Mental Health Champions: Why & How Amanda M Ferris of Clover & Kind Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness
Know yourself, and anticipate your needs. What works well for one person may have the opposite effect for another, and no one will know what supports your unique needs better than yourself. Consider creating a personalized plan for mental well-being preparedness. This can include taking inventory of relationships, environments, food, activities, dynamics, information diet, and personal boundaries, and will likely change over time as you encounter other resources that support your mental wellness. Simple daily routines and practices can be just as if not more impactful as detailed programs, so sprinkle something new into your day or week to start, and give yourself grace if you forget or need to sample something else on any given day. Practicing sleep hygiene, transitioning routines to and from school or work, taking a walk or time-out for self-care, and silencing device notifications are a few examples of simple things you can do that can make a significant difference in how we feel from day to day.
As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Amanda M. Ferris.
Author, Business Consultant, Mental Health First Aider, and host of The Goal Next Door Podcast, Amanda works with leaders on peak performance, mental wellbeing in the workplace, and creating authentic connections through kindness and mindfulness. With over twenty years of experience in operations management, leadership development, and corporate training, Amanda advises companies worldwide while serving as the managing director for Clover & Kind. When she isn’t working, Amanda helps aspiring authors’ visions take life and volunteers with BestPrep helping high school students prepare for their careers and entrepreneurship.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
When I was very young, my parents struggled with hard times, which they met with midwestern values of hard work and determination. After years of uncertainty and living on little more than a prayer, each became successful; my dad was in skilled trades in the automotive industry, and my mom was an award-winning childcare provider. They both inspired my siblings and me to explore creative ways to help others and always supported activities that allowed us to express our different abilities.
Any time I wanted to have or do something, from a very young age, my parents expected me to write a proposal. I was later quite shocked to discover my market research and idea pitches were not commonplace in families as I believed! I’m grateful for the age-appropriate preparation for entrepreneurship in my childhood and my parents’ steadfast encouragement to be of service to the world. From selling grasshoppers door-to-door in our neighborhood before kindergarten and sending drawings to video game makers in second grade to writing business plans for company concepts, designing curriculum for my mom’s daycare, and drafting training exercises for my first job outside of the home at Famous Dave’s when I was fifteen, my family never treated my ideas as unusual, rather asked pointed questions to help me figure out the next step of my research and proposal-building process.
By fate or lucky coincidence, Famous Dave’s culture was deeply entrenched in personal development, so my growth was incredibly supported by the managers and franchise owners as they encouraged me to take on new challenges as a corporate trainer and participate in an intensive leadership development program. I made plenty of mistakes and experienced typical challenges a somewhat sheltered young lady would be expected to encounter in ‘the real world’, but I always found a way to use those challenges to propel my growth and professional expansion. Even after the devastating effects of my parents’ divorce my senior year of high school and personal problems later on, I learned how to view these and other challenges as a gift- a personal call to action- to continue growing and moving forward.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
One of my mentors, Brandon Johnson, says people are surrounded by information yet are starving for connection. This rings more true in a post-pandemic world; in order to create genuine connections with others, we also must understand how to more fully and authentically connect with ourselves, including our hopes, dreams, habits of thinking, values, abilities, and mental wellbeing.
Clover & Kind is a consulting, education, and publishing company focused on providing resources that improve employee performance, satisfaction, and happiness at home and at work by keeping mental well-being at the core of all we do. Our workshops, online courses, books, & activities help individuals and organizations be more mindful while creating real connections everywhere from home, the workplace, and neighborhive. Instead of taking a siloed approach to achieving goals or improving business systems, we partner with clients in a way that leverages their natural strengths to enjoy the journey as much as the outcome, cultivating meaningful experiences and relationships along the way.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Years ago, I experienced a bizarre set of health challenges that left me strained physically and mentally, also fainting several times a day which caused significant issues with my employer. I pursued every medical option I could manage to improve my situation, yet the problems only worsened. Due to the increased volume of prescription medications and side effects, I was mentally foggy, fatigued, and frustrated. I often questioned whether or not I wanted to be on the planet anymore, having lost all sense of purpose, hope, and the real me underneath it all. It wasn’t until a conversation with my manager helped me realize I could find the solution somehow, borrowing his belief in me until I could believe in myself on my own again.
