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betr media invites you to watch this [extra] short film The Feels — run time is 4 mins so give it a watch now — that explores Maker/Designer Jessica Murray’s creative process to peel back the many layers of anxiety and depression she lives with on a daily basis. [Directed by the great J.J. Anderson, selected by the Nevada Women’s Film Festival and screened at Soho House in LA.]
Jess Murray is a crafter, maker and the “Big Cheese” behind Poorwill, a project by which she shares her love for craftspersonship, denim, community, and all things weird. Her hope for the community she has built on Instagram @thepoorwillway and beyond is to destigmatize mental health and create an environment where we should be eager to seek help when days get difficult and encourage one another to live as their best self.
Alongside Jess, we have Jon Willey here too, VP of Content & Creative Strategy at betr media. betr is a digital media company built on wellness, mental health and positivity and aims to create content that make people think deeper, celebrate humanity, embody greatness and dream of a more positive world around them.
We’re excited to announce Jess Murray. Jess is the creator of Poorwill, a project by which she shares her love for craftspersonship, denim, community, and all things weird. Her hope for the community she has built on Instagram @thepoorwillway and beyond is to destigmatize mental health and create an environment where we should be eager to seek help when days get difficult and encourage one another to live as their best self. She also starred in the short film – The Feels.
Alongside Jess, we have Jon here too, VP of Content & Creative Strategy at betr media. betr is a digital media company built on wellness, mental health and positivity and aims to create content that make people think deeper, celebrate humanity, embody greatness and dream of a more positive world around them.
Ask them questions related to what it’s like to destigmatize mental health through media and creation.
JON – Hi! So stoked to be here to chat with you all and Jess Murray today!
JESS – Heyo!!
JON – I’d love to ask you a question to get things rolling based on the Feels. You mention taking the feels of everyone else on your shoulder and feeling like you needed to help everyone even as a young child… I study compassion fatigue and how it affects our mental health… would you say taking those burdens on your shoulders caused some of the feels you felt as an adult?
JESS – OOh! Starting off heavy! I dig it. This has been my struggle throughout quarantine, to the point that I recently started dissociating from myself. Luckily working on several grounding techniques to help me from sneezing myself into an existential crisis. But, nonetheless, it is just in my nature to worry about everyone else and in order to keep doing so, I have to worry about myself too.
I loved your film and checking out the crafts you make. I want to know, how did you choose crafting/making bags as your hobby? How does it help with your mental health and do you have any tips for those of us looking to find a hobby to help better our mental health?
JESS – Thank you! Crafting runs deep for me. This is very layered, but I often found that getting crafty was my way of making the best with what I had, whatever the situation. So when I found out my junior year in h-skool that folks could study fashion design, I took that jump. I spent a few years working for big corps and disliked how indifferent they could be with regards to their consumers, sustainability, and well, just a lot. I wanted to do it all, my way. I do work on apparel often by I love how a bag and accessory is both a tool and something to feel good about. I love that connection with people, my work seems less wasteful when I think about the people who trust my work to carry their stuff in.
Try it all ! When it comes to finding a hobby, try it all. I love painting and while I never finish any pieces and sometimes think they are atrocious, I felt the same way about the first bag I ever made. Now I give myself high-fives and will throw myself dance parties in celebration of a new idea or bag I make.
I LOVED The Feels film, how did this opportunity come about? Did talking about your mental health challenges always come easy or was it more of a process to get there?
JESS – JJ & Tito and the team made that whole experience super special. :heart: I speak often about my mental health on Instagram. It began as what I still consider a selfish act. Throughout my life I have been lucky to have found various support systems, lots of talk therapy and even Ala-teen/Al-Anon, when I created my brand page on Instagram, I fought with myself a lot over how much I should share about myself- but all the while in real life I love expressing how I feel because I don’t like leaving room for others to assume(–this is something I am working on as well, no one will ever completely understand me and that its okay–) bu instead I focus that energy in finding my peeps trough I wanted to find more people like me and so I began expressing my Feels a lot more. JJ reached out to me not long after and we connected really strongly on the fact that creativity and mental health are forever linked and how we try our best to find ourselves in the mix.
What is media producers actively doing to Destigmatize mental health?
JON – I can offer some insight here into what we are doing at @betr. We are building a community to give people experiences to think, celebrate, embody and dream of a more positive world around them. SO what that really means is we are building a safe place where it’s ok to talk openly and honestly about our struggles, our addictions, our pain, our wins, on a daily basis with others who want to de stigmatize this also. We do this via storytelling and amplifying the voices in this space so everyone knows it’s OK to not be OK.
I would love to hear more about this! especially in a work organization, any best practices to build psychological safety so that people will willingly share, as opposed to content always being facilitated by admins/organizers? and how do you execute, especially virtually?
JON – Happy to discuss more! Send me a PM or we can find the right channel.
I wonder if you have a personal connection to wellness/mental health etc that brought you to this role, and do you recommend someone pursue a career that has to do with something close to home to them, like mental health?
JON – Thanks for this awesome question. So my story is long winded but i’ll keep it short. I was in the world of professional sports for the past 20 years. Starting as an Athletic Trainer with a focus on mindfullness and wellness and then transitioning into a creative role as a photographer and creative director for the D-backs and then the Miami Dolphins. THis is an exhasuting career and it takes the life out of you. 60-80 hour weeks back to back to back. I hit my breaking point in 2018 and fell into deep depression with panic attacks nightly, being taken advantage of by some friends who were struggling with BPD, etc and being mr nice guy all the time. It got me into a bad place where therapy and meds were the only thing that saved me. I had to change my scenery and then started with betr where our founder and I began building a special team dedicated to breaking these stigmas for en antire generation.
