Months into social distancing, we’re experiencing the effects of cabin fever, lack of social connection, and the anxiety that accompanies uncertainty, among other stressors. So much is out of our control right now, so it’s no wonder that mental health has become a focus during the pandemic. As the Head of Social Impact at Harry’s – a men’s care brand that’s pledged $5 million to help half a million men get access to mental health care by 2021, and 1% of  sales to nonprofits that are dedicated to this cause – I think about mental health a lot, now more than ever. 

Suicide is the second most common cause of death for men under 39, and men die of suicide at a rate that’s 3.5 times higher than women. Certain populations like the veteran and LGBTQ+ communities, are even more disproportionately affected. As a brand that thinks about, cares for, and ultimately serves over 10 million men, I’m aware that we’re uniquely positioned at Harry’s to have a meaningful impact on men’s mental health. Even though this topic can be hard to talk about, we’re up for the challenge. As a men’s care brand, it’s important that we not only help our guys feel good on the surface, but that we support them by providing access to services they need to feel mentally healthy, too.

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, and the pandemic continuing to unfold, supporting our mental health non-profit partners is the most valuable thing we can do. Nearly half of American adults feel that coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health. The organizations we work with have been feeling the effects of this and dealing with the crisis firsthand. One of those partners, Crisis Text Line, a 24/7 service for people in crisis, reported that coronavirus-related anxiety is currently the #1 reason that people are reaching out for support. 

I’ve recently been approached by nonprofits in need, teammates and friends dealing with mental health challenges or looking to volunteer, and other brands who are wondering how to navigate these uncharted waters. There’s no perfect answer but I hope that some of what we at Harry’s have learned, and the decisions we’ve made can help others get through this unpredictable time, and make a difference. 

All in, All Together

One of our core values at Harry’s is “All In, All Together,” meaning that first and foremost, we know that we have to take care of our team, customers and company before we can do anything for the broader community. When the crisis began, we checked in with our team to see how they were feeling so that we  knew what they really needed before creating our go-forward plan. Our leadership spoke openly and often around prioritizing mental health at this time, and our biggest action was to implement “Mental Health Moments” – two paid days a month for each full-time employee to unplug and recharge. We took this time to lean into our social mission internally.

Little Things Add Up

Leveraging the tools, relationships, and platforms that you already have through small but meaningful actions can have a huge impact. Our first “big little action” was to share mental health resources with our customers. We added Crisis Text Line’s number to our US homepage, sent emails with mental health resources to our customers, and dedicated our social media accounts to mental health content. We experienced a surge in positive responses from customers who found the content useful, and this required no extra budget. Our mental health-focused emails had a higher than average open rate, and we saw a 75% higher than average rate of signups for our membership program, CORE. 

Internally, we shared resources informing our team of ways they could meaningfully help their community, including a list of remote volunteering opportunities. That list was shared widely outside of the company as well, showing a strong desire to make a difference and that a simple excel spreadsheet is a valuable tool. 

Always On

The reason we were able to act quickly to provide our team and customers with mental health resources is because we’d already laid the groundwork through our external social mission efforts. 

I’m biased, but the importance of dedicating part of your business, year-round, to a meaningful cause for your brand has never been clearer. At this rate, everyone will somehow be affected by the pandemic, and we’re just beginning to understand the circumstances that lie ahead. With this in mind, I recommend that companies without an existing social mission fight the urge to only help a few causes in the immediate, and instead endorse a cause that can have long-term impact, rooted in your brand’s overall mission. 

Bonus points if you decide to make that cause mental health – we’ll welcome you to the club with open arms.

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