Left to Our Own Devices Podcast

S1:E10 Alyson Friedensohn
and Jaime-Alexis Fowler

Your Mental Health Matters: How to Manage All the Stress with Alyson Friedensohn and Jaime-Alexis Fowler

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re dealing with multiple crises at once, one of the most critical being a mental health crisis. That’s where organizations like Modern Health and Empower Work step in. This week two guests join the show—Founder and CEO of Modern Health, Alyson Friedensohn and Founder and Executive Director of Empower Work, Jaime-Alexis Fowler. Alyson shares how her company, Modern Health, offers comprehensive mental well-being support for companies like lyft, Pixar, Zendesk, and Rakuten, among others. Understanding that mental health falls on a spectrum, Modern Health offers everything from digital courses and meditation to certified coaches to licensed therapists, depending on each employee’s needs. Alyson also shares how she stays vulnerable and open with her own team during quarantine.

But what about employees at companies that don’t offer mental health services, like Modern Health, as a part of their benefits? Enter Empower Work, a free, volunteer-run, text-based counseling service. Jaime-Alexis saw a huge inequity with those who didn’t have access to mental health resources, so she founded this easy, free way for any worker to get support. Peer volunteers are trained, working professionals and often come away from an exchange feeling just as transformed as the person on the other end seeking help. Let’s face it, well-managed mental health is a human need, and having access to support is essential—not only during a global pandemic, but in day-to-day life during more normal times too. A must listen for every human.

Quotes

Alyson

2:59 – On recognizing the pandemic was still impacting her despite having certain advantages: “I remember sitting at my computer, and I felt so bad—I couldn’t complain to my team or my coworkers because I’m home, I’ve got a roof over my head, I have plenty of work to do, I have a job, I’m in good health, and I don’t have kids—like what could I possibly be complaining about? And that’s when I realized this really is impacting everyone.”

5:43 – On her being vulnerable allowed her team to do the same: “It created space for people to open up and talk about their own experiences and I think that alone allowed us to say, ‘Okay, what can we do to support each other? We’re all going through this now—what can we do?’”

14:30 – “So just by rolling out the product, before people have even used it, people are going to their Heads of People in HR saying, ‘Thank you so much for showing us 1. you care about us as people and 2. that you’re creating a safe space for us to be vulnerable and to support each other during these difficult times.’ So I think that what’s going to drive change is at the company-wide level. It can be bottoms up or tops down, but it very much helps when you have someone at the executive level sharing their own story being vulnerable and saying, ‘Here’s why we’re investing in all of your mental health. You don’t need to wait until you’re in crisis mode or struggling with depression to engage in your mental well being.’”

19:38 – “No matter how much technology we have, no matter how advanced technology gets, we as humans will always crave [human connection] and it’s so important to our happiness and fulfillment.”

27:55 – Answering the question, what makes you feel most like you?: “Honestly I feel like it comes back to leading with vulnerability and just being honest about who I am. One of the reasons for starting Modern Health was to create a space where it’s okay to do that at the leadership level.”

Jaime-Alexis

34:47 – On the difference in conversations since COVID started: “Now with the onset of COVID, the complexities of what’s happening across the country from an economic standpoint to the structural racial inequities we’re seeing on full display—this is impacting people in really, really new ways that the human brain is not built to process. We’re not equipped to deal with this much information and this much emotional overload that so many folks have experienced in the last couple months, and we’re seeing that in conversations.”

38:55 – On the power of their support platform to all involved: “The transformation that happens in these exchanges is really profound. And it’s profound on both sides…Volunteers say that they feel incredibly energized, motivated, moved, really leave the conversations, too, in a different state. Because they can see the evolution of their support in real time in those conversations.”

42:08 – “We built Empower Work to address both the emotional and the tactical components of what someone’s experiencing, so they have a space to be vulnerable and talk through what’s at stake for them.”

45:31 – “What do workers need at vulnerable moments? That question drove all of our initial research, all of our looking at the market space, and really what we saw was this huge inequity. For folks who had access to resources—amazing, great—and if you didn’t, it really had this negative ripple effect that you would see—particularly for women and people of color—across the rest of their jobs and careers. They would see financial and emotional setbacks following these adverse experiences and not having support.”

Resources

Modern Health website

Empower Work website

Text ‘Hello’ to 510-674-1414 to start a chat and get support