Tag Archives: Wellbeing

What-is-Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the “process of paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally”. But what does this actually mean?

Research from Harvard has shown that we spend almost half of our lives distracted, not living in the present moment, bemoaning the past or catastrophizing the future. We spend very little time living in the present moment.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help people to slow down, and connect with the present moment. Mindfulness not only trains people to experience the world through our five senses and be more open to what life has to offer. Mindfulness also helps people develop greater self-awareness and an opportunity to reflect on their thoughts and feelings objectively. This helps to alter our habitual responses, by taking a pause and choosing how we react to a situation.


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Mindfulness training is evidence-based education that effectively reduces stress, anxiety and depression, and can be offered alongside other organizational leadership and wellbeing initiatives, to improve engagement, creativity, performance and wellbeing.

According to PWC, creating a mentally healthy workplace for your organisation with workshops of this type, can bring you a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.

If you would like to know about our Mindfulness in the Workplace course for your team, please contact us at [email protected] or give us a call.

Author: Tania Young
Tania Young

Tania is an experienced Mindfulness Facilitator who has delivered training to organisations across Australia. Tania is also a Human Resources professional with almost 10 years experience working for medium to large corporate businesses across different industries in London and Sydney. Tania combines her a wealth of HR knowledge and experience implementing wellbeing initiatives, to support employee wellbeing, drive engagement, performance and productivity.

generation-X

Are Gen Xers the key to staying sane while managing a multi-generational workforce?

‘The problem with Millennials is that…’ is an expression often heard. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to manage a generation that is more in contact with technology than with people. At least that’s a common opinion. There is often talk about the contribution of Millennials to the workplace and the frustrations many members of other generations experience when working with them.

At the same time, many managers are puzzled by how Generation Xers have merged seamlessly into a workforce dominated by Baby Boomers.

How did they do that?

The answer may well prove to be the key to keeping you and your team sane as more generations join the workforce.

On Millennials

In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation (in the US). While there is some controversy surrounding the definition of Millennials by the year they were born, one factor in what defines a Millennial remains constant. These are the children who were raised in the current technological age. They do not remember a time without Google, mobile phones, or YouTube. They do not recall a time when they had to rely on books, card catalogs, or encyclopedias for information, but instead feel as though their ability to leverage technology for information gives them a competitive advantage over their older peers.

Baby Boomers, who are more likely to be employed by a company long-term often bemoan the Millennial’s lack of employer loyalty, feeling as though their perpetual need for mobility and purpose work to the disadvantage of an employer who invests training time and capital into their experience.


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Meet Generation X

Generation X, on the other hand is much more defined by the years in which this population was born. Often considered the generation born from the 1960’s through the late 1970’s, Generation X currently comprises 32 percent of the workforce, only recently surpassed by Millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Generation X came of age along with the advent of the internet, making them old enough to remember life before we carried minicomputers in our pockets. This singular characteristic makes them more relatable to Boomers while being able to speak the language of technology with Millennials.

As the “sandwich generation”, Gen Xers often find themselves as the go-between for their Millennial and Boomer coworkers.

Baby Boomers

Making up just under 30 percent of the workforce, Baby Boomers are defined as those born after World War II up until 1960. While this sector of the working population are beginning to retire, and are expected to continue to decline in their employment participation, they are working far past traditional retirement years, often in conflict with their Millennial subordinates.

Boomers tend to prefer in person contact and telephone calls rather than electronic means of communication. These are the employees who value loyalty, honesty and work ethic above all else yet they are the group that most often struggles with work/life balance, sometimes neglecting their personal life out of duty to the organisation.

Cross-Generational Friction

If Millennials are defined by their use and reliance on technology and their perceived lack of loyalty, and Boomers are defined by their reliance on tradition and loyalty, it is easy to see why these two groups often find themselves in conflict with each other.

The key to building a cross-generational team that honors the experience of the Boomer while capitalising on the innovation of the Millennial may well lie in the intentional inclusion of the Generation Xer.

Experienced enough to appreciate tradition while young enough to value the usefulness of technology, the Generation X employee is able to bridge the seemingly cavernous gap between the other two generations.

