#019 – Back Home Again – A Story of Community, Healing, Mental Health, and Resilience (with Special Guests Charmaine Hammond & Michael Mankowski)

 

Charmaine & Michael’s Bonus Resources


Back Home Again was inspired by real testimonials that Michael recorded (while working with the Canadian Red Cross) of individuals who experienced the forest fire, evacuation and the road to recovery. Extensive health research was utilized in the creation of the film, script and content including research from the University of Alberta, CMHA and a number of other studies related to mental health and resilience in disaster/post disaster situations.

Film Website is Back Home Again (backhomeagainmovie.com)

Film trailer is:  https://youtu.be/hw7YwU0pjY0

 

 

Podcast Transcript

 

Welcome to the Working Well Podcast. I’m Tim Borys CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance. On the Working Well Podcast we dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the world. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home.

Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.

 

Charmaine is a professional speaker and author on resilience and collaboration, and now also Executive Producer of the Back Home Again film.  She lived in Fort McMurray for 15 years and had the opportunity to work on resilience and recovery activities with organizations and school divisions following the Fort McMurray wildfires. 

 

Michael Mankowski is born and raised in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Owner and operator of Alien Kow formerly known as Wood Buffalo Productions, an Alberta, Canada based award winning production house. A graduate of University of Lethbridge Bachelor of Management and Vancouver Film School 3D & Animation Program.

 

Charmaine, Michael, thank you so much for joining me on the Working Well Podcast. I’m excited to have you here. This is really awesome Charmaine, we haven’t caught up in a long time and Michael first time meeting you. So I’m looking forward to hearing about this exciting project that you have on the go. Tell me about this film just being released in the fall. Is that correct?

Yeah, thanks Tim, for having us on. It is released in the fall. We’ve been working on this for five years, so we’re very excited to kind of put this out to the world and we’ve submitted to 30 film festivals. So we’re still waiting to hear back on which ones we’re going to be premiering at, but we’re very, we’re very excited.

Excellent. So five years in the making, this is, this is a big project. And it’s a bit of a labor of love. Tell me where it started from and yeah. How it came to you.

Prior to the wildfire, I was running a video production company in Fort McMurray where I was born and raised. And I just, you know, won best short film and at the Alberta film and television awards, and it was kind of gearing up to do my first big feature film.

And ultimately that was taken away and I was evacuated like everyone else just, you know, it was actually on the line you know, prep that movie. And it was evacuated from my community. And after that, you know, I was given the opportunity to work with the red cross and be one of the first to come into the community and film testimonials of people that were affected by the wild fire. And I recorded over 200 testimonials during that time, you know, as well as the one year, two year anniversary and two documentaries for advice. And I would have done the majority of the community videos around the 2016 wildfire. And and that’s, you know, shortly after that, I actually, I met Charmaine and had the opportunity to pitch for this project. And we’ve been working on it ever since.

Very cool. 200 testimonials. That’s a, it’s a lot of footage to go through.

Yeah. You know, it was it was very interesting process because you’re filming a lot of these videos sometimes even for other companies. And I found when I did like a little documentary or a video here and there, sometimes it wasn’t an accurate representation of our community. So I had a lot of powerful untold stories. So I wanted to take those and tell them from the perspective of animals and what it was like to go through and be evacuated to be separated from your home and eventually come back and rebuild.

And so tell me a bit about some of the testimonials that you heard. I obviously was massive fire and traumatic experience for everyone involved, but you know what what types of really interesting and unique stories did you hear?

You know, I got to hear everything from, you know the mayor, you know, had a red cross, all the firefighters teachers, you know, indigenous leaders and fur traders and kind of everyone in between, you know, just families that were affected, you know, it ranged from, you know, you could talk to a family and the child would tell you about all things he lost his bedroom, or you go to a school and you talk to a teacher and she’s devastated. Cause she’s gutting the classroom, throwing out all the kids’ stuff. She can’t give it back, you know, throwing out all the, you know, the memorabilia, the mascot, all the awards. So that sense of normalcy is, and you know, all the things that we remember it’s gone and where, you know, I talked to an indigenous fur trader and even if we rebuild his home, his way of life is gone because he can’t get the animals to come back.

