A global team of leading psychologists makes up the heart of nilo.health’s platform, offering personalized, dedicated 1-to-1 counseling for every user. In our new series, we’re introducing them to you! Read on to discover more about nilo psychologist Zacharia, the importance of early intervention, and their steps for building positive and empathetic workplace culture.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Zacharia (they/them pronouns), Indigenous, and I hold a M.Sc. in clinical psychology. I started to work as a clinical psychologist back in my home town in Crimea, Ukraine. Thanks to nilo and a crisis center for LGBTQ* people, where I work, I have the privilege to have a diverse caseload, but my my main focuses of work are LGBTQ* affirming counseling, ALL-gender-inclusive counseling for victims of abusive relationships, and neurodiversity-affirming counseling.
Where are you based, and which languages do you speak?
I am based in Berlin, Germany, and speak Ukrainian, English, German and Russian.
Stigma can contribute to increased absenteeism (missing work) or presenteeism (being present at work but not fully engaged).
How does the stigma around mental health in the workplace affect employees?
I’d describe it as a domino effect:
Employees are reluctant to seek support or speak openly about their mental health concerns because they fear being judged, stigmatized, or facing negative consequences.
→ Employees who feel unable to discuss their mental health issues may experience heightened stress and feelings of isolation, as they feel they have to conceal their struggles.
→ Untreated mental health challenges can negatively impact an employee’s productivity, concentration, and overall performance at work.
→ Stigma can contribute to increased absenteeism (missing work) or presenteeism (being present at work but not fully engaged).
→ Stigma may lead to a lack of support for career advancement or opportunities, as employees with mental health challenges may face discrimination or be overlooked for promotions.
→ Stigma around mental health can also affect employee retention, as individuals may seek other work environments that prioritize and support mental well-being.
→ Unhealthy work culture where open dialogue about mental health is discouraged, leads to misunderstandings, reduced teamwork, and impaired relationships among colleagues.
What can be done to reduce this stigma?
Addressing mental health stigma is crucial for creating a supportive and inclusive environment where employees feel valued, cared for, and encouraged to seek help when needed. Concrete tools that may be implemented in my opinion are:
- Implementing mental health awareness programs that educate employees about mental health conditions, dispel myths and misconceptions. Increasinging knowledge helps break down stereotypes and promote understanding.
- Training leaders and managers on recognizing signs of mental distress, responding empathetically, and fostering a culture of open communication. Encourage them to lead by example, sharing their own experiences with mental health to reduce stigma.
- Cooperating with mental health organizations or experts such as nilo that provide access to mental health resources, counseling services, and support for employees in need.
Early intervention can prevent issues from escalating and promote timely treatment and recovery.
All of this contributes to a more positive and empathetic workplace culture along with a promotion of open communication, where the mental health discussions will be actively encouraged and “normalized”.
In your opinion, how can integrating mental health support at work help an individual?
It allows individuals to address mental health challenges at an early stage. Early intervention can prevent issues from escalating and promote timely treatment and recovery. When mental health support is integrated into the workplace, it “normalizes” conversations about mental health and reduces stigma. Employees may feel more comfortable seeking help, knowing that their well-being is a priority. It equips individuals with coping skills and strategies to manage stress, anxiety, both at work and in their personal lives, it helps them to develop resilience and a better navigation of challenges.
And how can integrating mental health support at work help the larger company?
It leads to a healthier, happier, and more engaged workforce, contributing to improved productivity, retention, and overall success of the company. Additionally, it helps create a workplace that attracts and retains top talent and enhances the organization’s reputation in the industry.
Could you tell us about a particular time (keeping it anonymous, of course!) that you’ve really seen your work with nilo help someone?
Every individual’s journey is unique, shaped by their personal experiences, challenges, and strengths, which also renders my experience distinctive in each particular setting. As a counselor, my commitment is to provide the best support tailored to each client’s needs.
I believe in the importance of recognizing the boundaries of my role in every specific case, understanding where my responsibilities begin and end. If I have managed to create a space where a client feels comfortable expressing themselves, or if a client has started to regain a sense of control over their thoughts and emotions, or if their confidence has grown and they have begun to engage in activities they had previously avoided, or if we have achieved the aims that we set at the beginning of the counseling, or if we have managed to develop coping strategies to navigate challenging situations, or if they have reported feeling more connected to themselves and their loved ones – all of these can give me a sense of fulfilling my task of being helpful and effective.
What tips would you offer managers or leaders in a company to keep a healthy work environment that protects everyone’s mental health?
- Encouraging a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns without fear of judgment. Leaders should be approachable and actively listen to employee needs and feedback.
- Demonstrating commitment to mental health by openly discussing the importance of well-being and self-care. Leaders can show their own vulnerability and share their own experiences if they’re comfortable.
- Offering access to mental health resources such as counseling services, workshops, seminars, webinars. Ensuring that all employees are aware of available resources and how to access them confidentially.
- Developing and implementing policies that support mental health, including flexible work arrangements, paid time off for mental health days, and stress management initiatives.
- Encouraging a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations for workload and avoiding constant overtime.
- Allowing employees to have some control over their schedules and work tasks. Offering autonomy can empower them to manage their work in a way that supports their mental well-being.
- Taking care of leaders’ own training will help to recognize signs of mental distress and offer appropriate support.
- Acknowledging and celebrating employees’ achievements and contributions. I often hear about “Appreciation and critique rounds” during team meetings, and I wonder, why not separate the discussions of critical points from having a special time where the team can simply share positivity, good vibes, and appreciation with each other? Not every ointment has to contain a fly.
- Scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins with employees to discuss their well-being, workload, and any challenges they may be facing.