Have either of you had much experience with PTSD and BPD diagnosed people?
JON – I have most definitely had experiences there. I have suffered from PTSD as has my Dad who was in the army for 30 years and was in a very bad place after the Gulf War being on the front lines. I also had a best friend recently who had BPD and tbh it was one of the hardest friendships of my life. I studied both immensely to see how i could help but I had to realize that everyone has to first and foremost make sure they help themselves. The compassion fatigue i got from that put me into a tailspin to the point I had to back away from some of the toxicity that was unintended but is just simply part of BPD. It didn’t mean i didn’t love my friend, it just meant I had to take care of myself also. I know from my experience and talks with my therapist that Dialectic Behavioral Therapy has shown really amazing results. These thiings, or The Feels never leave us, we just learn how to handle them betr.
For the speakers in the room, how are you all incorporating diversity equity and inclusion into your mental health support models with respect to persons of color?
JESS – I have been thinking about the space I hold a lot lately, especially with respect to incorporating diversity equity and inclusion into my mental health support models w/respect to BIPOC. I think I got lost in the sauce trying to process and identify the ways I can put all of my feelings and thoughts on this in a more concise way, especially because I am naturally a very curious person. I love learning about other people, its how I learn to grow more empathetic towards peeps I flat out disagree with. I think spaces like these and continuing the conversation that mental health and speaking about our feelings does not make us weak or inferior, rather more powerful and supported.
What are some things to keep our mind off thoughts?
JON – I can speak from my experience here and i’m sure @Jess Murray has a ton of insight also, but I use square breathing when my thoughts get the best of me. That technique along with music i know and can sing along with in my headphones helps me get out of my own thoughts if they are trnding down.
JESS – More recently, because I have been really floating around, these grounding techniques: (1) place hand over heart, we’re alive? cool, okay, next (2) breath check, I take big deep breaths and think about filling up my belly with air like a balloon and slowly (3) am i going to cry? yes? well, lets really get into it. So I cry a little and sometimes this turns to sobbing but I try to give myself only a brief moment to do this as in not all day, because I will, because then its time for (4) I like lists, so sometimes I’ll say out loud the steps I take to make my favorite bag, sing out loud to a catchy song, watch an episode of my favorite cartoon, call a friend– I may not know how to make myself feel better right then and there but I know somethings and hearing myself express this confidence helps a lot with grounding myself & (5) then I hug myself & I thank myself for being there for myself. (trying to type quickly, hope that makes some sense)
I think we don’t need a advocates of mental health. Now., We need warriors. In my condition of schizophrenia I need strong hands that pulled me up. I also make a postcards hand made.
JON – I would love to see your postcards! Can you share them in our Submit_art_writing channel here? And you are so right. Being an advocate is step one. Being a warrior is step two! And both can coincide with each other to really make change.
What are suggestions you’d give corporations related to mental health?
JON – It’s insanely important that mental health days be a part of overall PTO and it should never be negotiable that anyone can take those days at any point.
I’m stuffing a lot with anxiety rn mostly cause of school starting on monday with zooms call and I can’t do those I’ll freak out with other people in the call idk what to do
JON – Is there a way you can alter your zoom, put a background with a photo of you on it but sit off to the side so you can still gather the information but not have the anxiety of being directly on camera?
JESS – I am all about 420, but I will say that whenever I look to weed for that calm, it feels further and further to reach. CBD has been helpful, though I can’t say it ever topped talk-therapy for me.
How do you stay authentic with the work you do? What would you say to someone struggling with being themselves in the world?
JESS -On the last day of fashion skool, I presented my portfolio, something I had been working on for years, in front of a panel of really “important people.” I was super nervous but gave it my best. The panel gave their feedback, most of it sticking to my work, but one person felt the need to dig into how they felt that I was “lost life and needed to find myself.” I WAS SHOOKETH! My wobbly knees took me out of that room and I hung onto that comment for almost 10 years andddd I still don’t know myself. I thought I did then, which is why I think it hurt so much. The more “lost” I get, the more “found” I feel. I love that I can surprise myself, even now after “knowing” myself all this time an discover something new. It does not always feel this great though, there are many moments, especially when we are expected to have an answer and action for everything, that I am too lost and that is where grounding techniques and embracing/digging deeper into the traits I love about myself really help. Hang in there! Some of my biggest, most impactful-in the best way-moments have followed those really rough patches where I feel like I’m either floating in space or below rock bottom.
What are your next steps? Where can we follow your future work?
JESS – On Instagram is where I usually am @thepoorwillway. I am not sure what I will be working in next, but I can only imagine it will be weird and I am here for it.
Peeping these questions and answers while at work, but absolutely loving these conversations! Unfortunately, haven’t had a chance to watch The Feels yet (it’s on my to-do list after my shift is over!)
It was mentioned about trying to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the business setting; I’m curious if there are any thoughts on how we can push to also eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the family environments and settings as well?
JON – That is a really relevant question especially now in this stage of quarantine, not quarantine, family dynamics, and so on. What I do know from my experience is that it starts with open and honest conversations about YOUR mental health with your family. Their reactions are ones you cant control but the best you can do is make sure you lay it all out. That is the one way to break the stigmas surrounding it. From there the tough discussions can begin and sometimes they need to be moderated so they don’t get off track but family dynamics are such a fine line. I know this isn’t much of a help and i know i’m not a therapist trained in this but from my own experience with more conservative parents just talking about it opened up my mom to really confiding in me that she is medicated daily and suffers from the same things I do. Those were barriers that we immediately broke down and were able to have a new shared experience with.
JON – THanks all! You can follow us on IG @betr and twitter as well and at livebetr.com. WE are also on tiktok at @livebetr.
JESS – Thank you all!!