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Dame Susan Devoy Urges Embracement of ‘Like Minds'

Dame Susan Devoy Urges Employers to Embrace ‘Like Minds’

Dame Susan Devoy, one of New Zealand’s best known sporting champions, a former chief executive and now chairperson of Sport Bay of Plenty, has become an advocate for employing people with experience of mental illness.

She is currently appearing in a new phase of the Ministry of Health’s Like Minds, Like Mine television campaign, which is challenging friends, whanau, family and employers, to ‘make the difference’ by being more inclusive and less discriminatory towards people with experience of mental illness.

The campaign coincides with new research completed by the Mental Health Foundation for Like Minds, Like Mine, which shows that people with experience of mental illness can and should be actively encouraged to work. The research shows that where employers do not discriminate, the effect of mental illness on a person’s employment is usually minimal.

Dame Susan Devoy formerly employed Aubrey, who also appears in the advertisements, talking about his experience of mental illness with his partner and friends.

She says Aubrey brought many great gifts to his managers and colleagues, including the ability to talk about mental illness, and to learn about tolerance, patience, empathy and support.

“The payback was that Aubrey was part of creating a culture that you could never buy. He challenged us all the time to think about how we could help others and having someone with a mental illness in your workplace teaches you a whole lot of things you don’t learn in any university, or from any books,” Dame Susan says.

Dame Susan’s advice for other employers is to:

  • Make it your business to find out about the condition people have. Ask them what the mental illness means to them.

  • Ask the person what support they need.

  • Normalise as much as possible – people don’t want sympathy.

  • Build policies in your workplace that respect people’s unique differences.

Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Judi Clements says she hopes Dame Susan will inspire other employers.

“The challenge is for each of us to think about how changing our own behaviour can reduce discrimination and ensure that people with experience of mental illness can lead full and satisfying lives.”

The Mental Health Foundation is willing to work with any employers who need help or advice with having mentally healthy workplaces and policies and employing people with experience of mental illness.


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