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Lockdown means a greater need to reach out


Rob Prugue, well-known investment manager and a former regional chief executive of Lazard Asset Management, has called on the financial services industry to appreciate the need for extra awareness of people’s mental state during the current lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne.

Prugue, the founder and director of People Reaching Out to People (PROP), a mental health education organisation, said yesterday (July 19) that staff and management in financial services had the same difficulties in checking on everyone’s mental wellbeing as with many other industries, for some companies more so.

He said that calls to Lifeline Australia, the national suicide prevention service, had been on the rise since the start of the pandemic in 2019. With the latest lockdowns in Australia, this just got worse.

“This is, more than ever, the time for everyone to be conscious of how their colleagues are feeling as well as their loved ones and friends. It is, more than ever, a time for people to reach out to people,” he said.

“One of the few positives to come out of COVID is that there seems to be a heightened awareness of the importance of mental health issues, but more needs to be done. Just as we do with fighting the biological impact from COVID-19, we equally all have a vital role to play in helping in the fight for our mental wellbeing.”

According to Lifeline, calls to its 24-hour service jumped 25 per cent in the first two weeks of the Sydney lockdown and even greater in Melbourne’s fifth hard lockdown.

A recent survey by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed how during the Melbourne lockdown, almost one-third of those participating reported feelings associated with depression and anxiety, compared to 18 per cent for the rest of Australia.

“From my thirty-five years’ experience in financial services, I know of companies who have enough difficulties helping their own staff with the mental stress, be it professionally or personally acquired,” Prugue said.

“COVID-19 has made everything more difficult. Lockdowns impede the everyday face-to-face interactions which can help us when we are down. We know from the many surveys conducted in the past 12 months that most employees would seek to spend some regular time in the office, albeit just two-to-three days a week. This demonstrates the importance of personal interactions. 

After all, we’re all social animals, and lockdowns can sadly have an ancillary effect on our mental wellbeing.”

PROP has recently launched an updated series of educational videos, including real-life cases of how people have dealt with their problems, and materials to help people in their discussions.

To register for the tutorials or contact us for other assistance, see

PROP’s partners include SuperFriend, Roses in the Ocean and TAL in developing an educational tutorial to unlearn the stigma around mental health. PROP assists in the education and awareness of the problems associated with mental health, particularly anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

– Greg Bright

IN Partnership

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