Out of the Shadows: A Conversation about Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and now more than ever with the added stress COVID-19 has placed on society it is important to recognize that this is an issue to address both personally and in the workplace. One out of five U.S. adults experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. We all are impacted by this crisis, but our experience is different, and we are all grieving the loss of control or normalcy in different ways. HR Transform joined with the Responsive Conference to present Out of the Shadows, a digital program addressing Mental Health on May 1st.

The event began with a musical performance from Wesley Andrew and Dillon Wright. Their song Moodswings Part 1 was inspired by their own experiences with mental health. Following that the group heard the personal and moving story of James Pratt, founder of Reflective Management and host of the Silent Superheros Podcast. Silent Superheroes are the workers showing up every day secretly managing a mental illness. He shared that even when it looks like we might have it all: spouse, kids, great job – there are silent struggles that lurk in the shadows.

After that was an honest and engaging conversation between Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify and Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia. Here is a sampling of her sage advice:

Put your own oxygen mask on first- how do you take care of yourself?

As a caretaker I have to work on that, I have to take a walk I have to stretch. I have a little one and I am living through her eyes. She has been a great way to deflate my balloon at the end of the day. Three weeks ago I committed to meditating for 15 minutes at the end of each night and I do a gratitude journal which is extremely helpful.

Resilience as a muscle – how are you leaning on that now? Tips?

I have things that work for me. Do your best not to fight the muscle – building self awareness and compassion in yourself – you will be calmer and if you can work on that it will help you a great deal. Being calm means your cortisone levels go down and your anxiety goes down. Being calm is a gift to yourself. If you don’t know what you need that’s ok – ask for help, you are not alone.

Lots of People Leaders watching – what advice do you have for them?

This is the time. This is the time to step up. There is not going to be an invitation. This is the time to lead with heart, to lead with humanity. Be the sherpa and shepherd of the company and of the culture. Be a transparent person that leads with clarity and non-judgement. There is no other time – there is only this time because our people need us.  

And finally the program closed with smaller roundtable sessions where our community was able to engage with each other to commiserate about how truly hard this situation is, to offer support and to suggest solutions. Here are just a few of the great insights that came out of these small group discussions. 

  • Personal perspective strengthens relationships and connection, thus destigmatizing mental wellness. 
  • Check ON people, before checking IN with them – lead with the personal connection.
  • Focus on Quality rather than quantity of conversations. Am I getting to the bottom of things, being thoughtful? Reminder: just because you are talking a lot, doesn’t mean you are having meaningful conversations.
  • Ambivert… different things are coming up for everyone. Don’t just focus on people who stand out more, speak up more.
  • Bees operate for the good of the hive, not each individual. If we did that in orgs, there would be more trust.
  • Be more open and intentional about bringing to the table the issue of mental health.
  • Role model – instead of trying to be stronger for everyone else, be more human for everyone else.

The teams at HR Transform and the Responsive Conference would like to thank all of our speakers and participants for shining a light on mental health and continuing to ensure it doesn’t live in the shadows. 

Please join us on May 22 at 1:00 pm EDT for our next digital conversation “The Juggling Act” where we take on the high wire act of balancing parenting and working from home during this unprecedented time.