Ingrid Ozols is a graduate of the Master of Suicidology program. Her work sees her telling her personal story to deliver education to workplaces and the community about mental health and suicide prevention.
When Ingrid started her early career, she found no resources to help employees who specifically needed mental health support in the workplace, so she created them herself.
As the founder of Mental Health At Work (mh@work®), a national mental health and suicide prevention consultancy that supports employers at strategic and practical levels to employ more Australians with mental health challenges, Ingrid is an advocate for organisational change in mental health services and suicide prevention through workplace and community education.
“Talking to employers – from CEO’s, Board Members to Senior Leadership Teams – it’s time to be courageous. It’s time to change your response to mental health challenges, to being human in a way that helps with staff retention and productivity, but also truly helps the employee,” she says.
“Through mh@work, I mentor organisations to create safe environments and cultures that are mental health friendly and have appropriately skilled workforces that know how to support the ups, downs, and life challenges of their employees.”
Ingrid says her move into the mental health and suicide prevention workforce is where she truly saw the need for reform in mental health service provision.
“As my working life started, I realised mental health issues were quite common, but rarely discussed. There is still a widespread reluctance for employees to disclose mental health issues to their employers for fear it will impact their employment,” she says.
“So I set up mh@work nearly 20 years ago. I wanted to give people a gift that was given to me very early in my career – compassion, kindness, and support during difficult personal challenges.”
Ingrid’s passion and drive to improve mental health services comes from her personal experiences with mental illness that started when she was young. Ingrid watched her mother live her life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and has herself been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She has also made several attempts at suicide.
But when mental health issues started appearing for her teenage daughter, Ingrid decided it was time to face her fears more fully and enrolled in the Master of Suicidology program.
“My masters gave me a chance to build relationships with people who have helped me further develop my work, but I undertook it for a very selfish reason: I wanted to learn more about what I was living with, what my daughter was living with, what her generation lives with,” she says.
“And it was by doing my masters that I started to develop a deeper understanding of what I could contribute to people’s lives including those close to me and professionally.
“I’ve shared my journey with so many people – my childhood, my own attempts at suicide, my immediate family’s mental health struggles. I used to fear this vulnerability.
“But we’re seeing this change globally around how mental health and suicide is being viewed and treated. The vision isn’t to take a parental view or suicide prevention through control, it is instead moving towards a socially inclusive view that’s person centered.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do in this space as an advocate for change.”
In 2019, Ingrid was named as a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to mental health and suicide prevention in the workplace. She sits on the Expert Advisory Group to the Prime Ministers National Suicide Prevention Adviser, and is a Lifeline Lived Experience Advisory Group Member, among many other official appointments.
If this article raises concerns for you, please contact LifeLine on 13 11 44, or visit the LifeLine website.