I used to work as a marketing specialist in a multinational company in San Francisco. It was a typical 9-to-5 job that required me to meet various people who wanted to avail of our nutritious yogurt products a few times a day. Then, as soon as the clock ticks five o’clock, I would be out of the building with the rest of my team.
Now, despite my hardworking skill, I could not ever be on the same level as the people who make our products possible. That is especially true for those who work in the manufacturing side of the business, i.e., factory workers, plant managers, chemists, engineers, etc. Since the factory was running 24/7, it was common for them to work for 12 hours every shift.
Of course, everyone was well-compensated in the company, so we would not hear anyone complaining. However, there could be times when people could feel mentally exhausted due to the amount of work that they needed to get done every day. To ensure the employees’ mental stability, the company gave everyone – including us – access to multiple counselors with whom they could talk anytime.
I admire that a lot about the company. The bosses were conscious of what their employees might need, you see. Not all companies were like that, and I would know because I worked with a few before coming here. The only thing that I found odd with the setup was that counseling was not provided to the higher-ups.
In truth, I learned about it through my coworkers when they were gossiping about how one of the executives had a long-standing untreated depression. It only became known when she tried to commit suicide by jumping off the building the other night. Luckily, one of the janitors went to the rooftop and managed to talk her out of it. It was a major hush-hush within the company, but everyone was still aware of it.
Horrified, I asked how it came to that point. That’s when my colleague whispered that it’s because they were not talking to counselors like the rest of us. For some reason, the bosses might have assumed that the executives were invincible physically and mentally, which was not always true. They were also humans who could be vulnerable to stress.
Moving On To A Different Pasture
I only stayed in the yogurt company for a couple more years. I left not because of the lack of mental help for the higher-ups but because I had wanted to start my own coffee company for a few years now. I finally had enough money to buy land where I could grow and harvest coffee beans. I could even roast and pack them in the same property.
The hiring process was long and tedious, I must admit. Aside from finding people who loved coffee, they had to know more about it to become an asset to my company. As soon as the job positions were filled, I went on to hire three new counselors. They would serve as HR personnel and mental health advisers to everyone, including the other executives and me. I even went above and beyond and decided to make a counseling visit mandatory for all.
My decision was met more waves than I imagined, especially when I told my other friends in the industry about it. They had been handling more businesses than me, but they never thought of giving their employees 30 minutes to talk with a counselor every week. The strongest opposition I heard was, “That’s preposterous! You will be paying both the counselor and the worker to chitchat!”
Others were mainly concerned about the possibility that my employees might think of me as a weak person for welcoming counseling in the company. Some even voiced out, “You lead a chill life. What do you need it for?”
Did their words offend me? No – not one bit. I was honestly more surprised than offended by such comments. I had no idea that the stigma around mental health was still at large up to this point. I thought it already went away, and we managed to move past that as a society years ago. However, judging by how many of my friends judged my decision in front of me, it was clearly not the case.
So, I schooled them. I told my former boss, who had depression but did not have access to mental help. I saw a few of them grip the sides of their seats as I informed them of that person’s suicide attempt, which could have been prevented if the CEO thought of extending mental help to everyone.
“You are all correct — I am okay right now; there is nothing wrong with me for now. But who can guarantee that it will still be the same tomorrow or the day after that? I have a startup company that has barely kicked off the ground; the stressors are yet to come! So, how can you tell me that hiring counselors to give my employees and me regular counseling is an awful choice?” I uttered before walking out.
Focusing On What’s Important
Although I held no grudge against my friends, I decided not to talk to them for a while. I wanted to focus on my business; I did not need their negative thoughts to affect me. That’s especially true when the counseling benefits that my company offered were paying off. Everyone was happy and motivated, so it did not a surprise that the launch of our coffee products turned out to be successful.
Then, one day, my friends went to my house. I braced myself for whatever crazy idea they might spew regarding my company decisions. But to my surprise, they all sang praises about my regular counseling idea.
One of them said, “We’ve spoken to some of your employees, and we heard about how happy and consistent everyone is at your company. It’s never like that in ours. Can you recommend counselors to us?”
I let out a breath of relief before ushering them to the dining room to talk about my counseling experience over dinner.