Dr Cathy Day is a woman on a mission. With a career spanning over two decades in the education sector, including her recent 13 year tenure as the Executive Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Townsville, Cathy is now the current Chair of the Tropical Brain and Mind Foundation (TBMF), where she is working to establish a centre for brain health in North Queensland. Here, she discusses with us the importance of developing a mentally healthy city and the benefits it brings to both the community and the economy.
1. You are the Chair of the Tropical Brain and Mind Foundation (TBMF). Can you elaborate on some of the innovative brain health research that is coming from the Townsville region?
Our foundation has sponsored research to support mental health and support suicide prevention in young elite rugby league players. This was done with support of NRL, Cowboys and local schools and football clubs. The business community generously contributed via various fund-raising events.
Through our Mentally Healthy City program, we sponsored an evaluation of mental health literacy across the community. We are collaborating with Professor Riccardo Welters at JCU on a study of the dynamics of financial worry. This is an international research project with a view to identifying factors that may mitigate the dynamics of financial worry.
2. TBMF is working to establish a centre for brain health in Townsville. Why is the establishment of this centre important for both the growth of the region and development in brain health research?
This will be a research innovation centre looking at improving brain health and cognitive function through a multi-disciplinary approach with local community, tropical Australia and the global tropics as the main locations. The centre will provide job opportunities through the early construction phase but also through innovative research to improve brain health and cognitive function. It will have a broad outreach dedicated to advancing research and practice within well-integrated programmes on epidemiology, neurobiology, treatment of stress-related illness relevant to the tropical regions as well research designed to ensure high cognitive function for the newly emerging brain economy and a world in which AI and augmented intelligence are the main game.
3. Mentally Healthy City Townsville is a project initiative of the TBMF which aims to help the people of Townsville flourish and thrive as a community by heightening the focus on mental wellbeing. What are some of the resources available to help business owners and workers improve their mental wellbeing?
The MHC team delivers workshops to businesses based on the Mentally Healthy Workplace Toolkit and the Wheel of Well-being (WoW). The MHCT website also provides resources and information about events that businesses may find of benefit.
4. Studies have estimated that the cost of an unhealthy workplace to businesses in Australia is between $11 billion to $12.8 billion each year. How can business owners, founders and leaders work towards creating a healthier environment in the workplace?
Taking mental health seriously and especially acknowledging that people are the very best resource available to any business. Supporting staff in their mental health wellness programmes is key including – training, lifestyle audits etc. Auditing workplaces environments for stressors can provide valuable opportunities to make effective changes that will improve productivity and personal wellness for staff.
5. How does having a mentally healthy workplace contribute to delivering a stronger economy?
When staff have high resilience, a wellness mindset and a supportive healthy workplace, businesses will flourish with fewer sick days taken and stronger on the job mental presence, contributing to better business outcomes. Staff turnover will be reduced, and workplace culture will be positive.
You can find more information and resources on the Mentally Healthy City Townsville page here.