“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
As a longtime culture transformation activist, I joined Spring Health because of my conviction that the most iconic brands are built alongside social movements. And I can think of few times in history when there’s been a more globally resonant movement than our current need for better mental health care.
Conversations about therapy, once held in hushed tones within most organizations, have moved from the benefits manager to the board room—and continue to proliferate in our culture at large: around dinner tables and on prime time television. In the last week alone, thousands have shown their support for Meghan Markle after she revealed to Oprah that being denied access to appropriate mental health care left her with thoughts of suicide.
While Markle was in an extraordinary situation, the harsh reality is that a lot of people can relate. I was shocked recently when I learned that the suicide rate is going up for all Americans, but that among younger people it’s become an epidemic. For members of Generation Z, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. Pause for a moment to take that in. It’s heartbreaking.
While suicide lives on one end of the spectrum, even in less dire cases, our collective mental health is suffering, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a study by Willis Tower Watson, 92 percent of American employees are suffering from anxiety related to the pandemic, and 40 percent of adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues as of June, 2020. In the workplace 76 percent of U.S. workers are experiencing burnout symptoms, which leads to job performance anxiety, more sick days, higher employee turnover, and an utter lack of wellbeing that permeates beyond just work into all of life.
The past year of lockdowns have made it much more difficult for employees to take advantage of the resources offered by their employers.
I can relate. Prior to taking this role, I was the SVP of Global Brand and Marketing at Culture Amp, an employee experience platform that helps leaders connect with and support their teams in real time. As someone who strives to practice conscious and compassionate leadership, I held space for my teammates as we all dealt with the impact of the pandemic, painful issues of racial inequality and self-examination that 2020 brought back to the surface, and other unprecedented events in the U.S., and the world. I made a point to ask about well-being, and truly listen to my team member’s individual responses. And I was deeply appreciative when others did the same for me. I made the decision to share my mental health journey in order to ensure that people on my teams felt safe discussing mental health.
Meanwhile, my own mental health was suffering. It took me a while to realize the toll that 2020 was taking on me. The trauma, stress, and isolation of the year were draining me of my ability to let go at the end of each day and return to a sense of optimism and a healthy baseline. I was experiencing severe burnout.
When my family was evacuated from our home because of the Oregon wildfires, I found myself hitting a limit. I took a short mental health break from work and began thinking that it was time for me to seek support from a therapist. The last time I saw a therapist was more than two decades prior when I was grappling with coming out of the closet. This time around, I was shocked by the Byzantine resources that were made available to me through my very own culture-first organization: I was told to call an 800-number, answer a few questions, and was provided with a list of five therapist’s phone numbers. I left voicemails for all, and only one called me back… to tell me they weren’t accepting new patients at that time. The experience truly opened my eyes to the challenges so many employees (and non-employees) face when accessing mental health care.
Around that time, I started talking to Spring Health and learning how my experience in building movements alongside a conscious team culture fits into the company values here. As a corporate culture leader, and someone who’d recently felt like the end user of the broken mental health care system our founders, April Koh and Adam Chekroud, set out to fix, I knew that this revolutionary new company was the right place for me to take the next step in my heartfelt desire to reduce suffering in the world.
The global workforce has never faced a more urgent need for mental health services. The good news is that employers and employees are prioritizing mental health now more than ever.
As one of the thought leaders I admire greatly, Parker Palmer, wrote, “If we are to overcome the daunting problems of our times, we need more conscious organizations, more purposeful and mindful businesses and we need people in these organizations who are leading with self-awareness and integrity.” All of this starts from a foundation of mental health and overall wellbeing. Today, I know this firsthand.
It is my deeply held belief that when we work on ourselves, we can show up better for our friends, family, colleagues, and teams. I look forward to working alongside you on this journey.