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The Pandemic Lead to Anxiety—Focusing on Mental Wellness Helped Dana Heal

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Intel is committed to the wellbeing of our employees and recognizes the profound importance of mental health. For Global Mental Wellness Week, we spoke with Intel Benefits Specialist Dana Vanderhorst Barron about the resources that helped both her and her husband overcome challenges and why taking time for your mind is crucial to overall wellness.   


What encouraged you to focus on your mental wellness?

I identify as African American and my husband is Filipino American. Neither of us grew up in households that talked about mental health, let alone anxiety or depression or feelings! There is a stigma in both communities, especially within our parents’ generation about needing help or seeking outside help, so we didn’t grow up having anyone role model this behavior for us.


Then the pandemic hit, and I started to experience anxiety and feelings of isolation among other things. And since we started working from home full time, both my husband and I were adjusting to being with each other 24/7 and all the challenges that come along with that, like being away from family and friends and missing social connections. I quickly realized that we both needed to be able to talk through things with someone other than each other, which is where Modern Health comes in.


How did you learn about the Modern Health resource?


I started using Modern Health in 2020 when it was offered as a pilot to the Network of Intel African Americans (NIA) employee resource group (ERG). The NIA ERG did a really great job of promoting the benefit which piqued my interest, so I gave it a try and I enjoyed my first session so much that I encouraged my husband to try as well.


Because it’s so easy to use the app, find providers and schedule appointments, we’ve both been using this benefit consistently for the past two years, both coaching and therapy for a variety of topics—navigating life, relationships, career, health concerns, aging parents, etc. There are no shortage of topics to discuss to help get clarity on our values, priorities and boundaries. This benefit really has changed my life for the better and helped my husband and I grow in our personal and professional relationships.


How else has Intel supported you in addressing challenges in your life that may impact your mental health?


I’ve been lucky to have amazing managers and peers who are thoughtful, kind, supportive and really well connected. When I was first hired, it was my Intel buddy who recommended that I get connected to the NIA ERG so that I could meet people that I felt I identified with. (I was the only black person on my team when I was hired). Getting connected to the NIA ERG is what gave me a community where I felt comfortable showing up, being myself and talking about any challenges that I was facing at work or personally, as not only was I new to Intel, I was also new to Oregon at the time. And it was ultimately the NIA ERG that advertised the Modern Health benefit as a mental health resource during the summer of 2020, that prompted me to explore coaching to help me navigate the challenges of living and working through the pandemic. Intel also offers a wide range of other benefits, like time off, and onsite medical and dental services, which made it really easy for me to find good healthcare providers even though I was new to the area.


Did you feel any hesitancy seeking help? If so, what made you take the first step?


I wasn’t hesitant about seeking help, but I did wonder if I would be able to find a coach through Modern Health that I would feel comfortable talking to. Modern Health made it easy, first by having a user-friendly app, so that I could search for a coach, instead of having to call a number and wait on hold. Secondly, Modern Health asked a series of questions about what I was looking for in a provider and I was matched with an excellent coach who specializes in the topics that I was interested in. Now I’ve been seeing my coach consistently for the past two years. It’s super easy to schedule appointments or just chat with my coach through the app as needed.


How has your life changed since you sought help through Modern Health (and any other mental wellness benefits)?


Utilizing the Modern Health benefit really has been life changing for me! The pandemic triggered anxiety for me but by talking with a coach consistently, I’ve been able to work through my anxiety which has greatly improved my quality of life and made me more confident in who I am and what I value. I’ve been able to get clarity on my personal and professional goals. And my coach has helped me navigate through the challenges of daily life and family situations. My husband has also been using the benefit for the past two years, so we’ve been able to have these conversations together and get really clear on our values, priorities and goals as a couple, which has improved our communication and our relationship.


What do you want to share with your Intel peers about the importance of taking time for your mind?


Taking time for your mind is just as important as any other aspect of your health. Like with anything else that you value, you must dedicate time to it. Taking time for my mind ultimately makes me an active participant in my life, which makes me a better wife, friend and employee.


You can learn more about the benefits, resources and support available to Intel employees here.