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5 Ways Johnson & Johnson Employees are Breaking Barriers to Good Mental Health

By Alice Chiu

Each and every one of us knows someone who has struggled with their mental health. It may be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or even ourselves, trying to make sense of our thoughts and cope with the world around us.

 

According to the World Health Organization, close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. As our communities learn to manage with and rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic, the mental health of our communities and the frontline health workers who serve them could not be more important.

World Mental Health Day, on October 10, is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come in destigmatizing mental health and ask what more we can do to address one of the most neglected areas of public health — especially as we recover from a pandemic that threatens the mental and physical well-being of countless people across the world.

As part of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) employee engagement team, one of the best parts of my job is helping to create opportunities for J&J employees to use their passion and skills to create healthier communities. With a workforce of nearly 140,000 people across the world, we have an amazing network of talented people eager to share the skills they’ve honed at J&J in ways that can help their communities grow more resilient for the long term. This drives what we call our Talent for Good strategy.

From virtual and in-person pro-bono consulting marathons to Secondments to youth leadership programs, the Talent for Good strategy all feeds into achieving our Company purpose: changing the trajectory of health for humanity. In honor of World Mental Health Day, I’m proud to share five examples of how our employees are breaking down the barriers to good mental health for communities and health workers. My hope is that you’ll feel inspired to seek out similar opportunities through your employer or create them yourself! 

Building Resilience on the Front Lines of Care

Caption: A powerful conversation around resilience between nurses, a wellness coach and a J&J volunteer.

1. Emotional support to frontline health workers:Across Latin America, more than 260 J&J employees volunteered to support the Resilience in the Time of COVID-19 Program organized in partnership with the Doctor Payaso Foundation.  Over the course of four months (May-August), at least 4,000 nurses in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia learned to build their resilience and gained self-care skills through a series of virtual workshops, interactive online content, and individual emotional support calls. During the emotional support calls, the healthcare workers were able to talk about building their resilience with specialized coaches and trained J&J volunteers. The program equipped health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic with the skills and support network to maintain their mental and emotional well-being while enduring very stressful working conditions. Nurses and employees alike gained powerful new tools to improve their mental health. 

“Resilience can transform us. Anything that is bad, it turns into good. Thank you Johnson & Johnson and Doctor Payaso Foundation, for these beautiful moments you gave us.” – Gilma Rico Gonzalez, nurse in Colombia

“I believe in empathy as a source of healing, a way of building community, and of course building resilience. For me, connecting with nurses through a screen was a way of building a fortress, a way of expressing our gratitude to all the health care professionals and a way of saying: I am are here, I am grateful for your actions and I have the certainty that we will overcome these challenges.” – Catalina Martínez Castro, J&J employee volunteer

“This experience allowed me to put in perspective the way I am going through this pandemic. Through participating in this program, I could put myself into the shoes of healthcare providers that risk their lives on a daily basis, protecting the health of others. This has been a great humility, self-sacrifice and service lesson to me.” Juan Pablo Quel, J&J employee volunteer

2. Cultural awareness training: In Australia, six J&J employees collaborated with Red Dust to develop and test a cultural awareness program designed to improve corporate employees’ cross-cultural competency and support them in implementing their own Reconciliation Action Plan. This effort stemmed from J&J Australia’s commitment to carry out Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training among its employees to increase awareness of the historical and current issues facing these communities. The cultural awareness program contributes to Red Dust’s mission to inspire positive, healthy change for youth and their families in remote Indigenous communities. Thanks to this collaboration, Red Dust trainers have a new tool to foster a more inclusive Australian workforce, a contributing factor to improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.

“When partners like Johnson & Johnson support Red Dust with skilled volunteering, it significantly increases our capacity to deliver on strategic projects large and small. The contributions of skilled volunteers in developing the Red Dust Cultural Awareness series have enabled us to create a meaningful program for employers wanting to support employee engagement through cultural awareness training and we have hopes to grow this program in the coming years.” – Scott Stirling, CEO Red Dust

“Volunteering with Red Dust gave me the chance to utilize skills I rarely get to use in my everyday job like teaching, presenting and mentoring. It is extremely fulfilling to be able to bring a group of people together and facilitate a safe space in which to discuss sometimes sensitive and confronting content. I love a good yarn and it has been fantastic to be able to connect to a whole new group of people to share our stories and bond over a shared desire to learn more. Even better, the things I am learning about are enhancing my ability to have valuable conversations with work colleagues, family and my sporting connections. I feel extremely privileged to work with a group like Red Dust and honored to be a part of a company like J&J that affords us these opportunities for growth and development.” – Jane Atkin (Loan Kits Team Leader), J&J Volunteer

