Four insurance leaders in Australia have joined the inaugural CEO Skydive, an initiative that aims to raise funds for mental health research and programs that reduce the incidence of mental illness and suicide.
Organised by not-for-profit Black Dog Institute (BDI), the event saw 15 bosses skydive with Experience Co on April 30 in Wollongong for the benefit of mental health research – with the total funds reaching an impressive $200,000.
James Baum (Aon), Damien Coates (DUAL), Stefan Feldmann (HDI Global), and David Kearney (Wotton + Kearney) were part of the group of CEOs who skydived – with their jumps recorded or live streamed so that loved ones, co-workers, and friends could watch from home.
Kearney commented that the experience took him and the other bosses out of their comfort zone, adding: “It was worth it because it gave us the platform to raise awareness about mental health issues and raise funds for the Black Dog Institute.”
Coates, a BDI mental health ambassador, added: “This was an exhilarating experience for all of us. I’m so proud that of the 15 CEOs who skydived, four were from the insurance industry. It shows just how important we consider the issues of mental health.”
BDI is a clinical organisation that focuses on diagnosing, preventing, and treating mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar.
Despite swearing that he would never skydive, Baum still joined other leaders in the mental health initiative. He summed up the experience, saying: “It’s hard to choose another word other than ‘exhilarating’. I wasn’t quite sure when we got in that plane but once we edged out of that door it was amazing. I really want to thank everyone for supporting the Black Dog Institute to do what they do.”
Speaking about Aon’s relationship with BDI, Baum told Insurance Business: “We provide funding to the Black Dog Institute on an ongoing and annual basis as they’re our charitable partner. So, this event is in addition to what we would normally do with them.
“Also, the Black Dog Institute is a little bit different from other mental health organisations as they’re a clinical organisation and they do clinical studies. So, we do a lot of focus groups with them as well, which is really helpful for them. They come in and talk to our colleagues about their experiences, and we’re more than happy to provide time for BDI.”
Feldmann added: “It was unreal to be jumping out of a plane and falling through the clouds, which makes you realise just how fast you fall. I also want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement and support.”