JOHN Brogden is chief executive of Landcom, chairman of Lifeline, and an open book on his mental health status.
"I have depression, I have suicidal ideation, I manage that with medication and my psychiatrist, and I try and balance that with how I live," the former Liberal Party leader says.
"We see lots of people who are living with depression telling positive stories, we don't see enough who have been through a suicide attempt and come out out the other side. Some people think you can't function again but a lot of psychiatrists say telling the experience of coming through is helpful."
On October 15 Mr Brogden will address the Newcastle Business Club and send a strong message about mental health awareness.
"One in 4 or 5 Australians will at some point have a mental illness, a large percentage of the workforce will have a mental illness, we can ignore or embrace it," he says. "The critical point is that just as good employers in 2019 would not have a physically unsafe workplace, can they say they have a mentally safe workplace."
Mr Brogden was 33 in 2002 when he became the leader of the NSW Liberal party, then in opposition, after entering Parliament at 27. In late 2005 he resigned after controversial behaviour then tried to take his own life.
"I spent 10 years in politics and loved every day except the last one," he says, adding depression and a stressful job led to his downfall.
While mental health may not start at work, it manifests in the workplace thus employers must "do the right thing": "The law is black and white: we must provide a mentally healthy workplace in the same way we must provide a physically healthy one," Mr Brogden says.
He attributes his recovery and wellbeing to being keenly self-aware: "We are good as Australians at doing things we think we should but if I am not comfortable, I won't go there," he says.
He is optimistic about removing mental health stigma yet sees it "everywhere".
"If you've 100 staff and someone has cancer, you rally around them. With mental illness, people jump to ask, 'Can they do their job?', not, "Let's help them get better."