So it was you know, it’s very powerful. And actually through that experience, I ended up healing. I was struggling a lot of myself, I was affected heavily by the wildfire and I would just I really felt, this was kind of like a, I noticed that I started healing through this process. I wanted to create something, you know, as a way to have a conversation around mental health.

And yeah that’s of course a massive mental health challenge, and what lessons did you come out of that with or what healing process did you and the whole community go through. I know, like there were a lot of people out there that watched that from a distance on news and you see the news clips, but to really be there and experience. Yeah, it’s obviously very different.

I think brought us together, you know, it was just everyone in the community had a shared experience and I think we’re all closer because of it, you know, where everyone’s like now a neighbor with one another. So I really felt even the people that were extremely effected like and so much, actually not even just our community, but across Canada.

Like, I just remember the simple thing of like, I’m evacuated I’m in Edmonton and, you know, just. Can even describe all the things that are going through my head. And like someone comes over, buys me a beer, you know, and that simple gesture of like how much that meant to me at that time. And there’s everyone who has that story in our community of like someone who gave them gas or someone who let them stay in a condo for a bit, like it really was you know, help across the country. And yeah. So it just, I think it just was that shared experience that brought us together.

Yeah. And Charmaine. How did you and Michael meet and how did this, how did you start to collaborate?

This was one of my favorite stories to tell. I actually lived in Fort McMurray for about 15 years, not at the time of the wildfires, but I was actually called back by some of the social profit organizations and the school divisions to work with the community and organizations in their resilience and recovery process. And while I was there working with some clients, I was introduced to Michael, and at that time, this film was much shorter. It was about a 10 minute film. And when he shared his concept and his vision or what I would call his big dream. I knew in that moment, I was a heck yes, it, this project just spoke to me on so many levels. I loved the way that Michael talked about his vision of collaborating for this to be a community film, you know? I get emotional when I talk about it, but Michael calls this his love letter to the community. And that’s, that’s what he portrayed to me five years ago. But then there was the other part that was really important too was the mental health component. And that Michael saw this project as one, this film as one that could actually inspire people to talk about mental health.

Not only about mental health related to a forest fire, but, and to health related to our everyday living mental health in the workplace. And that’s a topic I’ve worked in the mental health field for many, many years, and those are tough conversations for many people to have. So that’s how I met I met Michael, I, I also know Michael’s mom and have worked with his mom on projects and I didn’t even make those connections when I, when I first met Michael. So the story is really, it’s been five years of working on this project and it’s changed and evolved, but it’s one that I think will really help a lot of people have important conversations.

Well, I, I, you know, makes perfect sense now that you see it was a heck yes because your professional background, you know, mental health resilience, collaboration with teams and that’s exactly what the community was going through. So I I’d love to hear more of your perspective on some of the nuggets of wisdom that came out of that and the lessons that we can pull into this pandemic, we’re going through now.

Well, I wanted to echo what Michael said earlier about how people came together. And so I didn’t experience the fire. I wasn’t living there at the time, but I was one of those people in a community that I watched my own community do things in support of Fort McMurray Wood, Buffalo.

So for example, I went walking with the dog one day and there was these messages of love on the sidewalk by children with, with sidewalk, chalk and paint, just sending good wishes to the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region and residents. And so when I saw how it also how tough times crisis disaster forest fires can actually bring people together. And Michael had that shared experience living in Fort McMurray at the time. And, you know, I was one of these external people that also witnessed it. The other, the other piece that you know, is, is really interesting from our partners with Canadian Mental Health Association and Canadian red cross, learning their perspective.

And both of them have talked about how recovering after a disaster is really a journey. It is a long process for recovery. And I know Michael, you probably see that even just doing all the interviews and then having to watch as you’re producing the film, you’re watching this over and over again. So it really is a process as we recover from a crisis in our life.

And yeah, I think that does that process ever end.

