Why companies like Google and Yahoo have a mental health ERG and how to start yours today.
Jen Anderson | Chief Operating Officer, Mind Share Partners
After years of misdiagnosed symptoms, Meredith Arthur—a successful marketing professional and parent—finally received a diagnosis: Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She searched for the term online, only to find picture after picture of women cowering in corners, covered in dark shadows. “But this isn’t me!” she thought, “I don’t identify with this at all.” Seeking to shift the stereotype, she started to build an online community for overthinkers, writing about anxiety to connect with others who felt similarly.
Meanwhile, following a series of stressful startup roles, Meredith landed at Trulia, part of Zillow Group. She joined Zillow Group’s "Affinity Network" (employee resource group) as a site lead for the San Francisco office, becoming an advocate for mental health services and positive framing. Later that year, Meredith helped change the group’s name to ADAPT (“Able and Differing Abilities Partnering Together”) and supported its first company-wide lunch and learn about mental health.
Looking back, Meredith says, it was the stigma around mental health that prevented her from recognizing her symptoms and getting the right diagnosis and treatment. “Being involved in the ADAPT Network has been a place where I can be seen at work. It feels great to be accepted in that way.”
Most of us are familiar with employee resource groups as they relate to women or minority groups in companies. But increasingly, as demand for mental health support at work grows, leading companies are responding to employees by forming mental health employee resource groups (ERGs).
Are you part of or thinking about creating a mental health ERG at your company? Join our virtual community for mental health ERG leaders.
Our team at Mind Share Partners spoke with several companies (including Google, Johnson & Johnson, RetailMeNot, Yahoo, and Zillow Group) about why they have mental health ERGs and what benefits their teams have seen from it.
Here’s what we found.
Mental health ERGs serve a distinct purpose from disability or wellness ERGs.
Often, mental health is lumped without distinction within a disability or health-related ERG. In our conversations with these companies, however, we heard again and again that employees are not satisfied with that pairing.
Many common characteristics of disability groups simply do not apply to people managing mental health challenges. For example, unlike many disabilities—though not all—most mental health conditions are not permanent. Mental health is a spectrum people often move across during their lifetimes. It isn’t always a long-term diagnosis or identity. Also, most mental health conditions are invisible. Symptoms do not always show up at work, especially if someone is overcompensating for how they feel.