HKA supports World Mental Health Day 2022

We recognise the devastating toll mental health issues can put on those who suffer and their loved ones. We can only achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients if we do the same for our colleagues; through supporting mental health initiatives and erasing the stigma and misunderstandings surrounding mental health issues.

See below some of the ways our colleagues support mental health initiatives, how they support their own mental health and top tips on how to do so.

Gerry Brannigan, Partner, Europe

19 March 2022 marked my 10-year anniversary of joining Cadogans, now HKA … I was a new relatively young managing director back then and was so focused on ensuring that I, and the business, was successful. I worked every hour I could and was all about work. When I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work. I was worried about work, worried about my team and my clients… I just couldn’t switch off. I worked and spent time with my young daughter in the few hours I didn’t appear to be working…but now I question whether I really was “present” at that time. I let down my friends by not seeing them, and when I did… I was talking about work! My marriage wasn’t going well… apparently, I wasn’t great to live with!  On top of that, my health started being affected too. I was encouraged to do something… anything, that would be for me.  

After a 20-year gap since I played golf as a junior, I called my local club, bought a set of clubs, booked a lesson with the club pro and joined that weekend. Within a few weeks, I was hooked.  

I quickly discovered that golf helped teach me how to switch off my work brain. Each shot, as you stand over the ball, needs a balance of focus, calmness and confidence to commit you to the shot you’re about to hit. If something pops into your mind at that point, you won’t execute your shot properly.  

So, is this about golf? No. It’s about mental health and learning how to be more effective and present, both at work and at home. Golf was my way of learning how to clear my mind, and it still is. I know I wouldn’t be doing the job I’m doing now if I hadn’t taken up golf nearly 10 years ago and learned how to “switch off”.   

So, what’s your “golf”? 

(And, if you fancy a round sometime to help clear your head… don’t hesitate to give me a call.) 

Thu Duncan-Nguyen, Director, Business Development, Americas

I know my own Mental Health is not always easy to focus on or is consistently top of mind – it is a continually growing work-in-progress that I actively need to remind myself to pay attention to.

However, what keeps me motivated to prioritize my mental health well-being is that there are many people whom I love and care for who need my mind to be healthy. This includes my children and family, my colleagues, my clients and most importantly, myself.

Benjamin Highfield, Partner, Regional CEO, Asia Pacific and Jude Wilson-Brown, Regional Marketing Manager, Middle East

HKA is proud to sponsor and support the Dubai Hurricanes, encouraging gender equality in sport and supporting the beneficial impact in which sport can have on mental health.

“Taking part in sport at any age plays a tremendous role in shaking off the stresses of life. The Dubai Hurricanes create a diverse and welcoming team environment that does exactly this.”

Benjamin Highfield

“Sport creates an environment where individuals can not only develop social skills and build great relationships, which supports mental health, but also allows families to feel a sense of community and support away from home.”

Jude Wilson-Brown

To recognise World Mental Health Day, HKA is pleased to support and donate to World Federation for Mental Health, Lighthouse Club and Mental Health America.

Lona Madabane, Managing Consultant, Africa

Mental health is sometimes one of the most overlooked aspects in our lives and mental health awareness days remind us to take a moment to pause and reflect on how we are mentally as this affects all aspects of our lives.

What I try to do to take care of my mental health is do the things I enjoy… and I try to exercise. Exercise releases the “happy hormones”, so love it or hate it, it is scientifically proven to be good for you. I find hiking a much more enjoyable form of exercise and the fact that’s in out in nature, pure joy. I now try to organise monthly hikes with friends as a way to stay active, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy a catch-up session with them.

What I also do is have interests not related to my work; my latest hobby being sewing. I took this up during lockdown and am loving it. I’ve made a few items already and planning a few more before the year is over. One of the biggest things the Covid lockdowns made me appreciate… human interaction. Technology is great but there is nothing like a face-to-face and a hug from a friend.

The above are just some ways I prioritise my mental health. One other thing that I would also recommend is therapy. Our medical aid allows for some free therapist visits every year so make use of those. Life can get overwhelming, so make sure you find ways to offload, vent and just take care of your mental health in a way that works for you. It’s important for your overall well-being.  

Laura Whyte, Marketing and Communications Manager, Global

As someone who has struggled with mental health issues from a young age, I’m so grateful for days such as World Mental Health Day! It gives people the courage to tackle mental health issues head on and helps banish unhelpful taboos.

You should never feel ashamed about having issues with mental illnesses, and the first and most important step to help get yourself better is speaking to someone about it.

There are many ways that I try to keep my mental health in a good place – whether it’s getting out for a good hike with my husband and two dogs, or ensuring I get enough sleep. I’m also not ashamed to say I rely on anti-depressants to help keep anxiety and depression at bay. I was once ashamed to admit this to others, but I now embrace that they are important part of ensuring I’m able to live my life in the happiest way possible.

R U OK? Day, Oceania

Each year, our Oceania colleagues recognise R U OK? Day. This year, we were privileged to hear from Andre Kock, an R U OK? Day Community Ambassador. The focus was to bring the topic of mental health front of mind and to remind colleagues to ask, “are you okay?”; reinforcing that no qualifications are needed to initiate a conversation.

Andre shared his personal story with our colleagues within a supportive, safe and open environment which allowed others to share their own personal stories.

When initiating a conversation, use these four steps:

  1. Ask “are you okay?”
  2. Listen actively
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check-in

If you are concerned about someone, have the courage and confidence to check in and ask how they are doing. A conversation could truly change a life, and remember, it is okay not to be okay.


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