By Bart Magee, Ph.D.
Over the last few years, I’ve heard different versions of this plea from the many people I’ve spoken with about our mission at Access Institute. It goes something like: “I really support what you are doing at Access Institute. Mental health affects all of us. The needs are so great and just keep growing. I donate to you, but I’d like to do more. What else can I do to help? How can I volunteer?” I was hearing this a lot before the pandemic, but today I hear it with increased urgency. Everyone is aware that depression, anxiety, problems with substance use, homelessness, and social discord are all on the rise. At the same time, the pandemic has caused people to feel more isolated from one another, making it more difficult to feel connected and capable of social change. In the mental health field, we are facing a huge provider shortage as the needs in our community grow vastly greater than what mental health providers can handle. All of this leaves people feeling helpless and hopeless, as if the problems we face can’t be solved. They can. Solutions emerge through collective action.
“Citizenship”, defined as a set of positive behaviors linked to one’s membership in a group or society, seems adrift. Who are we as citizens of San Francisco or the Bay Area? Are we members of a community that cares for one another? Are we individuals who seek connections in ways that foster our collective well-being? Are we dedicated to finding new ways to effect positive social change?
By Regina Franco, Esq.
Dear Friends of Access Institute,
For those who grew up in immigrant families, we know mental health is grossly stigmatized. That stigma’s power caused years of personal invalidation which was sad and frustrating because no one, including myself, knew my mental health was suffering. I could not break through the cultural barrier of shame associated with depression, anxiety, or other psychological problems. No one could understand the concept of not feeling well despite appearing physically fine: That it was ok not to be ok. Desperate for help, I broke through the barrier and sought treatment. After experiencing life with more ease, I knew mental health advocacy was my calling. That is why I joined the Access Institute Board.
By Bart Magee, Ph.D.
Back in May 2020, during the early, dark days of the pandemic lockdown, I wrote that we might find threads of hope in recognizing how millions of people around the world came together to change their behavior, support each other and limit the spread of COVID-19. In the ensuing months, now years, we’ve often overlooked the various ways people responded to the pandemic by ingeniously adapting and demonstrating mighty resilience. I thought at the time and still believe today that by engaging similar, creative, collective action will lead us to ending the mental illness epidemic and overcoming our many social ills. At the same time, the other responses we’ve witnessed during the last few years warn of the hurdles ahead. Shaming and blaming ourselves and others, social withdrawal and dissociation, disconnection from our bodies, rabid disinformation, political dysfunction, ecological collapse, along with unchecked anxiety and confusion. Looking ahead to 2022, even as COVID becomes more “endemic”, disruptions, both those associated with the pandemic and the disparate ones (economic, social, environmental), no doubt will continue. How will we respond? Could 2022 be the year in which we redouble efforts to come together, combat our darker impulses, support creative resilience in each other, and find new paradigms of thinking and organizing ourselves socially? If so, what will it take? What does it take to get unstuck?
By Bart Magee, Ph.D.
It’s an emotionally confusing time in the current age of the COVID-19 Pandemic. While not quite post pandemic, we’re no longer under lockdown or full restriction. Many workplaces remain remote, while more restaurants, bars, and other social gathering places are open and crowded. While many people are feeling relieved and happy to resume social engagements, others remain cautious, continuing to restrict their activities. Whether and where to don a mask remains a moving target. In this socially uncertain climate, it’s no surprise that social anxiety has been on the rise, particularly among young people. Social anxiety disorder, which affects over 15 million adults in the US, was already increasing before the pandemic and is now growing exponentially. It’s one of the more serious mental health challenges or our time. What is social anxiety and how can we address it?
Last week it was the Fellows turn to join the ranks of Access Institute’s 2020/21 graduates. Many hugs were shared yesterday as Access Institute bid farewell at our Fellow’s Graduation Luncheon. We will miss all of our graduates dearly but can’t wait to see all the fantastic things they accomplish moving forward!
At the graduation ceremony, Anjali George Ph.D., Director of Elder Services, offered the new graduates an extraordinary speech that perfectly captured these challenges and triumphs and we thought it worth sharing.