleague. I like to think that my experiences with mental health to date have helped make me a better more understanding leader, colleague, friend and human. Compassion, empathy and humour cannot be underestimated as fundamental keys for our professional and personal lives. And also, I would highly recommend to occasionally take a dip in the ocean.

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We work in a high pressure, fast paced industry where the consequences of our output are seen every day. We win that pitch, the presentation we worked on all week is not well received, our client relationship feedback scores are coming in next week….

And it’s there as a sign to anybody at PHD to know… that if you are not OK, that is perfectly OK. My heart is on my sleeve as an open invitation. An invitation that says that it’s OK to talk about this issue.

That’s enough to knock anyone around. Physically, emotionally….and very importantly mentally. So as leaders of this industry, we have a responsibility. A responsibility to ensure that this isn’t seen as normal practice. And a responsibility to ensure that if it happens at all, we are employers that care. That have the right systems in place to detect the early signs of this, and the right support and structures in place at times when they are needed. An important piece of that support is to create environments and cultures where it is perfectly OK to say, “I’m not OK.” That is the only way to ensure early signs are even given…and received. And a big part of that is this initiative. For the leaders of this industry to put THEIR hearts on THEIR sleeves. That’s where mine is.


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I lost my mother at 13, I was conscripted into the army and sent to a war zone at 18, I lost the family home at 20 and then I migrated to Australia. But, I also got the opportunity to study, am healthy, have some really good mates, a beautiful wife and children and live close to the beach in Sydney. We all have our stories, they are often what defines us. But at the same time, I believe the best place for the past is in the past. Own your story. Own it looking forward.

Exercising before work now means a fundamentally different day for me and those around me. I use exercise, not only as a means for trying to live longer but as a means of managing my mental health. Helping me get outside, smell the roses, plan for a meeting or just preparing for the day. As I say to my teenage daughter, “just own it.” Own your story or you can make yourself bitterly unhappy trying to fit into other’s stories.

Business and work can cause stress. It’s how you manage that stress that I believe is important to both your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you. How you walk in, from the door to your desk can set the tone in the office for the day. While it’s OK to talk about it, and I do. Exercise, I believe is just as fundamental. I had always done a little running, some gym here and there, but in 2016 I completed an Ironman. (3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run triathlon) and that set the bar. That’s where I learnt what the body is capable of, all while meeting a really great bunch of people from all walks of life.

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I have advised hundreds of people in my career around dealing with anxiety and stress – after all we are not saving lives here – how stressful can our jobs be? But somehow while I am great at giving advice it is not always as easy as to take it. Resilience is one of my main characteristics – I am always outwardly positive, smiling and supportive, but in reality sometimes how I look on the outside, and feel on the inside are very different. When I’m stressed it feels like I have a washing machine spinning in my stomach and my sleep really suffers – I wake up with a sudden jolt at 3am or 4am and as soon as my conscious kicks I start thinking– in the depths of the night, problems feel worse. My strategy is to share how I’m feeling with friends and colleagues who can help put my worries into perspective – and to ask for help. I have massages, healing and love exercise which makes me feel so much better. Wine helps too! My belief is that mental health is as important as physical health – but it certainly doesn’t get the same attention – and it should. It’s on us, as leaders to be supportive but also on team members to ask for help. No one will judge us, we are not failures, asking for help is not a sign of weakness it is actually a sign of strength.

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My good mate of thirty-six years was seemingly invincible. A hard man, a rugby player, a man’s man, a tradie who ran a very successful business and he worked and lived hard. He liked to party – but maybe too much. He was always the last to leave and the first to start again.

There are no physical signs – just a man sitting there worried that people will judge him for what only he can feel and understand. I hugged him, told him that anyone who judges him is not a real mate and maybe it’s time to weed them out.

Years of substance abuse led me to visit him recently in a secured facility for drug and alcohol addiction. He had been numbing the pain of a bi-polar disorder for too long and it caught up with him. He was two weeks in; dry and sober. His only regret was that he hadn’t done it ten years before.

I endorse the first question about mental health, RU OK? But the second part of this, if indeed the answer is no, is that IT IS OK and there is no shame.

