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No Shame, No Stigma: Ending the Mental Health Taboo

Cisco says it's changing the conversation around mental health — not only by ending the taboo associated with talking about it, but also by encouraging people to ask for help.
Mental Health

The following conversation about mental health is an excerpt from Cisco’s 2019 CSR Report. To find out more, read the full report here.

We want everyone to know that it’s okay to not be okay. Cisco is changing the conversation about mental health issues within our company.

Over the past year, Cisco has made it a priority to not only end the taboo against talking about mental health, but encourage people to ask for help. It all started with an email. In 2018, in the face of growing concerns about mental health in society, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins sent an email to all Cisco employees. In it, he expressed Cisco’s concern for those who are struggling, sharing that no one needs to go it alone. The response was overwhelming. Robbins received more than 100 replies from employees saying thanks and sharing stories of themselves and their loved ones. Since then, even more people have courageously spoken about personal struggles in company blog posts and the Cisco Beat. This response has awakened us to an issue that wasn’t being addressed.

Consider the statistics: about one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental health condition. Yet many people are still uncomfortable talking about these issues. Cisco is breaking the silence. We want everyone to know that it’s okay to not be okay. By decreasing the stigma and broadening the resources we offer, we hope to encourage people to get the help they need. And change the conversation about mental health across our industry.

Here are some ways Cisco is increasing awareness

  • The Safe to Talk community on Cisco’s intranet includes videos, links to internal and external resources, and employee stories
  • On Leader Day, we trained leaders across Cisco on how to recognize signs of mental illness and support their teams
  • Our CEO has written, spoken, and tweeted publicly about the importance of this issue
  • In the U.K., mental health “first aiders” help fellow employees access resources

Mental health initiatives

  • Improving access to care in our largest U.S. medical plans. Employees will now pay the same coinsurance, whether they go in or out of network for mental health treatment.
  • Offering confidential 24/7 visits with counselors as part of our global Employee Assistance Program, and in-person visits in our LifeConnections health centers. We increased the number of free visits to 10 in the U.S. to align with what we offer globally.
  • Continuing our support as founder of Connected North, which uses Cisco collaboration technology to deliver mental wellness programming to remote, underserved communities in Canada.

Plans for every family

Cisco’s global benefits are designed to support employees and their loved ones through all stages of life. Our comprehensive benefits package includes medical, dental, and vision plans; disability coverage; and life insurance to help employees stay healthy and secure their families’ well-being.

Caring for one’s health can also mean having someone to talk to who can offer advice and support. Our global Expert Medical Opinion program offers peace of mind in the face of a major medical diagnosis or treatment decision, including those related to mental health. A simple phone call connects employees and eligible family members, including parents and in-laws, to a leading physician in the specialty they need for an expert second opinion at no cost to them.

Similarly, our global Employee Assistance Program helps employees and families better manage family issues, relationship struggles, financial issues, anxiety, stress, and more. Visits are free and confidential. As of October 2019, we increased the number of covered visits in the U.S. from eight to 10 sessions per concern, in alignment with what is available globally. Employees pay the same coinsurance for in- or out-of-network mental health treatment, should they need additional care, through our largest medical plans.

Mental health is health and Cisco aims to treat it that way.

Read more in Cisco's 2019 CSR report.

Previously published on Cisco's blog and the 3BL Media Newsroom.

Image credit: Pixabay

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