While I left that job and faced many other personal battles soon after, his words never left me and served as a guidepost to healing, life transformation, and a completely renewed sense of self. Now, my work speaks directly to leaders who don’t know what to do with their struggling team members, as well as anyone experiencing personal setbacks, performance struggles, or disconnection from living a fulfilling life. Building my business has had its own ups and downs; in hindsight, I am so grateful for each of those challenges and what I initially perceived as detours and roadblocks because now I can clearly see how each has prepared me for many of the challenges we are facing today. While I don’t claim to know all of the answers, my experience has led me down a path of discovery where I’ve learned questions to ask, how to identify risks, and how to utilize research-backed methods to rebuild when things don’t work out the way we planned. Mental health is a multi-dimensional and complex issue, but we can find solutions and support closer than we may believe in the midst of struggle.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
After I left the previously mentioned job to focus on my health, I had a burst of professional success followed by a mobility-limiting injury, major relationship breakup, and financial loss that caused me to move back to my childhood home and make sense of my messy life. I couldn’t walk, work, or comprehend why all of this happened when I thought things were getting better. I felt like a failure and fraud, questioning my abilities and worthiness even to try again. It seemed that every attempt to move forward in the ways I believed were viable options, such as pursuing a new job or physician, either fell flat or yielded disappointing results. Remembering that little kid who drew up business plans and danced to the beat of her own drum, I wondered if she simply wasn’t made for the roles I pursued. I realized I had nothing left to lose; it was time to rediscover my moxie and tap into the entrepreneurial spirit I had abandoned. Even if I did poorly or failed, at least I was doing something with dignity. No one was going to do it for me; my dreams would have stayed in the land of someday if I didn’t persist.
Taking action meant facing more failure than I believed I could handle at the time, but I survived every setback and learned progress isn’t linear, just as resilience ebbs and flows as much as life. I decided then and continue to decide to keep going every day since. Results came more easily when I connected to that spirit of playful experimentation more than burning the candle at both ends. When a few years of constantly working proved fruitless, I allowed myself to slow down, stop striving so hard and take time to eat and sleep as my body needed. During the times I took on work I didn’t want to cover expenses, I learned to face failure continuously just as long as I continued to move forward towards my vision.
We have so much to gain when we get out of our own way! It’s truly a wonder how much capacity people have to achieve, and equally intriguing how often we talk ourselves out of taking action due to limiting beliefs, fears, and unhelpful mental chatter steering us away from being fulfilled. I discovered what truly fulfills me isn’t the arrival or acquisition of my goal but rather an honorable pursuit, the journey of creating and becoming on the way to experiencing the grand vision. I’ve had to continue the process of letting go of things that aren’t working, whether a system, belief, or disguised motivation, which is to say there are infinite ‘trigger moments’ that steer the process, making business-building the most rewarding and worthwhile personal development investment, because it’s also shaping me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Pre-pandemic, it took far more effort to convince companies to implement mental well-being initiatives. It felt like we would have to sell them what they want and sneak in what they need. We focused on entry points like community-building, acts of kindness, corporate citizenship, and productivity. Now, most people I speak with openly acknowledge there is a growing problem we need to address. It’s difficult to explain my feelings about this dramatic societal shift other than a mix of deep sorrow and hopeful excitement: the challenges brought on by the state of mental health are harrowing, devastating, and of epidemic proportions. It is beyond tragic that the crisis has reached this point, so I’m grateful we can move forward from the general acceptance of these issues to actioning effective solutions. Being able to direct effort primarily into providing resources rather than trying to sell solutions through the stigma is surreal, and yet there is still so much work to be done, especially to support front-line workers, first responder roles, human resources, and business managers who have not received adequate training for mental health issues in the workplace.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Mentors ‘Famous Dave’ Anderson, James Anderson, and Brandon W. Johnson have been key influencers in my development, and I’m grateful for my family and close friends who have cheered me on through thick and thin. During some of my most challenging times, when I nearly lost all faith and hope, Kenna Vallejos, Dave Rowe, Ken and Megan Sharrar gave me the gifts of wise guidance and tough love, which directly led to my participation in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) where I could regularly connect with professional support, others struggling with suicidal ideation, and heal the hidden parts I neglected for so long. This friend group’s unconditional love and healthy boundaries modeled a better way of being and inspired me to begin sharing more openly about my struggles and advocate for mental well-being in the hopes of giving this same gift to others.
Following completion of the IOP, friends and coaches Kathy Taylor, Dean Smith, and Michael Barrett invested a tremendous amount of support to the point where I could confidently pursue my business-building again, now from a healed place. Within a couple of years, I was experiencing my dream of living in the US, Australia, and the UK as a consultant while working on my next books and education products. Each of these people and many others I haven’t named here have been instrumental in my ongoing journey, whether by expanding my vision, providing emotional and tactical support, as well as the courageous conversations that recalibrated my approach to clearer, more aligned next steps (and for the right reasons).