After I left him, I sent him a text. I was proud of him, ‘good for you,’ I said. ‘It’s the right thing to do for your loved ones, but more importantly for you.’ His response sums up the problem with men admitting to mental illness. He said, ‘Thanks mate but it’s all a little embarrassing.’ This is the crux of the reason men don’t seek help early enough. The stigma, the potential humiliation of being seen as not as mentally strong as everyone thought; busted and outed as a weak man. The issue is simple – you cannot see a cast on his arm, no tubes hanging out of him and no crutches.

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Mental health has been an issue in my life for many years. Personally, I have felt stress and pressure pull me down to a point where it was affecting my mental health. However, I was able to slow down, reflect on how I was feeling and share the situation with my friends and family. I was lucky to have the support to help me make the appropriate changes in my life. My father, who was in advertising for 25 years, battled with depression. Despite that he enjoyed a successful career running agencies for Leo Burnett and George Patterson, but back then there wasn’t the support or openness around the issue that would have seen him get the help he required. Consequently, he struggled with it for the rest of his life. As leaders today, our role is to minimise the pressures our people feel and provide them with direction to keep balance and to focus on the important things, not everything. However, if they feel the effects regardless of these efforts, we need to ensure they are comfortable sharing with us that they need help and then be committed enough to provide it and to support them on-going. It’s our duty to do so.


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Mental health has been a constant partner throughout my life. I suffered depression and anxiety from high school up to today and there have been times when I haven’t been able to face the world. For me, it’s a daily struggle that I have to remind myself I need to be conscious of and something I have to be on top of with exercise, diet, sleep, and most of all friendship. I’m lucky my wife understands this and is one of those friends who lifts me up, as do my kids. It’s hard, but it gives me an appreciation of how common it is and how crippling it can be. Negative feedback used to bring me to tears, but now I leverage it as a gift — a gift I can learn from, be that learning to laugh at trolling or turning it into something constructive. My advice to those doing it tough isn’t that it gets better. You get stronger. My friends at DDB Group are my superpower and make me stronger. Together we celebrate our work, our idiosyncrasies and our lives outside of work.

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I regard myself as one of the lucky ones. I’ve always maintained a relatively positive view on life and haven’t suffered from any severe mental illnesses.

Balance in life is also key to me. I believe in what goes around comes around. I try to treat people fairly and care for the environment.

While feeling, “down,” I’m loathed to use the word depressed as it is in my mind a much worse condition and I typically bounce out of it after a relatively short period. And luckily it doesn’t happen often.

So, while I regard myself as lucky for not being affected by mental illness, I am very aware that I should not be complacent about my disposition and treat myself with care and respect.

I do however worry, and I need to consciously shake myself out of this state, which in some cases can be somewhat consuming. I do this by, amongst other means, reminding myself of the favourable circumstance I find myself in, in contrast to a lot of people who are not. A “glass-half-full” mantra is one I whole heartedly believe in. I’m acutely aware of what a good job I have, what a great country we live in. And how lucky I am to have a loving family and beautiful wife, good friends etc. and, not for one minute do I take this for granted. Keeping fit is something that I believe is important to relieving day to day pressures and helping build resilience and self-belief. I exercise 4-5 times a week to maintain a clear head and retain a level of vitality. I honestly don’t know how people function without regular exercise and taking a relatively healthy approach to living.

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For me, life has always been about being your best self, every day. Importantly, it has also been about accepting that your own health and wellbeing is important to being your best self, daily. We all suffer some adversity in our life. I lost my father at 12 years of age, and my mother (my greatest inspiration) raised 6 children on a widow’s pension including my younger brother who was 4 weeks old when my father died.

Wellbeing takes many forms at different stages of life, fitness could be secondary to other issues, as it was for me for many years, but ultimately it comes back as important to both your physical wellness, mental health and helping you be your best self. But let’s not forget fun, family, friends and happy work environment make up most of our time. Enjoy those, as they are the most critical path to ultimate wellbeing.

