North, south, east, west—no matter where you are everybody struggles with mental health. World Mental Health Day, on October 10th, is a chance to remember that none of us are alone. All over the world people share the same feelings of excitement, sadness, melancholy, and more, regardless of their situation. That’s why, this week, Jill Sanchez is kicking off a two-part panel discussion from some of our favorite new and returning guests to OnTopic—Jolie Wills from New Zealand, Deborah Loffler from Mexico, Steph Evans from the United Kingdom, and Sara Laskowski from the United States—to talk about the struggles they’ve shared working with other people around the world and what World Mental Health Day means to them.
OT Ep. 16 – Transcription.txt
00;00;09;01 – Steph Evans
Welcome to OnTopic with Empathia – I’m your host, Jill Sanchez, for this special episode for World Mental Health Day. Imagine if you struggle with depression or anxiety and no one will acknowledge the struggle. It can be quite isolating to experience a mental health disorder and then add the extra layer of someone feeling ashamed to talk about it. Chances are, if you’re listening to this episode today, you have a loved one that’s been impacted by a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, or you’ve experienced a diagnosable depression or anxiety sometime in your lifetime. Today, we’re here to dive deeper into something that is very near and dear to my heart, after working in the mental health field for 25 years and also having loved ones that have experienced mental health concerns. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a billion people around the world live with a diagnosable mental health disorder. That is about one in eight people. Depression and anxiety are the leading among mental health diagnosis globally. Statistics indicate globally there are about 800,000 deaths per year from suicide. This does not include those that have contemplated or attempted suicide either. This i s one of the leading causes of death in young people. These statistics are staggering. And today we’re going to have the opportunity to speak to various professionals around the world on this topic. World Mental Health Day is an important global observance aimed at raising awareness through education about mental health issues, reducing stigma, and advocating for improved mental health services and support. Today, we’re going to spend some time talking about the impact of mental health services across the globe. To help us discuss this important topic, we have invited a panel of guests who represent various regions of the world to talk about their experience and mental health specific to their professional experience and personal observations in their country or region. The episode is not intended to cover every region of the world and instead to provide a platform to continue to normalize talking about mental health and reaching out for help. Whether you reside in the US, Asia, the Middle East, Europe or anywhere in the world. Joining me today is Jolie Wills, who grew up in New Zealand, Deborah Loffler, who lives in Mexico, Sarah Laskowski, who resides in the US, and Steph Evans who lives in the UK. I’m very excited for you to learn from each of our guests and their perspectives. Welcome, Debra, Jolie, Sarah and Steph. So we have Steph here from the UK, and Steph is going to, along with our other panel guests, talk with us about some of her experience in terms of what brought her into the mental health field.
00;03;08;24 – 00;03;44;11
Hi. Yes. So the reason that I went into that particular field is I always had an interest in people both providing support and encouraging development of others. I started my career in financial services, so it’s been quite an interesting journey for me to pivot into healthcare as my main profession, but I had a great opportunity where I took on a role, where I was offered a team of therapists providing EAP services, and that’s what really did stimulate my interest in pivoting into health care as my main profession.
00;03;44;13 – 00;03;48;12
Jolie, what’s your background that brought you into the field of mental health?
00;03;48;12 – 00;05;04;16
Like most people, it’s- it’s quite circuitous in that I go right back to the beginning. I was raised in New Zealand by parents who were really keen for us to think about our social responsibility and things and my father was a special needs teacher, so there was a lot of thinking about the needs of others. And I always knew that I wanted to do something in that people space. You know, at the same time I was a bit of a nerd, so I was big into science. And so for me, I end up studying cognitive psychology. So very much looking at the science of stress and how that impacts how we perform and how we- how we just do in life. And then I ended up working initially in the mental health sector with people who are having a real challenge in that space. Then in the disability space and then with older people as well, the older person sector in New Zealand. And then a massive earthquake hit my home city, and before you knew it, I actually found my real niche, which feels like home for me in the space now. And that’s about supporting people through adversity, whether you’re living it or whether you’re working to support others in that space.
00;05;04;16 – 00;05;12;16
Deborah, could you share with the group what kind of got you into the field of going into mental health or EAP?
