What the Honey Badger taught me about mental health

PHD national new business and marketing director Chloe Hooper
By PHD national new business and marketing director Chloe Hooper | 15 November 2018
Chloe Hooper

This week, I was fortunate enough to meet Aussie rugby legend, Nick Cummins, aka The Honey Badger at our most recent PHD Inspo breakfast. Throughout the series, we’ve been really lucky to welcome some amazing speakers including, Kate Richie, Amanda Keller and Lucy Zelic who have each drawn massive crowds. However, I’ve never seen such an excited audience of dressed up (with full makeup on) PHD’ers. 

I expected the session to centre around recent appearance on the Bachelor; discussions of roses, love interests and kissing scenes. But I was pleasantly surprised when the Honey Badger, instead, decided to share his single-minded mission – to tackle mental health among Aussie men. A topic that can no longer be ignored, with six male suicides every day in Australia. 

The Honey Badger recently opened up about the detrimental impact his recent media attention has had on his mental health in a post-Batchelor interview on the Project. From the session we had with him this morning, it has been an experience that has taught him a lot.  

He called out three cornerstones to looking after your mental health, which I wanted to share as they resonated with me and should be applied to our careers;

  1.      Having a purpose
  2.      Getting back to nature
  3.      Not taking things too seriously. 

I recently wrote an open letter to management where I discussed the impact company culture can have on our mental health. Post the Inspo session, I was inspired to build on this thread to ensure that these learnings are taken into account during my day to day working life.

Chloe and honey badgerChloe and The Honey Badger at PHD's offices

Having a purpose

Purpose was 2018’s industry buzzword. However finding your overall life purpose isn’t always easy, particularly when you are experiencing mental illness. The Honey Badger explored the importance of having achievements which transcend your career. Try adding ‘Personal KPI’s’, to your usual work related performance indicators so that you are held accountable for these during our review periods. This process would encourage you to work towards our external life goals, and in-turn, improve our mental wellbeing. 

The Honey Badger also stressed the importance of not over complicating purpose. In true Honey Badger style, he explained that a purpose may be something simple, like setting yourself a ‘daily challenge to catch a fish’. The Resilience Project App is a daily well-being journal which prompts users to identify their emotions and record moments of gratitude. The app is a great way of encouraging users to recognise and celebrate achievements of any magnitude.

Getting back to nature

Nic is a keen traveller of Australia and when met by a blank response when he asked if any of us had ever been to The Kimberley, he actually posed the question, ‘Have you guys even been out of Sydney?’.

Getting back to nature is proven to be one of the most beneficial methods of mental health care so, The Kimberley is definitely on my holiday to do list but this principle can be incorporated into work.

Fortunately, we can implement this principle into our working life, without having to head out west. I regularly ‘work from home’, but that's exactly where I work, from home. Following Nick’s discussion I was left pondering, ‘why am I not taking advantage of living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and working from somewhere more picturesque?’.

Walking meetings are another great way of getting outside of the confinements of the office and refreshing your mind through the great outdoors. At PHD, we promote enjoyable walking routes to encourage participation in these modified meeting environments. Next time you are arranging a meeting that doesn’t require your laptop, why not suggest a stroll around a nearby park? It may be just what you, or your colleague needed that day. 

Not taking things too seriously 

If there is one person that encompasses this ethos, it is The Honey Badger. His ability to be himself and not take life too seriously is what has made him such an Australian legend. There is no doubt that this is an important aspiration in working life. Our chief planning officer, Alex Pacey, recently described his frustration with the phrase ‘Don’t stress too much, we are not saving lives’. He comically remarked on how unhelpful this advice is when people are under pressure.

I think this raises the importance of mindfulness when helping people work through times of work related stress. At times, we all need to be reminded to not take things too seriously. However, we may need to deliver it in a way that is both empathetic and individualised to the recipient. Of course, I haven’t reminded Pacey that he’s not saving lives for some time now.  

It was what he didn’t say that really spoke volumes to me. 

The Honey Badger must have experienced a lot in recent months. With all the media backlash, despite looking ‘as cool as a cucumber’, I can only imagine having 200 sets of eyes staring at him was probably the last thing he needed this morning. Yet you wouldn’t have known as he joked and had us all roaring with laughter. I was left to ponder that just because people seem to be ok, maybe it doesn’t always mean that they are. Raising awareness of mental health through placing the issue at the forefront of our industry’s agenda is essential. We need to make “R U OK” day, everyday. As six suicides a day is something that must change.

By PHD national new business and marketing director Chloe Hooper  

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