This blog contains content about mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, please see here for a list of helplines around the world.
In honor of World Mental Health Day, Zoom Cares, our social impact arm, is spotlighting four partners making mental health a priority in their communities.
At Zoom, we want to see a world where mental health is prioritized by all of society as a human right, from schoolteachers to politicians, from homes to workplaces, at local and global levels. In order to achieve systemic change, different sectors must come together to support one another.
Among those aged 15 to 19, depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are the leading causes of illness and disability, and suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death. This is why Zoom Cares provides funding and technology donations to organizations that are youth-focused, community-based, and that exist to raise the voices of marginalized groups working to address mental health care challenges so that young people may achieve their full potential. These organizations are also led by folks with lived experience.
An example of this leadership is the founder of Letters to Strangers, Diana Chao, who shared that when she was 13 years old she found out she had bipolar disorder. Not long after, she attempted suicide. At the time, “mental health” did not exist in her vocabulary given she was a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the poorest province in China, and Asian-Americans and minorities at large tend to seek mental health services at significantly lower rates than White-Americans. Diana turned to writing, and when she was just a sophomore in high school she started Letters to Strangers.
From providing free telehealth counseling services in India, suicide prevention support in Japan and Brazil, and letter-writing exchanges across the globe, the four groups highlighted here focus not only on destigmatizing mental ill-health and delivering care, but also go above and beyond to ensure their services are accessible to all. Check out our partner spotlights below to learn more about each organization.
Zoom Cares Partner Spotlight
Letters to Strangers (L2S) is the largest by youth, for youth global mental health nonprofit. L2S started as a way for people to connect, open up and support one another through anonymous letter writing, but has evolved to offer so much more. As well as facilitating anonymous letter-writing exchanges, L2S creates science-informed peer education curricula, and does grassroots policy-based advocacy in order to destigmatize mental illness while increasing access to quality and affordable treatment.
“Since Letters to Strangers began in 2013, we’ve impacted over 150,000 people worldwide and have expanded to six continents, now impacting over 35,000 people directly every year,” said Diana Chao, Founder L2S.
Chao is one of the 30 White House/MTV Youth Mental Health Leaders Zoom Cares supported with funding and technology to help advance her efforts.
Creating a society where everyone can find happiness. That is the vision of Light Ring, the organization dedicated to prioritizing mental health in Japan. As suicide remains the most common cause of death among people aged 15 to 34 in Japan, Light Ring is dedicated to the early intervention of mental illness and suicide among children and young adults, and serves as a key partner of the Japanese government’s Loneliness and Suicide Countermeasure.
Light Ring provides mental health education and ongoing support for young “Gatekeepers” (friends, family, and partners who provide peer support), seeking to break down societal stigma surrounding mental health and empower young people with the tools and knowledge to support each other. With support from Zoom Cares, Light Ring was able to conduct its ringS program online for 180 gatekeepers, resulting in support for over 500 young people at risk of suicide.
Initiating Concern for All (iCALL) is a pioneering and empowering mental health project started in 2012 by the School of Human Ecology, TISS – Mumbai, India. iCALL provides free professional counseling to anyone in need of emotional support, irrespective of age, gender, sexual orientation, or race, and transcends geographical distances while ensuring confidentiality.
In partnership with Zoom Cares, iCALL has been able to respond to the needs of the pandemic, testing effective modalities of mental health counseling and workshop facilitation through Zoom. The group has published an academic paper highlighting the lessons learned by facilitators from online psychoeducational groups during COVID-19 in the Journal of Family Therapy.
Vita Alere – meaning literally ‘to care for life’ – was created as a safe space for facilitating conversations about suicide and where pain could be welcomed, rather than pushed away. Now the Vita Alere Institute is a center for assistance, education, and mental health promotion that provides suicide prevention services for all people throughout Brazil, especially teenagers and young adults. Vita Alere offers psychotherapeutic care and self-help groups for people with suicidal ideation and those bereaved by the suicide of a loved one. Men die by suicide at a higher rate than women in Brazil, and often do not receive necessary mental health resources. With support from Zoom Cares, Vita Alere was able to develop a program for one of its most pressing issues – providing support to boys struggling with mental illness, including increasing suicide prevention efforts among this underserved group. The project is the first step needed to break paradigms and establish bridges to mental health and suicide prevention for boys.
In addition to these four organizations, Zoom Cares also partners with the following mental health groups:
- Association for the Emotional Support of Children
- Black Girls Smile
- Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
- Born This Way Foundation
- Centro de Valorização da Vida
- Kaleidoscope Youth Center
- National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network
- TELL Japan
- The Friendship Bench
- We R Native
Mental health and well-being of employees
We know that prioritizing mental health starts at home, and creating opportunities to support wellbeing in the workplace is an important step in shifting societal views on the topic. This is why we offer free access to a global Employee Assistance Program with professionals available 24/7/365, as well as access to TaskHuman – an app that provides free 1:1 live sessions with professionals via video. Coaches are also available 24/7/365 for mental wellness, emotional support, physical wellness, financial support, and spiritual support.
We also provide the flexibility employees need to care for themselves and their families with a comprehensive benefits program that includes generous parental leave, health and wellness benefits, retirement benefits, and an extended vacation policy.
In honor of World Mental Health Day, please consider supporting our mental health partners and learn more about Zoom Cares here.