Work That Matters: Global Leadership in Mental Health
Alumna Jessica DiVento Dzuban, Global Head of Mental Health for YouTube, talks with CIIS about her mission and her passion to bring the highest quality mental health content to users worldwide, and to keep those users safe and emotionally supported.
Wellness at Work
Jessica DiVento Dzuban’s day starts half an hour before. Before what? you may ask. Before anything. No matter how early her day is slated to begin, and no matter what projects, meetings, or challenges lie ahead for the Global Head of Mental Health at YouTube, Dr. DiVento Dzuban begins by evaluating the day ahead, setting goals and preparing herself. As a graduate of CIIS’ Clinical Psychology doctoral program, and with years of experience in providing mental health solutions on bigger and bigger scales, Dr. DiVento Dzuban knows how crucial it is to care for her own state of mind. She makes time before anything else to be centered. Then she gets to work.
That work, overseeing the stream of content on mental health, is both ever-changing and constant. Dr. DiVento Dzuban must keep abreast of an evolving discipline and new technologies while maintaining the highest standards for content across the board. “It’s demanding,” she acknowledges, earnest and determined. “It's also very important. And I know it's having an incredible impact.”
A Career of Care
Dr. DiVento Dzuban didn’t set out to work at YouTube, or even in community mental health. “If you had asked me when I was in grad school if I'm going to go into tech... I would have laughed at you. No way. I'm not going to do that. I'm here to be a clinician.” But through the Psy.D. program, she began to consider further options. “This school brings about so many different people from so many different backgrounds,” Dr. DiVento Dzuban reflects. “It really exposes you to the power of difference.”
Eventually, Dr. DiVento Dzuban discovered that she wanted to have a different kind of impact, one with greater potential to change systems as well as individual lives. Working in university health care, Dr. DiVento Dzuban was able to expand the reach of her skills and work with a wide variety of young adults.
“But then I wanted to have a bigger impact,” she adds, a theme of her career narrative. She transitioned into employee assistance, where she became a vendor for Google overseeing Google’s clinical services for the US. This gradual increase in scale meant that she was working with between 100,000 and 160,000 employees.
Then there came a catalyzing moment, a shooting incident on the YouTube campus in 2018. Dr. DiVento Dzuban was part of a team that helped both employees and leadership manage the crisis, navigating the stress, trauma, and other aspects of the healing process. “Susan [Wojcicki], the CEO of YouTube said, ‘That's it. I want somebody running mental health for my company.’” She gave Dr. DiVento Dzuban the opportunity to craft an internal role as part of an innovative new mental health team. “YouTube became the incubators and the innovators of new ways of supporting employee mental health for the company. So we would start pilot programs and do experiments there and then scale them to the rest of Google.”
Program creation led to Dr. DiVento Dzuban consulting with the YouTube health team on matters including policy, products, marketing, partnerships, and eventually to suggest that the advisor role be made permanent. The result was the creation of the Global Head of Mental Health position, a role that would allow YouTube to think holistically and proactively about mental health on an even bigger scale: in 2022, there were over two billion active YouTube users.
After a full search, Dr. DiVento Dzuban was chosen for the role in May of 2022. “And the opportunity now is, again, just to have further impact,” she says.
An Ethos of Empathy
In 2021, there were over 25 billion views on YouTube for mental health content. Many of those viewers were looking for information – for lists of symptoms, for treatment options, and additional data that would help them understand a particular condition or the overall field. Others were looking for something a little more intangible – they were looking for answers.
What's really important is we help people share their stories on YouTube, that lived experience journey, because we know it is so critical to the mental health journey of others to learn from people who have already been through it.
Investigating mental health concerns, coming to grips with a diagnosis, or exploring the many treatment options available can be a daunting task. “What is it like to live with this condition? What is it like for other people in the space? What is my journey going to look like in the future? What can I do now to prepare myself for the next steps in this path?” Dr. DiVento Dzuban and her team ask these questions just as users do, trying to anticipate users’ needs in order to provide support.
Those needs can be as diverse as users themselves. “Something that I'm passionate about is talking about mental health at the intersection of identity and how important that is and how mental health may look different for different communities,” says Dr. DiVento Dzuban. At YouTube, it’s Dr. DiVento Dzuban’s mission to transform subject matter that can be intimidating or confusing into an opportunity to find safety, empowerment, and connection.
“At YouTube we think about access to high quality and accurate information as a determinant of health,” explains Dr. DiVento Dzuban. She and her team have developed three pillars that uphold this standard of user experience:
- Accurate and timely resources for users who may be in acute distress (i.e., a crisis support line)
- Authoritative and credible mental health content, backed by science, from top experts
- An emotionally supportive platform and content to decrease stigma and isolation
Dr. DiVento Dzuban and her team work tirelessly to elevate this kind of content, innovating with the platform itself in order to make certain that users can easily discover, access, and return to material that has ameliorating effects. Personal stories are increasingly a part of the overall strategy, as are partnerships with local and national organizations. By connecting users to support resources, including suicide and eating disorder hotlines YouTube can improve outcomes and even save lives.
Clinician, Heal Thyself
Given the extraordinary potential – but also the unrelenting pace – Dr. DiVento Dzuban is the first to acknowledge that this is not a nine to five type of job. Keeping up requires keen attention to the mental health of another key demographic – namely, the mental health of herself and of her team.
In her previous role overseeing YouTube’s employee mental health division, Dr. DiVento Dzuban did her best to ensure a safe, welcoming, and healthy environment where employees could expect to thrive.
As with any veteran of the modern workplace, Dr. DiVento Dzuban has her share of quick hacks to combat virtual fatigue or incorporate body movement. But her passion lies, once again, in much more systematic approaches that can have long-lasting and wide-ranging benefits. She asked just as many questions about her workplace as she does about her current work, here using the Demand-Control-Support theory to ground her inquiries. Do people feel they can meet the demands made of them? What about autonomy - do workers have enough control over their situations to make meaningful changes? And finally, do people feel they have the resources to succeed, and the opportunity to truly belong?
One project sticks out for Dr. DiVento Dzuban from her time as Chief Mental Health Advisor for YouTube, an initiative called Focus Fridays that eliminated all but the highest priority meetings and allowed time for people to...well, work. “It was great because it allowed focus time for folks, but it also gave folks the opportunity to wrap up work before they went into the weekend. The goal was to allow folks to detach from work during non-work times, which we know has a huge, huge impact on overall well-being and satisfaction with work, as well as an impact on physical health.”
With all this, it would be easy to think that Dr. DiVento Dzuban might be ready to rest on her laurels, but no, she’s already thinking about how to provide even better services for even more people. “I get excited about future projects and future things and like we're just getting started at YouTube on mental health. There's so much more we can do, and I think it's going to give me energy and keep me going for a long time.”
Watch another episode of Work That Matters here: Healing is a Path to Justice with Kevonya Elzia
CIIS’ Clinical Psychology program combines the principles of integral education with the clinical efficacy of contemporary psychodynamic psychotherapy. Rooted in the practitioner-scholar model, our students engage in rigorous academic coursework and comprehensive clinical training, in addition to completing their dissertation.