Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins sent employees emails about mental illness

Katsoudas invited Burden to join her for a panel discussion about mental health at Cisco Beat, a monthly company meeting that can include up to 15,000 or more employees connecting remotely. Burden also shared her story on an internal forum and got almost 50 comments and more than two dozen emails. Her colleagues began stopping her in the hallway to share their stories.

“I had never received an email like that before or heard anyone talk about mental health anywhere I’ve worked,” said Burden. “It was a relief that someone was making it OK. He swung open a door.”

On Oct. 10, in the middle of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Robbins sent out a follow-up email, this time with the subject line, “Top of Mind: Our Mental Health.”

“Although we’ve made some strides, there is much more to do for mental health to be viewed and supported the same as physical health,” he wrote. “We are looking at our benefits, evaluating mental health services, and working on removing the taboo that keeps people from sharing their struggles openly.”

He also tweeted about it:

Robbins said he plans to keep talking about the issue and responding to employee inquiries. Just before his interview with CNBC, he told employees at a Cisco Beat meeting that, “I’ve told you repeatedly, if it doesn’t put the company at risk or put me in jail, I’ll answer any question you have.”

He recently flew to Canada to launch a partnership with a local addiction center. Using virtual conferencing technology, Cisco was aiming to help people in remote areas get help and access to treatment without having to travel long distances.

Robbins said that he distinctly remembers one particular phrase that someone in the clinic told him about the importance of this type of service.

“I think one of the greatest lines is — mental health is health,” he said. “That’s a simple but powerful statement.”

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