Mr Howes, who is also on the board of Beyond Blue, said the scale of the challenge with recognising and tackling depression and anxiety in Australia remains significant despite the progress made to reduce the stigma by not-for-profits and segments of corporate Australia.
He’s seen depression and anxiety take hold of his peers throughout various points in his career, making it clear that mental health issues aren’t necessarily helped by a person’s socio-economic status.
“In my previous life working at the Australian Workers Union, I dealt with unfortunately numerous instances of members of mine taking their own life due to issues associated with depression and anxiety,” Mr Howes said.
“The thing about it is it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t pick a particular socio-economic class, it doesn’t choose a particular industry, it doesn’t choose a community. It’s prevalent right across our society,” he said.
“My professional life… provides to me an insight into just how prevalent and widespread the issue is, and how far we have got to go as a society of addressing it,” he said.
Mr Howes believes professional services firms in particular have “come a long way” in providing support services to staff, and he is calling on all firms to reconsider what is available to those who may be suffering in silence.
“I think that most progressive, forward-looking employers are looking at how they can deal with these issues and educate their employees about how to best seek help. A number of professional services firms are leading the way on that, but as a nation we've still got a long way to go before we can say job done,” he said.
“We spend so much of our lives in our offices, so much of our lives with our colleagues, and in many instances, unfortunately for some people, we spend far more time with our colleagues than we do with our families,” he said.