I continue to be inspired by Dr. Lisa Lovelace, owner of Synergy eTherapy and co-founder of Shout Out Loud MN suicide prevention. Workplace mental wellbeing champion Cal Beyer of Holmes-Murphy and Chris Pinner of InnerFit UK have shown me powerful examples of how a business can both make a positive impact and thrive in this space. Matt Loftus introduced me to Mental Health First Aid Training which has been a game-changer. Brenda Elsagher, Dr. Melissa Mork, and AATH (Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor) have provided dynamic perspectives and guidance on incorporating humor into difficult topics. Most recently, I spoke at a conference focused on workplace wellbeing and was blown away by both of Mark Mayfield’s performances, where he brilliantly addressed the topic of suicide and raising mental health awareness using comedy. I’m intrigued by the different approaches people are using to educate and support others. The more I learn, the more I understand there is to learn- it’s a continual process of evolving, both giving and receiving influence. Addressing mental health issues takes all of us.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
From a young age to adulthood, many people lack adequate social, emotional, and mental health education and support. Certain expressions of feelings and experiences are labeled as ‘bad’ or socially considered to be off-limits, such as grief, prolonged sadness, anger, crying in public, speaking about addiction, trauma, rape, domestic violence, mental health issues, suicide, and many others. Not being able to learn and discuss mental health issues properly- from emotions to basic language and support resources to best care for ourselves- from an early age will feel more uncomfortable and foreign to us when the topic does come up. Poor depictions we see on TV and in movies only show a narrow and dangerous view of mental illness that alienates those in real life who are struggling, which perpetuates stigma.
Within corporate America, leaders have lacked the knowledge, training, and resources to address issues and appropriately support their people effectively. Individuals may avoid speaking up for fear of retaliation through performance management, fewer career growth opportunities, shaming that results in a change of social status, restricted awareness, or access to options that may support their situations.
Mental health is not the absence of mental illness; we need to stop judging, censoring, and shaming people who have found resources that work for their unique circumstances and welcome voices who are willing to share their experiences and helpfully provide support to others.
In your experience, what should a) individuals, b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
Each of us plays a critical role in how people experiencing mental challenges are treated. Seeing real change begins with ourselves, conversations in our homes, and within our communities.
- We ALL have mental health: start by practicing radical self-compassion. We better show up for our families, jobs, and communities when we’re aware of our own needs and ask for help when we require assistance. By sharing our personal stories of struggle as well as what has helped, we normalize the conversation and make it easier for those suffering to speak up and be reminded they are not alone.
- (Society) We each need to take responsibility for our own lives while also supporting others’ choices according to their unique needs. By moving away from judging, marginalizing, or labeling certain healing and health care modalities as all-good or all-bad, we can focus more on providing encouragement. Leading by example means discovering what works best for ourselves, which shows there are many different approaches for others to explore rather than impose our personal beliefs onto others.
- People who are struggling with mental illness cannot afford to delay care by waiting on a top-down solution from the government. In order to adequately address this complex and growing problem, we need to step up as citizens, businesses, industries, and communities to create solutions that proactively support our neighbors. Effective mental health care looks different for everyone, so the government and healthcare industry must acknowledge appropriate support may not always include a clinical CPT code and should also make provisions for holistic prevention techniques in a context which accounts for a broad range of individual, cultural, religious, and other dynamic needs. The government will help more people by urgently removing barriers to healthcare access rather than enacting complicated legislation or campaigning on the backs of those who are suffering.
What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Know yourself, and anticipate your needs. What works well for one person may have the opposite effect for another, and no one will know what supports your unique needs better than yourself. Consider creating a personalized plan for mental well-being preparedness. This can include taking inventory of relationships, environments, food, activities, dynamics, information diet, and personal boundaries, and will likely change over time as you encounter other resources that support your mental wellness. Simple daily routines and practices can be just as if not more impactful as detailed programs, so sprinkle something new into your day or week to start, and give yourself grace if you forget or need to sample something else on any given day. Practicing sleep hygiene, transitioning routines to and from school or work, taking a walk or time-out for self-care, and silencing device notifications are a few examples of simple things you can do that can make a significant difference in how we feel from day to day.
- Monitor: use your planner, wellness trackers, and other daily tools to track your emotions. What do I have access to right now to help monitor my own well-being? As leaders, we need to understand how discussing mental well-being in our workplace and with our teams daily helps us while also encouraging others to monitor their own well-being. Creating healthy habits of thinking begins with self-awareness so we can monitor changes and learn as we go. Capturing a glimpse of our emotional and physical peaks and valleys also provides a tangible record we can revisit to remember we are resilient, challenging circumstances are temporary, and experiencing a full range of emotions is a normal part of living a healthy life. When challenging feelings persist for more than a few days or weeks without improving, we can establish a timeline for ourselves to know when it may be time to seek professional help and resources.