No, I think it’s a, you know, it’s something you have to work on, you know, ultimately, especially in our community, you know, they’re affected by ultimately the economy and the wildfire, then the floods, and then, you know, COVID recently. So and I think a lot of us have that shared experience now with COVID of trauma and, and and when we started this, you know, we couldn’t even say the word mental health out loud. It was, you know, we, we talked about the PTSD, you know, the effects of after the wildfire, Mental health was, I feel like a taboo word. I think, I feel like in the last couple of years, you know, we see that change now, you know, you have celebrities, endorsing companies, and it’s okay to talk about your mental health publicly.

But and that’s the, you know, that’s the opportunity we have is, is I think me and Charmaine just hope that this can be the conversation starter to talk about mental health in a healthier way. And hopefully, you know, build these support resources as well, discussion guides and an app, you know, with the movie to, to help. But I think we have this great opportunity to have that discussion now.

Well and I’d say Fort McMurray from at least from my perspective is, you know, in, in a lot of the larger centers, maybe and five years ago, it was probably it’s different with the pandemic. Mental health is much more talked about, but particularly in the larger, larger centers, as you get to more rural and that the oil sands and boiling gas mentality that wasn’t as much talked about. It’s we think of Fort McMurray is this, you know, sorta rough, rough and tumble town. And it obviously it’s it’s grown tremendously over the years, but it still has that, you know, the rough neck image, right. And that’s yeah. Mental health in, in those types of communities is not as talked about, or at least that’s my perspective from that. Has that changed?

You know, well, well, part of that honestly, is I hope to change a little bit of that perspective. And, you know, Fort McMurray often is, as you said, you know, painted with that brush and, and, and I’m not going to disagree with that at all, but I do think there’s another side of Fort McMurray to the community side and, and that’s kind of what I try and focus on. This is just, you know, the community and coming back as a community and. And I hope that then we can use this for other communities that are affected by disasters and continue that conversation, whether it be in the workplace or, you know, the schools or just, you know, with a family member. I think it’s just by watching the movie I hope we can finally have that conversation that you know of healthy of conversation, because many people today are, are still struggling in my community.

You know some haven’t rebuilt and and some people don’t want to talk about it. You know, we just had the five-year anniversary of the fire. So it’s an emotional time for a lot, but ultimately, you know, Charmaine kind of, always said to, to me, it’s like, you don’t have to watch this, but we had to. If we showing that people are still hurting, also create shows, there’s a need for this. And you know, we want to create this and put this out there so we can have that conversation.

Yeah.

Tim, you mentioned something a minute ago that I think is really important to come back to when you were talking about. You know, the world is going through the pandemic right now, and now we’re seeing mental health being something that is a topic we can speak to. We’re seeing it on the news. We see it. You know, in our conversations with people and Michael, you talked about that shared experience of Fort McMurray. So I think that with what everyone is going through right now, it is a topic that we can actually embrace. And, and when you look at the mental health statistics and the research that’s being done right now, mental health concerns are very, very high and prevalent and need attention. And that’s one of the reasons, Michael, I think you chose animation as the medium to do this film. I’ve heard you talk about it, where you said that animation kind of softens the impact of what people are watching. So that was a strategic on your part.

Yeah. You know, ultimately where I was originally approached to create a documentary for. You know, children’s struggling with PTSD symptoms and also to use that maybe as a conversation to talk to teachers and parents and, and point them to resources because a lot of people were sick of the Fort McMurray strong and a lot of branding that was coming out. And you know, I thought a documentary was too heavy, you know, for a lot of that. So I thought it was a great way to take those stories and infuse them from the perspective of animals.

I think that’s excellent. And how has the community, you said there’s still people challenging five years into the process. And I, again, I think that’s something that doesn’t change, but with the pandemic on top of the wildfires, how is the community coping right now through this.

You know, I I’ve heard some overwhelming response, you know, from this this project and a lot of community members have been so supportive and just like I mentioned, you know, there’s people that are hurting. And I think, you know, when you see all the recent wildfires and, you know, it’s a trigger for a lock, you know, even just watching that news footage. And and I really tried in this to actually kind of not focus too much on the fire and focused more on the coming back home aspect of this, just to, you know, I, and, and mostly just to, I even remember, you know, a couple months ago when we were around the five month anniversary, like all those same images that the news continues to play over and over every year is hard on the community.

