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Catching Up with Hitachi Vantara’s “First Aiders” on Mental Health

Susan Ramirez
Senior Director of Global Benefits

May 02, 2022

Begun in 1949 in the U.S., the month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month and designed to raise awareness and spark dialogue around mental health challenges and successes.

At Hitachi Vantara, we’re committed to prioritizing the health and well-being of our people. We understand that health and wellness extend well beyond fitness and nutrition and is integral to overall health. That’s why we’re dedicated to cultivating a culture that prioritizes total well-being to try and ensure that our whole team feels good both as people and as employees.

As part of this commitment, we encourage qualified individuals across the company to serve as mental health partners and liaisons for employees. I caught up with two such people recently to learn more about the role and their experience. Sandra Labram, a Lumada Sales Associate, and Anne Zielińska-Schürzinger, a Senior Customer Care Specialist are both qualified mental health “first aiders” trained by Mental Health England and St John Ambulance, respectively. The following is an excerpt of our conversation:

What does it mean to be a mental health first aider?

Sandra: In moments of crisis, we are a first point of contact for our Hitachi Vantara colleagues who are seeking mental health support. We listen with an open mind and heart and provide a safe space that’s often a relief for people. We create and promote awareness across our business on the importance of mental health, with the aim of removing any taboos surrounding the topic and promoting openness and awareness; we don’t shy away from uncomfortable and difficult topics like suicide, self-harm and financial difficulties.


Sandra Labram

We also run Hitachi Vantara’s online employee mental health community group, where we focus on awareness and self-care. Overall, it’s a safe space for people to share and for employees to become mental health ambassadors.

Through this work, you are helping support your colleagues in times of need. What does that mean to you?

Sandra: I feel trusted and empowered to know that I’m a mental health first aider. Not every company has these roles, and it feels good to champion the importance of mental health. I really enjoy supporting others and promoting awareness; I feel like I’ve found my personal niche!

Anne: I hope to make a difference, however small, to people’s lives, so it feels good to do something for others without having been tasked with it. Also, creating and innovating as we have done within the mental health community group feels refreshing and motivating. It’s different than the tasks that I do in my typical role.


Anne Zielińska-Schürzinger

What are your top tips to looking after your mental health at work?

Sandra and Anne:

  • Set boundaries and honor them. Taking meaningful breaks away from the desk, phone and laptop can make a real difference to your day.
  • Remind yourself that not every day needs to be treated like the last week of each quarter. Within reason, practice saying no – not everything is urgent.
  • Give yourself time to regroup. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes, for example, so you have a chance for a comfort break.
  • Take your lunchbreak and get outside, going for a walk, gardening, washing up, doing your laundry – whatever it is that works for you. Make sure you honor this time every single day.
  • If you work longer hours one day, don’t be afraid to take that time back. Flexibility works both ways – so book yourself a gym session, time for your favorite relaxing hobby or a nice walk and stick to it!


What advice would you give to someone who is having a tough time right now?

Anne: Everyone has “bad” days, or a bad week, or even a bad year, and it’s ok if that’s you. Nobody feels good all the time. However, even if you do have this bad day today, remember that nothing is permanent, however cliché that might sound.

Sandra: If you are struggling, do reach out to others – friends, family, or professionals. Don’t keep it to yourself; you’re probably not the only one experiencing a tough time, and there are others out there who can relate.

Author’s Note: In addition to the support provided by our mental health first aiders, Hitachi Vantara operates multiple programs that focus on mental, emotional, and physical health and wellness. We also partner with the Heartfulness Institute to offer access to resources such as meditation sessions and master classes on topics like empathy and work-life balance. We also have a HiFit program that focuses on employee well-being through exercise, mindfulness, and healthy eating, and offer a variety of learning courses which focus on personal finances and stress management.

 You can learn more about our company values here.

Susan Ramirez is Senior Director of Global Benefits at Hitachi Vantara.

Susan Ramirez

Susan Ramirez is Senior Director of Global Benefits at Hitachi Vantara.