From virtual reality to stories from panelists, a common theme that has been weaved through presentations at SXSW is the importance of mental health. While often stigmatized, mental health is becoming more openly discussed in the workplace, during doctor’s visits and in social settings. Here’s a quick look at the way this topic popped up throughout Austin:
Mental Health and Trauma
Boston Marathon bombing survivor Manya Chylinski and trauma surgeon Amanda Samman shed very different lights on the parallel between mental health and victims of violence during their session, “The Emotional Toll of Mass Violence.” While their roles are different, both agree that trauma victims are often victims of misinformation, which stems from lack of knowledge and awareness.
Above everything, trauma victims are looking for resources and support to help them acknowledge and overcome mental health side effects they might experience. “We often segment physical health vs. mental health, but we need to assess the entire experience as ‘health,’” Dr. Samman explained, encouraging us to consider the “whole person” as we address problems and answer questions. Sharing resources and trying to understand trauma victim’s stories can be much more effective than sending condolences.
Mental Health in the Workplace
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Sprinklr hosted a panel of female business leaders, focusing on proven strategies for achieving gender balance in an organization and overall balance in their professional lives. Each panelist shared tips on staying focused and achieving goals, many of which were self-care practices, like exercising or going on vacation. In addition to these examples, all of the panelists spoke to the importance of mindfulness in the workplace.
The participants, including Diana Helander from Twitter and Beverly Jackson from MGM Resorts International, discussed how to become a better self-advocate: speaking up and sharing big ideas can be intimidating, especially if we’re not getting the reaction or support we anticipated from our colleagues. This can hinder our ability to remain positive and productive in an office setting. The panelists discussed the importance of owning your strengths and being confident, while being aware of the team structure and different skills each person has to offer. Being mindful of yourself and others is a simple step in bettering mental health in your professional life, making for a more productive work environment.
Mental Health and Appearance
Mental health doesn’t have to relate to just the “mental” aspects of one’s self – there’s an emotional and intellectual component women in particular face when it comes to physical appearance. SXSW welcomed ESPN W and female athletes featured in the 2018 Body Image Issue. Although they have very different body types and stories, the featured professional athletes, Sue Bird and Lauren Chamberlain, agreed that other people recognized their insecurities and helped them learn how to celebrate the way they look and what their bodies are capable of.
Bird discussed her aging and scars from sports-related injuries over the years. While they’re not her favorite thing about her body, she’s realized they tell a story of strength and the ability to recover. She attributes her healthy mindset to her teammates, who have helped her practice and preach self-love and positive body image, “At the end of the day, no one really cares what I look like, except me.”
Chamberlain spoke about how her body wasn’t celebrated until she started playing softball in college. Support from her coaches and teammates helped her value her strength and mental health, which resulted in her confidence on and off the field.
Integrating Mental Health Into Our Work
While venturing through the tradeshow floor, we stumbled upon a booth for Humanly, a patient platform celebrating people’s humanity and unique moments that make up their lives far beyond cancer diagnosis and treatment. Humanly aims to recognize mental health before fixating on the obvious physical state of a person, this is an important starting point for greater empathy, especially for those diagnosed with an isolating disease.
By keeping mental and emotional health in the front of our minds, we can help change a patient paradigm that too often defines a person by the disease they live with.