Regardless of the makeup of the cross-generational team, leaders need to invest time in communicating the company’s vision, purpose and strategies to their employees. Understanding how their work contributes to the “big picture” appeals to the typical Millennial’s need to find meaning and value in their work. Understanding the strategic plan allows the Boomer and Generation Xer to capitalise on their experience to put these strategies into effect. And having a common vision helps all members of the cross-generational team to work together for a shared goal.

But bear in mind that this type of communication is not something that can be done once during an annual performance review. It must be infused into all of the leader’s communications, from informal performance reviews to regular staff meetings to corporate electronic communications.

Constant reinforcement of the shared vision allows the team to reconvene under a common purpose should it be derailed by generational misunderstandings. It also makes room for sanity and growth.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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When-is-the-right-time

When is the right time to talk about suicide?

It’s a beautiful morning. Its cold outside but the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a café across from the water starting my work day. And it hits me, today 8 people in Australia will take their own life. 8 people will feel so desperate, so alone, so hopeless, they will take drastic action to end their life deliberately.

I don’t mean to startle you. In fact, we had this conversation in our team just yesterday. You see, we’re developing our online suicide prevention course, and the question was, how do we help people to see how important, how urgent this is, without scaring people? How do we help people to look at something that so often we as a society don’t want to look at or think about? How do we make it OK to talk about suicide, to learn about suicide?

I think the time for downplaying it has ended. In Australia we now have a situation where more people die each day from suicide than through road accidents. Let that sink in. More people deliberately take their own life, than by accident on the road. And 6 of those will be men. What is going on for men? Well there are many and complex issues, which I won’t go into right now, that’s for another article.


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You know we’ve seen increasing rates of suicide over the last few years, despite the growing focus on mental health issues. How can that be? Well, there are a number of factors, but one thing I think is important to realise is that much of the focus has been on ‘awareness campaigns’. Now that is a good start, and in many cases, where there is a big taboo that is the best place to start – just to get people talking about mental health is an improvement. But if we really want to make a difference it can’t end there. People need real skills, they need to know what to watch for in their colleagues and friends, and they need to know what to do, how to respond.

If we are looking to make a difference in the lives of Australians (and we are), workplaces are a great place to start, as we spend so much of our lives at work, hours at a time, day after day with the same people by our side.

But here I have a frustration too. My frustration is that so many workplaces mean to equip their staff in this area. They want to give them those skills, they want to make a difference to their staff. But with all the competing priorities and demands, mental health training often gets left for later. But I come back to my initial statement. Today 8 people will take their life, tomorrow another 8 people, and the day after that, and the day after that. Every day that we put off mental health training til ‘the next quarter’, or ‘after the restructure’, or ‘when Bob gets back from leave’, is another day that we are at risk of losing a valued colleague, a good friend. Simply because someone didn’t have the training, didn’t notice the warning signs, or didn’t know what to do.

And I get it, I’ve been in senior management positions for a while now. There are competing demands. It’s the reality of business. But if you knew that someone in your team was going to attempt to take their life, would that suddenly make it more urgent? It is unfortunate that so many groups we train, have decided to implement some mental health education AFTER there has been a crisis like this. It’s sad. I just wish they would do it earlier. Do it now. It’s not unusual to have 80% of the room know someone who has taken their life. And yet we don’t hear about it. Part of that is because of the way suicide is reported, but also I think, we don’t want to hear about it. Because we feel helpless, we don’t know what to do. This is where just a little bit of training can make all the difference. I cant count the number of times that someone has come up to us after training, to let us know they used one or some of the techniques we taught them, and that it made such a big difference in the lives of their friend/colleague/family member.

Well, that’s my thoughts for today. I hope it hasn’t been too much of a downer for you. Suicide is a serious matter, and we need to act, we need to do something. But life is meant to be enjoyed too. So As I said, it’s a beautiful day today. I’m going to enjoy it, be grateful for the simple things like the sunshine on the water. The fresh clean water in my glass. And keep working to get the message out there.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Christmas-feature-image

Managing Work Stress Prior to Christmas

It’s around about this time of year that many people in organisations look at their calendar and realise they’re on the downhill run to Christmas.