3. Virtual well-being curriculum: One in four Australian children who die by suicide are Indigenous. Rural and Remote Mental Health (RRMH),an ongoing J&J community partner, created their Deadly Thinking” well-being and suicide prevention program to combat this crisis. Usually delivered in-person, RRMH was struggling to effectively deliver its program in a new online setting in response to COVID-19 safety guidelines. Through Talent for Good, Kay Cook (Executive Account Manager, Neuroscience) and Robert Horstman (Professional Relationship Manager) from Janssen Australia were connected to RRMH to offer their expertise in translating Deadly Thinking into an online curriculum. This built off the work of previous J&J employees who collaborated with RRMH in 2019 to design a marketing strategy for Deadly Thinking. This partnership has enabled RRMH to find renewed confidence in delivering their program online and offer Indigenous youth the support to regain their mental health.

A big thank you to Kay and Rob for their time and expertise! We’re all feeling more confident and empowered to use Zoom for our interim delivery solution.” – Peta Boorman, Deadly Thinking Program Manager, Rural and Remote Mental Health

“I’m so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to assist the RRMH and the Deadly Thinking (DT) program facilitators with Zoom training to facilitate their program challenges during COVID-19. I am so appreciative of the skills I learned through Janssen, and that I could share and add value for good, especially during these unprecedented times. It has been a privilege.” – Kay Cook, Executive Account Manager, Neuroscience, Janssen

4. Resiliency for Change workshop and TEDx Aruaga: Resilient leaders are at the heart of long-term change – when you take care of yourself, you’re in the best position to be able to care for others too. Angelica Tiu (Global Health Services Operations Lead – South East Asia) and Cecilia Poh (Asia Pacific Digital for Influencer and Professional Marketing) teamed up to conduct a workshop for Save the Children employees across Asia Pacific to build their mental and physical resilience and gain understanding of three pillars of resilience: adapt, recover, and grow. J&J employees also collaborated with Save the Children for a TEDxJNJ event where Save the Children employees were invited to share their stories to increase awareness of what it means to serve on the front lines of care during times of crisis.

5. Looking After Yourself & Your Team: Psychological First Aid: “We do not diagnose or try to solve the problem. We are there to link and support the individual to seek help.”Dr. Erwin Benedicto (Head of Medical Affairs, Philippines) conducted a training for Save the Children employees to equip them with the skills to recognize and address mental wellness ‘red flags’ among their colleagues.

For many of us, this year has been highly unusual as we learn to navigate a new world and reality due to the pandemic, testing our resilience along with our physical and mental health. Yet, I am sure we would agree that out of these challenges, we have also seen new opportunities, like realizing the value of slowing down and connecting with our loved ones, gaining new perspectives, and evaluating our priorities. We have also seen the rise of frontline heroes, been inspired by creative and innovative problem solving, and most importantly, witnessed a renewed sense of humanity and responsibility to give back.

In the words of our Chairman & CEO Alex Gorsky, “I have never seen a moment so rich in collaboration, ingenuity, and acts of bravery.” As much as ever, we at Johnson & Johnson remain committed to supporting health workers in acquiring the skills to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing to deliver the best possible care to their communities. If we solve the challenges facing frontline health workers, we will improve healthcare for everyone.

Without a doubt, one of our most valuable resources in making this happen is the time and skill provided by our employees. 

As you wrap up reading this blog, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how you can contribute to the mental wellbeing of your community, including frontline health workers – so that they can provide the quality care we all depend on.

About the Johnson & Johnson Employee Engagement Strategy ‘Talent for Good’

Our Talent for Good strategy aims to empower our nearly 140,000 employees from across the globe to grow personally and professionally by applying their time, their skills and their resources to build healthier communities around the world. We are not looking at a specific employee target audience (or pay grade), but aspire and strive to activate all employees within the Company, no matter what level and/or stage they are in their career within J&J. We offer opportunities for all employees, from donating to fully immersive assignments with NGO organizations, so that they can play their part in creating positive and meaningful change by sharing and enhancing their skills whilst pursuing their passions.