Inside Lion's mental health programme

'If we can save just one life, it's worth it."

Inside Lion's mental health programme

Suicide is a major issue in New Zealand and wanting to put the safety and wellbeing of its people above all else, Lion partnered with Lifeline Aotearoa to pilot an initiative for suicide awareness and prevention in the workplace.

Lion is one of New Zealand’s biggest consumer brands, operating multiple prominent beverage brands including Speight’s, Steinlager and Mac’s.

The company employs around 1,200 people in New Zealand and as such many of its employees have been impacted, either directly or indirectly, by suicide and mental health issues.

In a wellbeing survey conducted in August 2018, fewer than 20% of Lion employees strongly agreed or agreed that they feel confident to talk to someone if they are contemplating suicide. Almost 30% did not know where to look for help.

Lion has been working to expand Best M.E, the company’s mental and emotional wellbeing programme, as part of its 2018 three-year strategy, and took these results as a call to action to build the capability of its people in relation to suicide awareness and prevention.

The programme has been so successful that it was a finalist at this year’s 2019 Diversity Awards.

Robin Davies, Lion’s People and Culture Director, said the programme’s ultimate aim is a reduction in New Zealand’s appalling suicide statistics.

“If we can save just one life, it’s worth it.”

Work Life Balance - Department of Internal Affairs 1Lion has been working closely alongside Lifeline over the past year to take content from the global social movement Zero Suicide and adapt it for the New Zealand environment.

While other countries, including the US and the UK, have taken industry-specific action in this programme, Lion and Lifeline are developing an initiative which can be applied across all industries.

The first part of this process has been rolling out training about issues relating to mental and emotional wellbeing, including specifically suicide, which Lion has been doing over the past six months.

Leadership groups across the country have been going through 1.5-hour workshops delivered by Lifeline facilitators. This training will be given to more than 90% of leaders in the company as a part of the pilot programme.

The new awareness and understanding that this training has created for Lion’s leaders is already having positive effects.

Externally, it has empowered a number of people to speak up about their experiences relating to suicide.

A Lion senior leader shared on video his experiences after losing two of his friends, and other employees have shared their experiences with major media outlets and on company social media platforms.

There remains a stigma around speaking out regarding mental health, but progress is being made since the introduction of the programme and ending this stigma is a key goal for Lion.

Internally, increased awareness of these issues has led to leaders feeling more confident to have open and challenging conversations with people.

Moreover, leaders are reporting a 67% increase in their confidence in applying skills related to suicide awareness and prevention, and there has been a 166% increase in leaders referring their team members to Lion’s confidential external counselling programme.

In addition to more manager referrals, there has been a 20% increase in employee calls to the programme.

One Lion Sales Manager used the skills they had gained from this training with a customer who called in distress, and many have used their new skills with family members who are suffering.

Lion is also planning to build a wellbeing and mental health programme to share with customers, initially focusing on hospitality, an industry facing real challenges with mental health, set to launch by the end of 2019.

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