00;05;1d;18 – 00;06;33;28
Well, it is a long story. I did my undergrad in psychology in Mexico, and then afterwards I did a master’s degree in New York, for forensic psychology. And so I enjoyed it. It was my passion. But then I came back to Mexico and there was no possibility or they- the work there, here in Mexico, it’s not preventive, it’s more reactive. And the salaries were really bad. And so I decided to look for more H.R., like I had a the experience of psychology, of interviewing people, the English. So I was hired by Dupont many years ago and in H.R. as a support for recruitment. And then I met Paul Heck and Angela Greenwald were the EAP leaders in Dupont, and I was trained by them. It was interesting. It was something very new for me and even for Mexico. That was my experience. Now then, it was because of life. I did like it and then I started there a working with their EAP provider here in Mexico. And then I joined ICAS International with Intersystemas here in Mexico, as as a leader of the EAP’s, and it has been a great experience. Basically because in Mexico we don’t have the kind of support in the public health system and even in the private insurances, the mental health is very a basic, no? Not too much support, and there are not many resources. So by being part of the EAP’s and by providing this type of services for many people and different kind of positions and workers and family members, it has been really, for me, a great experience.
00;07;11;21 – 00;07;30;276
Well, welcome, Sara, as well. We’re so happy to have you today on the podcast about mental health around the world. Thank you! Our other guest just shared with us kind of what brought them into the mental health field. And so I’m curious what also kind of, you know, how did you land in this field?
00;07;30;276 – 00;08;07;15
Well, I’ve really always been fascinated by human behavior and connection, and I actually started out with an interest in law and criminal justice. And that landed me in a psychology class in college where I was part of a study on attachment theory. And so that really intrigued me when I learned about the influence of emotional bonds on social development throughout the lifespan. And so that led me down the path of psychology and then to counseling as a result.
00;08;07;18 – 00;08;16;12
I’m curious what you know, even though this- we’re talking about your professional experience, but I’m also curious what mental health means to you personally.
00;08;16;15 – 00;08;45;00
So mental health to me- it’s kind of the foundation of overall well-being and a quality of life. So when I think about mental health or wellbeing, I think it encompasses things both your emotional, your psychological and the social aspects of your life. I think it’s about nurturing your thoughts, emotions and built in resilience actually to navigate life’s challenges.
00;08;45;02 – 00;09;20;20
Well, I think it’s important to remember that mental health for any individual is really a continuum and everyone’s experiences are unique and they’re going to fluctuate over time. So when I think of mental health, I think of how society really pays attention to physical health and how something’s wrong in our body. So we may recognize it. And so it’s just as important for mental health to recognize those signs and symptoms so that they can be addressed just like we would care for our physical health.
00;09;20;23 – 00;09;54;26
Yeah! Well, it’s a spectrum, right? You know, how you doing and what it looks like and your changes through time and day to day. But for me, it’s- it’s sort of a culmination of of the ways in which our thinking process, the ways we think and the behaviors that we put in place, all those tools that we use essentially to help really lead a fulfilling life, you know, and that adversity peace is important, y’know, life doesn’t come without challenge. So using those those tools and approaches to think about a fulfilling life, but also just to overcome challenge when it comes our way.
00;09;54;28 – 00;10;42;08
It has been, oh, well at least since I started studying or in being interested in psychology, it has been something very important for me and for human beings, no? I think it’s in the same level as physical health. If you don’t have mental health of- of- it will impact in your physical health. And if you have issues in your physical health, it will affect you in mental health. So that is a main issue for our happiness or our aim, our satisfaction, motivation in life, that if you don’t have mental health or support or resources, then it will be – if life is hard, it is harder.
00;10;42;10 – 00;10;51;00
Does mental health awareness look different today in the UK versus when you started working in the field?
00;10;51;02 – 00;11;35;15
I think today we’re definitely witnessing a transformation. Mental health Awareness has gained momentum, especially in the UK, with greater emphasis on education, understanding and support. There’s definitely a shift in just public perception. It’s okay to talk about these things and that’s very reassuring compared to how it used to be when I started in the field. I also think COVID made a significant change to people talking about mental health generally, and there was definitely an increase in digital solutions which made things more accessible for people.
00;11;35;18 – 00;12;47;12
Basically, in the last ten years, I have seen a big difference. In the past as, as I said, clients that we had were a transnationals, no? Like the ones that were saying aid from the US telling Mexico… these are the problems that we need you to to hire for your employees. And it was like, okay, we will do it, but we’re not sure what it is and what it means. Is it confidential? Would you put our employees against us if they’re working too much and things like that? What we decided to do in the EAP is not only the mental health part, but also as you know, and many people know that the programs have the legal services and financial support, they stay there. Information about aid requirements procedures. We even have added the healthy eating support. Why? Because we know that all these type of a services can support to a mental health, no? To increase health, to help people that are worried about financial issues, about legal issues.
