Dan Hunt – Founder of The Mental Health Movement
Posted November 22, 2017, by Jenny Sakr
NRL professional turned mental health activist, Dan Hunt, says that despite having dreams of being an NRL player since the age of 6, starting The Mental Health Movement has been one of the best decisions he’s ever made!
The Mental Health Movement platform provides awareness, education, coping strategies, helpful resources and clinical support. They’re also having huge success providing a Mental Health Blueprint to industry and corporate organisations, particularly in the mining industry.
“I am loving working within the company, growing it, sharing the platform and ultimately helping individuals and organisations build resilience, and better manage their mental health and wellbeing…. I’m a believer of having a strong personal brand and mine is all about helping others through implementing and facilitating programs, public speaking and interacting with different people and communities from all walks of life. I believe that you cannot help others without first helping yourself.”
When did you start The Mental Health Movement and what inspired it?
The Mental Health Movement was created and founded in April of 2016. It was inspired by my own personal struggles, my passion for helping others and from seeing a big need that I felt I could help fill.
I come from an upbringing of domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse. I was conditioned to get on with it, get over it and harden up. As a young man, I struggled a lot with moods, relationships, school and behaviour. During my NRL career of nine years I went through a lot of trouble and suffering from performance, injuries, addiction, poor mental health, relationship problem, alcohol abuse and I was diagnosed type 2 bipolar in 2010.
Since my diagnosis, I have been on a path of self-discovery, development, awareness and improvement to learn to manage both my mental illness and my mental health, and to be the best version of myself every day.
I have been to Tafe and University and studied in social work, community services, AOD (alcohol and other drugs), mental health, mental health first aid instructor training, business and personal fitness.
I began working with many not for profits and charities sharing my story to inspire and help others whilst I was still playing. I was forced into retirement in 2015 through a career-ending knee injury with two years still to run on my contract. I was very lucky I studied and found a passion for mental health.
I retired and transitioned into a welfare and education role with the St George Illawarra Dragons. During this time I was inspired and motivated to start my own company the, Mental health Movement. I had seen the need in the space and wanted to create a platform that did more than just raise awareness.
What did you do before MHM and why the change?
I am a former NRL player and played 150 games over a nine-year career with the St George Illawarra Dragons. I retired in early 2015 and transitioned into a welfare and education role within the team.
I was managing a lot at the time – the role at the dragons, building the MHM, NRL ambassador, St George Bank mental health and wellbeing ambassador, and I had just had a newborn son…. something had to give. I resigned and went full time with the Mental Health Movement in May of 2017.
I wanted to make sure I was practising what I preach and maintaining a work-life balance is very important. I had this massive passion and desire to grow the MHM so decided to go full-time and give it my all.
What did you study and what are the steps you took to be where you are today?
Certificate III and Certificate IV in Fitness
Certificate in Advanced Strength Training
First Aid Certificate
Diploma in Business Management
Certificate IV in Mental Health
Certificate IV in AOD (alcohol and other drugs)
Mental Health First Aid Certificate + Qualified MHFA Certificate Trainer
Certificate IV and Diploma in Community Services
I said yes to every opportunity that came my way since retirement, I surrounded myself with successful people, I asked a lot of questions, I worked in the space with many organisations and saw how they all worked and functioned, and I got out there on the front lines, speaking and engaging with as many people as possible.
I took all that and built my vision from the ground up. Now I have a company that has five employees, a successful platform that provides workshops, presentations and programs that includes our mental health blueprint. We have spoken to over 25,000 individuals worked with over 35 companies and have a telehealth app that provides people with online face-to-face psychology and counselling.
Tell us what a typical day at work looks like for you…
At the moment we are doing a lot of work in the mining industry travelling throughout Australia. In particular with the FIFO workers in Western Australia.
A typical day at the moment we are onsite at 4:30 am with the safety crew. We present to the morning crew and then go underground or onsite to engage with the workforce and get a good understanding of what they do. This builds repour with the workforce. We then provide one-on-one consults for any employee wanting to put together a mental health action plan or just get some extra support. We work alongside the EAP (employment assistance program) linking the workforce with support if needed.
We then work with safety crews identifying issues at hand and see where we can assist in building resilience and improving the mental health and well-being of the workforce.
We also present to the night shift crew then head offsite back to the mining camp at about 6 pm. Massive days but well worth it!
What was your first job and what do you think it taught you?
I worked at Woolworths in the produce department. It taught me time management, work ethic, good communication and teamwork. These skills have been invaluable to me throughout my life in many different ways. Developing them at such a young age was integral to the values and behaviours I became conditioned to in being successful.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?
Going from wearing footy boots playing in front of 40,000 people to wearing a high-vis uniform walking on the red dirt of the Pilbara in Western Australia working with various mining companies.
Name the best and worst parts of starting your job
The best part is I get to challenge myself every day in developing and creating ways to help more and more people. The worst part is I spend a lot of time travelling and being away from my family. I’m lucky I have a great understanding wife that supports myself and the MHM
What qualities and skills should people have if they want to work in the field of mental health?
I think important qualities include patience, empathy, understanding, being able to listen, perseverance, passion, honesty. Individuals need to be striving to be the best versions of themselves every day.
Skills include lived experience, formal training within the field, public speaking, active listening, the passion to want to help others, you need to be resilient also.
Name a career highlight
Looking back and seeing that all my challenges, adversities and changes in my life have led me to get educated and put my lived experience and education together to start my own company and help others every single day. The MHM platform and Mental Health Blueprint has spoken to over 25,000 people in just over 18 months.
What’s next for you?
To continue to develop and grow the company, continue to develop services and products to help others better manage their mental health and build resilience. I want to continue to share my story with as many individuals and organisations as possible. To collaborate with like-minded individuals, companies and organisations to fulfil our mission, values and purpose.
Inspired to make a difference in your community? Your path to a more fulfilling career starts with a course in Mental Health, Health and Community Services – enquire today and help make tomorrow better.
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.