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Mental Health Awareness Month: Expert tips for boosting wellbeing

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and on this day—the morning after the horrific tragedy in at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas where 19 students and their two teachers were brutally killed in the classroom—many are heartbroken, devastated, and angry.

May 25th is also the 2nd anniversary of the murder of George Floyd- a Black man who was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis—and who’s dying words of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry and sparked nationwide protests.

Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to fight the stigma centered around mental health and to advocate for policies that support people living with mental illness.

Experts say mental health is an important part of overall health. And on a day like today that is filled with so much heaviness- it is important to amplify the message about the importance of mental health and support those who may be carrying a heavier load these days in the wake of personal and national tragedies and the ongoing pandemic.

I reached out to Omari Rush, Executive Director of CultureSource for tips on how to nurture Mental Health Awareness in and outside of the workplace.

What are some great mental health resources for those in need of support?

The most recent challenge to my well-being came April 19: the day my 99-day Wordle streak ended. It snowed heavily that day too. While those are fairly trivial disappointments (for me, at least), as a whole team at CultureSource we have been navigating tough health news from people we care about, feeling unsettled by the uncertainty of Covid mutation and your participation in our programs, and being disturbed by conflict in our homeland and abroad—among other things.

These conditions and contexts of work complicate our team's ability to serve you at a time when you are relying on our engagement more than ever.

In addition to offering tangible benefits at the employer level, CultureSource also maintains an online resource hub centered around the future of work. This includes several resources to promote wellbeing, and get organizational leaders thinking about strategies they can put in place for their teams. Some of those resources include:

  • Free worksheets and downloadable assessments to guide employees through managing their selfcare, from Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman, co-authors of The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Impact without Burnout.
  • Recorded webinars from The Wellbeing Project, focused on catalyzing a culture of inner wellbeing for all changemakers.
  • The Science of Grief by WDET, a new Podcast for young adults facing mental health challenges. This 10-episode podcast makes space for young adults to share stories, science, and solutions for those who are experiencing grief and exploring their mental health for the first time.

What are some of the practices you’ve implemented at CultureSource to foster employee well-being? 

In order to serve, I know each of our team members must individually work on their well-being and decide where to find it in work, home, and social settings. To help them in those pursuits, CultureSource has made available some general tools, which we have shared with leaders in the region to help stimulate their own ideas.

  • Wellness Coach – Our team meets monthly as a group with psychologist Dr. AJ to learn general ideas about how to notice what is happening in our mind and body and allow those thoughts to give us energy or confidence.
  • Productivity Coach – Periodically we call in specialist Donna Lindley for sessions on how to create space in our workdays to focus on priority and proactive thinking. These group sessions give us shared language to keep each other accountable too.
  • Equity Coach – Last month we launched an equity strategists-in-residence service for our members. Part of this two-year contract with the Minnesota-based Team Dynamics, includes coaching for our staff to continually calibrate us to the difficulties of equity-focused work.
  • Ombuds – In January, I appointed an Ombuds for our small team: a confidential, off-the-record resource to help staff problem solve in relation to obstacles to their full and successful participation on our team. Ideally, the knowledge that this role exists is a comfort in itself.
  • Paid Time Off – Encouragement is ongoing for staff to use their full PTO allocation. Team members have a specific, generous allotment of time (as opposed to unlimited time) to give them a clear target and clear permission to use the benefit.

As you strive to promote wellness, I hope you find success, and find these resources helpful in investigating ways you can rethink the status-quo of work culture in your own organization. 


About Omari Rush

Omari rush culturesource

Omari Rush engages the arts as a passion and profession, and in each mode enjoys discovery and deepening impacts. As executive director of CultureSource in Detroit, he advances efforts to have creative expression thrive in communities.

His complementary civic service ranges from recently completing an appointment to the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (serving three governors, two as council chair) to currently being board chair of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and a board member of Arts Midwest in Minneapolis and the Lewis Prize for Music.

Omari earned degrees in music from the University of Michigan and Florida State University, and extended his love for learning by completing fellowships with the Salzburg Global Forum and Association of Performing Arts Professionals, by managing the K-12 education program of the University Musical Society (UMS), and by serving on research advisory committees for the National Endowment for the Arts and Indiana University O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

A lapsed clarinetist, Omari now uses his voice to co-host a monthly arts-focused radio show on NPR affiliate WEMU-FM, and he plays on a Rivendell Clem-L bicycle, which he rides daily on streets and trails.

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