A top Kiwi boss says businesses need to do a much better job of looking after workers' mental health.

Xero New Zealand chief executive Craig Hudson has battled his own mental health issues and saw it as his duty to reduce some of the stigma around it.

Hudson said there'd be times earlier in his career when he'd "contemplated not coming home" and thought his family would be better off without him.

He'd also been told in a previous job "to not bring your baggage to work".


"For me, that's ridiculous…the statistics here in New Zealand are ridiculous, not only from a suicide perspective but also from a mental health perspective and we [need to] realise that we've got a collective responsibility to look after each other in a work environment," Hudson said.

Being a younger executive, Hudson said he had an ability to break the mould.

"You have to be quite brave to tackle something like this and raise it in a position of leadership where traditionally the stigma around mental health is [that it's] a weakness and could be potentially career limiting and if you talk you're going to get judged," he said.

Xero is today launching a new 'wellbeing leave' policy, under which its staff can access personal leave for their wellbeing and mental health when needed.

Hudson, who leads a team of more than 1000 people at the accounting software firm in this country, said the policy would go some way to making people realise "it's okay to not be okay".

"Mental health is exactly the same as having a cold [and the policy means] you're able to take time to look after yourself," he said.

Around one in five New Zealanders are impacted by some form of mental illness.

Hudson said it's important for companies to address mental health as workers' performance can be affected when they are struggling.


"[Mental health] also has an impact on overall bottom line performance as well, because your ability to be able to bring your truer self to work when you're struggling is impacted," Hudson said.

"Without your people you don't have a business."

And while it might be mental health week this week, Hudson said the matters needs ongoing attention the other 51 weeks of the year.

"It shouldn't just be a one day thing, it should be an ongoing engagement across all employees around the country," Hudson said.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or text HELP (4357). Available 24/7.
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support.

For others, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines/