WISE Wellbeing program sees John inspire others to advocate for mental health

Image of John sitting at a desk and looking at the cameraFrom the age of 14, John struggled with anxiety and depression, with it often getting in the way of leading a fulfilled life. Now 27, John is passionate about advocating for those living with a disability, and hopes to share his story as a way to inspire others to seek help and reach their full potential.

“Growing up, I suffered from debilitating mental health issues. As an Australian born with East Asian heritage, which certainly came with its own complexities, dealing with crippling anxiety and depression left me often feeling isolated and at times, in despair,” said John.

“Because of the nature of the depression and anxiety I experience, it had started to interfere with my academic abilities and hinder my capabilities. I was certain I wanted to find employment, but felt scared for the future despite the achievements that I had made at Macquarie University in the FirstSTEP Program. It was difficult to see other people, often those in leadership roles, who didn’t live with the weight of mental health issues. On the outside, they appeared to have incredible confidence and it was hard to not feel like I was being left behind,” explains John.

In 2019, John reached out to WISE Employment during his academic studies at Macquarie University, searching for a program that helped those living with a disability complete their education.

John was put forward for the GradWISE program, which offers students support throughout their degree. As part of this, John expressed his interest in WISE Wellbeing, an additional program that pairs individuals with a wellness coach to reach their full potential. The program offers a unique approach to understanding one’s fluctuating moods, abilities and habits, and the strategies used to overcome them.

“We begin with a questionnaire, to uncover common patterns in the individual that may be affecting their day-to-day life. Be that lack of social safety, negative thought pattern or perceived threats, we look to discover how gradual changes can optimise brain and body function, which ultimately aids both their personal and professional life,” say’s John’s WISE Consultant, Head of GradWISE, Ed Osano.

The WISE Wellbeing program was developed in partnership with Neurozone, who use specific and identifiable neuroscience behavioral markers to identify ways of sustaining high performance. Encompassing both physiological and emotional practices, in addition to regular check-ins with a WISE Wellbeing coach, the WISE Wellbeing program offers a nurturing yet tactical approach to achieving personal goals.

“When I first met John, it was clear he held incredible determination to succeed. One of the first things we worked on together was empowering him to feel comfortable disclosing his disability. There’s a shameful narrative in society that restricts us from being outspoken when it comes to mental health, but to be able to put yourself out there and discuss those challenges is a huge step to owning your own journey.”

“There’s an African proverb that I heard growing up which is ‘closed mouths don’t get fed’, and I see that now in John’s journey. From his own experience to how he continues to advocate for mental health, it’s not only rewarding for him, but he’s given back to students who are going through the same continuum and that speaks volumes to me,” said Ed.

In an effort to break the stigma surrounding mental health, John continues to work closely with WISE as a spokesperson, sharing his invaluable experience surrounding the job application process that landed him a placement in Deloitte’s graduate program as an Audit Transformation Operator, before commencing as a graduate analyst in the Private Audit division of Deloitte.

“WISE gave me the platform to speak on something I truly care about. It gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself and see the potential of who I could become.”

“Even though I have my flaws and I’ve made mistakes along the way, it gave me the resilience to bounce back and withstand those challenges.”

“Whether you’re living with a physical or mental disability, know that there are people out there who can help you and who understand, you just have to know where to find them.”

“To borrow a phrase from an inspirational person, mountains are there to climb, you just need to make the first step,” said John.

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