Lucy Brogden on how leaders can support their own mental health

Frederik Anseel, Professor of Management and Senior Deputy Dean (Research & Enterprise) at UNSW Business School, interviews Lucinda Brogden, National Mental Health Commission Chair and Commissioner, about the importance of leaders looking after their own mental health

Frederik Anseel: Managers reach out to us and they're asking for sort of personal suggestions, ways of dealing with those things. And of course, they’ll be looking at you as well as a role model, right? You have all the knowledge and expertise. And I'd be curious also to hear how you manage that in your own professional and personal life. You have a lot of responsibilities, you're juggling different roles. Is there anything that you can share about how you take care of your own mental health and wellbeing that others could learn from?

Lucy Brogden: I guess what I've realised is two key things. One is in addition to the knowledge, skills and abilities to do a job, it's important that you develop a philosophy around the work that you do. And I don't think we touch on that in management training or even in our undergraduate training. Think about what's the philosophy that will inform the decisions you make, the choices you make and the approach that you take? 

For me, doing my research on mood disorder in lawyers, I came across the Justinian principles. And one of those principles, doing a quick history lesson 1500 years ago, Justinian principles pulled forward a principle from Cicero that said, 'salus populi suprema lex': the wellbeing of the people is to be the highest law. 

Read more: Lucinda Brogden: how leaders can improve workplace mental health

So for me, my North Star is to put the question: is what I'm doing protecting the wellbeing of people? Is it promoting and enhancing? Or will it detract? And to be able to have that sort of guiding philosophy has been, I think, quite helpful and powerful for me in making decisions.

The second thing I found: I sit on the commission with a qualification in organisational psychology, but primarily as a carer. And I care for my husband who lives with depression and suicidal ideation. And what I've learnt in that journey of about 15-20 years, is the need to be quite conscious in the choices of being a carer and in living the life that I lead. 

And sometimes I think we become a little bit ambivalent and just get caught up in the flow of life without stopping and actually saying, "that test of the wellbeing of the people, if I apply that personally, is what I'm doing supporting my wellbeing, that or my family, or is it going to harm it?" And so I think it’s about being able to check into a philosophy, and to be really conscious about the choices that you make in life.

For more information read the full story: Lucinda Brogden: how leaders can improve workplace mental health.


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