A virtuous cycle

I am enthused and encouraged by your embrace of mental health initiatives throughout the Rotary world. More than 1,000 of you have responded so far to an ongoing survey by the Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives, offering your feedback on what Rotary can do to improve the ­personal well-being of members.

The top suggestions are illuminating. Rotary members are asking for more fellowship, camaraderie, conversation, cohesiveness and connection. They also want more recognition, validation and integration. They are seeking more service opportunities, and they want more wellness activities, including mental health speakers, awareness efforts and education.

Our members not only appreciate the greater focus on mental health, but they also believe that making more of the Rotary experience will materially improve their lives. I find it interesting that members are not asking anything dramatically new of their club — rather they want more of what we do best. For example, connection can be improved during meetings simply by assigning seating once each month to encourage people to speak with someone new.

Here are some great ways that we can help achieve these results and make Rotary more appealing to those considering membership. First, we need to acknowledge the importance of increasing belonging in our clubs and to encourage Rotary members to make the most of every opportunity for new and stronger connections. Public health experts ­worldwide are concerned about increasing levels of loneliness — the US surgeon general has even declared it an epidemic. Mental health experts agree that finding groups and clubs around common hobbies and interests is a strong way to create greater connectedness. This is what Rotary is all about. We need to make sure all of our members are fully engaged and that our communities are better aware of this inherent strength.

Second, if your club has found new ways to build connection, please share your stories with us at mindhealth@rotary.org so that we can make them more broadly known within the Rotary world. Your good ideas might inspire others. Post your service project stories on Rotary Showcase.

And finally, I encourage you to share feedback from surveys like this with your club and bring forward your own ideas to improve your club experience and meet your peers’ expectations. The journey we have begun is about more than mental health. It is about taking advantage of the full strength of our wonderful organisation and helping all members feel that they are part of a community that cares deeply about their personal well-being.

Everything you do to strengthen connections in Rotary, with each other and the people we serve, also helps improve mental health. And everything we do to improve mental health helps strengthen those connections. Let’s continue this virtuous cycle.

Gordon McInally
President, Rotary International

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