Mark Leopold, Head of Policy and Strategic Alliances at SuperFriend, helps businesses to be more effective by applying evidence-informed principles related to workplace mental health and wellbeing. Mark works with organisations to deliver workplace programs that:
- Promote the benefits of good work
- Manage risks
- Support people in need.
With leadership experience across a diverse array of companies, including Head of Workplace Engagement at Beyond Blue, Mark understands that effective, visible action on mental health and wellbeing improves organisational performance.
Mark has been fortunate to work on workplace mental health initiatives with major commercial organisations and government agencies. He has presented at over 100 events including numerous keynote addresses at national conferences.
Being an advocate for better mental health and wellbeing, and aware of his own triggers, signs and symptoms, helps Mark to build resilience and adapt to life’s demands. Sharing his experience helps others to achieve their best possible mental health.
Mark shares his insights into the work of suicide prevention, why SuperFriend signed the National Communications Charter, and what it means to be a Life in Mind Champion.
Why did SuperFriend sign the National Communications Charter?
SuperFriend’s story began in 2007 when superannuation funds and insurers realised the extent of the impact that mental illness and suicide was having on their members. SuperFriend was born from a collective desire to help and since that time, the SuperFriend team has been collaborating across the mental health and suicide prevention sectors, government, business and community with a focus on helping workplaces to thrive.
Language and the way we communicate is fundamental to raising awareness and understanding so that we influence people to take effective action. The National Communications Charter helps unite the industry so that together we can reduce stigma and promote help-seeking behaviour. Signing The Charter is a visible commitment to our ongoing mission to help Australian workplaces be mentally healthy and thrive.
What does being a Life in Mind Champion mean to you?
Being a Life in Mind Champion reminds me to take care with my language and how I communicate. That may sound odd from someone who has personal experience managing a mental health condition however I am acutely aware that my personal experience with depression does not equate to expertise that formal qualifications may provide. For that reason, I reflect on my own passion and want to help, with a reality check on how I communicate and limits to which I can help. For me it’s more about listening and guiding people to professional care.
Diverse voices and experiences are so important to suicide prevention. If we communicate with a common language around mental health, a collective voice will have more impact and create sustainable change across our society.
What is the most rewarding or enjoyable part of your role?
Connection. The wonderfully rewarding relationships that I have been fortunate to develop with so many people who are committed to helping others.
Learning. Mental health is generally a space that brings people together. It can inspire fervent debate and discussion with passionate people wanting to create change – whether the change be at a macro or systems level, an organisational level or indeed, at an individual level. Through all these interactions, I continue to learn and for that, I am fortunate and very appreciative.
What led you to work in this space?
Nearly 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. After I learned to manage my condition, with the help of a psychologist and my family, friends and work colleagues, I reflected on the level of conversation in workplaces and leadership groups. At that time, open conversations, awareness, understanding and acceptance were not nearly as recognised as today.
Noting the gap, I became a volunteer speaker with Beyond Blue. I focussed on conversations and presentations to leaders about the importance of workplace mental health and our role as leaders in creating mentally healthy workplaces. It was a pivotal time and I found the work so satisfying that I ended up working for Beyond Blue and now SuperFriend.
Why is suicide prevention so important in your work at SuperFriend?
Suicide prevention and mental health is core to our business, it’s why we were formed. We understand the importance of the workplace setting in helping people to thrive.
Often workplaces are seen as a stressor and can be a catalyst for poor mental health. Importantly though – workplaces can also be a place of great connection and support, where people feel valued and energised by the work that they do. Further, should people need help – the workplace has the potential to be a place of great support too.
The more tangible actions to improve mental health and wellbeing that a workplace implements, the more workers feel supported, enjoy their job, are less likely to leave or feel distressed in the workplace. Tangible actions also decrease stigma and lead to increased productivity, resulting in a more thriving workplace!
Suicide prevention is about us all working together through all aspects of life – work and family; colleagues and friends. Connecting with care and compassion is the essence of humanity.