Lessons learnt from SuperFriend’s first decade

By

01/09/2017

We’ve come such a long way since 2007, when Helen Hewett set up a non-profit organisation dedicated to preventing suicide and supporting workplace mental health and wellbeing through partnerships with the group insurance sector.

When it launched, SuperFriend had one person working half a day each week. Today, we are a team of 19, running an organisation with annual revenue of $4 million. I am proud to say that the growth in SuperFriend’s reach and influence – via the education, training and support programs we deliver with our many partners – has far exceeded our expectations for an organisation of this scale.

SuperFriend has helped thousands of people build confidence and skills through practical, evidence-based wellbeing training programs and other resources.

And thanks to the commitment and support of some truly amazing people, I am optimistic that we will achieve even bigger things in our second decade.

SuperFriend’s 23 partner funds are all from the profit-to-member sector. They give us a reach of 7.5 million Australians, who work for 750,000 employers across every industry in the economy.

Our seven life insurer partners, which all operate within the superannuation industry as group insurance providers, work hard to deliver the best wellbeing outcomes for the millions of Australians they insure.

Of course, we could not have achieved anything without collaboration from the mental health sector, both here and overseas. Dozens of research and advocacy organisations have helped us build our expertise in suicide prevention, mental health and wellbeing. There are simply too many of these wonderful organisations to list.

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A decade of highlights

SuperFriend’s workplace diagnostic program, Wellbeing Works, has helped hundreds of employers start assessing wellbeing in their workplace.

In recent years, we’ve undertaken lots of research and delivered insights to influence policies and practices.

One recent game-changing achievement was influencing the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance to develop a national framework to foster mentally healthy workplaces in Australia. Based on experiences in Canada, we expect this framework to significantly change the workplace landscape in Australia.

Two more standout examples are our mental illness claims data project, SuperMIND, and a groundbreaking annual national survey called Work In Progress. The 2017 Work in Progress survey results provide some incredibly important national and industry insights for employers and employees.

In October 2015, SuperFriend launched TAKING ACTION, a framework developed with Professor Niki Ellis to help our partners deliver bestpractice claims management to members. Safe Work Australia is only months away from incorporating TAKING ACTION into workers compensation schemes in every state and territory. This means all life and workers compensation insurance providers will be working from the same best-practice framework for psychological claims – a major achievement.

Looking ahead

Considering all of this, I’m struck that the core reason SuperFriend has been so successful in its first decade is because of how we work. Crosssector collaboration with likeminded, passionate and talented people has empowered us to make a real difference in suicide prevention and workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Every Australian worker deserves a mentally healthy workplace. Australians who are ill or injured deserve best-practice claims management and the opportunity to return to meaningful work in a mentally healthy workplace, devoid of stigma, bullying and other traumas.

There is still plenty of work to be done to achieve these goals.

More than 3000 lives are sadly lost to suicide every year in this country. I believe elevating the role of workplaces in suicide prevention can play a critical role in addressing this issue.

Employers desperately need assistance to ensure their leaders and managers have the right support, education and guidance to help their staff – not just the one in five Australians who experience mental illness each year, but the five in five Australians who go to work every day.

We need to help every Australian improve their mental health so they can thrive in all aspects of life, irrespective of illness.

I look forward with great optimism to the work we will do to reduce suicide, improve wellbeing for all Australian workers and help workplaces thrive.