Making mental health a priority

By Jeff Strese

Effective leaders must become wellness warriors

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, employers, schools, communities and families are realizing the need to focus on mental health and support people who need help. The topic of mental health regularly trends on social media. This is very good news, as it helps destigmatize treatment and accommodations in educational and business settings.

While we are all doing our level best during this season of unprecedented change and adversity, sometimes coping just isn’t good enough. When the emotional and psychological burden becomes too great, anxiety and depression creep in and can debilitate our sense of purpose and daily existence. It’s become everyone’s job to deal with mental health.

Most people tend to gain their emotional and psychological security from things like money, jobs and status. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these, they all have one thing in common: They are extrinsic in nature and therefore temporary. During the last 18 to 24 months of disruption, many people who appear successful actually are feeling out of control. If you or your family members are trying to navigate this existential funk on your own and it’s taking a toll on your mental health, you’re not alone.

Here’s the silver lining: Adversity builds grit, character and emotional muscle. And we all need those things to handle life’s most challenging circumstances. In contrast to all the negativity we see in the media, we have also seen some extraordinary people express an abundance of compassion and generosity despite their own journey of grief and loss. The retelling of these personal stories can become a positive social contagion that can infiltrate even the most rigid and unhealthy family business cultures. I’m sure your family has its own examples of courage and compassion. Share them often and intentionally.

Effective leaders become wellness warriors. They show us that it’s OK to not be OK, counteracting the stigma that mental illness can carry. The goal of well-being is deceptively simple: to be still and quiet the mind so that your natural gifts of empathy, curiosity and wonder can calm the currents of fear and doubt. We all need a little help getting to this place of recalibration. So, get yourself going. Help others around you. And, when necessary, widen the circle and invite others in who are professionally trained to help.

Jeff Strese is an organizational development consultant and frequent contributor to Family Business magazine.

November/December 2021

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