#Next20: How are you feeling?

By: Erin Kristoff

Made of Millions’ Aaron Harvey on destigmatizing mental health and supporting each other in the workplace.

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“How are you feeling?”

It’s a common greeting that didn’t always carry quite so much weight, but in the last year, it has become the essential question of our lives. And that’s how Diana Alvear started our latest episode of #Next20 with our guest, Aaron Harvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Made of Millions.

Just the facts

Here are a few stats to put the issue in perspective:

  • 44% of adults say their stress has increased over the last five years.
  • 56% of employees say stress and anxiety impact their performance on the job.
  • 62% of missed work days can be attributed to a mental condition.

Diana and Aaron touched on key issues facing those struggling with mental health issues — whether conditional or situational. Words like “stigma” and “normalize” and the questions that drive people to keep quiet about these issues:

  • How can I feel safe enough to disclose my mental health issues in the workplace?
  • Will this have a negative impact on my career?
  • Will I be passed over for an opportunity because of mental health discrimination?

Where to start

Aaron began Made of Millions, a nonprofit on a mission to change how the world perceives mental health while coping with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition he unknowingly suffered with for over two decades.

His dream of democratizing mental health education stems from his struggles and feeling like he couldn’t speak up.

Turning to the workplace

A few years ago, Made of Millions focused their energy on mental health in the workplace. “The workforce represents the opportunity to educate society at scale and basically to normalize,” Aaron said. “We know that mental healthcare is the privilege of the few. Imagine a 16-year-old working at a fast-food restaurant flipping burgers getting the same education that the CMO in NYC is getting — that’s a great equalizer.”

For Aaron, working with corporations is vital to destigmatizing mental health and providing education. “All the things that people fear... it takes a strategy for a company to lead that way, and lead by example. And provide pathways for employees, because it shouldn’t be on them.”

What can we do?

Aaron calls for mindful management. “Make sure your oxygen mask is on yourself, because the way that you show up is a trigger and sets the tone for everyone else’s interactions.

Little things like calming your nervous system before a big meeting can help you and others in the room. Being thoughtful with your language and terms that you use with those struggling with mental health issues is another way to practice mindful management and help provide a safe environment for others.

What can we do on an individual peer-to-peer level? Aaron believes we should try to avoid presenting solutions. Instead, listen and check in. “Just listening and letting that person feel heard and seen is probably all you need to do.”

Did You Know?

There’s volunteer opportunities to support those struggling with mental health issues. Check one out here.

Where do we go from here?

Diana drives the point home for us at the top of the episode — everybody has felt the weight of the past year in some form or another. So what can we do about it?

Aaron wants corporations to focus on the commitment to psychoeducation. “At the end of the day, a company is not going to be your armchair psychologist. Your manager is not there to do that. But what your manager should be there to do is create a mentally safe environment, be an ally to you in a time of need, connect you to the resources that the company can provide and support your education and your access to those things.

“I’m hoping that the trend we see is a continuation of the three layers — education, advocacy and access to very good mental health resources.”

Need to catch up on #Next20?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the latest episodes on our #Next20 News page.

#Next20 brings together a diverse group of speakers to share their perspectives and experiences on key societal issues. The thoughts and beliefs expressed by the speakers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Verizon.

​V Team, go to VZWeb to join the conversation

About the author(s):

Erin Kristoff is a member of the Corporate Communications team and can sometimes be found playing silly background characters on Up To Speed.

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