In late 2016, Net Friends received the unexpected news that one of our co-workers had lost the battle with mental illness through suicide. As a company, we had not recognized any outward signs of illness – nor did we have established resources for coping with this loss. It forced us to look at ourselves and at the reality of anxiety, depression, and “burn out” that exist across the tech industry. To honor the life of our friend and colleague, we knew we had to normalize mental illness as a topic of discussion and focus at Net Friends.
We hired an HR expert who understood the complexity of mental health challenges. We ensured that our employer-sponsored healthcare plans allowed unlimited mental health visits. But we also needed to do something to help everyone feel comfortable sharing stories of their own struggles, or of those who are close to them.
The Foundation of Hope’s annual Walk for Hope event allowed us to do just that! Through this event, we honor the memory of our late friend and colleague. We also focus our attention on spreading the word about mental illness through story and action. We became annual sponsors of the Walk for Hope, because it has led to real change within our organization. We’ve heard multiple accounts from our own staff of how our actions as a company directly contributed to reductions in self-harm and other symptoms of mental illness. Each story affirms that we’re moving in the right direction, doing well by our people and by the community we serve.
The logistics for this year’s Walk for Hope event had to be adapted to the challenges of living through a global pandemic, but that didn’t stop us from participating in the modified Drive-Thru and Virtual event. We are more aware now than ever that the technology and healthcare industries are being hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. Mental health resources are essential to combating the challenges of this time. IT professionals are reportedly experiencing more isolation and disconnect due to the transition to remote work. At Net Friends, we are committed to creating more meaningful collaboration opportunities and connection through technology and mental health resources. We are all in this together.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours at 800-273-8255.