by Alan Stokes
Originally published: July 3, 2017
Every day Kevin Figueiredo is responsible for keeping 190,000 Australians safe. That means reducing the usual physical, chemical and environmental hazards. Increasingly, though, mental illness is becoming a focus. Figueiredo is not running a psychiatric ward or a crisis centre. As general manager of safety, health and wellbeing at the Woolworths Group, he is on the frontline of a workplace battle that’s been lost for too long.
But his company, like an increasing number of others, is making progress and there’s a chance the good work will spread across more organisations.
“I started out on this journey without any lived experience of mental health issues or suicide among my family or friends,” Figueiredo says. “Last month we hired a manager whose primary task is to develop suicide prevention and mental health programs for staff. And he reminded me: ‘You do have a lived experience. You work with people who have struggled and emerged safely.’ To my mind, they are champions of mental wellness.”