How Samanntha DuBridge Sparks Conversations About Mental Health at HPE

Samanntha DuBridge spearheads behavioral health programs that challenge the stigma around mental health care, allowing Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s employees to access the resources they need to remain healthy

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s wellness initiatives address physical, financial, and behavioral health. Photo by Cass Davis

In 2018, Michael Phelps helped jumpstart the conversation around mental health at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

It wasn’t an in-person visit, but HPE employees heard Phelps discuss his struggles living with anxiety and depression, even after winning a record-breaking number of Olympic gold medals in swimming, at a screening of the documentary, Angst.

The film features teenagers, parents, mental health professionals, and the gold medal-winning swimmer talking about their mental health struggles, as well as some of the psychology behind anxiety and depression. It screened for employees as part of HPE’s For Real Life campaign.

The initiative, led by Samanntha DuBridge, is aimed at beginning a dialogue about mental health and getting employees more comfortable discussing their struggles, as well as asking for help if they or a loved one need professional mental health care.

“Employees and their families used the film as a way to talk about these issues in more general terms and didn’t have to make it as much about themselves,” says DuBridge, HPE’s vice president of global benefits and employee mobility. “I think it really helped get some new, healthy conversations started.”

Samanntha DuBridge, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Photo by Cass Davis

In 2019, DuBridge and her team are placing a heavy emphasis on refining and expanding HPE’s behavioral health programs as part of a broader effort to round out the company’s wellness offerings. And although the renewed emphasis on mental health is somewhat fresh, DuBridge and HPE have been offering extensive benefits and well-being packages to employees for years.

“Samanntha DuBridge and the HPE team are industry leaders in benefits strategy,” says Jay Gunning, bswift’s vice president of client services. “Their holistic approach, paired with bswift’s human-centered benefits enrollment solution, is the gold standard for companies who are seeking to improve their employees’ health and benefits experience.”

About nine years ago, DuBridge helped launch HPE’s Winning with Wellness program, an initiative that supports employee well-being across physical health, financial well-being, and behavioral health through various programs.

“We strategized our offerings into pillars that people could relate to and could easily find resources for,” DuBridge says. “Over time, what we offer in those pillars has changed, but our general approach has stayed the same.”

As part of Winning with Wellness, HPE employees have access to a range of resources such as help with retirement planning, a student loan repayment program, opportunities to participate in physical activities such as HPE’s Global Wellness Challenge, a special physical activity challenge designed for families, and more.

The Global Wellness Challenge has been particularly popular with employees, DuBridge says. In this activity, employees wear a fitness tracker to measure the number of steps they take over the course of the challenge. As they progress, the number of steps taken by an employee and their family translates into a virtual journey that can take participants all across the globe.

Participants in these challenges have the option to go on several different virtual journeys, such as visiting the Seven Wonders of the World, or traveling between iconic landmarks within a single country. At each stop, people unlock fun facts and other information about each site until they complete their journey. DuBridge says she has appreciated hearing how much employees enjoy this program.

“One employee said, ‘I’m here in the US and the rest of my family is in India, and we had an opportunity to do something together virtually.’ So, people were getting their kids involved in exercise and were able to spend more time with their families.”

Praise of DuBridge and her professional achievements is no surprise to some of her long-time business partners.

“I’ve been privileged to work with Samanntha DuBridge for more than a decade,” says Richard Migliori, UnitedHealth Group’s executive vice president and chief medical officer. “Samanntha is an amazing partner and has made us a better organization through her relentless focus on the well-being of the HPE population.”

Although the physical wellness challenges remain a cornerstone of HPE’s benefits programs, in 2018 and into this year, DuBridge and her team turned their focus to enhancing the organization’s mental and behavioral health programs through the company’s For Real Life campaign.

“We really wanted to focus on addressing the fact that talking about some of these issues can be uncomfortable or embarrassing,” DuBridge says. “Where we’re headquartered in Silicon Valley there is a strong entrepreneurial culture, and it can be difficult for some people to come forward if they’re concerned that they might be denied an opportunity if they aren’t perceived as strong anymore.”

Photo by Cass Davis

To address those concerns, she and her team are working diligently to normalize conversations about mental health. Whereas HPE’s behavioral health programs have mainly focused on stress management in the past, DuBridge’s recent efforts emphasize developing a comprehensive approach to mental health needs that go beyond stress management.

To achieve that goal, DuBridge and her team spoke with mental health experts and put together a clinical group to develop a holistic approach to mental health care, including the For Real Life campaign, to raise awareness and make it easier to talk about behavioral health issues. Once they had developed a framework, DuBridge and her team communicated with HPE’s managers to let them know what resources would be available to them and their teams.

She and her team also gave middle managers tips on how to discuss mental health with their teams in an effective way. From there, the programs were rolled out to all employees, and the For Real Life campaign was born.

“I’d like to thank my team for their unwavering commitment to our employees and their families,” DuBridge says. “They truly care about offering the programs and resources to help our people reach their wellness goals.”

In addition to events like screening the film, Angst, educating employees on HPE’s employee assistance program, and promoting open and honest communication about mental health, the For Real Life campaign has focused on providing accessible and confidential mental health services to employees’ family members, as well.

This includes a mailing initiative called Adulting 101 that is targeted at employees’ adult-age dependent children. The mailing promotes HPE’s employee assistance program and other benefits such as the fact that they can get employee discounts on movie tickets, going out to eat, as well as their healthcare at school, including telemedicine services. In the mailing materials, DuBridge and her team made it clear that dependents can also access mental health services free and confidentially if they need them.

Right now, the For Real Life campaign has only been launched in HPE’s US offices, but DuBridge has plans to expand it globally over the next year or so. But because attitudes toward mental health care vary across cultures, DuBridge is assembling a global team of HPE employees to craft and tailor behavioral health programs that reflect different cultures. The hope is that eventually, mental health issues will be treated like any other illness, she says.

“Years ago, we actually talked about cancer in hushed tones, like it was something to be embarrassed about,” DuBridge says. “But that has changed radically, and many people don’t even know that used to be an issue. I look forward to the day when the same change will happen for behavioral health, and people can share openly and support one another without stigma.”

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care focuses on the future of service and healthcare delivery. For fifty years, we’ve learned and evolved. Our health benefit plans, programs, and services help solve the most pressing health issues of today, while our partnerships with like-minded innovators help us approach the challenges of tomorrow.

Cigna is a global health service company who, like Samanntha DuBridge, is focused on customer experience and pushing boundaries in a positive way to promote health and well-being. Cigna values our partnership with Hewlett Packard and we applaud Samanntha for her innovative approach and dedication to the industry.

UnitedHealthcare is committed to improving lives and the healthcare system through continuous innovation, trusted provider relationships, and a focus on empowering members. Our health benefits and services businesses touch more than thirty-eight million lives nationwide, as they work to better the healthcare experience for everyone, at every touchpoint. That’s why we’re celebrating Samanntha DuBridge and her leadership of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s award-winning wellness initiative; we share her dedication to helping people live healthier lives.