Mental Wellness: What Does the Future Look Like?
Collaboration Takeaways

The Global Wellness Collaborations bring industry leaders together in meaningful dialogue to share ideas and best practices for navigating the COVID-19 crisis around a specific industry segment.

Topic: Mental Wellness: What Does the Future Look Like?
Date of Discussion: May 19, 2020
Countries/Regions Represented: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Turks and Caicos, Uganda, Ukraine, UAE, UK, US, US Minor, Viet Nam.

  • This pandemic is a global crisis, and it is also an opportunity for the wellness industry. In the spirit of the Vedic expression, “the world is my family,” if one is affected, we are all affected.
  • What does COVID mean for their mental health? As always, it’s the most vulnerable in the world who are going to have another layer of crisis added to their existing situation. I’m thinking of the refugee crisis that is the greatest in modern history. What does mental wellness mean for them?
  • There’s economic meltdown on a scale we have never seen since the Great Depression. What will this mean for people who are employees, contractors, consultants, who own companies, who are self-employed? We all know hospitality, F&B, and the arts are among the hardest hit.
  • Yet, as always, it is how the individual responds and how the community creates a supportive environment for the individual response that will define how a crisis can end up being either a catastrophe or a new door to the future. This is where mental wellness pathways and our commitment to people in the wellness community does come in.
  • Let’s look at the very beginning. That actually means on the germ cell level. That is not just the egg, but the sperm. And this is really important that we wrap our heads around this because then we begin to understand why it is that this crisis has potentially such a massive impact not just for the new generations but transgenerationally.
  • That is to say, that new life that is created comes into this life with the inherited genome for three generations after that. What does this mean for mental wellness? Well, it means three important things with regards to COVID. We know that at the germ cell level, the male is responsible for 77 percent of the inherited genome at the time of conception, and then this moves over to the woman. And it is her responsibility during those nine months of pregnancy to see that this inherited genome is either favored or disfavored by the environment. And when we speak about the environment, we don’t just speak about the air that we breathe, or what we eat, etc. But we are talking about our internal environment, our mental state, our mental wellness.
  • Why are these first 1,000 days, which includes preconception, so important to this conversation? That is because it is a time when the greatest neuroplasticity and neurodevelopment and fetal programming occur. It is the beginning at the germ cell level—before conception—and throughout these very critical first 1,000 days.
  • During COVID-19, I want to stress three very important points. The first is that people have been very sedentary. Sedentary life has been absolutely proven to have devastating effects on inherited diseases such as the risk for cancers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, etc. The second point that I want to make is about stress. Stress is one of the most critical environmental factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified at least 26 stressors, including community stressors so that if stress is not mitigated, it negatively impacts not just the woman’s mental state, but the neural development of the fetus and the fetal programming. And in the first two years of life, a child that is under these very stressful conditions can suffer all kinds of problems, including learning issues at school, behavioral problems, etc. And then finally, nutrition. People who are locked up for too long—two months and longer—will very likely be overeating if you are in a post-developed country. There is also the issue of undernourishment if you don’t have enough food.
  • Fifty percent of pregnancies on average worldwide are not planned. And the hope is that we are able to teach people with very basic data points about this important work. We can make an enormous difference not just for ourselves but also for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.
  • I would like to share some perspective from the Asia Pacific and, in particular, youth action for mental wellness. Suicide is an area that I have had some experience with. And there’s no more serious point in the spectrum of mental health, particularly for youth. We want to showcase what you can do for mental wellness. Examples include peer-to-peer support and the mental wellness initiative’s youth mental wellness outreach.
  • One example is the Malaysian students who were stranded in the UK due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Collectively they started a hashtag called Kita Jaga Kita, which in Malaysia means “we look after each other.” They raised funds for 25 students to travel back to their home country, Malaysia.
  • The next example is a mental wellness initiative with first-year students heading to a university. He connects to his peers via social media and encourages them. Thanks to his creativity, he started what he calls the ISO style balconied beats every Sunday at 4 p.m. to connect with his neighbors.