Like they, they don’t like that image. We actually ended up, we started the movie actually on footage I had of leaving the country. And, you know, based on feedback from mental health experts, we decided to take out all the real footage of the fire from the film and just focus on annimation.

Oh, interesting. Okay. Yeah, I can see how that would absolutely make a difference. You keep replaying one of the most traumatic experiences they’ve had over and over again.

You know, and every year it comes out at like clockwork and, and, you know, I know the, the news outlets are like, they’re doing their part to tell the story today and, and it’s great. But ultimately, when I talked to the residents, I feel a lot of people are triggered by some of those images.

Yeah. And so. With the pandemic and what we’re experiencing now, do you feel that there were really strong lessons learned that people that have helped people cope better right now?

Definitely. Yeah. Yeah. I, you know, I think that, you know, I always go back to the shared experience and so it started with just my community and now we all have that, you know, everyone is feeling some sort of, I feel like mental health, you know, you know, strain or, you know, understands trauma better, or, you know, just everything going on in New York and everything it reminded me of our community back when COVID was going on. It’s just I think just shared experience around trauma. It opens the door for us to talk about this in any aspect. And yeah, I just, I, I just hope to inspire people to talk about mental health through this and that. I, I think we have the time is now.

Absolutely.

And it’s a film about community too. And you know, Tim, your question is your question. Got me thinking that right now, workplaces, for example, they’re sort of reorientating themselves to working together again, some have these hybrid situations, but yeah. As companies and businesses and teams come together, there’s all those issues that, that may be prevalent for them.

And, and I loved how Michael in this movie has just threw out, has woven in the importance of community. Because now that message is important too, in terms of a world that where people have been physically distanced from what other teams are not necessarily working together in the same office. So I think these conversations are important for us in our family and our workplaces, and am probably more comfortable now because we’ve all gone through this together in our own ways.

Yeah. And the one thing I would add just super quick is those workplaces are ultimately at the end. You know, I tried to represent them at the end of the movie. It’s it’s, you know, you can’t tell the story without industry. And when I came back, you know, it’s all the workplaces, you know, the people that are at those companies coming out to do those fundraisers or do this, you know, activity. And those were a lot of the videos I did. And, and at the end I try and show like, you know, a bunch of the animals kind of rebuilding into in the homes. And that’s really just based off, you know, different workplaces in the community doing different drives or, you know, donating their time. So it’s just definitely and you know, we had some support recently, even just Ikea of showing, you know, little teasers in the IKEAs. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity to work with some of the companies, talk to employees and just engage others about our story.

Absolutely. And Charmaine mentioned something and I love how you said physical distancing, because there still so many people that they’re staying social distancing and community, and our connections with people are so important, even if it is online, via video or phone, having that connection to the outside world is really important. And what do you, what are you seeing with that with companies in Fort McMurray and elsewhere about that connection as people start to reintegrate?

I know I can speak to some of the companies that I work with in different parts of Canada and, and it’s been so interesting to hear the different ways that companies and nonprofits and government are bringing their team together in a way where people are not physically together in the office. And one of the leaders I spoke to there, one of their most treasured times in this company, because this was a company where people are coming and going, and, but Fridays at 10 o’clock people always found their way to the copy room for 15 minutes.

That was their one time to get together. When COVID happened and they weren’t able to do that physically in the same place, it had huge impacts on their team. In fact, it led to communication, breakdowns, increase in conflict. So the leader made Friday coffee. So initially I think she ordered lattes or something for some of the people to, to bring had it delivered from one of the delivery services. And now everyone brings their coffee, 10 o’clock on a Friday and they get together. And, you know, I look at that example and I think it’s great that they’ve been able to recreate what was important to the team. I’ve seen numerous examples of that. And, and of course, as people go back to work back to working physically together in the same office, people will go through a change and again, another change.

And we know that change and transition is tough for lots of us. And, and one of the other leaders I talked to, I thought this was brilliant. She said, you know, we’ve really focused on reminding people about what’s not changing. You know, our company values our priority on wellness and health and safety. And so talking about what’s not changing instead of always talking about what is changing. So I’m hearing some really interesting things that companies are doing to help employees return to work and have these important conversations and gel together as a team.

