Last week, I had the honor of hearing the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, speak at Warner Brothers. Dr. Murthy was appointed by President Obama to oversee the health of the country; on Friday, Dr. Murthy was asked to step down (his term was supposed to continue through the end of 2018). He is being succeeded by his deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams.
During his tenure, Dr. Murthy spent a lot of his time speaking to groups of influencers about the importance of emotional well-being and mental health. At the invitation of Warner Brothers President and Chief Content Officer Peter Roth, Dr. Murthy spoke a bit for a group of us at WB about his responsibilities and he answered our questions about what we as creators of content can do – if anything – to be a positive influence on emotional well-being.
Here are my main takeaways from his visit:
Bridging the Gap
One of the main challenges Dr. Murthy sees in our current social and political climate is a lack of people understanding each other and hearing each other. He said engendering conversation and encouraging vulnerability in our relationships is critical for well-being. I asked a question about this regarding what I know about some of the most healthy and happy communities in the world in regions of Japan, Greece, and Northern European countries like Denmark and Sweden, which have high rates of health, longevity and reports of happiness. These longevity hotspots, sometimes referred to as “blue zones,” share a dominant and prominent emphasis on social interactions and healthy relationships with others. The government provides time, space and funding for these kinds of lifestyles to occur and I hope our country can follow suit. Dr. Murthy agreed!
Making Change Happen
Coming from a place of indignation rather than inspiration is dangerous. While we may have anger and fear, change comes from turning our anger into productive inspiration. I loved this and it reminded me of the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, in particular.
Seeing Emotional Health as a Priority
Murthy noted that emotions are often seen as weakness in our society – particularly for men – and that we need to start thinking differently about emotions, which can be a source of tremendous strength even in their complexity. Just as we know that going to the gym and eating right is good for us, we need to bring the notion of emotional wellness into that equation. We can not be truly healthy – or happy – without exercising the muscles of our emotional fluency and intelligence. Things like introducing meditation into schools, encouraging good sleep habits, free time and play time for children and conditioning young people to seek out and foster healthy social connections are some of the suggestions he had for starting the next generation off on good footing.
Beacon for Hope
Dr. Murthy shared a bit about his immigrant parents who came from India because they wanted to live in a place where there was no caste system; a place where you could be judged by you and not by what people thought of you. They built a life for him and his family here that allowed him to achieve amazing things and inspire others. He spoke of a dream he has that our country can again be that beacon for the world. He said we need to get back to that vision of America as a place people come to in order to build a better life, a place where they can do things they never could have had they stayed in their countries of origin.
This hit home for me, because three of my four grandparents came to this country as children and teenagers with parents driven by this exact dream. The pogroms that preceded WWII and the Holocaust drove my family out of their homes. They left everything for a chance to survive and God willing, thrive.
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to hear Surgeon General Murthy share his vision, his wisdom, and his experience with us at Warner Brothers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with you, as well – especially now that things are changing in the Surgeon-General’s office. I hope that Dr. Murthy’s successor will exhibit the same wisdom and compassion in continuing the work of the Surgeon-General’s office, and that the current Administration will make choices that creates a healthier America.