Power of Print: Mental wellness in the pandemic

Simple strategies to help manage your own mental wellness, and that of those around you, was the focus of this week’s bonus Power of Print webinar featuring Man Anchor founder Steven Gamble as the keynote speaker.

The special session completes a 10-week Power of Print series which was facilitated by The Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood and ran from June to August highlighting a broad range of printing industry related issues and topics.

It was also well-timed on the eve of RUOK? Day, a recognised suicide prevention awareness day.

Gamble was joined by PrintNZ CEO Ruth Cobb, Lamson Group CEO Rodney Frost – a long-time supporter of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, and Konica Minolta Channel Manager, Andrew Ward – who has also founded his own mental fitness group, Head Above Water.

If you missed this important session, you can find the video link and Class Notes here.

Gamble discussed the prevalence of mental health issues in Australia and New Zealand and said that with the impact of extended lockdowns this will rise.

His mantra is ‘health is health’ and he illustrates this by saying that if you had a bad back you would see the physio, likewise if your mental health is suffering you should also seek help.

“The last 18 months have been difficult for many of us and while we have found ways to work through and cope with what has been unusual and unprecedented, we should all acknowledge we have been touched by some challenge, stressors or crisis – no matter who we are,” Gamble said.

He said research shows just 35% of people suffering from a mental illness reach out for help, but this is changing, particularly with the pandemic as increasing numbers of people access a Mental Health Plan from their GP and prescription medication, if required.

Gamble said it is useful to “create an opportunity” to be a little bit vulnerable and have compassion for ourselves and those around us.

Suicide is never an easy topic to discuss, but Gamble said it is a conversation that needs to be had.

“One way we can impact the national suicide rate is by having open and transparent conversations around mental illness. If we can create opportunities to let people know they can reach out for support without judgement, and with empathy, this is a really a big plus to reduce the national suicide rate,” he said.

Write it down

Gamble said a strategy he uses when he is feeling overwhelmed is writing down his concerns with two columns beside the issue with the headings R (for remove) and D (for dilute).

“I think the majority of us can handle little stressors, but when they start to lay on top of each other it becomes negative,” he said.

“A little tip is writing it down. I write down the stress and then I come up with solutions to remove it.

“If we don’t remove the stressors from our lives we start to feel that negative pressure. Distress is when you don’t have the tools emotionally to deal with the solution so to remove stressors in our lives and unpack them is a good way to help.

“Crises are unique to everyone – relationship breakdown, redundancy, when a person doesn’t have the tools to cope with a situation emotionally or physically it can last for five minutes or five days but if it continues for a period of time we need to unpack it and reach out for support.”

Power of Print 5

To help keep yourself in check, Gamble devised what he calls the Power of Print 5.

Gamble’s advice: Do these 5 things each day and feel the benefits.

He listed communication, exercise, diet, limiting news feeds and practicing mindfulness (eg sitting in the sun, reading a book, gardening, weeding, resting).

“Find your ‘thing’ to support your wellbeing,” Gamble said.

“Spend five minutes communicating with someone; improve sleep; take time to reflect and practice self-compassion; relaxation techniques stop and reset; physical wellbeing anything from a 20 minute walk a day.”

Signs – what to look out for with our wellbeing

He also listed what to look out for if you might be suffering, or someone you know is.

“If you start to notice changes in your feelings, thoughts and physical wellbeing and it starts to impact how you get on with your day to day living, that’s when we know you have a problem,” Gamble said.

He said if you can identify two to five symptoms on this chart then it is time to get help:

“Physical symptoms are really important . These things need to be addressed, if your physical wellbeing is being affected, it is time to reach out and get support. Consider how these things are impacting your day to day living, seeing a professional around our mental health is no different to seeing someone about our physical health. Health is health, you need to remember that,” he said.

He said seeking help through your GP is a good place to start as that is how you can access a Mental Health Plan to help cover costs of treatment. Counsellors, social workers, occupational therapists and can also help.

Commenting after the session, Ruth Cob said business owners in New Zealand have been facing significant stress with their chief concern being making sure their staff have a job post-pandemic.

She said businesses have done well to implement a variety of systems to help with the situation.

“They have been putting communications systems in place, they have buddy systems as well. Many bosses have multiple employees so we do need to be mindful that they are just as likely to have anxiety or depression as their employees are so checking in with them is important too,” she said.

Rodney Frost, CEO, The Lamson Group said his main focus has been keeping everyone employed and giving staff confidence they are not going anywhere. He also said it was important to communicate openly with staff, and even share some experiences of his own that have been challenging.

“First thing is that you have a limitation on what you can do, obviously have a chat and talk and then encourage the person to seek professional help and then allow them the flexibility to have that time to do so and then check in to see if they are back on track,” Frost said.

“Also be a bit vulnerable and share some of the things that have happened to you and explain how you got out of it, then make sure they connect with a professional who can help them out.”

He has provided regular updates to staff and has also allowed for flexible leave arrangements to ensure staff were taking leave with a partner, friend or family members.

Other supports he has provided to staff have been administrative support with accessing vaccine appointments, as many employees do not have a computer at home to do this themselves. He has also provided financial advice to employees including bank loan negotiations to help their ultimate outcome.

He has also allowed staff to cash in on their leave if required and encouraged all employees to keep their exercise up. Financial incentives were also provided to encourage staff to get vaccinated.

Andrew Ward said he started Head Above Water to highlight the issue of mental fitness and normalise the conversation around mental health.

“In the past mental health was swept under the table and not spoken about,” Ward said.

“Mental fitness explains it quite well. We are trying to change the vernacular in the mental health space, you are going to have good days and bad days. Go and seek help, it is braver to seek help than not to.

Ward said he started Head Above Water after his job was made redundant and his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He was having a very difficult time but kept saying he would be alright.

Once he accessed help he realised he needed to change the conversation.

“We started Head Above Water as an activity based fundraising group it was really about changing the discussion to mental fitness as this can absolutely help moderate depression,” he said.

“Our drive was around keeping fit, being fit and trying to change that conversation from mental health to mental fitness.”

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