We sat down with Randi Cruz, People Support Generalist and Co-Lead of SWCA’s Mental Health Matters Employee Resource Group (ERG) to talk about how mental health impacts everyone and how to be a proactive ally to someone who is facing one of life’s challenges.
Hi, Randi! Thanks for joining us for a conversation about mental health. Would you like to get started by telling us about yourself and your career?
A: I’ve always worked in HR employer relations and people support, and I honestly can’t imagine a career in anything else. I worked for several healthcare companies, and most recently a behavioral health company, until I began working at SWCA three and a half years ago. My favorite part of my job is getting to know the unique behaviors of each office, the personalities of individuals, and building relationships throughout the company. We operate as #OneSWCA, but each office has a different vision of how to attain their goals. I’m all about learning those nuances and helping everyone work better together. The best part is, I still feel like I learn something new every day.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
A: Family is the center of everything for me. I have eight-year-old twins, so we are almost always doing what they want to do! I also have two adult children, ages 18 and 21. We live in Tempe, Arizona, and we enjoy getting outdoors together, extracurriculars for the kids, and attending their school activities. Enjoying life with my four children is my focus outside of work.
Q: How did you start leading the Mental Health Matters ERG?
A: I was an active member since the very beginning of the Mental Health Matters ERG. I felt so comfortable being myself around this trusted group and I found myself really looking forward to each monthly meeting. Vanessa Hastings was the original group leader, and she’d been leading for years, so she began looking for someone else to pick up the role. First, I became a co-lead with Vanessa, and then she decided to pass the torch to me. I felt honored to step up and keep the group going, because I know how important this space is to our members. Recently, Annie Lutes offered to join me as a co-lead. Vanessa did such a great job establishing and leading the ERG, so Annie and I inherited a wonderful group to begin with.
Q: What are some of the goals and activities of the group?
A: Our number one goal is to foster a safe space for people to openly discuss their mental health concerns. The ERG is for SWCA employees who are striving to overcome mental health challenges and employees who wish to support others (family, friends, coworkers) in overcoming mental health challenges. We destigmatize help-seeking while providing participants with tools and support for improving and sustaining their mental health. Our meetings are not always about positive topics, but the truth is that mental health impacts all of us – no matter what that looks like.
The ERG supports companywide improvements related to mental health. A couple of years ago, we were involved with expanding the company paid time off policy to include wellness hours, which provides more flexibility for employees to take mental health days.
We also work closely with Angie Tizzano, SWCA’s Senior Total Rewards Manager, to discuss mental health opportunities and resources with ERG members, like SWCA’s free employee assistance program, and we have hosted several guest speakers on topics such as grief, imposter syndrome, living with trauma, practicing gratitude, and much more.
Q: How does being a part of the ERG personally benefit you?
A: When I joined the ERG, I was dealing with an immense amount of personal loss. It’s hard to put into words the true amount of support that I received from the Mental Health Matters ERG members and my supervisors at SWCA. They listened, checked on me, let me cry, and really did whatever they could to make sure I was okay during that challenging time. This is indicative of how we treat each other now. We won’t allow anyone to go through something alone.
Our group members are located all over the country, and I find it special that we have opportunities to connect with people who we might not have met otherwise. Keeping genuine relationships with colleagues in the group – and knowing we all reciprocate support for each other – means so much to me.
We may not all be in the same boat, but we’re all in the same ocean, and we wouldn’t want to see somebody struggling out there.
Q: Following our #OneSWCA core value, how can we be proactive allies to colleagues who are experiencing mental health challenges?
A: Talk to people. Don’t be afraid to check in with people and ask how they are doing. No matter where you live and work, it’s a cultural norm in this country to worry about offending someone. I encourage people to break that stigma and ask others how they are, especially if you are concerned about someone – just be considerate of their feelings when you start a conversation or ask if they are okay. Sometimes, the people most in need of support are those who you wouldn’t think to ask, and that’s why I believe this is so important.
Mental health affects everyone differently, both through their lived experiences and their social identity. In the ERG, I encourage members to speak about mental health as it relates to them, whether that’s in respect to their race, culture, gender, sexuality, and other aspects to one’s social identity, such as being a caregiver. Men’s mental health doesn’t get enough attention in the U.S., and we are trying to address that within the ERG.
In general, the more we can learn about an individual for who they are and truly listen to each other, the better we can support one another.