  • The practice of culture and tradition can reduce youth mental health problems resulting in suicide. “I love you” is an antidote to alienation and stress. I’d like to leave you by quoting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The whole universe reacts to every individual action.
  • The older generation really is the most vulnerable in this crisis. There’s a whole mental wellness landscape around that. We’ve been talking about living to be over 100, which comes to us from Japan, where they have over 67,000 centenarians. We’re now looking at this virus robbing us of our older generation. We have to address the mental health landscape around the fear of families or the elderly, the fear on the part of the elderly, and the fear of those who care for the elderly. How can we bring mental wellness pathways to them in this context?
  • One of the questions that has come up in the chat, which I think can get us to some practical steps, what are the top three actions that organizations can take to help their workforce in terms of mental wellness?
  • It depends on the capacity of the organization to support their team. Some organizations are really badly affected financially, and they have to let people go. If they have to do that, then how they do that really matters. It doesn’t have to be brutal. It doesn’t have to be cold and terminal; it can be transitional where people are given some sort of a lifeline and opportunity to return if things get better. They can be kept as part of a community of communication, even if they’re not on the payroll. Some sort of sense of preserving the culture would be extremely helpful.
  • Another practical step is to offer retraining and re-skilling. We know that there’s going to be a lot more people working from home going forward, not only because of social distancing but because people are finding (and companies are finding), it’s cheaper.
  • And the final thing I would add is to address the whole issue of mental health and mental wellness of the employees in the workplace. They have mental health and wellness needs, and you can continue your mental health and wellness outreach to those who wish to be part of it.
  • A friend of mine many years back, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. And unfortunately, she had a double mastectomy. It was obviously a very traumatic experience for her and for their family, but luckily things went well with the surgery. She came back afterward and eventually was diagnosed as cancer-free. Her husband asked the doctor, how can I help my wife stay healthy? The doctor said, “well, actually, you probably don’t have to do anything because most people who go through an experience like this are going to become radically healthier afterward.”
  • In response to a traumatic health crisis, people will kind of naturally become more aware of their mortality and become more focused on their health and wellness. They will become stronger as a consequence, and this might be something for us to look out for post-COVID-19.
  • The research shows that people respond to trauma in different ways. And a lot of people grow and become stronger when confronting a difficult situation.
  • In our hospitality company, we are doing a four-week course called inner strength, outer strength. We want to take our employees through 30 days of new habits around physical vitality, mindfulness, emotional resilience, and positive psychology so that they come back to work being stronger than they were before. We want them to feel stronger as a consequence of all these things that we have experienced together around the world.
  • It is based around the idea of helping people to experience “post-traumatic growth” rather than “post-traumatic stress.”
  • No one is immune to mental health issues. Currently, it could be through isolation, loss of income, through a sense of being overwhelmed trying to manage work and children in a lockdown situation, or possibly even the loss of a loved one.
  • This means that the conversations around mental wellness and mental health that have been so stigmatized will now have to really surface. Having those conversations will not be just for therapists, but for anyone running a business, overseeing a company, or leading in any way. Leaders need to set a tone of support and understanding and compassion so that the conversation can be had. We know that it needs to be in a safe environment where there is trust that people can truly heal and rebuild from trauma.
  • The Global Wellness Institute initiative on mental wellness communicates that there’s a lot of preventative and things that we can all do that are essentially free. Our message is to disseminate these tools so that people can implement them into their lives; diet and exercise are absolutely important, and things like meditation, deep breathing, being in nature, and dance also have a positive impact not just on the body but on the mind. These help build resiliency.
  • What do people feel the media could be doing that they are not doing in support of what is clearly its own pandemic, which is mental health issues.
  • I think that the media could be guiding people to free meditations and yoga and sites where they could actually be doing something productive with their time instead of staying glued to the negative news—helping people learn how to take in the information and news without it becoming overwhelming.