She was always her best self, and taught my siblings and I, to get on with life but to always be humble and have a smile on your face. Even today as age takes its toll, she does it with a smile and a joke despite the pain and the challenges of mobility at 90 years of age. Being your best self is difficult and in the current challenged media environment, it leads me to think back to when I have failed. During the first 10 years of the now 30+-year journey of oOh!, when a difficult media environment existed, it was easy to think others including in your own teams were the fault for poor results. However, it’s you who is responsible for your own personal actions and how they affect others. A negative response rather than your best self-response was my challenge to overcome and not others.


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I felt a panic attack coming on as I was driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’d left work feeling unwell with a stinking head-ache. It was dark, and I was on the inside lane with the headlights of the on-coming traffic glaring in my eyes. Unwisely, after a long and intense day, I was taking yet another work call on my hands-free. The combination of this over-stimulation somehow sent me into a panic, and I was terrified I was going to lose control of the car and swerve into the oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I was able to regain control after I hung up on my colleague, but it totally freaked me out. For years afterwards, I would feel anxiety crossing the Harbour Bridge at night. I stopped taking work calls in my car, and I had to talk myself into calmness on the approach onto the bridge, always using the outside lane. I’ve been seeing a therapist of some sort on and off for about 15 years. Living in London, I saw a therapist every week for 7 years. It was one of the most profound, rewarding and transformative experiences of my life. Moving back to Australia, I started seeing a therapist, who has been a bit of everything to me over the last few years – a marriage counsellor, financial advisor, life coach and business coach.

I also have an executive coach through work. In my view, this investment of time, money and energy talking to people who are experts at the human psyche; who are objective, impartial and trained to help us to be the best version of ourselves, is priceless. The relationships I’ve had with each of these therapists have helped shaped me to be the person that I am today. Alongside my parents, they have helped me to be a better mother, wife, sister, colleague, boss and friend. Over my life, they’ve acted like guardrails, helping me to navigate my relationships, career and becoming a parent. It’s a line of support that I would recommend to everyone. We spend so much money on short-lived gratification in the name of wellbeing and happiness – whether that’s retail therapy, a holiday in Bali, or a new sportscar. Those things are all great, of course, but I believe that when we turn inwards and do the work on our self, we can start to find true, sustainable contentedness.


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Mentally Healthy is a movement to improve our industry’s capacity to cope with and improve our levels of mental health. Mentally Healthy is driven by a group of volunteers working in our industry who are focused on empowering the creative, media and marketing industry to smash the stigma around mental health. It’s guided by UnLtd, Never Not Creative and Energx who provide resource, leadership and facilitation. UnLtd is a social purpose organisation connecting the media, marketing and creative industry with charities working with at risk children and young people. Never Not Creative is a community of creatives who want to make our industry a better place. We hope to support, inspire and come together to create the ideas, tools and solutions that improve the wellbeing of everyone in the industry and promote the value of creativity in the world. Energx is a wellbeing company that specialises in burn out risk identification and prevention. Endorsed by The University of Sydney Business School, the Energx proprietary assessment and approach are proven to increase the collective energy and creativity in teams. Thanks to all the members of the Mentally Healthy Change Group who are proactively working to make our industry a mentally healthier place: Charmaine Andrew, Lindsay Bennett, Matt Bladin, Catherine Bowe, Pippa Chambers, Gareth Eden-Styche, Kate Ferguson, Sean Hall, Chloe Hooper, Vince Lagana, Sophie Langton, Sarah Montague, Nina Nyman, Manon Pietra, Claire Salvetti, Phoebe Sloane, Virginia Scully, Tim Stuart-Harris, Andy Wright.

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We would like to thank Wayne Rosenberg from Vertifix Printing for supporting the Hearts on Sleeve initiative and producing this book for us.

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Profile for UnLtd

Heart On My Sleeve - Agency CEOs share their stories  

In 2019, the Mentally Healthy Change Group asked CEOs across the media, marketing and creative industry to share their stories of mental hea...

Heart On My Sleeve - Agency CEOs share their stories  

In 2019, the Mentally Healthy Change Group asked CEOs across the media, marketing and creative industry to share their stories of mental hea...

Profile for unltdaus