Room Here, a coalition of businesses from around the state, as well as Utah County, came together with venture capitalist firms Thursday afternoon to promote mental health in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition was founded in 2019 when tech and startup businesses were experiencing hard times in Utah. According to Room Here’s website, several business executives and founders were experiencing with mental illness and began to share their experiences.
During these conversations, Room Here saw that — while no one has the exact recipe — a community of people can help others dealing with mental health.
Its goal was then to lead a movement, switching the conversation from mental health to mental fitness.
“Room Here envisions a world where individuals and companies embrace mental fitness for everyone and mental health challenges can be discussed openly,” its website reads. “Room Here wants to help people and companies find resources and build their supportive community.”
Thursday’s webinar set out to normalize the topic of mental fitness while providing resources for business leaders. Conversations between panelists involved how CEOs, founders and executives handle their own personal mental fitness.
While experiences with mental health are not generalizable, Curt Roberts, of Kickstart Fund, helps in his role through paying attention to signals from one person, reading the signs and initiating a conversation before it is asked for.
“Many times, it will not be asked for,” Roberts said. “Whether the topic is one that we still consider to be one of shame, and I think that stigma is largely going away, but the more important issue is that the problems are unique and so the solutions also have to be unique to the person.”
Ben Capell of Peterson Ventures also spoke of exercising to help his mental health and adopting meditation.
His day starts with a 5-10 minute meditation, which he has found helpful and thinks of as a way to reset things and find focus for the day.
“We noticed, at the outset of the pandemic, I think two key things,” Capell said. “One was that, in conversations with our portfolio companies they were dealing with feeling pretty lonely. The mental toll on top of the existing mental challenges they face day-to-day was meaningful. The second thing that we noticed was that we were saving money. We weren’t spending money on travel, we weren’t spending money on office expenses.”
His partner then came up with the idea to create an employee assistance fund. On top of capital being donated and employees chipping in, a committee came up with the idea to pay for all of the companies to have access to Tava Health through the end of the year.
Tava works to give employees access to certified mental health practitioners, allowing them to schedule appointments online. Peterson Ventures saw 10% of those employees engaging with the platform, over 600 people.
Roberts then added that companies need to address mental health together.
“That mainstreaming is finally making it acceptable to talk about this and seek care in a way that has financial support behind it from the employer,” Roberts said. “That makes an enormous difference.”
He continued, saying people need to pay extraordinarily close attention to others, making sure people can feel care and love.
“If we can do that together, we’ll get through the worst of the challenges that the world is going to throw at us,” Roberts said.
Companies and business leaders who would like to join Room Here can find more information about the non-profit at their website, roomhere.org.