With so much stigma around the topic of mental health, one nonprofit group wants to help shift the paradigm. Instead, they prefer to focus on mental fitness, which is something that everyone can benefit from. Trent Mano and Rachel Merrill of Room Here founded their organization on the principle that we all need to take care of our minds whether or not we have a diagnosed mental illness.
In statistics reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “One in five people are struggling with mental illness, and approximately 80 percent of people will struggle with something in the course of their lives.”
In early 2019, one of Trent’s good friends died from suicide. He was a well-known CEO of a tech company, and as a bunch of his friends gathered to grieve, they realized that they needed to do more. This served as the impetus for Room Here. They started making plans shortly after that and finally opened their doors in August 2020.
Their focus is two-fold: First, to have employers take a pledge to create and implement mental fitness plans. After the employers take the pledge, they are given educational resources to pass on through their usual communication channels. Room Here also provides surveys to help companies measure stigma, burnout, and mental fitness in organizations. In these efforts, they have partnered with mental health professionals and researchers.
They encourage leaders to lead out in opening conversations about mental fitness. They want to start focusing on Utah companies so that, eventually, all Utah companies would be on board. In the future, they hope to expand to other states so that it becomes a national movement.
Room Here wants to focus on the workplace and changing the conversation there, because this is where many people spend the majority of their waking hours, and where they encounter many of their stressful situations. If they are able to improve the work place environment, they believe the effect will trickle down to both individual families and entire communities.
Secondly, not only do they approach businesses, but they encourage individuals to take a pledge to become a “roomie.” As a roomie, they show they are an ally to those struggling with mental issues.
“We take a holistic approach,” Trent said. “There is a large physical component and a mental component. Your mental health is completely connected to your physical health.”
“Since I identified myself as an ally,” Rachel said, “there have been so many people who have opened up to me.”
She continued, “You have to ask yourself, ‘What am I doing to focus on my mental health?’ Of course, meditation and breathing exercises are great, but you need to consider other things you do with your body as well, such as eating well, sleeping enough, and making regular exercise a part of your routine. You can’t separate physical wellness and mental wellness. The one affects the other so much.”
Do you think you have what it takes to become a roomie? You can take the pledge today at roomhere.org.