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Working toward equality for mental health in an unequal world

World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for those working on mental health issues to shine a light on their work. Here are a few organizations that Zendesk is proud to support.

By Laura Shear, Director, Social Impact Communications at Zendesk

Published October 7, 2021
Last updated October 7, 2021

As a company that builds software to help improve customer relationships, Zendesk has always considered human connection to be crucial to well-being. Many of the most complex social issues we face as a society can be traced, in part, to a breakdown in connection, from social isolation and digital exclusion to homelessness and food insecurity.

Lack of human connection, and a related lack of a sense of belonging, are also at the root of many mental health problems, including a worldwide loneliness epidemic, to name just one.

Many amazing nonprofits around the globe work to improve the mental health of the communities they serve, even if this outcome isn’t explicit. This can look like facilitating mentoring for LBGTQ+ youth, bringing a meal to seniors living alone, ensuring new mothers have the supplies they need, or providing job training to refugees. While their core mission may be something along the lines of “alleviating suffering” or “promoting resilience,” these outcomes are really about mental health.

Many amazing nonprofits around the globe work to improve the mental health of the communities they serve, even if this outcome isn’t explicit.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, “Mental Health in an Unequal World,” emphasizes something crucial about mental health: inequities in our society put individuals who are at risk in other ways at higher risk for mental health issues. The injustice and inequalities compound—but at the same time, the work that so many nonprofits and organizations are doing around social justice also helps to improve mental health for all.

Inequities in our society put individuals who are at risk in other ways at higher risk for mental health issues.

World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for those working on mental health issues to shine a light on their work. As such, we’d like to share and advocate the missions of some of the truly creative nonprofit organizations we actively work with—in a few of the communities where we have offices—who work tirelessly to promote mental health in communities that are often overlooked.

Urban forestry and ‘tree equity’

American Forests is the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the United States. Founded in 1875, the nonprofit champions the role of healthy forests across the country, envisioning a world in which the significant environmental, societal, and economic benefits of forests are equitably available to all.

One of its primary goals has been achieving “Tree Equity”—a term that acknowledges that trees are often sparse in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods or neighborhoods of color. Tree Equity is about ensuring every neighborhood has enough trees so that every person can reap the benefits that trees have to offer, including improved mental health. Please consider supporting American Forests here.

Taking seniors along for the ride

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build bridges between generations and help prevent loneliness. The organization was founded in 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Ole Kassow, a keen cyclist who learned of senior citizens missing the freedom, joy, and mobility of cycling. He came up with a way to get seniors back on a bicycle by showing up at a nursing home with a rented trishaw.

Today, Cycling Without Age lets older adults who live in long-term aged care homes and who may otherwise lack access to outdoor activities tour the streets of their home city, courtesy of younger, volunteer riders. CWA provides the elderly people an opportunity to avoid social isolation and remain active in their community, while the volunteers gain a sense of purpose and satisfaction at the benefit they’re providing.

Research conducted in 2020 to assess the impact of the program found that participants’ mental well-being, feelings of pleasure, and energy levels were significantly higher after they had taken a trip on the trishaw, while their stress levels were reduced. Please consider donating to Cycling Without Age here.

Singing for PRIDE

As the world's first openly gay chorus, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus (SFGMC) is often credited with creating the LGBT choral movement. The SFGMC’s mission is to create extraordinary music and experiences that build community, inspire activism, and foster compassion at home and around the world.

One of its programs, Reaching Youth Through Music (RHYTHM), is an immersive educational series that brings the members of the SFGMC into schools to address bullying and youth isolation. RHYTHM empowers and celebrates LGBTQ youth across San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area, supporting students in expressing their authentic selves regardless of their sexual orientation and promoting the power of being an ally. Please consider supporting RHYTHM programs in California schools.

Moving youth off the streets

STREAT is a social enterprise based in Melbourne, Australia, that helps homeless youth achieve a stable self, stable job, and stable home. Through six hospitality businesses in Melbourne, STREAT provides young people with pathways to employment, including assistance with housing, job skills, and improved mental health and well-being.

Since opening their doors over a decade ago, STREAT has offered over 3,000 young people a true sense of belonging and safety. STREAT’s diverse team represents over 25 different countries, multiple faith groups, and the whole LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Services include individualized case management from clinical psychologists, social workers, youth workers, and a therapy dog, as well access to drug and alcohol treatment, mental health support, and a committed group of supportive friends, mentors, and workmates. Please consider donating to STREAT to help fund its youth programs.

Making the world a better place

Read more success stories from our Tech for Good program partners.