- Manage: Discover what works for you to get through anxiety, dips in your mood, & unhealthy patterns of thinking. What has worked for me in the past? What else would I like to try? How will I de-stigmatize mental health challenges & promote well-being at work by adding self-care, company support tools, coping strategies, employee resources, etc. into daily work conversations? Our needs can change and shift over time, so it’s important to remember self-regulating our emotions is not a static set-it-and-forget-it task. Regularly engaging with others helps provide support as well as discover new perspectives and healing modalities we might explore for ourselves.
- Check-ins: make it a habit to check in with yourself, friends, & colleagues regularly. Pay attention to non-verbal cues to ask more supportive questions. How will I check in with myself and my own mental well-being throughout the day? What are two different questions I can ask others to check in with them to be supportive? Being able to recognize our own triggers, trauma responses, and emerging emotions as they occur means we can more quickly take steps to support our mental wellness, whether by taking a few moments to breathe or stepping into the next part of our self-care plan, which may include speaking to a friend, counselor, or therapist.
- Support: identify your personal support team and professional resources for when mental health impacts you for more than a few days; there is no shame in asking for help. Who are two or more people currently, or who could be on my support team? Who will I support? Which mental health support phone numbers, websites, & resources will I keep nearby in case someone needs support for their mental health challenge or crisis? Becoming trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid is a tremendous resource to support others as well as ourselves, whether in a mental health challenge or crisis, using the ALGEE framework.
In addition to the members of your personal support team, program emergency mental health numbers into your mobile phone and post them in easy-to-find places at home, school, and work. If your workplace has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), ERG (Employee Resource Group), or peer support group, post these contacts and remind employees of these resources frequently. While 988 makes its debut, there are many other emergency support numbers available based on your needs, including for veterans, youth, LGBTQ+, and more- we have a free printable poster with many of these resources available at mindmyhive.com
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
Books: Practicing Mindfulness by Matthew Sockolov, Own Your Past Change Your Future by Dr. John Delony, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (all) by Gabor Mate, MD, Beyond Tea and Tissues: Protecting and Promoting Mental Health at Work by Karen Milner and Judith Ancer, Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work by Melissa Doman, M.A., Navigating Grief with Humor by Dr. Melissa Mork
Podcasts: I’ve had the opportunity to interview and learn so much from mental health experts on The Goal Next Door podcast for practical tips such as:
- How to Navigate Grief Using Humor (Ep. 6)
- Connect with Expert Mental Health Care from Anywhere (Ep. 12)
- Self-Care for Front-Line and First Responders (Ep. 21
- Mental Health First Aid for All (Ep. 14)
The Mental Health First Aid Certification from the National Council of Mental Wellbeing is one of the best resources. I’m grateful for resources provided by Mental Health America, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), organizations like Synergy eTherapy, which provides telemental health across multiple states, EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) who make therapy sessions more accessible through employers, platforms like Healium, Peach Mindfulness, and 4D Fitness to help us self-regulate and reinforce healthy habits of thinking so we can face life’s challenges with resilience, supportive coping skills, and greater self-awareness.
If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
When we set out to make an impact, we automatically become the first person to benefit from giving time or energy. Noticing the people and areas we can help allows us to acknowledge our unique abilities to contribute, which leads to greater self-awareness, gratitude, and feelings of belonging. Contribution is a healthy part of building confidence and community, and being surrounded by people from all walks of life allows us to learn other perspectives that enhance our experience. Environments where we come together for a common purpose support sharing ideas, reciprocal relationships, and personal growth; when we begin to realize we receive so much from giving, the desire to pay it forward is a natural side effect.
We don’t need to give away all of our possessions or devote all of our free time to a cause to significantly impact society. Start from where you are and share your unique abilities with others, whether by being a great listener, friend, mentor, parent, teacher, boss, or neighbor. Small actions have a huge impact, so whatever cause is closest to your heart, by showing up, being present, and looking for ways to add value, you encourage and inspire others to do the same in ways that make sense using their own unique talents and capabilities. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing opportunities of all kinds that make a difference in the lives of others.
How can our readers follow you online?
https://cloverandkind.com and listen to The Goal Next Door Podcast everywhere you stream or thegoalnextdoor.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Mental Health Champions: Why & How Amanda M Ferris of Clover & Kind Is Helping To Champion Mental… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.