VMware prioritizes the holistic welfare of its employees. As such, we offer health benefits that extend beyond physical needs. Our outreach includes specialized programs and resources to ensure employees have ready access to effective mental health services. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like to highlight one of our initiatives, the Mental Health First Aider Program. Joe Baguley, VMware’s VP and Chief Technology Officer for the EMEA region, is the program’s executive sponsor and remains a strong proponent in improving mental health awareness and support.
The Mental Health First Aider program is currently rolled out within VMware’s Northern EMEA team in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands (VMware’s Northern EMEA region also includes Nordic countries). Its initiatives serve as the first line of psychological support for employees. The program is managed by employee volunteers trained and licensed to act as a point of contact for employees in need of emotional support and assistance. First-aiders are not officially trained to diagnose mental conditions, but they are skilled at offering initial comfort and guidance to their colleagues. VMware’s milestone project continues to inspire and motivate individuals toward managing psychological issues at the workplace, including anxiety, depression, and work-related tension.
We had the wonderful opportunity to get in touch with four VMware Mental Health First Aiders: Remi from the Netherlands, Darren from Ireland, with Sophie, and Dave both from the UK.* We learned about their experiences with the Mental Health First Aider Program and gained some insights into their approach to mental health.
*First-aiders have omitted their last names to retain their privacy.
VMware: What motivated you to sign up to be a Mental Health First Aider?
The reason I got involved has a personal back story. When I was young, between 8 and 12, I was bullied a lot, and because of that, I was struggling mentally. I always found it helpful talking to people close to me about it, to cope with it. When I heard about the Mental Health Program within VMware, I immediately stuck my hand out to get involved. The program allows me to help people and use my experience to understand someone who is in trouble, and I could use the knowledge for my own benefit. Perfect combination!
The opportunity to expand this support beyond suicide was very appealing to me. It says a lot about VMware that we offer this support — VMware actually cares. It seems to me that the two-day training was an ideal amount of time to invest in the depth and breadth of the materials and exercises that were facilitated by Mental Health First Aid Ireland. I look forward to repeating the training in two years to renew the certification. We have made the list of the Mental Health First Aid Team members visible and accessible through various methods. This campaign has been spread out over the months, to serve as periodic reminders of this available assistance.
I have long been an advocate of mental health awareness, having experienced mental health challenges firsthand and in my family. I wanted to promote awareness and give people support within the workplace who may be experiencing mental health challenges.
The main reason is that about 15 years ago, I was suffering from depression and other pressures of life, not the right place to be. Obviously, I came out on the other side, so I have firsthand experience. A program like this is fantastic, and something I wished existed for me when I needed it.
VMware: What has been the most rewarding experience in your role as a First Aider?
The achievement I find great value in is sharing that Mental Health is essential and helps create an environment inside and outside the office where you can talk about mental health issues.
We have had people contact our mental health first aiders, including myself. Even if there is not high demand, it is precious for the standing offer to be there. Just like physical health first aid, we are glad people are ready to respond, even though we hope they won’t be needed.
To see people at all levels within VMware, sharing their mental health experiences. I have seen a positive change in the last 2 years within VMware, where people are a lot more open about their feelings and experiences.
Met lots of new people within the mental health team, makes you understand virtually everyone has either had issues or has known someone who has. Helping just one person over the last few years means this program is a success.
VMware: What advice do you have for anyone struggling with their mental health?
Reach out, don’t stay silent and try to resolve the issue yourself but reach out to loved one or an MHFA.
It is certain that those struggling with emotional or mental health issues, and it could be anyone of us at some time (like physical health), have found people who don’t care or cannot help. I know my advice is not straightforward, but it is easier than bearing the burden alone. Keep looking for someone able and willing to help. That is the beauty of the mental health first aid team concept. We have a list of people who are equipped and ready to help. It would be our pleasure for someone to reach out to us.
Mental Health is just like our physical health; everyone has it, and you should take care of it.
The hardest part is to recognize you need help, talking about this is the first step in getting help. There is light at the end of the tunnel, support is out there – please please use it.
According to the WHO, 1 in 4 individuals are affected by health disorders, but few receive the help they need. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with mental issues, please reach out to a mental health expert via any of the links below:
US Suicide Hotlines List (per state)
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Great article thanks Kate. I lead the NEMEA Mental Health First Aid programme working with Joe Baguley our sponsor and our fantastic team of accredited Mental Health First Aiders across NEMEA. If you have any questions please reach out to us as MentalHealth@vmware.com or see our website at https://benefits.vmware.com/gb/worklife/nemea-mental-health-programme/