Communications Can Help Heal Society’s Mental Health Challenges
June 29, 2022
On Tuesday, June 7th, members of the FINN Partners team were honored to attend The Jed Foundation’s annual gala, which raises funds for youth suicide prevention programming.
We have had the genuine pleasure of representing JED since 2020, supporting their work with high schools, colleges, and universities to develop resources, programming, and infrastructure that supports students’ mental health.
The evening’s speakers included Joan Steinberg, who accepted the JED 2022 Corporate Voice of Mental Health award on behalf of Morgan Stanley, who FINN has represented since 2021; JED Student Voice of Mental Health Award winners Crystal Widado and Joseph Sexton; and Dr. David Thomas of Morehouse College. After hearing from them and others in the mental health space who exemplified what it takes to be a leader during challenging times, we left the event thinking about the role communications professionals can play as we work toward a more mentally healthy society.
Introduce Stakeholder-Informed Corporate Social Responsibility
A global pandemic, pervasive racial and gender discrimination, social unrest, war, and a shifting economic landscape have taken their toll over the last two years, precipitating a full-scale, global mental health crisis. These challenges are difficult enough for adults to cope with, let alone children and teenagers.
The realization that many of Morgan Stanley’s employees have children who are particularly vulnerable to serious mental health challenges and the risk of suicide led company leaders such as Managing Director Joan Steinberg to respond to the crisis. Steinberg led the charge to shift the organization’s CSR focus to youth mental health, and for their work through the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, the financial services giant was honored with the 2022 JED Corporate Voice of Mental Health Award.
Lean Into Hard Conversations
On this night, it was worth noting that at no point did any of the speakers shy away from the depth of suicide’s devastating impact. They faced the truth head-on and invited their audience to see mental health challenges from multiple, highly personal perspectives. Those of us listening began to understand the gravity of our current mental health crisis, and many attendees felt the spark of motivation to get involved and become part of the change they want to see.
In the FINN Global Health Practice, we often deal with difficult subject matter and work with clients tackling diseases that have no effective treatments. Because healthcare is such a highly regulated industry, we must work within parameters set by our organization’s Medical, Legal, and Regulatory (MLR) review board and approach communications with care.
But there is a line between careful and overly cautious, and communications professionals have an additional responsibility to bring diverse voices and experiences to wider audiences. It’s also imperative that we counsel our clients through the lens of passionate communications advocates that they have a responsibility to actively engage in the hard conversations that can move society to a better place.
Cultivate Leadership at All Levels
Some of the most inspiring voices of the night were four young adults: two JED Student Voice of Mental Health Award winners and two participants from Each and Every Day, a documentary filmed in partnership with MTV and The Jed Foundation to explore teen mental health through the eyes of several young people who have attempted suicide.
Each spoke with grace, passion, and a wisdom beyond their years; they’ve experienced severe challenges and grappled with the tumultuous world around them at a time when brain and body health is critical. But rather than sit back and wait for parents, teachers, or even legislators to solve their problems, they each decided to step up and make a difference, by sharing their stories with the world and implementing programs into their university and high school campuses to help others. These students reminded us that one is never too young to become a leader, and their willingness to act without hesitation when faced with those who needed help is an inspiration.
In society, we see set hierarchies, adherence to the status quo, and lack of precedent often resulting in stagnation and lack of progress. The need for disruption, new voices, and fresh perspectives becomes clear. And with encouragement and support, more young people can take their place as leaders in their communities and serve as an inspiration to those who long for progress.
That potential that young people of all ages have to change the world was best expressed that evening by Dr. David Thomas, President of Morehouse College, who said, “The world isn’t what it is – it is what we make of it.”