Fiona Grimmer, (pictured left) Marketing Manager with HorizoneOne Recruitment used her acceptance speech at the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, to highlight the need for mental health support and awareness in the workplace.
Grimmer was named the winner of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Award for the ACT, announced at a gala event held at Canberra’s Hotel Realm on March 12.
Grimmer, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, said mental health, while not a central focus of her application, was at the forefront of her mind when accepting the very prestigious award given the platform it provides to be heard.
“There are so many people out there like me out there who are suffering, yet also thriving while they are living with a mental health illness,” she said when accepting the award.
“Did you know that one in five Australians aged 16-5 experience a mental illness within their lifetime? Almost 50 per cent of those people with a mental illness do not access any treatment.
“I think that is in part not only because of the potential stigma that may come with being diagnosed but also because people don’t understand how absolutely normal it is to experience a mental health issue. It is normal.
“Mental health issues come in all different shapes and sizes. They affect everyone differently and they do not have to stop you from becoming a valuable and successful person.”
Speaking with The Brief, Grimmer who is “helping to successfully disrupt the recruitment industry in Canberra”, added she is pleased she made the decision to use her acceptance speech as a platform to talk about her experience and advocate for awareness about the issue.
“I have been completely overwhelmed by the support and encouragement following my win,” she said. “Mental illness is such a personal subject and one that effects people who you would never guess. I have been approached and thanked by some incredible people for speaking out.”
Grimmer was nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards by HorizonOne’s founder and Director, Simon Cox, who she says, did not appreciate at the time that the application process was extremely time-consuming.
“It was a nice gesture that he thought of me when reading about the award criteria and that he thought it was a good chance for my work to be recognised,” she says of the nomination.
“A number of the application questions were very personal, so even though the awards are business related and looking at specific achievements, it’s also a lot about each applicant’s story.”
Grimmer insists it is important for the recruitment and staffing sectors to acknowledge and educate clients about mental health illness, how common it is and why it should not be a deterrent to employing candidates with mental health issues.
“I do understand why some employers may be reluctant to take on someone with a mental health illness,” she said. “Up until my Telstra win, 80 per cent of my colleagues didn’t know my story, “Before my own issues arose, I had no experience of mental health issues and I certainly didn’t have the education to understand the realities of someone living with a mental health illness. I likely thought that a lot of people just needed to toughen up and get on with it.
“And I think that is the problem. Education: I didn’t have it and neither do so many people. We need to educate employers on what a mental health issues really means. How it affects literally one in five Australians and how it doesn’t mean that person won’t be a valuable employee.”
That said, Grimmer also accepts that speaking openly about mental health issues is not going to be something everyone is comfortable with and which will even always be well received in the workplace.
“Everyone is on their own journey and the best thing you can do is to be kind,” she added. Grimmer said workplaces can assist and support those experiencing mental health issues by ensuring open conversation is encouraged and people feel safe to reveal themselves and problems they may be experiencing.