Australia Health and social care, HR, workforce and communications, Personal and organisational development, Welfare and equalities

Promoting mental wellness: Hornsby Shire Council’s “Mind Mates” program

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Hornsby Shire Council has celebrated the success of an innovative new support program aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health and promoting open conversation around the topic in the workplace.

Following on from the launch of their umbrella “My Wellbeing Matters” project in November 2022, which focuses on physical and mental wellbeing and social connection, “Mind Mates” is a program that empowers trained staff within the organisation to offer support to peers seeking a less formal setting than the Council’s existing Employee Assistance Program.

Following a call-out to all employees to attend “Accidental Counsellor” and “Start the Conversation” training sessions through Lifeline, expressions of interest were sought to become a “Mind Mate”, resulting in 14 staff receiving further training and accreditation via a Mental Health First Aid course conducted by Lifeline. In addition to the formal accreditation, an induction session was held to educate and train Mind Mates on the guidelines of the program and to detail responsibilities, expectations and boundaries.

Building extensive internal collaborations, Council staff also undertook the construction of a digital hub for the program, including the development of an internal ‘My Wellbeing Matters’ microsite, an online directory of Mind Mates, and tools to record each interaction anonymously to assess usage and future program resourcing. Links to biographies and contact details for each Mind Mate were added to the Council’s intranet, and a digital “badge” appended to Microsoft Outlook and Teams profile photos identifies Mind Mates to colleagues.

Hornsby Shire Council’s General Manager Steven Head said the program is emblematic of the organisation’s ongoing investment in supporting the mental health of its staff, adding that he’s “immensely proud of our staff and of our fourteen Mind Mates for stepping up and taking on a significant responsibility in offering support to their colleagues in this way”.

“Across the sheer breadth of what we do in local government, there’s a brilliant diversity of backgrounds and professions working hard for our community,” said Mr Head. “One of the challenges I see in managing this, is making sure that everyone feels they have support there waiting for them if ever they need it. Our Mind Mates program is a big step forward in ensuring this, by recognising and empowering one of our most important assets: the many friends and mates that we share our workplace with.”

To date, Hornsby Shire Council’s Mind Mates have offered support to fellow staff on topics from family issues to managing depression. Looking further into 2024, the program continues to grow with the continued commitment to the “Mind Mate Support Network”, coordinated and co-facilitated with a registered psychologist from Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury and quarterly meetings for Mind Mates to share experiences and continue to develop their skills.



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