And what on the, on the topic of mental health and wellness in particularly in workplaces, but communities as well, how is that conversation happening and what have you seen as best practices that are really working for the companies that are doing it well, or the communities that are doing it well?

Yeah. Some of the examples of best practices I’m seeing is whether when leaders or somebody on the team is taking ownership to make sure meetings happen. I remember when COVID when the pandemic came and people were working in hybrid or completely distanced formats some people gave up those opportunities to bring teams together.

I talked to one leader and she said her team had not had a team meeting for four months. And I, and that when I asked how they would meet when they were working together in the office, they met every other week. And so I thought, wow, you know? And so as soon as she was able to start reimplementing those meetings she saw that stress went down, communication improved. There wasn’t as many balls being dropped, so to speak, you know they were more on target with productivity and their requirements. So I’m seeing that when people can recreate opportunities for team members to come together, to participate on shared projects to collaborate more in the work.

Those things are working really well. I’ve also seen a lot of companies putting more I don’t know if it’s interest, attention or effort into reviewing policies around workplace wellness and workplace resilience. And that’s really exciting for me because I know with, you know, with this project and, and Michael’s vision when a company policies and values, support resilience then it’s more likely that they’re actually going to have the conversations as a team.

And how, how do you see that working in a hybrid workplace? You know, if that, if that collaboration in the meeting, you know, ideally in person, how does that happen when some people are not in person.

Yeah, I think, yeah, I think virtual platforms are a great way. I mean, I even think about our own team, Michael, you and I have not seen each other for a long time yet. We communicate daily office every day. And we do that through platforms like Zoom. Michael deals with all the animators and the team and, you know, we do that by By virtual platforms like Zoom, we meet with our, with our partners. So I think you can really recreate that well, when you set it up that way and we’ve been working this way on the project you know, really from the get-go.

Yeah, I think you need, like, in some ways it’s the best thing that ever happened to us as this business. You know, I think we could never have done this movie without, you know, some of these things like Zoom and, and even just, you know, all the animators are, you know, overseas and in places like Guatemala or Argentina and, and the producers live in California and the actors live in California at different spots, or, you know, some people in New York and in Charmaine’s in Vancouver and I’m in Calgary.

And, and how do you organize all these people and also costs, you know, cloud services finally are affordable where we can put terabytes online. So it’s like everything kind of led up to this moment I think in the last couple of years, But the one thing I do notice is you need good leaders because you don’t like when you’re in a big group with someone and you see them day to day, it’s easy to see who the leader is because you have that shared connection.

But when you are online, you don’t, you know, you don’t, you know, so you really need good people around you to make sure that kind of, at least in this project, you know, we tried to make sure everyone’s an expert in their area and really kind of You know, do their piece. So you need, you have to have a, almost an extra level of trust.

Well, that that brings me to the part of the resilience side and a huge part of resilience is that the mindset of being able to see the positive side and, and take away learning opportunities and growth opportunities from your situation. So what have been the winds over the past five years?

We’ve had so many ups and downs, but we’ve had so many wins you know, every time we had another actor joined on, that took years, you know, we started that kind of the first actor, I think, Tom, at the end of 2017 and finished Kim baserunner in 2020, so many years slowly, getting people in, so all those were wins and every time we, we had a corporate sponsor come on, like Canadian Mental Health, wasn’t a fun contributor, but they were a support contributor.

We had so many mental health experts and, you know, the gifting kind has been incredible of helping with the resources and all the services. And, you know, same with red cross, you know, bringing, working with red cross, who I originally worked with and, and a lot of that collaboration it’s all come to light because of Charmaine.

Charmaine has really helped me focus on the mental health piece of this movie and to approach companies that, as you mentioned earlier, that have kind of a similar mandate, because the only way we can have the conversation is if, you know, if people watch this, so we need millions of views, we need, you know, red cross. To say that this is a tool we need Canadian mental health to say, this is a tool when they have, and, and now we can, you know, with their support, reach out to people and start having a conversation. But all that collaboration really organically came to light over several years. You know, it wasn’t fast. It was, it’s been a journey, but yeah, it, it happened because of Charmaine.

