Living in relative isolation over the past year has brought conversations around mental health into very sharp focus. Everyone’s experience has been a little different based on their circumstances, but moments of frustration, anxiety and deep sadness have been common.
Mental health is often an overlooked or sometimes taboo topic among marginalized communities. In the struggle to compete for the same opportunities as those with privilege, there is a push to “shake it off” and just get on with it. Often – and we are both guilty of this – we can turn to humour to hide the pain we feel in situations that impact our mental health and confidence. Hannah Gadsby tackled this difficult topic so powerfully in her Netflix special, Nanette. If you haven’t watched it, please add it to your weekend essential-viewing list.
What not to do
It is important to create space for people in your life to share their pain if they choose to do so. And when they do so, resist the urge to
1) swoop in with advice unless they ask for it,
2) compare it to something you know from your own experience,
3) minimize their pain, or
4) resort to platitudes like “call me any time.”
Now that sounds like a long list of no-nos, so let’s get to what we can do. It might sound oversimplistic, but just ask how you can help. Shifting the “reach out if you need support” to “how can I support you right now?”
Spilling the Royal tea
The world recently watched Meghan Markle’s brave account of her fragile mental health while she was carrying out her royal duties as the Duchess of Sussex, as told to Oprah Winfrey. For that to be minimized in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace that contained the painful phrase “recollections may vary” was a deep blow that was acutely felt by racialized communities. The statement effectively minimized Meghan’s pain and the validity of her account of why she and Prince Harry left the UK and gave up being working members of the Royal Family.
The monarchy had the opportunity to provide Meghan the support she needed and bravely asked for. Instead, the Firm/HR chose to ignore her plea in the interest of an antiquated view of royal optics. Even if for selfish, image-rehabilitation reasons, the Firm could have stood to gain public favour if they had lent her the support she needed. Brownie points for being modern, caring and inclusive of the first person of colour in the Royal Family. But no, status quo prevailed. As marketers, we are baffled by the absence of logic and empathy in that move.
Since ABCDEI is all about learning and unlearning, this is how we have unpacked the concepts we shared in episode 4 into simple and actionable ideas:
- Mental health struggles are real. Yes, someone’s pain might be in their head, but that doesn’t make it less real. Our feelings are connected to identity and how we process the world. Shaking it off is not always an option one can afford.
- Someone’s truth is THE truth. The other golden rule of mental health support, especially for BIPOC: understand that there is no difference between “someone’s truth” and “the truth.” Someone’s lived experience IS a fact and not open to interpretation or drive-by commentary. It can be tempting to step in and wave a magic wand to wish someone’s pain away but understand that some wounds run deeper than words or gestures can fix in an instant.
- Ask how you can help. Don’t offer platitudes. Ask how you can support your person going through something. And when they do ask for help, recognize that as a privilege you now have and show up for them. Help can take many forms: space, coffee, a walk, a mental health expert referral or a meal drop-off. It all matters.
If you have found yourself wanting to unlearn but wondering where to even begin, or if you have a guest idea on the topic, get in touch. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here in good times and bad,
Rohini + Susan