It’s a time when managers and HR professionals notice an increase in the number of employee complaints, performance issues, absenteeism and team conflict. In the counselling and psychology professions, Christmas / New Year is also when we see a sharp increase in the number of people reaching out for help.

So I thought it timely to explore some of the common challenges your staff may be facing during this time and how, as leaders, we can support our team members through it to help them enjoy their break and to welcome them back refreshed in the New Year.

Financial pressures

For some people who are just keeping their head above water during the year, living month to month with a maxed out credit card, Christmas can be an anxious time. Many people worry about how they’ll give their family a nice Christmas experience with the associated cost of food, drinks and gifts.

Presence or absence of family

Extended families coming together over the Christmas holidays can be a source of stress, be it from arguments or conflict between family members, or a keenly felt absence of a family member. Quite often people feel dragged back into old family roles and dynamics that they have worked hard to distance themselves from and this can be very frustrating.

On the other hand, absence of family and friends is also an issue. Employees who are estranged from their family or have few friends outside work can feel isolated and despondent over the Christmas break as they’re left with their own thoughts and without their usual routines to distract them.

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‘Wrapping things up before Christmas’

Christmas is one of those deadlines that seem tidy and appropriate, but unless you are in fact Santa Claus, can be fairly arbitrary. When clients, project managers and senior managers are all requesting a ‘pre Christmas’ deadline, it can certainly crunch the employees further along the value chain who then need to put in the extra hours.

General exhaustion

It’s no surprise that the pace of work these days is intense, and getting to the end of the work year can feel like crawling across the finish line of the Hawaiian Ironman. The realisation that after a week or so of rest, a person must back it up and do it all over again, can be overwhelming.

So given we now know this is going on for some people in our team, as leaders and as team members, how can we help?

3 things we can do for our staff and colleagues

1. Be on the lookout for warning signs

While some level of stress is normal – actually desirable for high performance – there is a point where it stops being ‘just stress’ and becomes something more. Symptoms like irritability, conflict with coworkers, angry outbursts, avoiding people or difficulty completing tasks, where these symptoms present for an extended period and are out of character for the individual, can indicate a mental illness.

2. Review workloads

Under-resourcing is one of the fundamental contributors to chronic stress and burnout in organisations – particularly those with a fast-paced, ‘just get it done’ culture. Leaders who see patterns of stress claims and absenteeism in parts of their business might look closer to see if the workload and resourcing are appropriate in those areas.

3. Say thanks

Send a personal email or better yet, sidle up to the person and let them know you appreciated their help this year and that you’re looking forward to working with them next year. Whether you’re a leader acknowledging a team member or a team member saying thanks to a colleague in a support department, it shows that we respect that person’s abilities and their contribution to the team. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation or elaborate awards night – sometimes a quiet, genuine and personal thanks works better.

3 things we can we do for ourselves

As leaders, if we stay calm and unflappable when the pressure is on, our staff will follow our lead. And the things we can do at the end of the year to restore ourselves are the same things we can do throughout the year to remain resilient to the challenges that crop up.

1. Do what restores you

Is it reading a book? Listening to music? Throwing a party? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as they say. Try getting some regular exercise and quality sleep – both are proven ways to combat chronic stress and improve your mood.

2. See a counsellor or psychologist for some practical strategies

Say you have a challenging relationship with a family member, and you’ll be spending a bit of time with them over the Christmas break. And say you’re worried they might end up in a shallow grave under the mango tree at your hand. Well, a good counsellor or psychologist can help unravel the dynamic between you and that person and give you some strategies to resolve the issue or at least lessen the likelihood of being triggered.

3. Undertake some structured life planning

New Years resolutions are a great idea, but lots of people go about them the wrong way, and that’s why many are in tatters by the second week of January. Consider doing some structured life planning, where you set a goal for each domain of your life: career, family, relationship, artistic, spiritual, etc. Consider involving your partner and family in the process (and with meddling auntie now under the mango tree it should be easy). Set small, achievable and measurable goals that will help you build confidence and therefore momentum to tackle the bigger ones.