Thank you. It’s a team effort, I think the other, when I think and it, Michael, you just kind of clued me into this right now is just the ability to be so flexible and adaptable. You mentioned the project has grown and evolved and changed, and that, that that’s also, I think, been a real win that we’ve been able to work with this team, the expanded team, which is our partners, our ambassadors, our champions, and everyone is, is being flexible and adaptable. And that has really helped move this project along. And I would say one of the other wins as you described it. Tim is people bring in their expertise and their ideas to the table. And that’s allowed this project to just take on this beautiful form and really be one that is as Michael describes, it’s a community project.

Yeah, absolutely. So when, when people watch the movie, what what’s going to be, their takeaway, what are they going to walk away with in terms of perspective, skills, knowledge, Yeah.

You know, I hope we emotionally move you and I hope we make you laugh a little bit, and I hope we remind you that, you know, this is just a community like anyone else going through something. And ultimately for communities that are affected by wildfires and other disasters, I hope to remind them that we’re all in this together and have the conversation of, of mental health and, you know, in a safe spot.

Yeah. Charmaine anything to add on that?

Yeah, I’ll just add Michael was on a panel conversation recently, and there was a conversation about mental health happening on that. And I really remembered what Jen from Canadian Canadian red cross said. We’re not alone. And it just reminded me about how important it is for us to know who all of us as humans, who our support system is, where we can get help and to know that we’re not alone, that that it’s okay to not be okay. Was what Jen said. And Kevin was talking about, we’re not alone. We can ask for help. We can reach out there’s supports there. And I think sometimes in life and when people hold their own emotional experiences close to their chest, or it’s uncomfortable to talk about the conversation doesn’t happen. And so that was a great reminder, I think about just reaching out, asking for help. It’s okay not to be okay.

Yeah. There is thankfully a lot of conversation about that these days. So from a, from a corporate perspective and a lot of our listeners are corporate leaders and executives. So how can a company use this film to start the conversation around mental health and resilience?

Yeah, I think any organization or company, you know, especially companies in Alberta and again, places that are affected by, by disasters. I think this is a great tool to share with them. And, and ultimately, you know, this is a Canadian story. It’s, you know, I really tried to highlight, you know, all the firefighters ever coming up and, you know, donations and support and, and I think that experience of anyone Who’s down or might, you know, I know people that would often when we leave now, even myself, you know, now you’re, I’m a little bit triggered myself.

So I think anyone, again, in those areas, this is a great opportunity to share with their employees and have that conversation. And, you know, there’s support resources are, are built into that. And Yeah, it’s also just a thank you message to everyone in Canada. So, you know, any of those regions, whether you’re in Edmonton in Calgary, you know, Toronto, there’s a lot of help from everyone. So I’ll pass the mic to Charmaine to add on to that.

We we’ve had conversations with different businesses, government groups, nonprofits, and, and they’ve expressed interest in doing things like a lunch and learn where they can bring their team together and watch the movie together as a team and have a conversation. Whether that conversation be about their workplace or what’s going on for them in their own families. You know what Canadian mental health association is working with us to create these discussion guides. So we’ll have things like a family discussion guide in the workplace discussion guide, because one of the things we discovered with this project and I know from working in mental health for a long time is one of the challenges we have to overcome is knowing how to talk about it. And sometimes conversations don’t happen because people are not clear on what to say. How do I talk to a colleague about, are you doing okay? Something seems different about you.

So those are some of the tools that we’re creating to help people start the conversation. I know when Michael, when you and I first met one of, I don’t know if you remember this, but one of the things that you talked about was that if moms and dads have these conversations, then they bring them home to the dinner table, they bring them home to the families. And that’s our hope too, is that people will have these conversations in the workplace. Cause then they bring it home and talk about it with their families. And that’s where we start to see resilience build and change really happen.

Yeah. The, the thing I’d add is, you know, David from Canadian mental health association always says like, you know, some of the best, you know, conversations and, you know, mental health happens over a cup of coffee or the dinner table. Right. So it just, it, and that’s, you know, what we, we hope to do is have those conversations.

