Mental health discussions in the workplace tend to be avoided. Thankfully, mental health awareness month gives us an opportunity to reflect on our mental health, raise awareness around the various issues each of us face and mobilize our efforts. Though this is our privilege and duty throughout this month, for Jason Docton today is no different than any other day.
Jason is the CEO of Rise Above the Disorder (RAD), an organization on a quest to change mental health care for the better. What started as a gamer using his World of Warcraft skills to raise money to pay for one person’s therapy has turned into an organization filled with caring people who have helped 38,000 people and counting across 133 countries. Their work consists of the following:
- Assisting people in finding the right therapist
- Navigating insurance companies and policies
- Paying for therapy sessions and rehabilitation programs
RAD is truly reshaping our society’s approach to mental health. So what better way to honor this observance month than to hear from an organization that fights to eradicate the stigma behind mental health every day of the year?
Something that strikes me speaking with Jason is how community-driven he and his team are. Each of them are well aware of the challenge that is in front of them, yet their passion and shared vision remains unwavering. When he started Anxiety Gaming (RAD’s predecessor), the idea was to help as many people as he could through gaming. Eventually, the demand grew so much he needed a team. Although Jason didn’t imagine his life switching from gaming to funding people’s mental health, he knew it was what he was being called to do. Soon his personal money and late night talks turned into recruiting people who could help too.
Jason admitted that building a business was never his intent; after all he detested corporations and the 9 to 5 monotony. Though as he began to shape RAD’s work environment, he established what was important to him as a worker.
“Most people don’t want to work because employers take advantage of them. Some say they have a family mentality but quickly people find out that’s not the case.”
This is something I think a lot of us have experienced in the past. From feeling under appreciated or devalued in the workplace to struggling to find a work-life balance.
“Everyday I want my team to feel like they are an asset to me. Not to the company.”
Jason’s perspective on the workplace is refreshing to say the least which begged the question; what are the ways companies can make their employees feel valued as human beings?
“I think it starts with hiring for passion”
Most employers hire for the skill sets they want you to have; rarely do they interview for passion. However, that’s arguably the most important quality in a new hire. It’s not the culture, day to day work, or even the benefits that should encourage people to apply, it’s their passion.
At RAD, employees enjoy autonomous freedom. Empowering an individual has a ripple effect on the teams and departments within the organization. From Jason’s point of view, this can be achieved through things like unlimited mental health days. By valuing an employee over deliverables and profits, you’re simultaneously instilling trust that is far more important than any amount of lost time.
Building trust within the workplace is critical to achieving a high level of efficiency. Not only do your employees feel better about themselves, but they’re more willing to put themselves out there and collaborate. At RAD, collaboration is a core component of their culture; from the top down. Jason admittedly struggles with producing social media content on his own. Give the guy a blank slate of a website and he’ll create something truly magnificent. However, social media is something he struggles with. Instead of hiding his weakness, he consults with RAD’s social media coordinator, Parker Billings. Through Jason’s willingness to be vulnerable and share his struggles, Parker felt empowered that his CEO trusted his expertise and was willing to rely on his advice. As a result, the two collaborated and have created content that has not only increased brand awareness but has allowed RAD to reach more people in need.
The final component that Jason attributes RAD’s successes to is uncompromised transparency. If you visit RAD’s website, they showcase each employee’s salary and their respective race. When I asked Jason why he chose to be this transparent, it didn’t take him long to respond.
“We want people to know their donations are primarily going to therapy.”
It’s simple. RAD doesn’t want anything getting in the way of their work to reshape people’s perspective on mental health.
This philosophy correlates with how RAD feels like therapy must be approached. If one party isn’t being transparent with the other, the session immediately loses its effectiveness. The same can be said of RAD’s business. Without that openness, how can they expect people to open their hearts to their cause?
Earlier this year, I was astounded by the work Jason and the rest of the amazing RAD team were doing. These women and men are dedicated to living in service of others. Furthermore, their perspective on community was inline with what I’ve felt in my time at VidMob. It really did feel like the perfect partnership. Today all of our conversations, strategy, and work have come together to amplify their outstanding cause.
Thank you to Jason, Brian, and Parker for their trust in our organization to carry out this initiative and to Jason for his willingness to speak about the work environment of RAD. If you take one thing from RAD’s story let it be this; nothing can be accomplished alone. It is only through our collective efforts that tangible change can occur.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources
SAMHSA (substance abuse and mental health services administration) Hotline: 1–800–662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273-TALK (8255) for English, 1–888–628–9454 for Spanish
Crisis Text Line: Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling
Complete a mental health screening for yourself or someone you care about
Volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to be an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health resources