Find a support network that will be there for you during times of need. Whether it is your family member, significant other or friend, have a close network of people who you trust and can go to when you are facing challenging times. They are there to listen and help be there for you when you need to be comforted. It’s okay to ask for help and lean on others for support.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Sandy Yong, author, investor, and speaker of The Money Master (www.sandyyong.com). Sandy has been an avid DIY Investor for the past 10 years. She took her financial matters into her own hands when she lost money in mutual funds recommended by a financial advisor at a big bank. She decided to become a self-taught financial and real estate investor. She has successfully created a 6-figure portfolio and owns several properties.
With her passion for personal finance, combined with her public speaking skills, she’s the author of The Money Master: Inside Secrets on How to Make Your Money Grow and Stay Safe. Her mission is to help educate working professionals about financial literacy so that they can become financially independent. Sandy is proud to partner with a local charity, CAMH: Centre of Addiction and Mental Health. For every book purchase, $2 will be donated to this charity to help with mental health research. Her mission is to help create awareness about money and mental health.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
For many years, I read personal finance and investing books but it felt like a lonely journey. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up with friends or colleagues. I really struggled to share my knowledge, especially since most of my peers were living in debt or struggling to save since they didn’t have the foundational building blocks to set themselves up for success. It struck a chord with me and because I was able to gain a successful track record with my investment portfolio, I felt that I could help teach others to be financially savvy and independent. That is why I decided to write my upcoming book, The Money Master. It would break my heart to hear in the news that people are struggling to save or retirement or they don’t have an emergency fund set up. People lose sleep and stress out about being in debt and not being in control of their money. I feel that if I can help people overcome their fears and failures and get back on track to achieve financial stability, then I am helping to make the world a better place.
My vision is to make people feel comfortable having conversations about money and mental health since they can be touchy subjects. Yet these are topics that have an impact on our daily lives. As a proud female author, investor and speaker, I am dedicated to helping women’s organizations and empowering working professionals to become financially independent.
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?
There is definitely a stigma about mental illness for a variety of reasons. First, I believe that people who have a mental health condition fear that they will be judged. They may wonder if they share their mental illness to their colleagues, will that help or hinder their career? What if my friends look at me and treat me differently? Maybe they fear that they will lose friends because they will be misunderstood. It’s challenging for people to open up because they fear the unknown reactions and they could be positive and/or negative. If they do share, it could either help or harm them from moving forward.
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
A few years ago, my friends and I were fundraising money towards CAMH: The Centre of Addiction and Mental Health. Through #BellLetsTalk day, I shared on social media about how my family was impacted by mental health as my mother struggled with it throughout her adulthood. I wanted to open up and share my story because I felt that it was important to talk about the battles that I faced. It took a lot of courage to be so vulnerable but those who read my story reached out to me and personally shared their own struggles with mental health. It made me realize that there are more people that share the same struggles as we do. No one should feel like they should suffer alone in silence. I wanted to do my part to break the stigma by opening up to others so that people feel that they can open up to me and talk about mental health with their friends, family, and colleagues. I want people to know that they are safe with me when they discuss their mental health challenges.
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
Growing up my mother battled with mental illness. It was a challenge for our family since she was incapable to live a normal life and she often had to go to see the doctor or have hospital visits. There is a stigma about mental health issues such as having depression or being bipolar since the signs are not always visible like other forms of illness such as cancer. It felt really difficult to open up to people to talk about it since you would feel that other people may judge your family or not understand what it's like to live with a loved one impacted by mental illness. In honour of my late mother, I have been fundraising money towards CAMH: The Centre of Addiction and Mental Health to help families who have been impacted and also to help the wonderful organization that is spearheading mental health research and awareness.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
Individuals can help to educate themselves on mental health issues. There are many misconceptions and myths out there. If each of us takes some time to learn about mental health, then we can learn what proper language to use as well. We can start creating conversations about mental health so that we can help support one another. Ever since I decided to speak out about the childhood challenges that I faced growing up, the more my friends and colleagues opened up to me to share their personal stories. I feel that it helps us connect with each other and understand where each of us is coming from. From there, we can be a good listener and ask open-ended questions rather than jumping to conclusions. It is important to be empathic and try to put yourself into someone else’s shoes.
Society can help to be more open and accepting of those who are suffering from mental illness. Sometimes it’s the closest people you know who are hurting on the inside, but they are covering it all up on the outside. Let’s try to understand one another and offer a helping hand rather than judge someone and turn their backs on them. As a society, we can ask our employers to offer more benefits to cover mental health services such as seeing a psychiatrist, social worker, psychologist to name a few. When employers do offer them, we should take advantage of the services that are covered by our health insurance so that employers can see that we need them and use them.
The government can provide more funding towards mental health services such as therapists, psychiatrists, social workers and those who are able to assist with mental health issues. There could be more health and wellness programs provided within community centres to make it accessible to all. This way we can take time to educate and practice self-care and focus on our mental well-being.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1) Share your thoughts, feelings, and struggles with your spouse or friend. We have stressful lives and it’s important to talk openly about how your day has been with someone who is willing to listen and support you.
2) Journaling is a great way to record how you are feeling to process your thoughts. Whether you write daily or weekly, I think that it is a healthy way to release all the emotions you have bottled up in your head and let it flow onto paper.
3) Eating nutritious foods will give you the energy that your body needs. This will help you function and perform well during your daily routine. If you eat processed food or junk food, then your body won’t be able to be at its optimal state.
4) Incorporating exercise into your schedule can be very beneficial for your overall physical and mental well-being. If you love running or playing volleyball or doing yoga, then go for it! Choose something that you love doing and you’ll be able to commit to it.
5) Find a support network that will be there for you during times of need. Whether it is your family member, significant other or friend, have a close network of people who you trust and can go to when you are facing challenging times. They are there to listen and help be there for you when you need to be comforted. It’s okay to ask for help and lean on others for support.
6) Taking breaks during your day when things get chaotic is important. Even if it is a brisk walk around the office or doing some light stretching can help you recharge and not feel overwhelmed. If you have a desk job, then get up and move around every hour and drink water to hydrate.
What are your favourite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
I enjoy meditation and have been incorporating it into my daily routine. I use various meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace to settle my mind and provide clarity. I also enjoy listening to Deepak Chopra’s guided meditation sessions and afterwards I feel more relaxed and at ease. I believe that everyone should practice meditation because it does wonders for your mental health.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!