Meet our Nordic Fellow (special relation) Jimmy
By sharing mental health conversations across cultures, ideologies and ages, Jimmy Westerheim is bridging the isolation and stigma aspects of mental health with the everyday experiences of humans everywhere.
Although mental health challenges are common, conversations about them are less so. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1.2 billion people struggle with mental health challenges at any one time and 50% of us will face a mental health struggle at least once in our lifetimes. Despite this, the issue is addressed infrequently in school curricula, the workplace or at home.
People experiencing a personal struggle too often feel like they are broken or alone. The fact that mental healthcare provision is either expensive or difficult to access due to bureaucracy or limited resources exacerbates this issue.
The Norwegian government has pledged to prioritize mental health as much as it prioritizes physical health. Yet massive stigma around the topic remains, especially for young people who are most at risk. Depression and anxiety are the third and fourth most common causes of non-fatal health loss in Norway, in a large part because those experiencing these conditions do not seek any form of treatment.
Knowing that mental health challenges develop into long-lasting mental health illnesses if left untreated, the problem needs a new approach.
The stigma or lack of spaces to share experiences in safe conversations attached to human struggles can lead to loneliness and feelings of shame. Those who do seek professional care can find accessing any therapist difficult and finding the right one almost impossible. Patients may spend months in queues to access public health care services unless they can afford to jump such queues. Recent studies from universities across Norway (SHoT undersøkelsen) indicate that roughly 29% of all students struggle badly with mental health issues (self-reported). Even more alarming is the fact that this number has risen from 16% to 29 % in just eight years.
Jimmy is democratizing conversation about mental health with a new approach that neutralizes the role of geographical and cultural context through a shared interview formula, reframing mental health struggles as fundamentally part of the human experience.
Jimmy’s idea, now called ‘The Human Aspect’ (THA), was to digitize human-to-human support through structured video recordings of in-depth lived experiences of mental health challenges. The interviews are available online, for free, to viewers and listeners around the world. Each recording unfolds around three sections and key questions:
1. What has been your life’s toughest challenge?
2. How did you handle and move beyond it?
3. What have you learned?
Made widely available through The Life Experience Library, Jimmy’s new approach reinforces the commonality of mental health challenges and creates a shared, multigenerational and multicultural space free from shame that is readily accessible, available on multiple online platforms and user-friendly for both schools and professional therapist offices.