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The Case for Professional Communities and Mental Health Peer Groups

Bernie Wong | Senior Associate, Mind Share Partners

Mental health conditions in workplaces are common—16% of individuals employed full-time and 23% of individuals who worked any job in 2016 managed a mental health condition. But high performers are not precluded from mental health conditions either. A 2018 UCSF study found that mental health conditions are just as prevalent in entrepreneurs—individuals we strive to recruit to our companies and emulate in the cultures of our organizations.

Despite its prevalence, talking about mental health conditions at work is still overwhelmingly stigmatized. A 2015 RAND study found that 70% of respondents would not disclose a mental health condition to a colleague. In a 2017 Deloitte report, 95% of employees who have taken off time due to stress named another reason, such as an upset stomach or a headache.

Clinical care is an integral component of an individual’s broader network of mental health support, but it can be hard to find a community of individuals with shared experiences around workplace mental health despite the benefits that peer support can provide.

In fact, mental health peer support services are considered an evidence-based mental health model of care. In meta-analyses, peer group participants have displayed a reduction in clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression and an increase in subjective quality of life as well as hope, self-esteem, and empowerment—factors also correlated with self-stigma.

Internalized stigma, in turn, has been shown to be associated with symptom severity as well as lower treatment adherence due to the fear of the label of mentally ill. Providing peer support to others has also been shown to reap other benefits, including increased self-confidence, emotional stability, and sense of purpose and meaning in life.

To date, however, most mental health peer support programs are organized by hospitals, clinicians, organizations and nonprofits, or locally by community members. And these groups usually provide more general support and navigating treatment modalities for individuals with the most severe diagnoses and their loved ones. Peer supports within workplaces are, for the most part, nonexistent despite the unique social norms and expectations in workplace settings.

Mind Share Partners created our Professional Communities” mental health peer support program to create a community of support that offers empathy and best practices for navigating mental health at work. Our peer groups are solely focused on workplace topics and high-functioning professionals to create a productive place for concrete, actionable skills-sharing.

Early impact analyses from our mental health peer support groups show promising results.

After our program, participants report:

  • Being more productive at work.

  • Fewer feel like they need to hide their condition from family, friends, and colleagues.

  • Feeling like they know others like themselves and have someone to go to for support.

  • Being more comfortable providing support to a colleague, which suggests a willingness to support others in their workplaces.

Additionally, more participants were receiving mental health treatment at the end of the peer group than when they started.

Click here to join Mind Share Partners’ Accelerated Peer Group Program for busy professionals.

Mind Share Partners’ mental health peer support program currently exists outside of companies due to the persistent shame and stigma around having a mental health condition. However, to be most effective, we see professional communities forming around mental health within companies, much like Employee Resource Groups.

Until then, we encourage folks to attend a Mind Share Partners peer group, or host one of your own! We each hold a treasure trove of insights, experiences, and learnings that others can benefit from. We merely need a time and place to share as we continue to reshape the landscape and culture of mental health in workplaces.

If you are a high performer managing a mental health condition and want to connect and share support and strategies for navigating mental health at work, join Mind Share Partners accelerated peer group today.


Bernie is a Senior Associate at Mind Share Partners. He focuses primarily on organization programming, marketing, and design. ​Prior to Mind Share Partners, Bernie was an Associate at HopeLab, a human-centered design consulting nonprofit, where he developed evidence-based products and solutions to support mental health and wellbeing. Bernie has also worked in freelance visual design, in education at Stanford as a Head Teaching Assistant, and in editorial work and academic research. Bernie also sits on the board of the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) Foundation, a grassroots philanthropic organization that provides funds and leverages resources to empower Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ students, organizations, and communities.​Bernie holds a Master of Health Science in Mental Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from UC Berkeley. 

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