You wake up in the morning, open your blinds, sip on freshly brewed coffee as you turn on the TV to watch the morning news. A ritual you used to love. Red, bolded letters that read BREAKING NEWS travel across the bottom of the screen enlightening you about the newest COVID-19 horrors. You throw on your workout clothes, grab your yoga mat, reach for the closest face mask, and lock the door behind you as you walk to your fitness class a few blocks down. As you walk, you pass your favorite hole in the wall, family-owned restaurant that is now boarded up with the lights off, a somber indication of economic fallout. Your morning status meeting with your team begins with small talk around work from home struggles, and later, when you have virtual happy hour with your best friend, you talk about how much you miss seeing them, and together, wonder when this will all be over.
These reminders of the current state of our world seep into our daily lives like uncontrolled wildfires, or like that one Spielberg movie: The Mist. And honestly, I hate it. I want to turn off my TV the second I turn it on, I avoid newspapers like the plague, and I deleted the New York Times app off my phone.
It seems that there is more negativity out there right now than there is positivity, at least that’s what it feels like when reading any sort of news article. Recently however, I came across a headline that struck my attention: “Acceptance Grows and the Line Between Physical and Mental Health Blurs.” After reading the article I realized that talking about COVID-19 and the effects of it is not such a bad thing. In fact, the more we talk about the virus, we are becoming increasingly aware of our mental health, and how the pandemic has affected something so important: our minds.
As a society, we have been trying to destigmatize mental health for many years. In the late 1970’s The National Alliance on Mental Illness began initiatives to spread awareness about mental illness and in 1984, NAMI’s first-ever public service announcements aired on television screens across the country. One small step for NAMI, one giant leap for mental health awareness. It has been a long road for mental health advocates, let alone for those who have suffered from not only a mental disease, but from the stigma surrounding it. Seven out of ten young people say that mental health is weighing them down, and that should be talked about. It needs to be talked about.
Being forced to stay inside, away from others, and unable to participate in our normal routines is bound to affect our mental state. More internet users are spending time researching COVID-19’s impact on their mental health and are actually significantly more focused on that, than they are researching access to the vaccine.
“As it’s become less taboo to discuss mental health, there’s less of a line between physical health and mental health-there is one health.”
-Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia
There is a feeling of helplessness surrounding this global pandemic. We sit inside and simply wait for the storm to pass, with little to no information on when that will be. I personally have had increased anxiety with so much uncertainty every day. I worry all the time. I worry about my grandparents and if they are staying safe. I worry that we will have to remain six feet apart from others for longer than we originally thought. I worry about the economy, the vaccine, the long-term effects of this global disaster. I have had to find ways to take care of my mental health this last year and it helps to know that I’m not the only one who has had to prioritize my emotional and mental wellbeing.
My awesome boss, Brett, has an awesome sister. Her name is Vicki Spellman, and she is the SVP at Razorfish Health, as well as a wellness blogger at WellInTruth.com. I shared the article from AdAge with her, and briefly spoke to her about this concept of destigmatizing mental health. In her role at Razorfish Health, she is noticing that their biotech clients are not only paying close attention to this trend but are acting on it. For example, in their patient support service materials, pharma brands are including more information to help their patients manage mental and emotional wellness. She said there has also been a major spike in psychiatry and therapy appointments which has been made possible with the rise of Telehealth to help reduce the stay-at-home barriers.
In Vicki’s role as a wellness blogger, she sees an abundance of content online around mental health and wellness. “It seems just about everyone has picked up a meditation, mindfulness or yoga practice, and they are learning their new skills from online courses, videos and articles” she says. People are picking up new habits to help pass the time, as well as to combat the loneliness and isolation that the pandemic has brought on. Reading, cooking, painting, sewing, etc. are all initiatives people are taking to boost their self-care.
Everyone is talking about mental health right now. Seriously everyone. When doing some research for this blog, I came across several campaigns that companies have rolled out during the pandemic to coincide with the increased discussion around mental health. JanSport for example, created a campaign titled “Lighten the Load” which features young people talking about their struggles with mental health issues over a series of YouTube videos. To me, this feels like more than just a campaign, but rather a commitment. By being an active participant in the conversation surrounding mental health awareness, they are an active participant in the de-stigmatization of it.
I think that’s pretty darn cool. I take full responsibility of the fact that I was choosing to only look at the negativity in the world, and I was running (more like sprinting) away from the headlines, the news articles, and the conversation as a whole. Here’s the thing about bad news though, nine times out of ten, it is paired with good news. The silver linings are all around us, and in this specific case, it is talking about our mental health to be better. To feel better. As a company, we make a promise to do exactly that: to talk about it.