Encouraging open and honest conversations about mental health is key to overcoming misconceptions and breaking down barriers to help and treatment. Recently, we’ve seen a number of celebrities and athletes speak out about their own personal mental health stories. I believe this is a powerful way to build a greater understanding of conditions that are often misunderstood. In our organization, we try to share stories from those who feel comfortable speaking about their own struggles or caring for a loved one with a condition. These stories make mental illness more accessible and relatable, and they help us create a culture where everyone feels like they belong.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Jen Fisher, Chief Well-being Officer, Deloitte. As the Chief Well-being Officer, Jen drives Deloitte’s strategy and innovation around work-life, health, and wellness. She empowers Deloitte’s people to prioritize their well-being so they can be at their best in both their professional and personal lives. Jen also leads Deloitte’s Inclusion Center of Excellence. Jen is a healthy lifestyle enthusiast and seeks to infuse aspects of wellness in everything she does. As a breast cancer survivor, she is passionate about advocating for women’s health and sharing her recovery journey. Jen frequently speaks with clients and media about building a culture of well-being at work and is a regular contributor to Thrive Global. She has coauthored several Deloitte Insights research reports on workplace well-being and hosts WorkWell, a podcast series on the latest work-life trends.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I came to well-being out of absolute necessity. I was in a high-pressure role and I lacked the tools to understand and manage the prolonged stress I was experiencing. I eventually got to a breaking point and burned out. Luckily, I had a very special mentor who helped me realize that I needed to focus on my personal well-being and recovery from burnout. Then she helped me define my professional goals and truly discover who I wanted to be. That’s when I put together the business case for investing in well-being and brought it to Deloitte leaders. In 2015, I became Deloitte’s inaugural Chief Well-being Officer. Since then, I have been working to empower Deloitte’s people to make their well-being a priority and to focus on their body, mind, and purpose.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
I believe that many mental health related stigmas stem from misconceptions that frame mental illness as a weakness or something to fear. And they don’t just exist in society, we also internalize these misconceptions and create self-stigmas that form barriers to treatment or support.
Fear also stems from the myth that mental health conditions can’t be treated. But the truth is that there are many treatment methods that alone or used in combination, can effectively treat and manage mental illnesses just like we do with physical illness
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
Education and awareness is critical. That’s why we are launching our own Mental health program at Deloitte called Mental Health @ Work. Through this campaign, we are empowering our people to take care of their mental health, just as they would their physical health. And we are encouraging our people to speak openly about mental health in the workplace by providing information, resources, and learning opportunities, including Mental Health First Aid Training.
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
It’s about doing what’s right for our people because we are in the people business. Many people will experience a mental health issue, or care for someone who will, during their lifetime. We want to support our people throughout their life journey and in all aspects of their well-being so that they can be their best selves at work and at home.
My own personal experience dealing with mental health challenges certainly makes it a personal passion. After my experience with burnout and the realization that I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I made mental health a priority in my life and I hope to help others do the same.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness? Similar to what we are trying to do at Deloitte, everyone, including society, government, and even businesses can help create awareness and destigmatize mental illness. Encouraging open and honest conversations about mental health is key to overcoming misconceptions and breaking down barriers to help and treatment.
Recently, we’ve seen a number of celebrities and athletes speak out about their own personal mental health stories. I believe this is a powerful way to build a greater understanding of conditions that are often misunderstood. In our organization, we try to share stories from those who feel comfortable speaking about their own struggles or caring for a loved one with a condition. These stories make mental illness more accessible and relatable, and they help us create a culture where everyone feels like they belong.
Improving access to mental health treatment is also important. This is a place where business can play a pivotal role by providing benefits and programs that connect people to mental health professionals and other resources.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Sleep: I’m a huge sleep advocate! I even have a specific bedtime ritual I use to help signal to my brain that it’s time to wind down. It involves dimming the lights, chamomile tea, a little journaling, and most importantly — making my bedroom a ‘no technology zone’!
Movement: Fitness is also a personal passion of mine. I was a collegiate soccer player and studied business management and exercise physiology (figure that out)! So, movement is essential to my routine. I have my weekly workouts, but I also make sure that I am standing, stretching, and incorporating meaningful movement throughout my day to stay energized.
Connection: Our modern, technologically advanced society brings so many conveniences, but it also contributes to the loneliness epidemic that has emerged. We are social creatures at our core, so it’s vital that we spend time with loved ones. We need to make friends and family a priority and continue to cultivate our relationships in our personal and professional lives. Real social connection is best done face to face — not over technology.
Technology: While I find it difficult sometimes, I try to be mindful about my technology use. My phone happens to be my personal kryptonite. I try to limit my phone use, make sure I don’t bring it in the bedroom where it can disrupt my sleep, and turn it off when I am focusing on work or connecting with another person.
Recovery: As an athlete you learn the importance of recovery to performance. But when it comes to life and work, it’s a strategy we often overlook. And I am not just talking about taking a vacation or a long weekend. Building breaks into your schedule throughout your day can help you relax, focus, and really add up to make a big impact on your well-being. I schedule breaks in my calendar throughout the day, so I am reminded to step away from work for a quick stretch or to just go for a walk and get some fresh air.
Meditation: A meditation practice can do more than just relax you, it can help you cope with stress and build mental and emotional resilience. There are some great apps that can guide you through meditation practices so that you can do them anywhere. I travel a lot and really like using those apps for in-flight meditation sessions.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
Thrive Global is a great resource for information and stories relating to well-being. For the month of May, Deloitte will be sponsoring a special section on Thrive Global specifically about mental health.
Gifts of Imperfection, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!