00;12;47;14 – 00;13;11;46
I think that there’s really more of an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health. We’re seeing it in schools and workplaces and the community with access to resources like the 24-7 Suicide Prevention Lifeline, And I think particularly since the COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve seen even more of a shift towards awareness.
00;13;11;46 – 00;13;29;07
Yeah, I mean, hugely. I think when you work in the space and at the time initially I was working with people who were struggling with schizophrenia or bipolar or the challenging conditions that they found themselves in really tricky spots.
00;13;29;07 – 00;13;44;52
And for a lot of people there was the thought that that happens to other people. You know? There wasn’t a sense that could be any one of us. And so there was a real stigma around mental health initially, and I think that’s changed hugely. We still got a way to go, of course.
00;13;44;52 – 00;13;52;29
Steph! Can you describe for us what you see as some of the biggest struggles currently in terms of mental health in the UK?
00;13;53;02 – 00;14;15;09
I would say that rising levels of anxiety and stress? A lot to do with the just the fast-paced nature of modern life has led to an increase, certainly for individuals in the UK. The other area that I’ve seen is an increase in depression and loneliness.
00;14;15;12 – 00;15;00;87
I would say definitely increase and suicidal ideation and suicidal rates. 15 years ago when I started at Empathia, it was very rare that we would have a caller who was acutely suicidal and I remember those days where we would kind of rally around the counselor. Everyone would help each other. And now it’s so very common, almost a daily experience, where counselors are slowly over time shifting into regular crisis workers. And that may not be something they originally thought they signed up for. But here we are. This is what we’re experiencing on a daily basis.
00;15;00;87 – 00;16;12;07
Our world has become more complex, right? I think the environment in which we’re operating is more pressure, more disruption. This change, this concern around climate change. Y’know we’re living in a- in a really complicated world at the minute. And I think the struggle for a lot of people was real around finances, around life stressors. So there’s a lot that people are carrying. So I think that is hugely impactful on people’s mental health. And then we’ve got particular portions of our – y’know portions of our populations. So for example, farming, the agricultural sector is huge in New Zealand, but traditionally this has not been an area that we do well in in terms of supporting mental health for farmers. We’ve got the isolation that they often deal with the, the culture of being self-sufficient and kind of, you know, low key culture and that space and that operating in a changing sector. We have gone from being the darlings of our economy to a very different space where there’s a lot of scrutiny by the public around environmental factors. And so, you know, we’ve gone from the darlings to feeling a lot of pressure from regulation, but also society.
00;16;12;07 – 00;16;17;06
Steph, what age group do you see struggling the most right now in the UK?
00;16;17;09 – 00;16;54;14
I would say the current landscape, mental health in the UK, it is a younger age group, so it’s young adults that we see high levels of mental health issues, mainly between the 18 to 25 age group. This is the face of life where often they’re involved in numerous transitions, right? So, you know, go any higher education, starting careers, gaining independence and just the pressure of academia, actually and career expectation.
00;16;54;16 – 00;17;51;43
Of course, mental health is going to affect all ages, all walks of life. But definitely the teenage population, or youth in general is a particular concern right now because we are seeing evidence of increased anxieties, depression is on the rise. Of course, there are all of the factors, including academic pressures, social media, bullying. I do think that what can be underrated is really the impact of family stress all the way around. Healthy adults, or unhealthy adults are not likely to raise emotionally healthy children. And so we are seeing in the teenage and young adult population less ability to cope and problem solve and become overwhelmed more easily than we may have seen it in the past.
00;17;51;43 – 00;18;55;18
We saw this first with the Christchurch earthquakes and then it came through really strongly with COVID, and that is what I call the sandwich generation, right? It’s that- that middle group, it’s the people who have kids and the older family, that they are caretaking for or concerned about, they’re often the super copers, usually women, right? So people who are used to caring a lot, they’re the social glue and the people that they go to, they are the supporters. You know, and they have been carrying a massive amount. And what we saw after the Christchurch earthquakes was we were measuring the government and recovery organization was measuring wellbeing for different groups over time through the recovery. And y’know, there were your populations that you commonly had concerns for. But a population that came through that really people didn’t anticipate was this middle generation who are carrying a huge amount of responsibility and are reaching the limit.
