At 36 and living alone, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time as my Mum was approaching the end of her 14-year-long struggle with the same cancer. The physical part of that struggle was challenging, but the mental component was so much more difficult and complex. A long time after I had completed my treatment and my Mum had passed, I suffered from depression.
Fortunately, I saw a mental health professional who specialised in cancer counselling, and she helped me enormously.
When I was 48, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. But this time was different. This time I had a partner and the blessing of a six-year-old daughter, who I’d managed to have naturally between two breast cancers. My mental health journey the second time around was quite different. Having faced this before, I felt I had the mental wellness tools I needed to help me on the journey and in managing my depression.
Now, I’m in a peaceful place of curiosity about my future. And even though that may change, my priority will always be to maintain my whole-body health. For me, mental wellness is as essential as physical and spiritual wellbeing.
My experiences have also made me want to understand how we can do more to promote mental wellness at work. I want it to be as easy for someone to talk to their manager about being diagnosed with depression as it is with cancer.
I want people to feel safe to have those conversations.
In our DNA
At the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Australia, where I co-lead our Mental Health Diplomats employee group, we believe there is no health without mental health.
Mental health innovation is part of our DNA. Our pharmaceutical business was founded by Dr Paul Janssen, and he was working and innovating in this space back in the 1960s. It’s really a fundamental part of who we are.
We can’t serve those who use our products and services – patients, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers and all others – without having a workforce that is healthy and well. We need to look after our most precious resources, which are the people that work with us.
So, our priority is having in place support and programs to help our employees cope in these incredibly difficult, challenging and changing times.
A unique opportunity
As a healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson provides solutions for people’s care every day. But we also recognise mental health has its own unique challenges. That’s why we want to work with wider stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes in the community.
Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia is a truly unique opportunity to make a bigger impact with the support of the other members.
It’s a chance for businesses to come together as a united voice to pursue a vision of improving workplace mental health, where everyone feels safe to talk about their mental health without fear of stigma or discrimination.
We highly value this opportunity to work collaboratively – pooling our knowledge and resources – so together we can achieve better health outcomes.
Felicity McDowell, Legal Director - Consumer Health, Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies
Board Member, Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia