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Inclusion and Mental Health

Covid lockdown. A broken relationship. Physical health issues. A stressful work life. These took a massive toll on my mental health in 2021. I didn’t quite understand mental health before this. I still don’t really understand it even now. Near the end of 2021, I was struggling with serious depression and needed help. . . something I was quite resistant to get. With the support of family and friends and a major ah-ha moment, I finally realized I needed help.

The money, the time, the negative stigma, my pride, my stubbornness, my lack of belief that I could change, my lack of belief that counseling would help, and a few other reasons all held me back from seeking the help I needed. I am much healthier now but the journey is definitely not done. I don’t think it ever will be. 

I have learned that mental health isn’t something we need to be ashamed of. It isn’t a weakness. It is a medical issue. It is common. In one workplace poll, seventy-six percent of respondents said they experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2020.

For those struggling with their mental health, please seek help. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and (I’ll be honest) at times miserable. It can also be amazing, insightful, and life changing. I am grateful for those that supported me when I needed it. If anyone wants to chat, please DM me.

For those not struggling with their mental health, focus on inclusion. Find ways to get to know those around you. Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes chatting with a peer who was born in Vietnam (I wasn’t), lives in California (I don’t), is a software engineer (I’m not), and has many other aspects of his identity that are different from mine. It was my favorite chat of the day. He is brilliant and insightful. It was cool to learn from him and see his expertise in his domain. Take time to get to know your peers, especially those that are different. Get to know them on a professional AND personal level.

For business leaders, I strongly believe the most important concept in business is connection – connecting with your company’s vision/mission, connecting with your customers, and connecting with your co-workers. I think the top priority as a manager should be connecting with your direct reports. There is a lot of data that talks about the business advantages of being an inclusive leader. But I hope that is not why we are doing it. I hope we do it because the people on our teams are human and deserve our time, attention, love, empathy, and understanding. 

As someone who has struggled significantly with depression, I know what it is like to feel alone, unheard, worthless, and helpless. DEI and mental health are extremely connected. Historically underrepresented groups are more likely to experience mental health symptoms and are less likely to seek help. I am lucky that I work for a company that allows me to bring my whole self to work. I know that is not the case for everyone, but I hope all companies and leaders are trying to build inclusive teams where the team members feel included and that they can be themself. We can make a huge positive impact on mental health as we focus on building inclusive teams and workplaces. Create opportunities for team members to speak up, share their perspectives, and belong. Whether it is you, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker – you are not alone. Please reach out, speak up, and ask for help. To start, here are some of my favorite resources:

By Craig Tanner, Product