00;18;55;21 – 00;19;36;08
I always say, no? We are human beings and everybody has a problem or a worry. It doesn’t have to be a crisis. But if you have a worry or a problem or a- if you didn’t have enough with someone to talk to, when you feel lonely or with a stress, or… then it will affect you in different ways, no? And if you don’t ask for help, or if you are not aware that you are having an issue, then it will increase the problem and it will be get bigger and bigger and bigger and it will impact in different ways.
00;19;36;10 – 00;19;43;14
Deborah, can you share what what age group do you see as struggling the most right now in Mexico?
00;19;43;16 – 00;21;13;20
That’s a really good question. I think in general, everybody is struggling. I think all ages and all cultures and all this and it’s so socio-economical and I don’t know if it’s status like it now is they are struggling. But mainly I do think that the young people and mostly the ones that came and – I don’t know how to explain it – with the pandemia that they were like in that age, that they needed their social, their friendship, their relationship, knowing how to relate to your friends teachers and you were connected. And now they are going to school again, or their starting university or they’re studying for a job. That- those years that you lacked this social networking, this but face-t-face, not- not by internet or online, I think, and being isolated, no? In those times and it’s- I think they are suffering a lot. It is impacting in their way of relating to others and how to manage their problems. The lack of a tolerance, of frustration?
00;21;13;25 – 00;21;39;46
Yeah. Some of the research is saying at the minute, like two thirds of people are feeling disconnected from their teams and their organizations, right? So we love the flexibility. Well, many people do not. It doesn’t with everyone, but many people love the flexibility that the new remote way or hybrid way of working is affording us, which gives us more balance sometimes in our life. But the flipside of that it’ss the disconnection that people are feeling as a result.
00;21;39;46 – 00;21;56;21
Because of this push in schools or because of the overall acceptance in society being able to identify and talk about mental health, I do think that kids are more likely to be able to identify it in themselves than perhaps we would have been as children. It’s more acceptable, you know, to talk about your feelings or to be assertive with someone when you’re being mistreated. I experienced with my own child. I, of course, am the taxi driver driving around friends at all times. And- and it’s funny how they have conversations as if you’re not there. But I did witness one child telling another that he didn’t appreciate something he had said to him at the movies 20 minutes earlier and that it made him feel bad. And the other boy said, Oh, my bad, I’m sorry. And it was this kind of honest expression of feelings that I found unusual for 13 year old boys, you know? But it was positive in my eyes because they felt like they felt safe enough to be able to express themselves in a way or empowered to do that.
00;23;01;10 – 00;23;17;29
Steph, I was wondering if you could share with me, and this is going to close out episode one, but like if there was any stories you wanted to share or anything that was sort of a- whatever, anything that sort of resonated to make it personal, you can do that.
00;23;18;01 – 00;24;09;28
I began my profession in the finance industry and it’s notorious for treating discussions about mental health as a kind of no-go topic, really. And during that time it was commonplace for high ranking execs, dealing with stress and anxiety to avoid actively seeking support. You know, they hesitate because of the perception that asking for help is a sign of weakness and it could potentially be detrimental to their career. And that was certainly the case and continue to be the case for some time. And actually when I delivered EAP services, a lot of my customers were the financial service industry, the large global banks. And so I could still see that even when I went into health care.
00;24;10;01 – 00;24;35;17
I also noticed two years ago at my son’s eighth grade graduation, they celebrated character. There were kids winning awards for kindness or for respecting others and things like that. And that’s something that we would have never seen years ago either.
I got goosebumps! The takeaway from today is that mental health is an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing. Mental health is critically important to everyone, no matter where you live. While there are cultural, religious, economic differences globally around the world, what we have in common is the human experience. Having good mental health allows us to cope and function with life’s challenges. Mental health is on a continuum and is critically important that we talk about this so that we can reduce stigma in getting support when someone needs it. Next time OnTopic, we’ll continue with Jolie, Deborah, Sara and Steph. We will talk about issues of self care, family support and access to mental health as it relates to their specific countries. To hear that episode and other episodes of OnTopic with Empathia, visit our website, www.Empathia.com, follow us on social media @Empathia, and subscribe to OnTopic with Empathia to hear new episodes as soon as they go live.