A quartet of companies today is launching Mind Together, a coalition aimed at improving workplace culture around mental health. Verizon Media, Snap, Spotify, and Kellogg Co. are founding members, and Made of Millions, a nonprofit advocacy group, will serve as an advisory partner.
Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, says the group aims to destigmatize mental health at work through awareness campaigns, education programs, and sharing of best practices. He says he aspires to create a global, cross-industry leadership group not unlike the World Economic Forum, but with a focus on mental wellness. “I’m glad we’re starting to find like-minded companies who can work together and standardize mental health care at work,” he says. “It is long overdue.”
Indeed, only half of U.S. workers say they are comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace, and a third say they are worried about the consequences if they seek help, according to a pre-pandemic poll by the American Psychiatric Association. And countless studies, including research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show elevated levels of anxiety and depression associated with COVID-19 lockdowns.
Mind Together members plan to provide their employees with resources and support initiatives, such as sessions with leaders in the mental health and wellness space. Gowrappan says he believes by pooling their resources, member companies could use their scale to develop and deploy affordable new mental health benefits for workers. (The founding members reach more than 50,000 full-time employees.) He says he expects to announce additional corporate members in the coming weeks.
Corporate programs to support employee mental health range from free subscriptions to meditation and sleep apps to on-site talk therapy. Starbucks offers up to 20 free therapy sessions per year for employees and eligible family members.
Gowrappan, who began expanding Verizon Media’s mental wellness offerings nearly two years ago, admits he wasn’t fully aware of the range of issues and challenges his employees faced. He credits Made of Millions with educating him and encouraging him to try new employee initiatives. “I had some relationship to mental health through family and friends, but at some level I couldn’t really relate,” he says. Made of Millions “truly care about [improving] society. It is important to have advisers like them.”