Mental health as a phrase is so broad and far-reaching as to drift into cliché, or elude meaning altogether.
The many facets and complexities that “mental health” encompasses each merit their own conversation: the role of diagnosis and medication; our approaches to care; addiction and substance abuse; the apparent increase in struggles among our youth; the impacts of the Covid pandemic; the changing workplace; the effect of technology; the role of economic inequality, systemic racism, homophobia and transphobia, and other forms of discrimination; mass incarceration, and the list goes on.
But there is no question that the theme of mental health, the wellbeing of our mind and spirit, our sense of belonging in the world, is an urgent one, which, it seems to me, has been garnering ever-greater degrees of attention in public discourse. I’ve wanted to figure out how to approach this vast topic and pick out avenues for further reflection and examination.
That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to speak to my next guest, someone who’s been immersed in mental health work for over twenty years, and has approached it from several angles.
Benjamin F. Miller is the former president of Well Being Trust and chair of the advisory board of Inseparable, two mental health organizations. Over the last two decades, he has worked to promote and prioritize mental health in policies, programs, and investments in his native United States.
Trained in clinical psychology at Spalding University, the University of Colorado and the University of Massachusetts, Ben started his career as a clinician and then spent 8 years as an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine where he was the founding Director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center. He subsequently joined Well Being Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health, as Chief Strategy Officer and then, until recently, as President.
Ben has testified before state and federal government committees in the United States, is active as a keynote speaker, and has been featured in a wide range of major media outlets, including the New York Times, USA Today, CNN and NPR. He is also the author of “Mental,” a substack newsletter on topics related to mental health.
I’ll confess speaking to Ben left me with more questions than answers, given the enormity of the topic, but our exchange allowed me to focus my thoughts and his insights provided material for further contemplation. I hope it does something similar for you.
Just a warning that we do discuss topics of suicide, addiction, and other forms of distress during the episode. If you’re in need of help, please reach out to someone you trust or a healthcare provider. If you’re a healthcare worker, your employer or professional association may also provide support. And you can always call Talk Suicide Canada, 988 in the United States, or a suicide prevention or crisis hotline wherever you are.
"The Mystifying Rise of Child Suicide," by Andrew Solomon, The New Yorker
"'It's Life or Death': The Mental Health Crisis Among US Teens," by Matt Richtel, The New York Times
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