Testimonials

Consulting & Communications

I have drawn on Sarb’s expertise in psychosocial recovery in managing the response to some of the major emergencies of the last decade, from the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, to the Christchurch earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those working on an emergency response are often unaware of the importance of psychosocial recovery as part of the steps to be taken when dealing with the immediate issues. Sarb’s work has helped me maintain an awareness of the underlying pressures on people working on emergency responses and to communicate that awareness to staff, so that they in turn could better manage some very difficult situations.

Sarb has an ability to turn complex issues into simple, easy to manage concepts and his workshops are very well received.
I would recommend him to anyone dealing with complex management issues.

We approached Sarb to help us reach out to our staff during the Covid-19 lockdown. We wanted to offer increased levels of support and were keen to do something that achieved cut-through.

Sarb ran with our ideas, creating professional quality video content on a tight timeframe, and opening the door to new ways of communicating with our staff. Videos of an actual person sharing good advice really helped get the message across and showed that as an organisation we can talk about things like mental health, wellbeing and supporting staff in a timely and appropriate way.

Our health and wellbeing team now meets regularly to discuss how we can better support staff and Sarb’s name and the videos often come up. We have a more coherent programme of work, more impactful internal communications and a better level of staff engagement, so we are starting to gain traction.
In the past, we have struggled with video content producing poor results, thanks to low production values, or long, complex amateurish content. Thanks to Sarb’s work, our view of video has now changed. I have recommended Sarb to many professional colleagues and would happily work with Sarb again.

Over the last decade, Sarb has provided valuable support through several emergencies in the Canterbury region. He is approachable, articulate and adaptable, and has a rare ability to bridge the gap between officials, politicians, policy makers and the community.

Sarb has deep knowledge of psychological and psychosocial processes and an ability to present these simply to a lay audience. He has helped us connect our mental health promotion and community development strategies with trusted theories of psychology and disaster management, and he always offers simple steps individuals can take to enhance their agency, calm, safety and connection. I have learned a huge amount from Sarb and am grateful for his continued support.

Sarb’s experience and high public profile created a sense of buzz around our stakeholder workshops, resulting in strong attendance and enhancing our ability to get our message heard.

Sarb’s workshops provided a meaningful opportunity to engage our stakeholders and work towards our strategic goal of building resilience. The knowledge he shared has proved a great conversation starter and provided valuable material for future resurgence planning and training. Sarb is professional, great to work with and I would highly recommend his workshops to others in CDEM (civil defence emergency management).

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, we approached Sarb to help us understand the implications and how we could best support clients and colleagues during this time.

Sarb quickly understood what we were trying to achieve and created a webinar, sharing valuable knowledge and lived experience of psychosocial recovery and crisis. He prepared us to understand our own responses to the pandemic, and to provide effective support to our clients.

The webinar also created an opportunity to build ongoing relationships with psychologists and other professionals across the country, who joined us for the training. I would recommend Sarb to any organisation seeking expert advice around understanding and managing a significant public crisis.

We sought Sarb’s expert advice [regarding] the psychology of communicating important health messages during the Covid-19 pandemic. We needed to connect with many different parts of New Zealand society in a way that was reassuring, cultivated trust and inspired strong uptake of health messaging and behaviours.

Sarb helped us strike the right tone, ensuring New Zealanders knew exactly what they needed to do…. Sarb proved the value of having someone with his expertise embedded in a communications team, particularly in life/death/crisis communications.

Sarb makes a real positive difference in people’s lives at times when they need it most. His expertise and guidance (often requested at short notice), has helped us ensure that individuals and communities affected by adverse events get the right support.

One of Sarb’s great strengths is his ability to relate easily to people, to help them make sense of what is going on and to support their recovery with practical advice. He helps people understand emotional reactions to a crisis, recognise the symptoms and face challenges positively.

Sarb has offered quality, relevant advice and psychosocial care to staff and managers facing a range of challenges. We appreciate his strong support and never hesitate to call him when faced with a crisis.

When a prolonged drought in Northland overlapped with the Level 4 Covid-19 lockdown, we realised that our core staff were becoming stressed and worn out. The cumulative impact of working long hours and responding to unique community needs was becoming increasingly challenging, and staff were beginning to question the value of their work. We knew we needed to take action and with his wealth of experience, Sarb was a natural choice to assist with our wellbeing.

