Since we launched Heart & Soul in 2018, we have continued to bring a diverse approach to issues and challenges that are really common in society, and in our workplace.
One of key areas of our philosophy is to normalize the conversation about mental health and mental illness. Our Heart & Soul Ambassadors have been instrumental to this. To date, alongside their day jobs, they help us to plan and drive initiatives, influence leaders to be role models in this space, and ensure that the culture nuances and the way mental health is being approached is locally relevant. And they’ve been amazing.
As we’ve gradually been driving mental health awareness and conversation throughout the company, we’ve seen an increase in employees reaching out to our ambassadors for guidance and advice. We want to ensure our ambassadors are equipped to have those supportive conversations as well as other requirements than come with their role. Now, the ambassadors have become Mental Health First Aiders.
What Is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is a mental health training program that teaches participants how to notice and support an individual who may be experiencing a mental health struggle or crisis in a work environment and connect them with appropriate support.
Our ambassadors can support with:
- Having an open and supportive conversation about mental health
- Demonstrating empathy and non-judgemental listening
- Recognizing some of the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues
- Intervening in a mental health crisis
- Guiding towards professional help and the appropriate internal support (self-care, All The Feels, emergency, manager, HR)
It’s important to note though that our ambassadors are not therapists.
We want to encourage employees to reach out for support, not when they’ve been carrying their emotions for a long time and they’ve become too severe, but when they feel something is not right. The step to reach out to HR or their manager might feel too big, so that’s when they can reach out to one of our trained ambassadors.
The ambassadors are now skilled and trained to be able to have supportive conversations, to listen non-judgmentally and guide employees towards the right support, whether it’s setting boundaries, self-care, or therapy (to name a few examples).
Our ambassadors have also shared their own stories on our Heart & Soul intranet, in case an employee would like to talk to someone with similar experience.
While this is additional responsibility that every ambassador takes seriously, we need to ensure their resilience. That’s why we offer every ambassador a place in a monthly circle session around a specific topic, hosted by one of our global mental health partners, as well unlimited access to counselling in their role as ambassadors.
From Ambassadors to Beyond
A core focus has been to raise awareness, remove stigma and create more widespread acceptance around all of us caring for our mental health (whether that’s preventatively or reactively). Simply by having a team of ambassadors, we are making strides in creating a safe environment where our employees feel there’s acceptance, knowledge and sensitivity to mental health issues. In turn, this has encouraged employees to speak up about their struggles. Struggles that so many (if not all) of us experience at some point in our lives.
During the last 3 years, the ambassador team has intentionally grown in size, and with high ambition in terms of their remit and the impact they can have, their roles have also expanded and evolved. The more our culture has allowed for employees to speak openly about their own struggles, the more prevalent the need for additional mental health support for our employees.
Giving a recent example – the Heart & Soul team were guided by our ambassadors in planning for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which took place in March this year. We held a week of programming to educate, explore and break misconceptions one might have about eating disorders. It was thanks to our ambassador’s personal experience, their willingness to share that and to help others, that this even became part of our agenda. By raising awareness through education, hearing personal stories from our very own employees we enabled more of our employees to seek support. And because our ambassadors are also Mental health First Aiders, they were able to offer that level of support before, during and after the awareness week.
What We Hope to Achieve
The earlier a person suffering with a mental health challenge can identify, accept and seek support, the earlier they can find the right tools, and the bigger likelihood is that they can prevent moving into poor mental health (in the short term and the long term). It’s oftentimes that someone’s in a situation where their mental health has deteriorated before they can find the help they need.
With the right support and tools, anyone can work towards positive mental health, and whilst previously our Heart & Soul ambassador team played a crucial role in the shaping of our work, in addition they can now also help to support individual employees. The ambassadors’ dedication to creating a culture that allows people to speak up and take good care of themselves is stronger than ever, and the team can feel the impact they have much more tacitly.
We strongly believe that this is the way we can encourage Spotifiers to utilize the additional support we offer, and we hope this becomes more of a norm than a unique way of broaching mental health for companies across the world.
No one should have to feel shame, hide behind a happy face and believe that their sense of worth comes from having it all together. We believe in an environment and a society where we can be ourselves and be respected for it – no matter if we are ok or not. That’s when we’ll bring out the best in ourselves and each other.