Megan Lawrence, disability advocate, talks about building a community of support for those with ment

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Healthcare and Life Sciences Blog articles.

Claire Bonaci 

You're watching the Microsoft U.S.health and life sciences, confessions of health geeks podcast, a show that offers Industry Insight from the health geeks and data freaks of the US health and life sciences industry team. I'm your host, Claire Bonaci. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And I have the pleasure of interviewing Megan Lawrence, our senior accessibility evangelist, Megan describes the fluidity of mental health and the importance of normalizing mental health in the workplace.  Hi, Megan, and welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you with us for Mental Health Awareness Month.

 

Megan Lawrence 

It's incredibly great to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Claire Bonaci 

of course. So do you mind introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of why you feel normalizing mental health is so important.

 

Megan Lawrence 

Yeah, so here at Microsoft, I am the senior accessibility evangelist working for our chief accessibility officer. But I'm also the Co-lead of employees with mental health conditions, and really building the community of support between and among the employees here at our company at Microsoft. You know, normalizing mental health is incredibly important in modern society. Most people don't realize that, in fact, mental health is the number one disability in the world today. And so many of us are going to experience mental health throughout our life, you may have a permanent mental health disability like me, I have an anxiety disorder, you may see you have a temporary like postpartum depression, or even situational where maybe you worked 16 hours and didn't get very good sleep and are really feeling like you don't have that decision making power like you used to. So really, I think normalizing mental health means recognizing it's just part of being human.

 

Claire Bonaci 

I love that answer. And I love that Microsoft even has that role. So I'm so happy that you're here at Microsoft with us. Do you feel that it's still taboo? Or do you feel like in the workplace, it's so hard or taboo to talk about mental health?

 

Megan Lawrence 

So, you know, I think that one of the silver linings of COVID has been that we are more often checking in on one another. And the answer can honestly be today's not a great day, and mental health and well being have become important topics for every company out there. And so even though I do believe that there's still bias and stigma associated with mental health, I think we're breaking down some of those barriers.

 

Claire Bonaci 

I agree with that. I do think it's getting better. And you're right, that is the silver lining of the pandemic, finally, something that was good that came out of it. So do you mind telling us the story of why you created the mental health erg here at Microsoft?

 

Megan Lawrence 

Yeah, so it's incredible. I've worked with the disability community for 20 years. And really only until the last four did I start opening up about my own mental health disability. And I have to be honest with you, a lot of that came from my own shame and stigma that I felt about having a mental health condition. But I felt so lucky to find a group of people here at Microsoft that I began to talk to, that were supporting me in my journey with mental health. And I began to realize that that support system was critical for my success. And we wanted to extend that you can really create a strong community for over 160,000 people now that we have at this company. So Jen Emira and I, my co lead and I started this mental health community really to let people know, you're not alone. And we're here to support one another.

 

Claire Bonaci 

I think that's something that we need more of. And do you know, is this happening and other tech companies or other large companies? Are there more mental health ERG's that are being started?

 

Megan Lawrence 

You know, I don't know exactly if there are specific groups around mental health. But I have reached out to many of my colleagues in the disability community. And there definitely is a growing communication among every kind of organization, whether you're a nonprofit, whether you're a bank, whether you're a manufacturing company, that really we're starting to begin to understand that the future of building a company to modernize to stay relevant during a changing marketplace, you have to support employees mental health and well being it's critical.

 

Claire Bonaci 

It is it is I love that you bring up just that in order to stay relevant companies do have to address this, you know, millennials, Gen Z, we're entering the workforce, and they're realizing that they want to work for a company that's going to one support everyone but also be able to have those those ERGs or those resources to support everyone. So I'm, I'm so happy that Microsoft is already ahead of the curve with that. And my last question for you, I've heard you talk about nested identities before it Do you mind explaining this and the impact that it's having right now?

 

Megan Lawrence 

Yeah, so oftentimes, I think we get caught on you know, I'm a person with a disability. I belong to the blacklife community here at Microsoft But in reality, we are all a collection of, of nested identities. I'm a woman, I'm a dog Mom, I'm a woman with a disability. I'm, I'm a Steelers fan, sorry to all you Seattle people in Seattle here. Right? So it is this collection of my experiences in the communities that I exist in that create who I am and the way that I function in the world. And so again, this is where intersectionality becomes critical, as we begin to talk about mental health and the intersection of multiple identities, and really, ultimately, what that's going to mean for technology.

 

Claire Bonaci 

And what do you think that would mean for technology? I know, that's a wildcard question, but what's your opinion?

 

Megan Lawrence 

So I truly believe that AI has the opportunity to be a force multiplier to reduce barriers for people with disabilities. But right now, we live in a disability data desert, we need more data about people with disabilities, we need need more data about people with disabilities, again, at the intersectionality of race, in our bipoc community, in our LGBTQI plus communities to make sure that what we create is culturally competent moving forward.

 

Claire Bonaci 

I love that. And I actually have one more wildcard question for you. What advice would you give to someone external to Microsoft, but they're interested in starting a mental health ERG at their company?

 

Megan Lawrence 

Yeah, so um, ERG's come in lots of different flavors. And so first of all, just get curious, start learning what kind of affinity groups I've heard them called Employee Resource Groups exist already? Is there one for disability? Here in Microsoft, the way we're set up is we have an umbrella disability ERG. Now, I think we've got like, 24 different discussion groups underneath that. Um, so you know, I think it really depends on exploring what you have at your company, what the system looks like, and really just leaning in and recognizing that community pays dividends when it comes to creating a true sense of belonging at an organization. And that's what true inclusion looks like.

 

Claire Bonaci 

Perfect, and definitely those ERG's are what builds connection and what what builds community within companies. So hopefully everyone out there that doesn't already have a mental health ERG can start looking into how to start one. So thank you, Megan, for being part of the podcast. I'm really looking forward to having you on next time to talk a little bit more about mental health and technology.

 

Megan Lawrence 

I love it. Okay.

 

Claire Bonaci 

Thank you all for watching. Please feel free to leave us questions or comments below. And check back soon for more content from the HLS industry team 

 

REMEMBER: these articles are REPUBLISHED. Your best bet to get a reply is to follow the link at the top of the post to the ORIGINAL post! BUT you're more than welcome to start discussions here:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.