Icon Agency's support for mental health starts from within. Like most Victorians, it's been a tough time for our Melbourne based team. To help us get through lockdown we've run staff surveys to monitor mental health; encouraged feedback on initiatives to improve overall health and wellbeing; sent 'Christmas in July' home care packages full of tailored goodies; granted extra-long weekends with bonus annual leave, and continued paid birthday leave.
Having a duty of care for your friends, family, and community is essential. We continuously remind our team to take outside breaks and check-in with each other regularly. We also encourage people to reach out early if they're struggling.
This community-driven purpose extends to the clients we partner with and the projects we undertake. As you may know, September 10 is world suicide prevention and RUOK day. We'd like to share some mental health initiatives and strategies we've been working on with Headspace, The Department of Veterans Affairs, and The Drug and Alcohol Foundation.
As part of the PR team’s efforts to help shine a light on the importance of mental health support at all times, especially during the past few months of lockdown, we have provided some extra services to our client Headspace. Our campaign for Early Psychosis came to an end back in March but we identified an opportunity to provide added support when we realised how impacted their face-to-face services were due to the lockdown restrictions.
We are now working to collate data from centres across the states to help show the true extent to which young people suffering from acute mental illness depend on hands-on and connected services like theirs.
Using these numbers, which show a sharp drop-off in new patients presenting to the early psychosis team and a significant rise in the acuity of cases once lockdown was over, we are hoping to engage and educate more healthcare professionals about the value and importance of the support this organisation provides.
It’s abundantly clear that people need people to be there. Yes it’s great to have someone at the end of a phone line, but the value of face-to-face connection and advice is unrivalled. At Icon Agency, we’re passionate about working on causes that have a real purpose, so we are so pleased we were able to continue this journey with Headspace during such a critical time.
The Department of Veterans Affairs – Open Arms
Icon Agency recently supported Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling to raise awareness of the importance of mental health services for Australian veterans who have had a unique experience during COVID-19. For veterans, particularly those with anxiety and PTSD, the confinement and stress of the lockdown have been challenging and exacerbated existing mental health issues.
On Vietnam Veterans Day in August, Open Arms shared reports that there had been a 50% increase in counselling sessions during March-June 2020 compared to the same time last year, which was covered by ABC Radio, News Corp outlets and a number of regional papers, local radio stations and trade press.
Dr Stephanie Hodson, Open Arms’ national manager, psychologist and Army veteran, said that contacting a service like Open Arms is an important step.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been really tough for all Australians, veterans included. However, the rise in counselling is not necessarily a negative; we’re encouraged that veterans are proactively reaching out.
"There's a common term we use in the military about 'squaring something away', whether it's folding your socks correctly or getting your kit sorted so you can then help those around you. It's not too dissimilar from a mental health perspective – veterans are using our service during coronavirus to square away their anxiety or outlook, so they can get back on track and onto helping others."
We all know it’s not that easy though, and sometimes mental health issues can become complex and overwhelming without early detection. Open Arms offers a variety of free training opportunities to those seeking to help family, friends, co-workers or others in the veteran community, and this includes suicide intervention workshops which assist in recognising warning signs and learning intervention strategies.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation
Mental health and alcohol consumption are closely linked. Our team have been heavily involved in working with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation over the past few months helping to advise and support Australians about how to keep an eye on their drinking behaviours.
Using Icon’s creative and PR teams this work centred around key areas where alcohol has the most impact - including heightened stress and anxiety. While most of us know that alcohol is a depressant, it’s so often the ‘go-to’ option when we’re looking for a way to unwind and relax. With the increased stress of lockdown, we found that 12% of Australians admitted to having a drink every day to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, we’ve been working hard on a few campaigns for ADF's – ‘Celebrate You’, ‘Break the Habit’ and ‘You Haven't Been Drinking Alone’ to encourage people to explore alternative habits and think about ways to introduce more positive behaviours.
It’s important to celebrate the wins just as much as acknowledging when times are tough but hopefully as a result of some of this work, a few more people will turn to something a bit healthier for their mind.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek assistance by contacting your trusted healthcare professional or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000).