In 2020, the global pandemic and the related economic uncertainty have increased stress levels for employees around the world. The loss of productivity caused by the surge in mental health disorders is estimated to cost companies a trillion dollars per year. We sat down with Regina Athie, the founder of SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco startup Cuéntame, to discuss mental health and better understand Cuéntame’s solution, which supports the mental health of Spanish-speaking employees in Latin America and North America.
Q: What does Cuéntame do to support mental health?
A: Cuéntame provides personalized mental health services and resources for all employees at their convenience. By using questionnaires and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, we are able to place employees on tailored tracks that suit their needs best because mental health solutions are not one-size-fits-all. Cuéntame offers a full spectrum of tools, lessons, and coping techniques, including mediation, webinars, podcasts, and psychotherapy.
Q: Why did you found Cuéntame?
A: Each of Cuéntame’s co-founders has a unique experience with mental health in their personal life. For me, I realized there was a need for more creative mental health solutions when my dad was diagnosed with depression, but our insurance refused to pay for any treatments. Depression is just like a physical illness, such as cancer, yet society and employers do not make it a priority. Cuéntame provides a tailored digital solution to meet mental health needs for Spanish-speaking employees at any company.
Q: How has the importance of mental health in the workplace changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
A: Before the pandemic, mental health was seen as a luxury. It didn’t focus on preventative measures–instead, it focused only on providing support to employees in a crisis. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, mental health is largely about providing tools to support employees and their families cope with the symptoms of our current situation, whether it is depression, anxiety, loneliness, or burnout. Our treatments to these problems include providing tools to overcome these symptoms, teaching resiliency, and creating communities of support in and outside of work.
Q: Why is it important that companies create mentally healthy workplaces and promote mental health culture?
A: 75% of employees suffer fatigue due to labor stress in Latin America. This has an enormous impact on organizations due to increased employee absenteeism and turnover rates. Investing in mental health and opening the conversation in workplaces increases employee satisfaction, reduces absenteeism, and decreases employee intention to leave.
Besides the statistical reasons for creating mentally healthy workplaces, employers have a responsibility to promote healthy environments. Just as organizations must have proper employee safety protections to create physically safe places, organizations should create mentally safe workplaces for employees. A mentally safe organization cares for the mental balance of its employees and may provide stress management training, the option for mental health days off, meditation classes, etc.
Q: How can employers improve employee mental health?
A: The most important thing is to listen to employee needs. Leaders must involve everyone at the company in the conversation around mental health to be able to identify what sort of tools their employees need. Supporting employee mental health isn’t just providing psychotherapy—depending on the person, it also can include exercise, cooking lessons, or being a part of a community or support group. There are many ways for employers to meet the mental health needs of their employees, and Cuéntame provides the full spectrum of solutions from psychotherapy to meditation courses.
Q: How have your customers embraced Cuéntame?
A: At a transnational Mexican company with both manufacturing and corporate employees, Cuéntame was successfully implemented and sponsored by the CEO who included mental health notes in all of his mass communications with employees. Now, employees have started inviting their family members to participate in Cuéntame offerings. Even grandparents are meditating with Cuéntame!
Q: How do you increase the adoption and acceptance of mental health treatments such as Cuéntame?
A: It’s definitely challenging! In countries like Mexico, there is a culture around not talking about mental health, particularly for males. We are attempting to enter the conversation by starting with topics that are straightforward and don’t have a stigma, such as stress management or becoming a better leader. To be able to broach the harder topics, we need strong champions from within who have seen the positive impact of supporting mental health and who are eager to talk about mental health openly.
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about mental health and resources provided by Cuéntame?