Normalising the conversation around mental health and mental illness in order to reduce stigma is one of Heart & Soul’s strategy pillars. Depending on where you are in the world, stigma associated with mental health is highly or partially present. Stigma makes us feel shame and guilt, and leads us to believe we are weak just because we’re struggling with our mental health or have a diagnosed mental health condition. There’s so many of us suffering in silence because of that shame and a feeling of not having it ‘all together like everyone else’. Stigma also comes with presumptions about mental health and mental illness. For example there’s a common belief that someone affected by a mental illness can not be a higher performer, and that having a mental illness or taking time off for your mental health, equals being weak.
The truth is, we all have mental health and we all go through periods in our life when our mental health is affected. Because that’s part of living. That stigma is harmful, which is why reducing it is so important.
It’s when we speak out and hear other people’s stories that we realise we’re not the only ones struggling. It’s an eye-opener when you learn that someone you thought was not facing any issues also has their struggles. It’s when we normalise the conversation that those presumptions can be challenged. And the more we normalise the conversation, the more comfortable we become in discussing.
When we first launched Heart & Soul at Spotify in August 2018, the business was not ready to speak openly about their experiences. We had to set the foundation first. Education to build knowledge was required. People first needed to understand what mental health is and Spotify’s philosophy around it and the fact that it’s ok to not be ok.
During our Inclusion Summit 2019 we made the conscious choice that it was the time to be vulnerable and share stories live on stage in front of our colleagues. And that kicked off more conversations in the company. And now we’re approaching this normalisation of the conversation in a few different ways.
First off, we have company-wide employee panels where Spotifiers share their experiences to our Heart & Soul Ambassadors.
Then in 2020, we launched the Heart & Soul Conversations podcast, an employee-only podcast which aims to explore different aspects of mental health through the stories of Spotifiers and guest speakers around the world. In this podcast we’ve had employees and leaders coming together on different topics such as being a parent in the pandemic, eating disorders, why it’s important to talk to someone, and stress and self-care in the Black Community (just to mention a few).
As a company you can have all the great mental health resources in place and education but if employees don’t feel supported in using them, all those resources won’t make a difference. It needs to be ok for anyone and everyone (when they need) to be comfortable saying: “life is hard right now”, and feel supported along the way.