Three out of every seven people in Washington will likely experience a clinically significant mental illness throughout 2021, with that number expected to rise in the coming years. To address a crisis of this scale, a team of advocates and nonprofits joined together to create A Mindful State, a digital campaign seeking to empower people with community stories and ideas for addressing our shared mental health crisis.
The campaign began as part of Gov. Inslee’s task forces to address the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, healthcare, and social support systems, recognizing their critical roles in saving lives while disruptions from COVID-19 caused converging crises. Specifically, A Mindful State is a people-powered and community-organized statewide campaign intended to help facilitate a feeling of community and a sense of duty and support for one another.
A Mindful State’s online platform provides a space to host human stories about coping with mental health, both from community members seeking to share their story and from mental health professionals who can provide context and expertise about navigating paths to recovery. Over the next several weeks, the campaign will continue to expand the ways people can access and participate in A Mindful State. This will include the addition of online community meetings, email, texting and even a call-in number where people can hear recordings of the videos and seek assistance using simple prompts from their cell phone. Eventually, as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is potential to expand connections to include in-person events, gatherings and support groups.
“Washington State is projecting that 3 million individuals of our 7 million state population are experiencing clinically-significant mental health challenges. So, we started thinking about those 4 million who are not currently experiencing any issues, who have the capacity to help those 3 million who are,” said Bill Toliver of The Matale Line, one of the project managers for A Mindful State. “Maybe we can’t get 3 million people connected with psychologists, but we can unleash the compassion of millions of resilient Washingtonians to pay attention to one another and reach out.”
There are several ways A Mindful State intends to unleash that compassion, through sharing personal stories, expert advice, and resources, and supporting personal connections with other community members. Sharing stories helps reduce stigma and increase understanding of mental healthcare as an integral part of the healthcare spectrum. Some of the stories include experiences and expert advice from staff at Comprehensive Healthcare, such as Jose Lopez, a social worker and mental health professional serving as Comprehensive Healthcare’s Director of Inpatient Services. On the website, Jose shares his story of how he was brought to the United States from Mexico as a child by his parents and worked in the fields alongside them when he was young. He also addresses mental health from his cultural perspective—a message that resonates deeply with many individuals in the State.
“Many people who struggle with a mental illness don’t know where to begin to start seeking help, and many others may not even want or need to take that step toward seeing a mental health professional but still need to know they are not alone and that there are options for coping,” said Jodi Daly, Ph.D., CEO of Comprehensive Healthcare, which was appointed by Gov. Inslee to serve on the Social Support Community Leaders task force. The task force collaboratively appointed Jodi and Comprehensive Healthcare as the fiscal steward of the campaign. “A Mindful State aims to expand access to credible information, while also serving as a reminder that the strength of people and communities is the greatest asset we have.”
Recognizing that improving the lives of others can transform an individual’s life, A Mindful State encourages everyone to make reaching out a muscle-memory response, such as making a list of five people to check in with each week or asking neighbors if they need anything from the grocery store.
“When we create resilient communities where checking in one another is the norm, we help people stay in community – and thus recovery – for longer,” said Sonya Campion, President of the Campion Advocacy Fund and one of the members of Gov. Inslee’s task force for social support. “Journalist Johann Hari described this best in his Ted Talk about addiction when he said, ‘The opposite of addiction is not sobriety – it is human connection.’”
For our communities and cultures to thrive, we as individuals must also play a role in supporting one another, especially as we recognize a growing mental health crisis that threatens to overwhelm our professional systems.
Comprehensive Healthcare is proud to be part of the social supports task force collaborating on strategy and messaging throughout the development of the campaign. We have been assisting with some of the fiscal administration, but also working with state-wide stakeholders and contributors to reach every corner of the state as we create a network of support allowing our communities to be vibrant and healthy.
Stay tuned for more information to come about the project, and participate in the community here: https://amindfulstate.org