As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we would like to introduce you to our Head of Mental Health Services – Petra Velzeboer.
Petra started working with Medigold Health in 2018 and brings with her a very impressive array of skills including; International Keynote Speaker, Mental Health Consultant, Psychotherapist, Executive Coach, Podcast Host and Training Provider. Petra focuses on SOMETHING techniques to provide organisations with a more effective and positive approach to supporting mental health issues in the workplace.
Raised in a cult, Petra’s story is one of courage in the face of adversity. She firmly believes that if we utilise empathy and generate human connections at work, we can create mentally healthy workplaces and enhance productivity.
Here’s her story…
Petra Velzeboer was born into the infamous ‘Children of God’ cult where she was raised with the pressure of saving the world, with no formal education to speak of or resources on how to make it in the outside world. At 22 she moved to the UK pregnant, isolated from her family and support groups she tried as best she could to just be normal and fit into life on the outside. At 25, with 2 children and a boyfriend who went out to work, she experienced chronic isolation, depression and sank into alcohol dependence leading to suicidal ideation and destructive behaviours.
There was a moment in time when she realised she had a choice. She could either end everything now or she could give herself a deadline to figure out if there was a way to be happy and fulfilled in life. She decided to give herself a secret deadline of one year to figure it out. She used this time to observe people, read copiously and begin her education as a psychotherapist. She experimented therapeutic approaches in her own life in every form imaginable from exercise, learning, meditation, support groups, asking questions, attending events and then began practicing everything she learned on herself.
After the year had passed she realised that although everything wasn’t perfect, she no longer wanted to end it all and in 2012 she went on to complete her MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development. Somehow the girl with no education achieved something she never believed she could.
Her mental health support career has included working with young offenders via charities such as Young Minds, working as the Clinical Director of an EAP provider and running her own practice since 2009. She now runs a thriving Mental Health programme, which includes training leaders in mental health awareness, advising organisations on their mental health strategy, executive coaching for leaders wanting to create healthy workplaces and giving keynote talks on mental health, authenticity and creating the best place to work.
Petra knows that the world of work is changing and organisations who are ahead of the curve in mental health innovation are more likely to retain staff, avoid long term absences, create safer places to work and increase productivity.