Promoting mental health in the workplace: A conversation with Enoch Li
Enoch Li is the Founder and Managing Director of social enterprise Bearapy, which works with organizations and companies from various backgrounds to help ensure the wellbeing of their employees. She agreed to share her entrepreneurial story with us ahead of the upcoming Women for Impact 2020 Conference.
Hello Enoch. We are thrilled to feature you in our W4I Chats series. Could you please tell us more about yourself?
More about me.... hmmm.... I'm a paradox, I like a lot and love only few, I relish in my madness of thoughts, and take wisdom from Dr Seuss. I like cute looking dumb things, like my dog, Bamboo, and collect poo toys as well as Gund Snuffles. I love doing jigsaw puzzles as it helps clear my mind.
I enjoy Chinese calligraphy because there is a lot of depth into the civilization and thought. I am nerd and like to read academic journals, and particularly interested in group psychodynamics, group unconscious minds, and playfulness. I cannot stand over-positivity and prefer looking for meaning in pain.
What motivated you to start Bearapy?
My own depression, suicide attempts, and youthful - back then - rage at the misunderstandings between people because we have not found a way to communicate with each other, and also the biases - which I had also contributed to - we carry against different states of mind, plus a refusal to see things for what they are and call it what it is.
I started writing about depression first, and Bearapy was a fun thing to do - a photoblog of my adventures with my toy bears, which were a manifestation of my inner thoughts and a way for me to process my different selves. I saw how much we do not understand ourselves, let alone others, and I saw how so many do not understand what mental health is, but I thought it was an important thing to talk about, and did something about it.
What have been your biggest challenges since you started Bearapy and how did/do you cope with them?
Biggest challenge was when no one listened, didn't think it was valuable, laughed at it, and ignored us. I coped with it by being stubborn - I believed in it when no one else did, and I insisted that we had to keep doing it. I was opened, however, to other people's suggestions on the way to do so and adapted it, reframed our methodology etc. But the core message and mission stayed true.
Another challenge, more personal, is when depression and anxiety visit me again. They come here and there, some episodes more severe than others, but after a decade now, I know how to live with them and through them. I don't try to make them go away. Rather, I befriend those states of mind, asking what message they bring to me this time, and what is the meaning of this mood for me in the context of my life, and what needs to change.
The World Mental Health Day was celebrated on Saturday (October 10th), with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues especially during this Covid-19 era. Is there any specific advice you would give leaders on how to talk about mental health at work and promote the mental wellbeing of their team members?
Leaders need to start with themselves, i.e. their own awareness of their behaviors and emotions, and see if they are affecting their teams in any ways that might be causing others stress. Then, they need to find out what might be comfortable for their teams in terms of discussing this topic, to meet them where they are, and slowly nudge them to learn more. The idea of wellbeing might be new to some, so it is essential to find out what employees' attitudes and knowledge are first, before ramming too much down their throats, and really, go easy on the number of stress management and resilience webinars, for this is just one aspect of mental health.
The best way is to role model it themselves, with sensitivity to the local culture, so they could start talking about their own stories, their own challenges with different moods and mental health conditions, and just open up. It doesn't need to be a life or death story, just sharing a bit more about themselves, build psychological safety, and encourage the team to think about these topics for themselves.
Thank you Enoch!
Find out more about Bearapy at www.bearapy.me