Employees need safe spaces where they can feel comfortable being who they are.

January 26, 2023

6 Min Read
DE&I mental health
Getty Images

By Raul Medina


Raul Medina

Mental health issues are more pervasive than you may think. One in four (26%) of Americans over the age of 18 suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder every year, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. And the CDC says more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone in the workforce, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ability. That’s why mental health is part of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) conversations at my company, Granite Telecommunications.

How Do We Tackle the National Mental Health Crisis?

Mental health affects many Americans and their families in many ways. The CDC describes it this way: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

Unfortunately, the CDC also notes our mental health can be compromised by many factors, including childhood trauma, medical conditions, biological factors or chemical imbalances, drug or alcohol use, and feelings of loneliness or isolation. So, the best way to tackle this crisis is to do what we can to mitigate these issues.

Step 1: Remove the Stigma of Mental Illness for Everyone

The first step in tackling the mental health crisis is removing the stigma associated with mental illness and/or seeking assistance for mental health. A mental illness should not define a person. We simply need to talk about it – a lot. And we should approach mental health with a new lens.

At Granite, we’re taking a proactive approach by promoting physical health as a path to mental health. We refer to “mental health” as “mental fitness” or “mental endurance.” Mental fitness means keeping your mental and emotional well-being in good shape, while mental endurance is maintaining emotional strength in trying times. Both of these practices require intentional self-care and genuine care for others. “We all need to think about how we work with our mental wellness just as we do our physical wellness. Exercising and having good mental health is critical to a healthy lifestyle,” said Kyle Swist, vice president of Talent Management at Granite.

Step 2: Address Mental Health in Your Circles

The only way to change the world’s view of mental health is to start at home. In other words, target those in your circle of influence where you will have the greatest impact.

As a member of the LGBTQA+ community, I am encouraged by the increased attention on mental health for those in our community who feel ostracized from family, friends and opportunities after coming out. At Granite, mental health often comes up in our DEI conversations, and we often find ways to address both issues in tandem.

What Is Granite Doing to Promote Mental Health and DEI?

I’m fortunate to work for a diverse and inclusive company that has long been an ally to anyone facing marginalization for any reason. Granite is now turning its attention to mental health as part of its DEI initiatives and with the full support of Granite’s senior leadership.

Under the direction of Granite CEO Rob Hale and the DEI team led by Kyle Swist, Granite team members will be trained on mental health issues. Training sessions will be led by experts and leading mental health practitioners from globally recognized institutions. “We are partnering with doctors and leaders from Brigham & Woman’s as well as Children’s to learn from them and bring internationally recognized expertise to train our Granite talent,” said Swist.

Future initiatives include partnering with leading consulting groups to foster a healthy organizational culture. The ultimate goal is to create safe spaces where employees feel comfortable being who they are and admit when they need help.

Granite already facilitates several special interest groups and activities to help raise awareness about mental health where it intersects with DE&I, including the following:

  • Granite RockOUT: RockOUT is an employee resource group for Granite’s LGBTQA+ community and its allies. The group meets regularly to discuss activities and initiatives to increase awareness and embrace diversity among all Granite employees. RockOUT provides a safe place to land for LGBTQA+ employees and signifies the accepting and welcoming spirit of the company.

  • Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation: During Pride Month, Granite spotlighted the mental health challenges faced by the gay community with a keynote address by Ryan O’Callaghan, the former NFL Offensive Tackle who came out as gay in 2017 following struggles with self-acceptance and suicidal thoughts. Granite donated $5,600 to the Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation, which provides scholarships, support and mentorship programs for LGBTQA+ athletes.

  • The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project, which aims “to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people,” provides counseling, education and advocacy services through various programs. Granite encourages employees to volunteer, share information with friends and family, post on social media, and/or donate to the cause. During Pride Month 2022, Granite employees donated $10,000 to the Trevor Project.

  • Granite CANDID: Granite CANDID, the company’s employee resource group for DE&I initiatives, formed a committee to address mental health awareness across all of the company’s populations. Cross-departmental groups engage in ongoing conversations on improving stress management, work-life balance, self-care, and open and accepting communication practices.

What Can You Do to Raise Mental Health Awareness?

  • Educate yourself: Learn more about mental health from reputable sources online or turn to your healthcare practitioners or your company’s HR department.

  • Join (or start) the conversation: It only takes one person to get the ball rolling and a few people to begin a movement that may turn into an employee resource group focused on mental health.

  • Be an ally: Actively speak out about discrimination and bigotry in your workplace or community to support marginalized individuals.

  • Involve leadership: Getting leaders involved at work or in the community adds weight (and resources) to your efforts.

  • Allocate resources: Start by giving your time, and graduate to seeking funding for events and projects from your leadership team.

Raul Medina is a national relationship development manager at Granite Telecommunications. He also serves as chair of the Granite RockOUT employee resource group for the company’s LGBTQA+ employees and co-chair of the Granite Corporate Advancement Networking Diversity Inclusion and Development (CANDID) organization. The goal of both groups is for all Granite teammates to feel welcome and enjoy their work environment. For more information, visit Granite at www.granitenet.com.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like