"I think someone who suffers from mental health-related issues doesn't need more anxiety added. Asking for help can be scary at first, so having contact points like us may make taking that leap a bit easier for most," says Vince Amato, Sales Manager UK and Mental Health First Aider at Criteo.
Vince, May, and David all come from different parts of the world. They neither have the same job, nor the same mother tongue or culture, but they all share one strong commitment, though! That is to create a safe space for people experiencing mental health challenges at work. Here's what you need to know about Criteo's Mental Health First Aiders.
Building a sustainably healthy and supportive workplace
Individual challenge or collective responsibility? For a long time, mental health has suffered from a strong stigma in both the personal and professional spheres, silencing at the same time people who were often afraid to speak up. If moving away from such stigma doesn't happen overnight, it seems employees are beginning to grasp the importance of addressing these challenges in the workplace. Why?
"Mostly, because you cannot separate what happens at work and in life when dealing with mental health. It is there with you, wherever you go," explains May Watabe, DEI Manager APAC and Mental Health First Aider at Criteo.
"Mental Health matters in every aspect of our life, and work is a big part of it." adds David Rivas, Technical Solutions Director EMEA and Mental Health First Aider at Criteo. "30 years ago, when you were experiencing such issues, the injunction was; "You are crazy." Today, we are moving away from that stigma, but we are not there yet. When someone breaks their leg, they immediately go for help, but when it comes to mental health, we tend to feel guilty and ashamed."
"Oddly enough, the dynamics at home and in the workplace are quite similar when you think about it", says Vince. "At home, you might be afraid to bother others or make them ashamed of you, and at work, you don't want to be exposed and considered vulnerable, weak, or unreliable. In this case, the stigma isolates you the same way whether you are with people close to you at home or not that close at work. So, it is important to demystify and raise awareness about mental health."
"We stand at the beginning stage, but I am glad things are starting to evolve. It's like now, more and more, we admit it's part of life, so let's talk about it more!" adds May.
Why commit to raising awareness about Mental Health at work?
"To finally give it the importance it truly has," explains David. "I've seen it happen to people I care about. I guess it has made me more sensitive to the topic. Since I started addressing this topic more openly, I realize how many people suffer from it. It is way more than we often think."
Mental health genuinely matters as "it is hard to sort out private and work life when experiencing emotional distress. When you feel low in life, chances are it doesn't fade away once you are through the office doors," according to Vince.
Beyond isolated initiatives, offering a sustainably healthy and safe workplace for all employees can only happen through a redefinition of the work culture. At Criteo, we know long-lasting changes take time, and we care to accompany our managers and individual contributors the best we can. That is why we have created this community of Mental Health First Aiders.
"Why did I become a First Aider?"
"One day, I'd like to be a professional mental health coach. It hasn't happened yet, but it is on my to-do-list. Experiencing emotional distress has made me listen better," explains May. "When I heard about this opportunity, I didn't think twice. I think having a safe space with someone here to listen and offer you some support in those moments can make a significant difference."
"It may sound a bit cheesy, but I believe helping people to address these issues could help make the world a better place," says David. "You can't help others if you are not good with yourself."
"I have suffered from mental health-related issues in the past, and I felt I didn't have anyone to turn to when that happened. I enrolled in the program because I wanted to give people an option, so they don't have to go through it alone. As a first-hand witness, I feel having a safe zone to get it out of your chest can make a huge difference," shares Vince.
"How did I become a First Aider?"
"We are not therapists. We are first contact points," explains David. "We go through a specific training where we learn how to catch weak signals, navigate mental health challenges, and address them accurately to provide the adequate professional support they might need."
"We provide an option, also for people to flag when they think someone else might be going through a rough patch," adds Vince. "I particularly liked learning about the different forms of Mental Health issues and how to make the person feel heard and supported. The content of the training is quite thorough and helpful beyond work.”
"Simply by being here and listening with empathy, you can help a person feel supported and help them get back in the driver seat. When experiencing these dreadful moments, you often feel alone, like you are the one with a problem. I've been there, like many others have." shares May. "I was very lucky to eventually get some positive things out of it. Although it took me a long time, I realized it invited me to make some adjustments and perhaps ask myself if I was happy with this and that in my life. From my perspective, the program sends a positive signal and may help people feel less alone. The fact that the company would invest in such programs means you are not the only one struggling with mental health."
"We are humans. So, everyone can eventually reach a point where they need support, and it is important not to feel isolated. Creating a safe space in the workplace can make a difference when those times come," says Vince.
"Emotional distress has nothing to do with being strong or weak. It can happen to anyone, so it is essential to prevent it. It would be great if everyone could take a few minutes out of their busy day to take care of their mental health, whatever that means for them. Otherwise, it gets harder to relieve this accumulated stress after a while," recommends David.
Securing a sustainably supportive and healthy workplace requires a combined top-down/bottom-up approach; leaders and organizations are responsible for creating a supportive work environment, emphasizing the importance of empathetically listening and responding to their employees' needs. We care to change the paradigm and enhance a work culture that promotes more autonomy, flexibility, and work-life balance. Through our Mental Health First Aid program, we aim to support those facing ill mental health, often silently.