Normalize conversation to reduce stigma

One of the pillars of Heart & Soul’s strategy is to normalize conversations about mental health and mental illness to reduce stigma. Depending on where you are in the world, the stigma associated with mental health is highly or partially present. Stigma makes us feel ashamed and guilty, and leads us to believe that we are weak, because we are struggling with our mental health or diagnosed with mental illness. Many of us are silently suffering because of that shame and the feeling of not being ‘together like everyone else’. Stigma also comes with assumptions about mental health and mental illness. For example, there is a common belief that someone with a mental illness cannot be superior, and taking time for mental illness or your mental health is tantamount to being weak.

The truth is, we all have mental health and we all go through periods of our lives when our mental health is affected. Because it is part of life. That stigma is harmful, which is why it is so important to reduce it.

When we talk and listen to other people’s stories we realize that we are not just struggling. It opens an eye when you realize that you think no one is facing any problems they also have struggles. Those assumptions can be challenged when we normalize the conversation. And the more we normalize the conversation, the more comfortable we feel to discuss.

When we first launched Heart & Soul on Spotify in August 2011, businesses weren’t ready to talk openly about their experience. We had to lay the foundation first. Education was needed to build knowledge. People first need to understand what mental health is and the philosophy of spotting around it and whether it’s okay or not.

During our Inclusion Summit 201 During, we consciously decided that it was time to weaken and share the story on stage in front of our colleagues. And it has started more conversations in the company. And now we are moving towards this normalization of conversation in a few different ways.

First, we have a company-wide staff panel where spotters share their experiences with our heart and soul angels.

Then in 2020, we launched Heart and Soul Conversation Podcast, An employee-only podcast that aims to explore different aspects of mental health through the stories of global spotters and guest speakers. In this podcast we bring together staff and leaders on a variety of topics such as parenting in an epidemic, eating disorders, why talking to someone is important, and stress and self-care in the black community (just a few to mention a few).

As a company you can get all the mental and healthy resources and if the employees do not feel support in using them then all those resources will not make any difference. Anyone and everyone (when they need to) needs to be comfortable: “Life is hard at the moment”, and feel supported along the way.

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