Since Sarb’s workshop, the dynamic of our team has shifted. We all have a greater understanding of ourselves, how we are as a group and how we can assist ourselves and each other. As a manager, I now pay more attention to recognising stress in others, taking time to check in with staff and prompting them to use Sarb’s tools.

Sarb is authentic and puts things into perspective in a direct way, using simple language that is easily understood and implemented. I have recommended his services to others working in emergency management and welfare.

Sarb’s insightful, relevant and relatable work makes psychosocial support applicable and understandable for ordinary Kiwis. He is a positive and upbeat presenter and his memorable presentations generate excellent feedback. I would recommend his services to anyone in emergency management.

We commissioned Sarb to speak to our Civil Defence team and stakeholders to help staff adjust to normal work pace again, after giving everything we had to our Covid-19 response. We were burned out and we needed an engaging speaker to help us find the motivation to get back into the workspace.

Sarb was approachable and easy to listen to, sharing lots of real life examples. The sessions prompted us to share our own stories and experiences with each other, finding new opportunities for connection and greater awareness of the importance of our own health and wellbeing.

“I’ve worked with Sarb in a variety of roles including as a colleague within government, when we were engaging expert academic advice and workshops and more recently in his capacity as a facilitator. The work has always drawn on his extensive technical knowledge within disaster-related clinical psychology and his broader emergency management expertise. Sarb has been able to deliver engaging, tailored high quality material in tight timeframes and is highly effective in facilitating groups and seminars.”

Charles Blanch

National Emergency Management Agency

Speaking & Media

“Sarb’s contribution as MC of TEDxWellington has been a gift beyond measure”

Sarb’s contribution as MC of TEDxWellington has been a gift beyond measure. From his deep influence on our speaker coaching programme, to his masterful delivery and his skill in guiding audiences through an experience, Sarb makes the event so much richer. His contribution elevates the overall professionalism of the day and has created a positive legacy and future expectation of a high quality event.

Sarb’s well-received speaking workshops cultivate trust, build relationships and amplify the overall programme. I have learned so much from him about influencing the narrative understanding and the psychological aspects of controlling nerves for speakers. When I grow up, I want to be Sarb Johal!

DK, justadandak.com / Speaker Coach and Creative Producer of TEDxWellington + Creative Leadership NZ

“Played a critical role in our success”

As MC, Sarb played a critical role in the success of our multi-layered conference and awards events. He quickly became part of our team, building very good relationships with presenters, performers, technical support and stakeholders. He is intelligent, knowledgeable, absorbs information quickly, and a great person with whom to discuss ideas, concepts and philosophies.
On the day, we benefited from a very good performance. Sarb was flexible and good at handling the pressures involved with live presentations. He built a good rapport with the audience and created a smooth flow between on-screen video, prize giveaways, live talent and speakers of varying experience.

I view Sarb as a kindred spirit, seeking to make a positive and constructive contribution to our community and economy which is the foundation of these events. His directly relevant academic knowledge, working experience and excellent presentation skills are exactly what is required in the very challenging economic and wider community health environment currently facing Aotearoa/New Zealand.

John Dow / Director at Agenda Limited and Wellington Gold Awards

“Our go to for breaking news topics”

The Science Media Centre has worked with Sarb for many years, often calling on his expertise on breaking news topics, such as the Kaikōura earthquakes, the Christchurch mosque shootings and COVID-19. Sarb’s background as a clinical psychologist and his expertise in disaster psychology has proved invaluable on these topics.

The journalists we work with are often looking for someone who can add an additional perspective to their stories, and Sarb has proven himself to be a reliable ‘go-to’ expert on psychology-related topics. His willingness to lend his expertise on a range of topics makes him valuable as an expert commentator and someone we readily recommend to journalists.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarb has played a valuable role in our expert panel bringing insight and ideas to the wider group we have been working with. His compassion and empathy are particularly appreciated by the SMC team.

Dacia Herbulock / Director of the Science Media Centre NZ

“A clinical psychologist, Dr Sarb Johal, who had done a lot of prior work on the H1N1 influenza outbreak in the UK, and then helping communities in New Zealand recover from earthquakes, has been really helpful to us. He says that the most important thing you can do is have empathy. Whatever you do, you must try to be empathetic and helpful in your design work and the language you put into it. All people really want to know is what’s the right thing to do, whether they’re doing it, and if it is working.”