Checking in on World Mental Health Day
Think about how many times in a day you have to spare 40 seconds. It’s enough time to pay a bill, check your phone or send a text. But, have you ever thought you could potentially save a life in 40 seconds?
Today marks World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. This year, with a focus on suicide prevention, the World Health Organization is encouraging people to take 40 seconds of action to reduce mental health stigma by initiating a conversation with someone they are worried about or sharing a message of hope with someone who is struggling.
The notion of checking in and being aware of our environment is core to Cisco’s conscious culture. It’s a culture of fairness, dignity and respect that brings employees into the conversation to drive change and accountability at all levels. One important tenant of this culture is that employees actively monitor, protect, and care for each other and our work environment.
Recently, Cisco was awarded the #1 Best Place to Work in the World because of our culture. While trust and a sense of community were noted as key drivers, a “psychologically safe work environment” also topped the list. This was a WOW moment for me – it showed how much our employees value feeling emotionally safe and secure. And it reinforced for me the importance of good mental health as a fundamental element of personal well-being. It reflected so much of what I’ve heard from our employees: that the emphasis Cisco is placing on mental health in the workplace globally is shaping the employee experience.
When we began the conversation around mental health, I didn’t know how pervasive mental health issues were – in fact, 6.7 million Canadians struggle with a mental illness. It took the mental health struggles of a few loved ones to bring this issue into focus for me and act on it.
This is where my conversations with Cisco’s executive team grew from. At Cisco we connect the unconnected through our innovative technology and have the ability to impact human progress and provide the needed technology to enhance the way mental health services are provided to employees, patients and family members. Given our size, scale and expertise, we have the ability to move the dial on this critical issue internally and externally.
For employees, we have put our conversation into ACTION. From webinars with leading experts on mental health issues through our Safe to Talk program; extended benefits to address mental health including $25,000 per year for psychological/psychiatric care; and ongoing all-employee meetings where mental health is discussed and stories are shared – we support employees’ whole wellbeing, from the mental to the physical, to give them the support they need. And, we foster an environment where employees can feel safe, empowered and heard.
“Set aside 40 seconds to check in on a friend, colleague or family member. “
Beyond our employees, we have extended the mental health conversation to our communities. Leveraging technology to scale mental health solutions, we’ve partnered with the Centre for Mental Health Addition to develop a proof-of-concept program that looks at how we can deliver enhanced care to patients using our Webex video conferencing platform. And, through our Connect North program –a digital telepresence network that uses Cisco collaboration technology – we provide live, customized, virtual education and youth mental health and wellness resources to schools and students in remote, Indigenous communities across Canada.
Our culture is what empowers us to tackle the widespread issue of mental health. The overwhelmingly positive response from our employees is reason enough to continue our work in breaking the stigma. I feel blessed to put my passion into action and see the difference it has had on people and the community.
Today, I’m putting a call out to our employees, partners and customers to take action. Set aside 40 seconds to check in on a friend, colleague or family member. A simple “How are you feeling today?” could be the opening to a larger conversation that makes a big difference.