The conversation around mental health has come a long way in recent years but there’s still a long way to go, especially with the ongoing pandemic. Reducing the stigma around mental health is also something that still needs a lot of work in many countries and cultures and addressing this is high on the agenda for the team at Healingclouds.
We caught up with Head of Wellbeing, Ashley Lourens and Head of Partnerships, Elisabetta Torretti to find out more about how Healingclouds is supporting mental health across all continents, how they manage to deliver all their amazing services remotely and what makes them different from other providers.
The team also share some great tips for PeopleOps who may be taking increased responsibility for employee mental health.
Can you tell me a little bit about Healingclouds and what you do?
[Elisabetta] Definitely! We started in May 2018, as a platform to connect therapists with clients for online, one-to-one therapy sessions. Our therapists are not just UK based, but from almost any part of the world. We now have over 200 therapists in every continent and almost any timezone - catering to any type of cultural background.
The support we provide is affordable and you are able to access the right therapist anytime. For example, for me being originally Italian, maybe I resonate more with an Italian speaking therapist because of maybe the language or the culture.
When it comes to therapy and mental health, there is a lot of stigma around it, so we understand that there are a lot of barriers, we really want to defeat these barriers.
As a team, we are very driven, because most of us have had to face some type of issue when it comes to mental health, either personally or within our family or friends. We all have a personal agenda, so it is extremely important to provide very high quality customer service and work with really amazing, qualified therapists to help our clients.
We designed and built the Healingclouds platform from scratch, which means that our platform is completely secure, encrypted, GDPR compliant, HIPAA compliant, so you don't have to rely on any other external platform - it’s a safe space for both client and the therapist.
Amazing! Could you elaborate on what makes Healingclouds different from other companies supporting employee mental health?
[Elisabetta] I would say that we are different because we don't offer just one type of service, but a whole variety of services, so we tackle the problem through multiple different channels. We have a global pool of therapists, speaking more than 13 languages, based in any timezone - this is extremely powerful. If you want to have a therapy session at 5am or midnight, you will find a therapist available for that.
We also recently launched our therapist-led online courses which are available On Demand, covering topics from postpartum depression, to managing body image issues due to social media and much more.
[Ashley] For me, what’s so amazing about Healingclouds is all these things, plus our company culture and the personal drive to be able to offer these services. We really put a lot of time, effort and quality into the courses and choosing the therapists - there's so much love that goes into it. I wish that people could see the way the staff and our company communicate and work together - it really is like a big family. Asim, our founder, makes sure we look after our own mental health as employees - he puts us first.
We also try to humanise mental health stigmas and I think that's what psychology as a field is needing. It has become so medicalised that we sometimes forget the human aspect and I think that's what Healingclouds is doing so beautifully. What's amazing for me is how we are able to do all that online.
You support businesses such as HSBC and LEON - both really different! Do you have any other customer use cases that you'd like to highlight?
[Elisabetta] We support people from all generations, gender and cultural background. Our platform is extremely easy to use and can be used by many different types of people. In general, the demand for mental health support has grown exponentially and the conversations we are having now are very different compared to last year.
We do see a lot of people working for big corporates coming to us, as that's a place where individuals most commonly suffer burnout, stress and anxiety primarily due to the fast-paced environment.
[Ashley] There's still a lot of middle-aged men that are really suffering in silence, of course due to the stigma of going to see a psychologist and talking about your feelings - especially at work. If we’re thinking of a specific case, I think, for me, that's what stood out, is that especially older men are starting to use our counselling services.
I really think that the fact that businesses are taking employee mental wellbeing into consideration is really, really huge and I think it's just going to grow over the years.
[Elisabetta] We also work together with many gym providers, because there is a big connection when it comes to mental health and physical health.
Definitely! In light of the pandemic, have you had a change in the direction of Healingclouds or seen a spike in interest in any particular product lines?
[Elisabetta] Yes, part of our mission is to really make a difference to people’s lives - not just to be a supplier. So we’ve introduced several free webinars and online events this year to give people a chance to think about their mental health and also have the opportunity to ask questions anonymously.
[Ashley] To take things a step further, we create a lot of content around the various topics related to mental health and we can tailor those to your business in the form of booklets and blog posts. Of course, we have our online courses now and the amazing webinars - which are part of my role now at Healingclouds.
Pre-COVID, we’d run events in person but of course that's not possible. On the flip side, so many more people can join an online event. Our webinars are usually led by a couple of therapists and are an hour long, with the last 20 minutes left open for Q&A. People get to have their questions answered live, which is really awesome, because you get to ask a professional a question where you might not have access to them usually. They are interactive and really unique to the business's needs, which I think is really necessary.
That’s super cool. A lot of our audience are primarily in PeopleOps and they obviously aren't able to see their teams as much any more. Do you have any tips for supporting employee mental wellbeing?
[Ashley] So actually having that space to be able to go and sit down with your HR manager might be quite difficult - especially now, even more so. At Healingclouds, we make a conscious effort to be an extension of your HR team.
Expanding the variety of services and outsourcing to professionals are great ways of getting a hold of everyone and finding something that fits their needs. It’s also important to communicate what’s available - people tend to forget and so need a little reminder that there are amazing resources available like webinars - it could be the nudge they need to open up.
There's little things one can do like sending out emails, having check-ins - either one-on-one or in groups. Posting regular wellness tips, holding mental wellness chats, and creating safe space groups. I'm a really big fan of that, where everyone gets together on a call to just chat openly, whether there’s feelings that things are getting a bit too hectic, maybe their needs are not being met or maybe there's a bit of conflict at the workplace.
For HR, just reaching out to people, even if it's a message means a lot to people.
[Elisabetta] I completely agree with Ashley, we've been talking to a lot of people from HR and it’s a very tricky time right now. In one example, someone was telling me that as a Head of HR, they feel they also have to be a therapist but they don’t feel qualified. In situations like this, it’s best to seek external support and speak to the right people.
Nowadays it’s becoming harder to disconnect from work and so stress and burnout have become more common. Have you got any tips to help prevent adverse effects of stress and burnout
[Ashley] Yes, it’s something we’ve spoken about a lot, especially with Christmas coming up. Number one, try to create a routine but also with boundaries - as humans and community creatures we thrive off routine.
Also, embrace the idea of acceptance - we can easily stress ourselves out wondering what’s going to happen next but what’s going on is so out of our control. Letting go and being present is also really important - use this time to reflect on processes and to grow. We like to keep busy and generally we tend to fill out our time to avoid our problems and issues.
In the Western world if you’re not busy, then you’re a failure, we carry guilt and stress over not contributing. It’s ok to just be with yourself and not be a million miles an hour. Your worth is not determined by how productive you are.
A big thank you to Ashley and Elisabetta, for sharing so much valuable information about Healingclouds and how they are truly making a difference. We are really looking forward to kicking off our partnership with the team on 15 December.
If you would like to find out how Healingclouds can support your business, you can get in touch with the team here.