Managing Mental Health

David Springett , 15 December 2016

David Springett reports on the recent NSW ARB workshop looking at mental health in architecture.

The NSW Architects Registration Board’s Managing Mental Health workshop, held in Sydney on 17 October, 2016, is part of a larger project instigated by the ARB looking at mental health in the profession. The project is in reponse to the ARB’s realisation that a number of registered architects are requesting exemptions due to ongoing mental health issues. It appears that a greater-than-the-normal population needs assistance with mental health in architecture, suggesting that the profession has some specific issues.

At the workshop Professor Ian Hickie presented research on law, medicine as well as architecture, while Professor John Mendoza presented presented a literature review as a first step to understanding the issues in relation to architecture.  This wide-ranging paper presented current knowledge on mental health in creative industries, workplace culture, educational settings and indications for some solutions. The full report can be downloaded from the ARB website.

The discussion at the workshop covered the areas of ‘youth brain transformation’ and the setting of difficult parameters during initial architectural education, established relationships and the ongoing role of CPD to address issues of anxiety and other mental health issues.

General discussion raised the idea that ‘employment within a toxic workplace culture is worse than unemployment. Maria Lyneham from USA, discussed evidence-based treatment for sexual abuse with the university population, and specifically within the creative professions such as architecture. and the impact upon gradutes to their mental health.

A panel of industry representatives including Leone Lorrimer, CEO of Suters (and ACA member) discussed the cycle of employment, the character of the profession, student mental health, and creation of time for wellbeing.

ACA – NSW/ACT will continue to participate in this important discussion. If any member would like to discuss any issue arising from this topic then please contact ACA – NSW/ACT for further contacts and information.

Mental health organisations and resources

The NSW ARB suggests the following resources.


beyondblue is the national depression initiative, providing comprehensive online information on the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and how to help someone. You can also ring their info line on 1300 22 4636 for the cost of a local call.

The Black Dog Institute

The Black Dog Institute is a not-for-profit, educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility offering specialist expertise in depression and bipolar disorder. Visit their website for resources and links, up-to-date research and information on community programs and getting help.

The Australian Institute of Architects

The Australian Institute of Architects Senior Counsellor Service provides confidential assistance to architects who may need guidance or advice on projects, client matters or in relation to their professional responsibilities. You can call on 02 9246 4055.

Other resources

The Conversations for life® App developed by ConNetica provides people with the knowledge, tools and skills to plan conversations with individuals whose wellbeing and mental health they are concerned about. This might include a colleague, client or architect that you know.

We can’t control everything life throws at us, but we can often control how we choose to respond. Research shows that managing stress or anxiety can be helped by the act of colouring. The University of Melbourne’s Dr Stan Rodski worked with student of architecture, Jake Dowling, to develop a range of colouring books designed to create a calming or meditative state. For more, check out: