Olympian breaks down workplace mental health barriers

Workers in this industry fear talking about depression will harm their careers – but Ian Thorpe disagrees

Olympian breaks down workplace mental health barriers
Former swimming champion Ian Thorpe has won five Olympic gold medals, the greatest total of any Australian.

However, despite his amazing success from a young age, Thorpe has struggled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.

As part of Mental Health Month, Thorpe will be in conversation with Australian journalist and presenter Jeff McMullen on Wednesday 18 October at the Sheraton on the Park.

At the event, Procore Technologies will be bringing together Australia’s leading figures in construction to discuss the issue of mental health in the industry and encourage a more open dialogue.

Thorpe will talk about his own experience suffering from depression and how increased support, awareness and investment will empower construction workers to confront both their own, and their colleagues’ mental health issues.

However, the discussion will also go beyond just the construction industry to include the workplace more generally.

Milton Walters, vice president of marketing at Procore, told HRD that it’s important to realise that you do not always know the full story of the people you are working with.

“Ian Thorpe is Australia’s most successful Olympian ever, yet he suffered from depression,” said Walters.

“If you are on a construction site and working as a labourer, there is a stereotype of big boots, hard hats, and strong and capable knockabouts - yet they are the ones most at risk.

“I think what Thorpe will bring to the discussion is to not be fooled by the stereotype, and don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Walters added that often people think they are travelling well, yet life can be pretty fragile at times.

“At the end of the day it’s not just about construction, we have got people from legal firms, insurance and super funds also going to the lunch,” he said.

Walters added that some workplaces can be difficult to work in because they are so inflexible that they don’t allow for vulnerabilities.

“I think people are often reluctant to open up about mental health because they think it could impact their job and that’s not the type of organisation I would want to work in,” he said.

“That’s why I love the MATES In Construction philosophy of looking after each other.”

The Q&A between Ian Thorpe and Jeff McMullen will take place Wednesday 18 October, 12-2.30pm at the Sheraton on the Park.


Related stories:
Why your workplace needs a mental health ambassador
Mental health a growing challenge for employers
Press start to destress: why employees should play video games at work

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