  • I am frankly appalled by how many of the media are focusing on negative and sensational stories. The reason for that is that if they do a positive story—like perhaps the fact that there are 337 of us on this call up at all hours, day and night, all over the world, discussing constructive ways of helping people through mental wellness…You know what? The editors would not publish it because the bad and sensational news is what draws people in.
  • One thing that keeps coming back to me is that when people talk about alternative ways to make yourself healthier, a lot of people don’t have access, and it can be perceived as expensive.
  • It is shocking how big media doesn’t want to share the good news. We have been working this weekend to spread the news of a free seminar for unemployed people to learn how to get loans and how to survive this and how to pivot. No one will run the story.
  • As a media/PR company, our recommendation is to create your own channels. You can make sure your social media is a channel, make sure your YouTube is a channel. People are depending on each other more by sharing news. For example, I have a few people that are suffering from anxiety attacks because of this shutdown, and I will definitely share this recording with them. We have to become our own spokespersons.
  • Brescia, Italy, was the second city in the world with the highest number of COVID-19. Now, my experience has been that lots of people that know me around the world called me just to hear details about the bad news. When what would have been helpful would be some good words.
  • There were about 2,000 people in the hospital, 1,800 with the COVID-19, and they could not see any of their relatives. And that happened for sometimes a month or even two months.
  • This is an attitude that sometimes when you have these disasters, the press feels that the bad news is more rewarding, but people do want to hear good news also.
  • I mean, it was a devastating experience. And what I am really trying to understand now is how we can not only recover, but also prepare for the next disaster, which can happen at any moment.
  • One thing that I have seen is that when we come together, we can shape the future. Now, very soon, global wellness day is going to be here, and each of us should make sure that we are part of that big event. So, then the media will have no other choice but to share the news. And it will be good news because we can make hope and enthusiasm contagious.
  • People are very concerned about children at this time. A lot of people have become, you know, not only solo caretakers, they are teachers, they are having to deal with their children at home and all ages. And this is another incredible stress, and there does not seem to be any place to go for help with that.
  • In Houston, there’s a family with two very young boys, a two and a half and a four-year-old. And for the first two months of the lockdown, what was so extraordinary to me that these children were playing, climbing trees in the garden, and running around. And this was an extraordinary thing to behold because normally, they would have been in a schoolroom confined and not running around, certainly in North America with one of the highest incidences of obesity.
  • There was this kind of a miracle to behold as my daughter completely changed her wellness routines as a result. What we are now using as a rescue can, in fact, become a practice. Plus, or minus seven to eight weeks is what it takes to change the behavior.
  • In New York, I work with an organization, and we have ways of teaching, even really young children, the brain science of mental health. And we’ve been putting out tools, free tools every week, quick guides to fostering mental health while practicing physical distancing. And we have a lot of resources for parents and teachers. And we’re about to come out with a children’s book that explains the brain science.
  • On the Global Wellness Institute website, we have a whole section on PositivelyWell, with quotes from people, encouraging stories, and so on. Because the reality is that wellness is something proactive, exercise, healthy food, lowering stress, getting good sleep, the kinds of things that we all trumpet is what people are needing.
  • I just asked you to think about the tagline Resetting the World with Wellness because you’re going to hear that more and more because we find that it’s really resonating.
  • And then there is The Wellness Moonshot: A World Free of Preventable Disease that’s now being embraced globally.
  • The Wellness Moonshot is modeled after President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade in the 60s. A moonshot is about reaching for something that almost seems unattainable. We feel that raising awareness about prevention is so important in every aspect of the wellness conversation. There are monthly full moon celebrations.
  • We’re co-sponsoring a mental health Summit in conjunction with another foundation called Never Alone. There will be 72 speakers and three days starting this Friday. We have a whole host of other creditable health and wellness individuals in the field of mental health. And we invite everybody to participate. The whole focus of the weekend is to give people hope, and we want people to know, they’re never alone.
  • Links to share that received a lot of coverage:

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