The concerning statistic that we’re hearing more and more these days is that 1 in 5 adult Australians suffers from a mental illness. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate in who it chooses and it can happen at any time. But there are things we can do to minimise the chances of it taking hold in our most valuable business asset – our people – and degrading creativity, productivity and happiness.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Crazy-work

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Workplace Madness – Part 2

Good mental health at work can be tricky. The workplace is a place where rules of behavior need to be observed. So, what room is there for madness at work? Is there any?

In Part 1 of our interview, Mary O’Hagan made the point that madness should be respected. But how? This comment in itself stretches some of the common (mis-) understandings on mental illness, or ‘Madness’ as Mary likes to call it.

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In part 2 of our interview, Mary makes the following fascinating points:

  • Madness doesn’t turn you into a saint
  • How having a mental illness can shape you
  • Bringing mental illness into the workplace benefits your customers
  • How to talk to someone with a mental illness
  • Flexible supports are not specific to people with mental illness at work
  • Some accommodations important to people with a mental illness

What do you think? Is there a place for madness at work?

Would love to hear from you

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Unlocking-the-mysteries of workplace madness

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Workplace Madness – Part 1 of 3

I love talking about mental health at work. In our Mental Health First Aid courses, I especially love talking to people about tips and strategies for dealing with a mental health emergency. So when I thought about interviewing Mary O’Hagan, I knew I had to make it happen! Mary brings a distinct flavor to mental illness or, as she likes to call it, ‘madness’. Her approach is easily aligned with the way we view mental health here at the Workplace Mental Health Institute (former Mental Health Recovery Institute). That’s why I feel that, if we are to unlock the mysteries of workplace madness, we need to listen to Mary.


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For those of you who know Mary, she needs no introduction. She is a former National Mental Health Commissioner, author, and someone I consider a giant in the field of Mental Health Recovery. I have the utmost respect for Mary’s opinion and it’s an opinion the mental health field needs.

What you’ll get in this Part 1:

  • Hear a little of Mary’s fascinating journey
  • When it’s important you don’t listen to mental health experts
  • Get some real tips on mental health recovery at work
  • When madness is ok and why it deserves respect
  • What madness has to contribute to the workplace
  • How a mental illness can increase resilience at work
  • How the workplace can help people feel better

You can watch Part 1 of this interview here on Workplace Mental Health Institute on VIMEO also

We’ll be releasing Part 2 in a couple of days. Talk soon

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Ten-Essential-Elements

10 Essential Elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy

1 in 5 people are impacted by mental health problems (Read our discussion paper) every year in Australia. That means that at least 1 in 5 of your employees will either experiencing a full blown mental health crisis, or an unidentified one.

This is well known to impact on productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, workplace injuries and accidents, and team morale.

Not only that, but the expense of these problems to Australian businesses has been identified as up to $3.6 billion every year. The average psychological injury claim itself costs $250,000.

When compared to the tax on time and money, a business with a solid Workplace Wellness Strategy makes good financial and human sense.

Many businesses are now implementing a Workplace Wellness Strategy as part of, or alongside, their Workplace Health & Safety plan. But a Workplace Wellness Strategy doesn’t always come easily. What are the essential elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy?


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This week we look at the first essential element……

Essential Element #1: EDUCATION

Education is absolutely vital, and is usually the first place to start.

A good Workplace Wellness strategy includes training in mental health and workplace wellness for all staff, as well as specialist education for leaders.

Traditionally, organisations have not made themselves responsible for the mental and emotional wellbeing of staff. In fact as a society, we have very poor mental health literacy. So before a Workplace Wellness Strategy can really be developed and implemented, organisations, and the individuals within them need to educate themselves about mental health.

The whole team, but especially the leaders, need to understand how the human brain works and what will hinder or promote wellness within the team. Gone are the days when bosses didn’t need to know anything about psychology. This generation has higher expectations of support from their leaders. Leaders have to be well prepared, in order to have the stamina necessary to meet the new expectations of their workers.

By providing education in mental health and workplace wellness, leaders of an organisation are also sending the message that this conversation is not only acceptable, but welcomed within the culture of the company.

