At Levi Strauss & Co, we recognize how important it is that our employees are supported with mental health resources and benefits. That’s why we strive to help raise awareness of mental health issues through initiatives like our Thrive: Mental Wellness employee resource group (ERG).
The Thrive ERG looks to provide a safe space for LS&Co. employees to come together to learn how we can all take better care of our mental and emotional health. The ERG gives employees opportunities to learn about better ways to deal with life stressors, provides a community where it’s safe to talk about mental health struggles, highlights LS&Co. benefits geared toward improving mental health and fights the stigma of finding help for mental health issues. In recognition of World Mental Health Day this Saturday, we reflect with Levi’s® design coordinator and Thrive ERG Co-Chair Ron Pritipaul on his mental health and wellness journey and his impact within the ERG.
When did you start getting involved in mental wellness?
Prior to LS&Co., I was a volunteer crisis counselor for a suicide hotline for about two years. That was my first kind of foray into mental wellness.
A lot of people focus on the mental illness aspect — feeling down, depressed or anxious. I’ve personally suffered with depression and anxiety throughout my life, but as I got involved with counseling I realized that mental health and mental wellness is like physical health. Mental wellness isn’t just about when you’re at the bottom and you need help. It’s also when you’re doing well, and you want to support that and continue that throughout your life.
Tell us about why you joined the Thrive ERG and your role there.
After working as a crisis counselor, I made the choice that going forward, I was going to find a way to be there for people, regardless of what my job was. And that led me to joining Thrive when I came to LS&Co. because I was like, “This is the perfect place for me to keep doing the things that I love to do.”
Within Thrive, I set up and manage the events and programs we do where we’re supporting each other and talking about issues that were dealing with. For example, I run our Rose, Bud, Thorn activity. It’s an activity where everyone in the group goes around and shares a rose, which is something that’s positive in their life right now. Then they share a bud, which is something down the line they are looking forward to that will be a positive experience. And then they share a thorn, which is something that’s negatively impacting them. Everything is confidential, and we’ve tried to make it accessible by not having any kind of barriers in terms of what’s on the table to talk about.
Why do you think it’s important that we have an ERG focused on mental health and wellness?
This is my first corporate job, so I had this vision that a corporate job means there’s no place to talk about mental health. I was very, very shocked when I came here and saw we have this ERG, that there’s programming around mental health and mental wellness, and our benefit options are amazing for mental health. I think the Thrive ERG is unique because it’s based off of something that we actually all struggle with, and it’s really trying to help as many people as possible. I think everyone can benefit from taking care of themselves and having a community to help support them in being taken care of.
We are in a very challenging place today. Any advice you might have for those who are struggling right now?
Reach out to the people who care about you and who you care about. Go through your contact list and reach out to people who you haven’t talked to in a while. You never know who needs help, and I’ve found personally that helping others and reaching out to people has made me feel more actualized in myself. I feel better. I feel like I’m doing something. I’m taking a little bit of control out of the situation that’s crazy and out of control and doing what I can.
Also, just don’t focus on all the things that you can’t do, all the things that are impossible with the pandemic, or all the things that are stressful that are out of your control. Just spend the moments trying to take care of what you can. Whether that’s doing your job, reaching out to friends, cooking a good meal, taking care of yourself — you have control over that. Anything that you can do, just focus on what you can do and don’t sweat the stuff that you can’t.