Confronting the crisis in mental health

23/12/2020 - 14:00

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Having overcome a range of her own personal challenges, Renée Gardiner is taking her holistic approach to mental health care to the corporate sector.

Renée Gardiner’s wellbeing academy, Kōta, is focused on mental health solutions. Photo: Charlie Octavia

This tumultuous year has certainly provided us all with plenty to reflect upon.

As we move into 2021 with a more positive outlook, it’s an opportunity to apply the massive lessons from this year, to fix things that became glaringly and obviously broken.

Mental health is among the areas that have come to the fore in 2020.

It’s something we can no longer ignore, and an area we can do so much better in.

 Perth-based social entrepreneur Renée Gardiner is one of those working to transform this space.

A Business News 40under40 winner in 2017, Ms Gardiner is the founder and director of recently launched health and wellbeing academy, Kōta.

Kōta provides organisations with innovative mental health solutions by combining the spiritual practices of traditional cultures with modern science, in order to address the emerging mental health crisis as a result of COVID-19.

“One in four people experience significant mental health challenges … increasing stress, volatility, isolation and loneliness are affecting more and more people,” Ms Gardiner told Business News.

“One body of research found that mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, would be the biggest global health risk by 2030; the events of this year and impact of the global pandemic have brought this forward a decade.”

New opportunity

Like many people, Ms Gardiner found that 2020 opened up a space to bring something really different into the world.

“I developed the vision for Kōta over two years ago, and for one reason or another it just wasn’t ready to be born. This year has seen an increase in awareness of mental health,” Ms Gardiner said.

“None of us are immune to COVID, the social, psychological, and economic impact the pandemic has created.

“There has never been a more important time to focus on our mental health and to embrace new ways of thriving individually and as a community.”

A holistic approach Ms Gardiner’s approach is different to those of many others because it’s one that is holistic, and a direct response to the massive gap in clinical care she experienced dealing with her own mental health issues, which arose after open heart surgery at just 33 years of age.

She said in order to heal, she needed care for all of her: mind, body and spirit.

“We’re all about looking at the whole being, the whole system … everything is related, and people can only feel well when their internal and external worlds align,” Ms Gardiner said.

Positive outcomes Kōta is currently delivering wellbeing and leadership programs to Veritas Group and Abel Property, using meditation and breathing practices.

“Our program with Abel Property has been running for just three months, with noticeable outcomes including greater self-awareness and kindness to peers, which has been noted in communication and actions, an increase in physical activity, and respect for the environment with people making more earth-friendly choices,” Ms Gardiner said.

“Staff are more aware of how external stress affects them physically and mentally and have adopted techniques to overcome this.”

The bottom line, and beyond

Beyond the obvious benefits of keeping staff happy and healthy, Kōta’s approach is also good for the bottom line.

“Mental health is a key determinant of overall health and prosperity. When we feel good, we can do good, and importantly build a sense of resilience to navigate the rapidly changing world we are living in,” Ms Gardiner said.

Veritas Group’s wellness program coordinator, Amanda McGregor, acknowledges the benefits that have been attained.

“We know that healthy, happy, engaged staff are the foundation of a successful business,” Ms McGregor said.

“We believe investing in mindset training, emotional intelligence and self-awareness benefit not only our staff but the daily interactions with our customers and ultimately our overall business success.”

And it’s also really important for the future.

“Change is the only constant and we need strong, conscious, and self-aware leaders and businesses to carry us forward, to build the new economy,” Ms McGregor said.

“One that I hope is based on compassion, greater awareness, peace and harmony, within ourselves, each other and the world around us, for life.”

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