Helen Silver AO, Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd

Published Thu, Sep 10, 2020

I’ve had to confront some challenging situations in my career. But the most difficult was the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires when I was running the Victorian public service.

None of us had experienced such death and destruction. We went into overdrive. We worked tirelessly to help the fire-affected community.

I witnessed extraordinary levels of resilience, kindness and endurance. But it also took a toll. Some of our team members started fraying at the edges; not making the best decisions. Others would unexpectedly burst into tears.

I learnt that it was vital to prioritise mental health and to know when it’s time to step back and take a break.

Think holistically

I have taken those lessons to Allianz. We work hard here to create and foster a mentally healthy workplace. If your people are not mentally well, they are not going to be able to perform at their best.

I want our team to pay as much attention to their mental health as their physical health. Good mental health is fundamental to good overall health.

We invest in a range of tools, resources and initiatives to boost mental wellbeing. We have, for example, launched a special mental health task force to support staff in Victoria who have been heavily impacted by the second round of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Intervene early

But as an insurance company, mental health is just as important for our customers. We understand that life events can make us vulnerable.

Mental health is one of the fastest-growing areas of workers compensation in Australia, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of all claims.

We’ve learnt that it is critical to intervene early before issues become entrenched. The sooner you realise a person has a mental health injury, the more likely they will recover.

But if we are to get people to seek help early, we need to reduce the stigma associated with asking for that help. As leaders, we have a role in that. If leaders open up about mental health, the quicker it will become a part of our everyday and overall health conversations.

Shared vision

When I first heard about Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia, it was an easy decision to get involved. Allianz and the Alliance share the same vision of improving mental health in Australian businesses.

One thing we know about mental health is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It requires a multifaceted approach and the willingness to try new things.

What better way tackle it than to align with individuals and organisations who share the same goal, but who also bring their own ideas, experiences and program to the table?

We’ll learn from each other, and all of us will improve. That’s what is so exciting about the Alliance and why Allianz is proud to be a part of it.

Helen Silver AO, Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance & Conduct at Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd

Board Member, Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia

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