Here at Ryan, we focus on building spaces for our clients, our partners and our communities to thrive. But in 2018, we decided it was time we built a “space” for ourselves—but not in the physical sense of the word; a space for our team members to come together to talk about their interests, experiences and struggles. And that’s when Support Without Stigma was created.
Support Without Stigma is one of our employee resource groups (ERG) that’s dedicated to creating a safe space for our team members to talk about mental health in a small, focused and confidential environment while receiving and providing support to others on a similar path.
Learn more about Support Without Stigma’s goals and how the group has been bringing awareness to the importance of mental health at Ryan from a few of their steering committee members themselves:
- Angie Palomo Lynch, Advisor, North
- Megan Conrad, Education & Advocacy, Great Lakes
- Chris Brink, Support Group Development, North
- Britta Ryan & Janan Putz, Co-Chairs, North
- Brad Thomason, Advisor, Midwest
Q: How was Support Without Stigma created?
Angie: In 2018, during Suicide Prevention Week at Ryan, I shared a personal story about my youngest child’s journey with depression and suicidal ideation. About five minutes after the email went out, I had over 200 replies in my inbox, mostly from team members I had never met, in offices all over the country. They were words of solidarity, empathy, similar stories and the theme was how “brave” I was to tell Nico’s story – clearly there was a need to create a safe space for sharing this journey, to shatter the stigmas and to identify other team members who are looking for these spaces.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what Support Without Stigma does on an ongoing basis?
Chris: Our ERG organizes small support groups that are focused on providing a safe environment for ongoing discussion and support around a specific area of mental health. Mental health is a broad topic and it’s necessary to narrow the conversation to a specific focus. We also provide resources and education that any Ryan team member can access to help with their own mental health journey or to support someone else.
Q: How can others—whether a Ryan employee or not—get involved in bringing awareness to the importance of mental health?
Britta and Janan: Start small. You don’t have to take on a leadership role or host a large event. Start by talking about mental health and be open with a co-worker, family member or friend. When others ask how you’re doing, elaborate more than saying “good” or “fine.” You might try going a little deeper.
Q: As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, can you provide a brief recap of what Support Without Stigma organized at Ryan to promote mental health?
Megan: For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month our ERG organized a variety of engagements to promote awareness and education on mental health, ranging from platforms to share our stories, learning opportunities and collective events to support each other, including:
- A virtual bulletin board for folks to share why mental health is important to them and to promote sharing stories as a small step towards reducing the stigma – we revisited and highlighted these stories throughout the month.
- We hosted our inaugural Ryan Remembers event; an all-office memorial walk and remembrance of those we’ve lost. It was a wonderful opportunity for our Ryan family to come together and support each other in coping with grief.
- We organized a panel discussion on Mental Health Issues in Children & Teens with guest speakers from Eyas Landing in Chicago, PrairieCare and Children’s Minnesota.
- We highlighted the statistics around mental health to increase awareness and reinforce that no one is alone in their struggles and there is hope. We provided additional resources and links to help educate and equip our employees with helpful tools, coping skills, and use of our Employee Assistance Program.
- And lastly, we hosted a presentation on Substance Use Disorder – Treatment & Recovery with guest speakers from Minnesota Recovery Connection and Catholic Charities MANA House.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with others about Support Without Stigma or mental health?
Brad: Any steps we can take in reaching out to men and eliminating the stereotypical “tough guy” attitude would be a positive result for everyone, especially their loved ones. We want everyone to know that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.
Mental Health Resources
Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP)
CIASP's mission is to provide and disseminate information and resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion in construction with the goal of creating a zero suicide industry. Click here for great resources and tools.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
NAMI is a great resource for support, advocacy, and education for mental illness. Click Here for more information.
Grief.com is dedicated to help everyone deal with the often unknown terrain that comes along with all kinds of grief. Through education, information and other helpful resources we hope to make the challenging road of grief a little easier. Click Here