Eight years after losing his beloved father Robin Williams to suicide, Zak Williams is more determined than ever to break the stigma around mental health and help people support their mental and overall well-being.
His passion led him to embrace advocacy work and community service, as well as launch the startup PYM, which he describes as a mental hygiene company whose philosophy and products are rooted in support mechanisms. which he discovered when dealing with his own heightened depression and anxiety. after the death of his fathers.
I never set out to be a lawyer, but I happened to find the service to be very healing for my trauma, he says.
During my healing journey, I found that learning about systems and interventions related to mental health support was part of a deeper mission to find ways to better serve mental health related causes. . The way I celebrate my father’s legacy is to try to be a good father, to try to be kind and caring when and where possible, and to find opportunities to serve better.
When policymakers created the new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, Williams worked with experts to understand the various updates they were including in the rollout. Now, to help demystify what happens when someone dials those three digits, he’s teamed up with the podcast network. Lemonade Media as special correspondent on a four-part series To call for helpwhich begins August 16. Each episode, Stephanie Wittels Wachs, co-founder and host of Williams and Lemonada, dives into the background of the hotline and provides information on what callers can expect.
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The short answer is you’re going to get a sympathetic response, he says. A more nuanced answer too. If you are a veteran and are in crisis and looking for support, the goal would be to connect you with someone experienced. It has so much more impact, according to the data, than connecting with someone without a similar background who wouldn’t be able to connect on a personal level, in a more empathetic way.
But the United States has a long way to go to fix its mental health system, Williams says. Through his advocacy work, including serving as a US administrator for the international advocacy organization United for Global Mental Health, he learned about some of the systems needed to treat mental health and the price associated with them.
Were still underfunded in terms of public sector allocation, but also fair overall in terms of mental health-focused medical GDP spending relative to total medical GDP spending, he says of the United States. If we were to look at mental health GDP expenditure versus medical GDP expenditure, it is currently around 2.5%. It’s getting better, but we have to be above 10%, and some models say we have to be in the 15% to 17% range to be really effective. There is therefore a long way to go to increase spending on the mental health of individuals.
Along with public support, Williams places great hope in recent advances around artificial intelligence and machine learning for wellness, and in new paradigms of coaching, community healing and psychedelic healing, including many have been accelerated during the pandemic.
I’m a big proponent of integrated psychedelic care, which means working with a trained psychiatrist around guided support. There are incredible opportunities around addiction, trauma, depression. What catalyzed during the covid pandemic was a new prioritization of mental health care, and what I was seeing in terms of the organizations that I work with is that this is a new normal and that we need to effectively allocate resources to manage the mental health care of our populations in this new normal environment. It requires going beyond just thinking about triage, he says.
Whether it’s someone dealing with addictions or mental health, to deal with situations where their crisis-focused care is resource-intensive. So how can we provide solutions earlier? Things like lifestyle interventions around nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, meditation, breathwork, community support, and self-improvement, so you’re not not in a situation where you have to deal with someone at a low point, in crisis.
I started the business because I was going through a very difficult time after my father died by suicide and was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I was self-medicating with alcohol and not really having fun. I realized that I could begin to heal from the trauma by engaging in service, but for the depression and anxiety, I realized that my hormones were actually out of balance. I later learned that my neurotransmitter environment was out of order i.e. serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine
PYM is steeped in prioritizing mental health as a daily solution and the belief that everyone can be the best version of themselves by establishing daily rituals that support their spirit and overall well-being.
What we don’t talk about often enough is day-to-day mental health support. Mental health is a spectrum. It happens to be classified in many situations as a crisis situation, Williams says. If we take it upon ourselves as a society to reflect on what we can do for ourselves each day, it can be 10 minutes, it doesn’t have to be a full ritual, we can start prioritizing the range of needs that arise from having a bad day to having anxiety attacks to feeling depressed to having a chronic illness.
The company’s first product, Mood Chew, contains L-theanine, an amino acid found in some teas that helps support the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) environment and is an ingredient Williams found transformer to balance its own hormones. New products are on the way, including an all-in-one neurotransmitter nutrition product to be launched early next year. And were looking at the technological component. How can people track their mental hygiene with tools and better improve it, Williams says.
We’re going to create a mental hygiene system, focused on comprehensive neurotransmitter support and balance, but also what else is going on in your life and how best to support yourself. It’s not just about supplements. It’s about looking at the whole of someone’s life and how they take care of themselves. Meditation, mindfulness, breathing, community support and personal involvement.
Williams’ own mental health hygiene regimen includes nutrition, fitness, meditation and time in nature. But the thing that has been most profound for me is an exercise in mindfulness and that involves a daily gratitude ritual, he says. When I get frustrated and blinded by things like resentment, it deflects me and the ritual of having this daily gratitude exercise has been deeply transformative.
And he learns to embrace self-love. I started to realize over time, and it was hard for me to articulate at first, is that it’s not selfish to love yourself and prioritize your needs. It actually allows you to serve better, to show yourself for others. We must seize opportunities to love ourselves more.
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