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With the loss of his parents at a young age, Michael decided to make it his life’s mission to be an advocate for mental health.

Every decision has led him to where he is today – from getting his degree to the habits he has created in his day-to-day life – it all contributes to a broader effort to improve the mental health of the people he meets and works with.

Meet Michael in his own words…

I’m Michael Elwan, the General Manager Outreach at Richmond Wellbeing, one of the largest mental health organisations in WA. My journey into mental health advocacy began under heartbreaking circumstances; I lost my father at 16 and later, my mother to suicide. This sparked an early sense of responsibility and a deep understanding of the complexities of mental health. Through academic and professional avenues, I’ve dedicated myself to advocating for mental health issues.

Tell us how being involved in one of our leadership programs has helped you? What changed or shifted in you as a result?

The Emerging Leaders in Governance Program was instrumental in honing my leadership abilities. Before this, my understanding of governance was theoretical. ELGP allowed me to understand the practical implications and responsibilities of board membership, thus transforming my outlook on what effective leadership in mental health should entail.

What was the first step you took to build your leadership or create change?

The first step I took was to pursue further education. I knew that to advocate effectively for mental health, I needed a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Thus, I pursued an extensive and rigorous academic journey. My educational background began with a Bachelor of Business (Accounting), was expanded with an MBA (Distinction), and later refined with a focus on mental health through a Graduate Certificate in Mental Health, and a Master of Social Work. I have also earned a Diploma in Psychology, a MicroMasters of Business Leadership, and a MicroMasters of Organisational Psychology.

What is an important leadership lesson you’ve learnt along the way?

Leadership is not a solitary exercise. Every decision made impacts a network of lives. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the long-term implications of today’s actions, especially in mental health where the stakes are extraordinarily high.

Tell us about a mistake or a failure that’s helped you understand something about leadership or making an impact?

Earlier in my career, an overemphasis on analytics distanced me from the human aspect of mental health. This led to a poorly received initiative. The lesson was clear: data should inform decisions, not dictate them.

What habits, mindsets or behaviours help you be the best person you can be?

Mindfulness and proactive learning are key. These habits not only improve my professional capabilities but also contribute to personal well-being, which is crucial in my line of work.

How do you take care of yourself?

Work-life balance is essential. I prioritise self-care through exercise, adequate sleep, and engaging in activities that rejuvenate my mind and spirit.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently focused on my PhD studies on lived experience leadership in mental health. This aligns well with my future plans to influence policy on both a national and global scale.

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