“Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” Kent M. Keith
The Singapore hub provided a warm welcome last week as Gemma our CEO moderated an event focused on Mental Health. And it was powerful stuff.
Singapore is the ultimate cultural melting pot. Stereotypically, maybe not Crazy and Rich, but definitely reserved, driven and hierarchical. Would a Fishbowl session on such a personal topic work? A resounding yes! The participants were a wonderful mix of people from different cultures, races, religions, any classifier you can think of. We told very personal stories and while there were no quick fixes, creating this safe space proved a catalyst for sharing experiences and ideas.
Culture-specific stories shared in confidence during events I have attended on mental health in Edinburgh and now Singapore show that though we may have some unique stressors, many are common and the effects can be equally destructive. Such sessions offer an excellent springboard for driving change, and give us a glimpse into sides of human experience we too often conceal, such as...
The Dumbbells of Expectation
...we are often too tough on ourselves. Add the weight of unrealistic expectations of parents, teachers, bosses, mentors and society, and we suffer both mentally and physically. Putting down the heavy dumbbells of those expectations is difficult but critical to our wellbeing.
Flexing the Empathy Muscles
Vulnerability and openness offer a chance to flex our empathy muscles, a quality so critical to being an effective leader and colleague. It gives us hope that someone might reach out to us when we’re feeling vulnerable, and helps us recognise early signs of mental health concerns in others. We talked about the challenge of usefully and safely approaching colleagues who are clearly “going through something”.
Access to mental health professionals can be more difficult in Asia: therapy is less socially acceptable. On the other hand, Asia provides better access to alternative strategies, such as meditation, massage and strong family and community ties. Plus, the habit of sitting down with colleagues to feast on excellent food.
We contributed, listened and expressed the intent to make a difference. Perhaps we could repeat the event next year and share how we have turned intent into positive actions in our places of work. It is fascinating to attend sessions where issues are tackled with different groups of participants, and in distinct cultural contexts. Thanks to the teams across the globe who organise such events, and the companies who sponsor them.
Lisl MacDonald, Owner of Spring
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