Destigmatizing Mental Health With Meadowlark Monaghan
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and with nearly one in five Americans living with a mental health condition, it’s important to stay active in this conversation and remember that you are not alone. Now is the time to focus on reaching out, healing, and connecting by acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.
We caught up with Meadow Monaghan, who develops and refines mental health content, initiatives, and programs for the companies she consults for, helping brands advocate for mental wellness in a trauma-informed, research-backed, and creative way. She has worked with brands like Madhappy’s The Local Optimist, The Mayfair Group, Lonely Ghost, b.WR, AIM Youth Mental Health, NAMI San Diego, and more.
Meadow is also the co-host of the podcast Thoughts May Vary, which sheds light on a variety of topics pertaining to mental health, including anxiety, depression, and body image, while sharing ways to find hope and gratitude in the darkness.
Here, Meadow shares her background in the mental health space, how her personal mental health struggles led her to where she is today, her offerings as a mental health consultant, and top tips for mental wellness, including her favorite spirituality teachers and free resources, we can all take advantage of.
How did you get involved in the mental health space? What moments in your life have led you to where you are today?
Oof, every single one. Almost every mental health worker I’ve met has come into this work as a direct result of personal experience, and I am no exception. I was raised in a family with a plethora of mental health challenges and lost my older brother to suicide when I was 13. In fact, I went through a lot of loss and trauma from ages 13 to 24. I always knew that my superpower was moving through these experiences with no loss of enthusiasm for life. Therefore, I figured I would do something in the psychology space, but had never seen my dream job modeled before… so I made it up! I took a leap from traditional mental health nonprofit spaces into consulting for brands that incorporate mental health into their brand ethos and messaging. The fulfillment I’ve felt ever since has been transformational.
What exactly is a mental health consultant?
I help brands advocate for mental wellness in a trauma-informed, research-backed, and creative way. This can mean anything from ideating and managing a brand’s blog to creating product, consulting on social campaigns, internal teams training, organizing and hosting events, and so on.
Every brand has a different style of advocacy and therefore has different needs. Recently, I’ve also been extending my scope to work with individual artists and creators who are mental health advocates as well. This has been such a soul-nourishing shift because I get to lean even more into my traditional mental health training to coach artists on bringing their own mental health unpackings and lessons into their advocacy and art.
What are some of the top issues clients come to see you for?
Similar to mental health, no one project has ever looked the same. Some folks really want to draw from their personal experience and find a way to imbue that into their messaging, while others want to market optimism, but through a safe and supportive lens. In general, the common thread throughout anything I’ve worked on has been destigmatization— showing people that empowering your mental wellness is a strength that should be celebrated. And one made far more sustainable (and fun!) amongst community.
What can we expect when working with you?
You can expect a lot of humor— I think humor is one of the best coping mechanisms in the world. You can also expect me to hold up a mirror to show you where you’re acting in or out of alignment within your personal life or advocacy work. Mostly, you can expect nourishing conversations that expand your perspective, ping creative ideas for advocacy, and a lot of fun.
What are some common misconceptions around mental health that you see the most?
When I think of mental health misconceptions, I mostly think of limitations. We’re still so new to including mental health into our zeitgeist (before the pandemic, you couldn’t pay people to open up about their mental health), so most misconceptions come from a limited point of view. I think mental wellness intersects with so many facets of daily life—spirituality, politics, societal norms, social injustice, etc. Mental health healing is so much more than psychopharmaceuticals and traditional talk therapy.
Another big one is that talking about mental health has to feel like some heavy, sappy Lifetime movie. These conversations have range! That has been a big thing we like to play with at my podcast, Thoughts May Vary— unpacking the nuance, playfulness, vulnerability, and depths of mental health without this sort of stale, linear perspective.
What are some of your tips we can take home today to better our mental health?
If you know me, you know I love a tangible tool! First and foremost, keep a list of coping strategies on your phone. Make it on a good day, add to it when you watch a self-care vlog that resonates and keep the list ongoing. When you’re having a challenging mental health day, sometimes it can feel impossible to even get out of bed, let alone come up with an idea of what to do to give yourself some nourishment. Having the list premade takes that pressure off.
I also love to compartmentalize that list based on how I experience challenging mental health days. Sometimes my anxiety comes in the form of racing thoughts; other days, it feels so visceral and in my body. So, I have different sections on my coping list that are for mind, body, energy, in the house, out of the house, etc., so that I can counteract my experience with an appropriate replacement.
Some other favorite tips: get outside within the first two hours of waking up; commit to a meditation practice; have mental health check-ins with your friends; curate the content you consume to things that feel nourishing or provide value (everything from IG follows to Netflix shows and podcasts); learn about your inner child and shadow; I could go on for days.
Can you share a few free resources we can turn to that would be good for our mental wellness?
I love this question because I think accessibility is a huge challenge for a lot of folks beginning their mental health journey. My podcast Thoughts May Vary, which I cohost with my brilliant friend Gabriela Ulloa, really emphasizes sharing our mental health healing in real-time. We like to learn out loud, unpack the nuances in the wellness space, and bring our listeners a lot of tangible tools and support.
Also, many nonprofits have exceptional online education and free support groups. I used to work with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and they not only have a great site to learn more about a myriad of mental health challenges, but they also have free support groups for those experiencing mental health challenges and friends/family members of those with mental illness. I love The Alliance for Eating Disorders so much; their founder is incredible, they have a great ig, and many free group meetings. When you’re in a pinch, the Crisis Text Line is also an incredible free resource to connect you further with help or talk you through an immediate situation, whether you’re looking for support yourself or for someone else.
I also love listening to old lectures by spiritual teachers because I think spirituality is an aspect of mental health healing most missing from common vernacular. Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, and Deepak Chopra are some of my favorites.
We are slowly seeing a shift in the way society views mental health. In your opinion, how can we remove the stigma and create more conversation around this issue?
There really has been! As someone who has been in the field for a decade, the difference between my advocacy efforts in 2013 to now gives me so much hope for the future. I’ve said it since then and I’ll continue to repeat it: simply making space for these conversations to happen is the easiest, most accessible, and most effective way to destigmatize. Talk about it with your family members, your friends, your barista, your friend from pilates. The more we incorporate mental health into our daily conversations, the more normal it becomes to ask for help, to share new coping strategies, and to connect with one another. Thank you for giving me this space to talk about it as well!
What are your non-negotiables when it comes to wellness?
Meditation is the big one; nothing is more transformative (and research-backed) than a mindfulness practice. I can feel the shift every time I meditate in a way that other self-care activities just can’t replicate.
Some other non-negotiables are—getting outside within the first two hours of waking up; journaling; living in sync with my menstrual cycle (shout out Alisa Vitti’s book In The Flo) and frankly, the moon; connecting with my expansive friends; reading Eckhart Tolle; alone time; moving my body; listening to Ram Dass lectures; consuming art in various forms; and as silly as it is, my skincare routine.
It used to grind my gears when folks called a face mask “self-care,” but that was back when the common rhetoric around mental health only came up after a mass shooting (which, we all know, was the worst thing for mental health stigma). Nowadays, I think we have at least a baseline of mental health information enough to know that the face mask isn’t self-care… the ritual, mindfulness, and intention of caring for yourself is the self-care.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would that be?
Trust the divine timing of your life. The Universe never says “no” — it only says “yes,” “not yet,” or “I have something better coming."