But is education enough? We don’t think so. Stay tuned for the next essential element for your Workplace Wellness Strategy

 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” Harvard President Derek Bok

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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When-your-body-speaks

When Your Body Speaks, Its Time To Pay Attention

Feeling run down? Aching muscles? Sore head? Listen to your body!

Your body is always speaking to you, giving you directions about which decisions to make. It wants you to live a life in line with your path and your purpose. It’s just that it is speaking in code!

Too many of us blindly ignore our body, thinking of it as a machine – that as long as we keep feeding the body, it’ll keep running. Not true!

An easy example of this is that many of us could come up with a list of signs telling your immune system is weaker than usual. Some of the physical signs include headaches, a cold sore reappearing, even eczema or thrush. The big one is picking up the office colds or flu regularly. Emotional signs you would notice include increased irritability or feelings of fatigue. It’s not rocket science. Our bodies are remarkable messengers. We just choose not to listen. Or we can choose to listen.


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When you notice that funny feeling in your stomach or you start to get a headache around a particular topic, listen to the message from your body. Maybe this is not your path. Maybe it’s telling you to slow down. Maybe you need to reconnect with an activity or person.

Your gut instinct will tell you when you are out of alignment with your path. There are a variety of physical and emotional messages your body tells you every single day.

Feeling tense about a situation you’re not comfortable doing? Feeling forced to do something you’d rather not? Notice the tension in your neck, shoulders and gut. That’s a sure sign you are drifting off your path.

Whatever it is, make it a practice to listen to your body and carefully consider what its message might be. If you don’t listen to your body, it will send you even louder signals!

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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candle

7 Ways To Enhance Hope

One of the common themes that emerges from stories of people who have recovered from mental illness, is that of Hope. In studies of consumer recovery stories, it has been found that having Hope for a better future is a major, if not essential element of recovery.

So, how do we help engender hope for someone living with mental illness? Here are 7 ways you can help a person find hope for their recovery.

1. Have Hope Yourself

We must first hold the hope that a person can recovery, even if they themselves do not. Even beyond ‘hope’, have a certainty that Recovery is possible. While we can never know for sure what the future will hold for a person, it definitely won’t happen if they don’t believe it is possible.

2. Say it

It sounds so simple, but many people have been told that they will always have a mental illness, that their condition is ‘chronic’ and that they cannot expect any better, essentially ‘this is as good as it gets’. Simply saying ‘recovery is possible’, can have a huge impact.

3. Look at the Statistics

There are plenty of longitudinal studies that show that over time, up to 68% of people will experience either total (clinical) recovery or significant improvements which are considered ‘psychological’, or ‘personal’ recovery. Those studies also show that we cannot predict which people will experience this recovery based on the severity of their symptoms at any one time. It doesn’t matter how bad it seems, Recovery can happen for anyone.


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4. Look at Others who have Recovered

For some people, the statistics may not be enough, but actually seeing, reading about, or meeting people who have recovered from mental illness can be a very powerful experience, and help them to have hope for their own future.

5. Help Create a Vision

Snyder and colleagues have studied Hope and found that there are 3 components of hope. The first is that people must have something to be hopeful for. As practitioners, we can help people to consider some of the things they would like to have for their life. Exploring personal values, what is important to the person can help them to identify a picture of how they would like their life to be (see next month’s newsletter for ways to explore values).

6. Set some Goals

It has been said ‘the tragedy in life does not lie in not achieving goals, but in having no goal to reach’. Sometimes we worry about setting people up for failure. While it is important to consider the timeframes we place on our goals, we do need to have something to strive towards. Research has shown that simply having a goal improves wellbeing, whether or not the person achieves it.

7. Build Self Confidence

The third of Snyder’s components of Hope is ‘agency’. This is the person’s own belief that they can achieve their goal. You can build agency by helping the person to identify all the things they have accomplished in the past. Help the person make a list, a song, or a drawing about those achievements. Ask them what their strengths are, or use strength cards, to help them identify their own internal and external resources.

Hopefully, we have given you some new ideas on how to help a person find Hope for recovery from mental illness. Do send us an email at [email protected] to let us know how you go with these ideas, or if you have any others to suggest.

Smiles,

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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