I’m glad to hear that. Yeah. Because one of the biggest barriers to moving through a lot of mental health issues is just people feel awkward having that conversation. They don’t, as you said, don’t know how to approach it.

And I think that gets amplified in the workplace because definitely people feel there are extra barriers in places that’s someone’s personal life. I don’t, you know, I really shouldn’t touch that. And that’s from the corporate level as well as the coworker level.

It’s totally tricky to navigate. People worry about prying too much. Where is my boundaries here? What can I ask and what can’t I ask? And one of the things I think, as humans and I remember years and years ago, I used to work in the correctional system. So that was a correctional officer going back in another lifetime, but that was a system where people normally didn’t come up to you and say Tim, how are you doing? And it wasn’t an environment that really talked about mental health. Yet the stress level was so high and I had an incredible leader his name was John, John Bromley. And when we went through stressful situations he would come up to us and say, how are you? And we usually say something like, oh, doing good.

And he’d say, no, no, no, no, that’s not what I asked. How are you doing? And so just knowing how to get that conversation going and just to ask a question about how someone’s doing is important. And it’s also one that I learned, some of us actually have to practice. We have to practice building that language into our repertoire of skills.

And I, yeah, I agree with you, I’d say incorporating that language from the asking standpoint, but also from the receiving standpoint, because there’s that, as you said, I’m doing fine. Through COVID people would say like, oh, everything’s fine. Yeah, fine is not an answer. Fine. Doesn’t tell us what’s going on. And so we have that default response and sometimes we don’t even think that we give that response. So triggering our brain into the awareness of, you know, what are we actually responding to? Are we answering the question and, and being honest about our feelings or at least maybe if we don’t want to talk to that person, are we saying, yeah, there’s something there, but I’m going to talk to someone else. What have you seen about how people have been handling that? And in, in a positive way?

I actually had just a real life example several days ago, talking to a corporate client and this, this was brilliant. The individuals said we came to a big aha around COVID is that we just took it for granted that our employees knew our policies knew the benefit package that they had knew that we had an employee family assistance program. They signed the form when they start their job. And so this particular company thought that this was an opportunity for them to remind their employees, that they have employee , family assistance program, or that you could go to HR, or you could talk to your leader.

And I think that’s really important is that when our companies and our organizations have benefits available to people to help them and, or their families that we actually remind them that those benefits are there, because a lot of times, and I know that from when I used to do mediation and, and, and and counseling with workplaces that a lot of people, they know that that exists, but they don’t know how to access it. And they’re not sure who’s going to find out. And so this is a great opportunity to remind people what supports are there for them.

You bring up a great point too, is, you know, we, we know just from looking at the numbers, that a huge percentage of employee benefits, aren’t used or aren’t utilized, particularly as we get into the more quote wellness options, the employee, family assistance plans, the access to counselors and all the, those different resources. And even though people might be reminded that they’re there, what, what else can companies do to help really? You can’t mandate that they be used, but how can you encourage and make it okay for people to reach out for help.

One group I worked with a few years ago. This was pre pandemic, but I think it’s, I believe it’s a really good practice is they had internal champions. I think they used a different word, but that was the feeling I got from them. Internal champions or ambassadors. That was the board that they use their internal ambassadors of, of mental health and resilience. And these were employees, supervisors, people at all different levels in that organization who their volunteer role in the company. So part of, one of the projects they took on was just being an ambassador for the services. Another company that I talked to started writing about the different supports available in their company newsletter. They did a once a month sort of email blast to all their employees and so forth. And, and they, and other company I was aware of, they actually set up their own internal, they call it their company name and their internal university where they actually put a lot of resources. Some of those resources were links to resources from an organization like Canadian mental health association or to their own internal resources.

And another one, I thought this was just exceptional. They had a weekly message that came on your voicemail from the CEO of the company every Monday morning at seven o’clock, he recorded a message and it went out on to all of the employees voicemails, and it was just a message about taking care of yourself or, you know, resilience or working together as a team. It wasn’t about productivity or meeting our corporate goals. It was about the people. And I thought that was a great way. People looked forward to this message I heard from employees that they loved Mondays. It started their week. With a reminder about how taking care of ourselves and wellness is really, really essential.

