It’s another day in lockdown...How are you doing? Hanging in there?
Depending on when you read this, you could be having a good day or a challenging day. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. What you're feeling is valid. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while.
Mercurial motivation levels during a pandemic are no joke. It’s hard not to come down on myself for being motivated one second and then exhausted and scattered the next. Like you, I’m meandering my way through this new normal and trying to pay greater attention to my mental health.
It’s not difficult to find conversations about mental health. Jump on social media, and you’ll be met with a firehose of motivational quotes, memes, toolkits, mantras, and self-help tweets, but also emergency hotlines, therapy apps and heartfelt posts of people sharing their real stories. It can be overwhelming, but it exists, which is nothing short of remarkable.
Unless you’ve worked in mental health, you may not recognize the fact that conversations today are a stark contrast to only a few years ago when “mental health” wasn’t covered heavily by mainstream media and certainly not discussed publicly in most circles.
Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off October 4th, so it felt like the right time to finally put my thoughts down on paper about what mental health means to me, both personally and professionally. You could call it my love letter to mental health.
To this day, mental health stigma is real – and it’s promising to see so many people including youth, men, communities of color, faith-based communities, trauma survivors, and veterans, among others, starting to build awareness for mental health and finding solidarity in their communities and beyond.
Only a few years ago, mental health wasn’t spoken about so freely in public, let alone other “taboo” topics like suicide, PTSD, or postpartum depression. Today, conversations around mental health are happening at kitchen tables and in live streams, and can be a healing bridge to every conversation starting with a simple, “how are you?”
Today, conversations around mental health are happening at kitchen tables and in live streams, and can be a healing bridge to every conversation starting with a simple, “how are you?”
This year, I was proud to support two incredible mental health campaigns including Each Mind Matters, California’s Mental Health Movement, and Why We Rise helping implement their digital communications strategies and building solidarity online and offline, culminating in a virtual month-long celebration of mental health – no small feat during a pandemic.
I’ve been working with mental health clients throughout my career, and more so within the last six years, and the landscape has changed dramatically. But what’s stuck with me all these years are some fundamentals I thought I’d share as they’ve become my own set of mantras I revisit personally and professionally.
Language matters. Knowing the difference between saying, “mental health challenges,” (and not “mental illness”) or “died by suicide” (not ‘committed suicide”) can literally save a life. At the least, it reduces stigma and might encourage someone to seek help. I learn something new every day.
Listen first. Sometimes the best way you can support someone else is just by listening. Raise your hand if you just want to feel heard right now. This has also helped me support others especially in times where I don’t share their experience or fully understand what they are going through.
Honesty above all else. The best thing I can do for myself and for others is be honest. Saying, “I’m sorry I don’t know what it’s like going through what you’re experiencing but I’m here for you” is more supportive than ideas. Resisting the urge to "fix" myself and others requires daily practice.
Go with the flow. 2020 has been a disruptive year for so many reasons (and we still have more than three months left) It also has brought with it opportunities for change in conversations and behaviors. Trying to keep an open mind can help when everything else is uncertain. The conversation around mental health is changing in part due to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement as both have shed light on social and societal issues like access to care, racial equity, representation, access to nature – even climate change, to name a few.
Did you know that right now, mental health, resilience, and healing are topics included in the same conversations as COVID-19 health and safety and productivity? And what about the workplace of the future? Google “Biophilic Design” to see what the future workplace (hospital, school, public space, etc.) will look like by using nature to promote not just productivity but also healing. If you follow my social media, you'll see this is a
passion of mine.
Biophilic design incorporates nature into our gathering spaces to promote health, healing, and resiliency.
Mental health stigma is real, and so is a global pandemic. Collective trauma is real and solidarity during difficult times can actually spark meaningful conversations around mental health that were for whatever reason, strictly “off-limits.”
Mental health is nebulous, vast and wide, and deeply, deeply personal – and yet here we are all experiencing a global pandemic. Conversations are evolving and behavior is changing. Our mental health – just like our physical health – are front-and-center, sparked by a pandemic, and perhaps for the greater good.
I hope you and yours are well and that you’re looking after your own mental health.