By Zedrick Applin, Program Manager of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Community Involvement at nCino
Like many people around the world, I spent hours in July and August watching the Summer Olympics. As a former track and field athlete, I expected to be inspired by the incredible athletic performances. Much to my surprise, the most profound part of this year’s Olympics was not the gold medals or new records, but rather the focus on mental health.
This important conversation began before the games, when renowned tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open and the Wimbledon Championships for mental health reasons. It continued during the Olympics when Simone Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, withdrew from her team finals because she was not in the right head space, and was afraid she would either injure herself or jeopardize the team’s chances at winning a medal. As these athletes bravely showed us the importance of putting their mental health first, the outpouring of support for them was powerful to witness.
Olympians aren’t the only ones who struggle with mental health issues. During the last 18 months of the pandemic, there has been a surge in the need for mental health resources. I recently read the 2021 State of Mental Health Report by Mental Health America, and these two stats in particular stood out to me:
- While rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are increasing for people of all races and ethnicities, there are notable differences in those changes over time. Black or African American screeners have had the highest average percent change over time for anxiety and depression, while Native American or American Indian screeners have had the highest average percent change over time for suicidal ideation.
- People who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander searched for mental health resources more in 2020 than ever before. The proportion of screeners identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander increased 7 percent, from 9 percent of screeners in 2019 to 16 percent in 2020.
At one point or another in our lives, we have all been impacted by mental health issues. It may affect us, or a loved one. It may be a short-term issue, or it may be something that a person grapples with throughout their life. Despite how common these issues are, it is often seen as taboo to discuss them in the workplace. This leaves employees reluctant to use PTO for mental health reasons or ask for help, fearful of how managers and colleagues might judge them.
At nCino, two of our core values are “Bring Your A Game” and “Be a Winner.” In order to truly live those values, employees must be empowered, just like Naomi and Simone, to prioritize their mental health.
To that end, nCino’s Employee Assistance Program provides free counseling and coaching sessions, self-guided online programs to help improve emotional well-being, legal assistance, and expert guidance on service providers including childcare, adult care, education, emergency preparedness and more. This past year, I was personally grateful for these resources while dealing with the stress of working remotely while living through a pandemic and dealing with the loss of my mother, and I’ve heard from many of my colleagues who felt the same way.
But companies can’t stop there. In addition to offering mental health resources, they must also create a supportive, judgment-free environment in which employees feel comfortable accessing them. That’s one of the reason nCino recently held an internal forum focused on mental health, which featured a discussion around the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns, anxiety, and imposter syndrome, as well as the launch of a new mental health Slack channel to continue the conversation. By normalizing the conversation around mental health and talking about these issues in an open forum, we hope all employees feel seen, validated, and supported on their mental health journeys.
As the pandemic continues to impact our lives, mental health challenges will continue to be a pressing issue that employers must address. By acknowledging these issues and offering different ways to talk about and address them, organizations can help their employees do their best work and be their best selves.