Yeah. The one thing I would add quickly to that I think is sometimes you got to be creative too. You know, I know of a company in Vancouver just where a bunch of my friends they used to get together to play hockey and COVID was taken that away after work, you have kind of a, so what do you do? So they came up with the idea let’s, you know, every once a week or every two weeks we get together and they play an online game together. You can have some drinks, you can talk to your coworkers a little outside of work. Cause sometimes some of those conversations happen, you know, as Charmaine mentioned, like while you’re having coffee or, after when you’re staying late or whatever, that human connection. So is there a way to kind of have that connection through, through something new?

Yeah. You know, COVID cocktail hour and the, you know, coffee, coffee chats and things like that. The open house things, even some companies using breakout rooms to people can jump into a breakout room with someone else to chat. Yeah, it’s, it’s not as ideal as in person, but it’s more convenient for people who aren’t in the office, but also creates that connection.

Yeah, definitely.

Now, obviously there’s so many areas we can dive into from a mental health resilience, wellbeing standpoint. Tell, tell me a bit more about when the movie comes out. Do you have an exact date for the release?

We don’t have an exact date. We are still waiting on some of the film festival news. You know, we’re looking by kind of the first week of August. We will have those announcements. So yeah, fingers crossed definitely looking at, you know, Alberta film festivals as well as Edmonton and Calgary. And yeah, the list goes on, we’ve submitted to 30 and you can follow us at backhomeagainmovie. com or our same for the Instagram handle and Facebook. And we’ll be releasing those announcements and a lot of interviews leading up to that time as well.

Yeah. And you, you had a, you name dropped a little bit, but there was there was some big names involved with this one.

Yeah, we got, we got some incredible actors that donated their time to this. And that’s the big piece is, you know, as could never have come together. And, you know, we got Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara and Norm MacDonald and Bill Burr Kim Basinger and Tom Green and Marlon Wayans Marlin, Wayne, sorry, and Tantoo Cardinal and Lorne Cardinal and Gordon Pinsent and Ed Asner and Sherri Shepherd, Howie Mandel and I might, I might’ve missed one or two I’m sure. But yeah, it’s just an incredible cast that came together to tell the story.

That is fantastic. And again shows the power of community and people working together and collaborating towards a common goal. That’s fantastic.

Well, thanks so much.

And I’m excited too, to see the film when it comes out. The trailer is fantastic and we’ll post the trailer and the, the website link in our show notes, as well as I’ll throw up any other links that that you want to go up there. And so just back, you said backhomeagainmovie.com.

Yeah.

Perfect. Before we wrap up any other things that you want to take away? Messages? What do you hope people walk away with from this episode, from, or with not just the movie, but what’s the, what’s your final tidbit of advice?

You know, I, I hope we inspire people to do exactly what we did today Tim. We’re just like having this conversation, you know, I think that’s, that’s the goal of this is just, you know, to have the opportunity today to talk to you and, and tell us, you know, you know, a little bit about our journey and our story is I hope we can inspire others to do the same and maybe break down some of those walls that exist right now around Mental health.

Absolutely.

And I would just add to what Michael said to just take a few minutes today, every day, just to do something that honors your resilience, your mental health, and that’ll be different for everybody, but just consciously making that effort and taking that time.

Wonderful. Well, thank you both so much for joining me.

This has been awesome. And I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the movie and the process and, and some of the, the tips of mental health and resilience that have come out of that. And I’m looking forward to seeing the final product in Fall. Yeah. Thanks so much, Tim, for your time today.

 

Thank you for listening to the Working Well Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your experiences and how you’ve applied tips from the show to your daily life.

So please keep us posted on your progress. To stay up to date with new episode releases, make sure to subscribe to a mailing list by emailing podcast@freshgroup.ca and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, thank you everyone for tuning in. And once again, I’m Tim Borys with FRESH! Wellness Group.

We’ll see you on the next episode.

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