By Gordon R. McInally, 2023-24 Rotary International President
As Rotary President for 2023-24, I am placing a special focus on global mental health. Mental illness and emotional wellness can be difficult topics for anyone to discuss, and I know that there are some places in the Rotary world where those conversations are especially difficult.
But we have so much to gain by helping each other address mental health and wellness more openly. As we come out of a global pandemic that forced many to experience hardship and isolation, so many of us and the people we serve are experiencing lasting challenges to our emotional well-being that we cannot handle alone. As Rotary members, we have a unique ability to reach out to people who may have no other access to this kind of care. And as an organization built on friendship and service, we can help guide our fellow Rotary members in a trusting, caring manner. All of us can serve our communities by engaging openly in discussions about mental health and wellness and establishing a solid foundation for preventative and interventional measures in your area.
I have already seen in my travels around the Rotary world that these conversations foster connection and safety between us. They can help build stronger interpersonal relationships while supporting the well-being of the communities we serve.
As President, I am asking you to help Rotary make progress towards these three critical goals:
1. Erase the stigma associated with discussions of emotional well-being
2. Raise awareness of mental health needs
3. Improve access to mental health services
I am not going to tell you how to achieve these goals, rather I’m going to invite you to think of ways you can make a difference through your service projects, in your clubs, and in your day-to-day interactions with fellow Rotary members and with your community. The brochure on Prioritizing Mental Health offers ideas about how you can get started in placing a greater priority on mental health. And throughout the year, I will be relying on the leadership of the Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives to help show you how you can do more, learn from one another, and begin to create a grassroots movement within Rotary to make mental health wellness a priority not just this year, but into the future as well. And as of earlier this month, Rotary Showcase offers a forum for you to share how your club’s service projects are raising awareness about mental health and helping communities access needed services.
Challenges around mental illness and emotional health affect us all. And research shows that performing acts of kindness is the single most effective way to improve your mood over the long term. Rotary is uniquely positioned to make a global impact on this effort, and I hope you will join me in showing this new level of care to each other — and to ourselves.