Raised in a cult, Petra’s story is one of courage in the face of adversity. She believes if we utilise empathy and generate human connection at work we can create mentally healthy workplaces and enhance productivity.
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 gave herself a secret deadline of one year to figure it out. She utilised this time to observe people, read and begin her education as a psychotherapist. She experimented on her own life in every form imaginable from exercise, learning, meditation, joining support groups, asking people questions, attending events and practicing everything she learned on herself.
After the year passed she realised everything wasn’t perfect but she no longer wanted to end it all and in 2012 she completed her MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development. The girl who had no education had achieved something she never thought she could.
Her career has spanned working with young offenders, with mental health charities such as Young Minds, working as Clinical Director of an EAP and running her own practice since 2009. She now runs a thriving Mental Health consultancy 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 keynotes 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, retain staff, avoid long term absences, create safer places to work and are ultimately more productive environments.
– Toxic to healthy work culture
– Mental health innovation
– Turning adversity into advantage
– Stress and resilience
“We had the pleasure of having Petra speak at an internal Guardian employee event for mental health awareness week 2019. The honesty in which she shared her personal experience was quite moving. She was both informative and inspirational. I would highly recommend her workshop.”
-Event Producer | The Guardian
“After Petra’s session, every person I spoke to said how much they had enjoyed the experience and that it had been the best speaker ever invited by the company. I would certainly echo that sentiment and recommend Petra to any business looking to develop a positive attitude towards employee’s Mental Health. Great job Petra!”
-Owner | Because Brands Matter
“Feedback from all of the delegates was that Petra’s session was honest, informative and inspiring and her open nature encouraged a lot of questions and debate! I would have Petra speak at any of our events in a heartbeat- I believe she really gave our audience of 120+ HR leaders a lot to think about following her session. If you get the chance to hear her story- take it! Thanks Petra!”
-Brand Marketing and Community | Peakon