In this fifth Community Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Poonam Rahman, the Founder & CEO of Virtue Mental. Launched in May 2020, Virtual Mental is an international nonprofit dedicated to supporting underprivileged communities. When she isn’t overseeing the development and operation of Virtue Mental programs, she’s working toward her B.A. in Psychology at Roosevelt University, writing her first book, and launching other mentorship initiatives for womxn in S.T.E.A.M. fields. It was so wonderful to talk to her about her current projects within Virtue Mental and to hear about how she maintains her wellness in the midst of all that she does.
So, without further ado…
What inspired you to launch Virtue Mental? Was the organization’s mission in any way shaped by COVID?
When I was younger, I remember getting bullied for my body image, my nationality, my name, and for other such factors and these experiences have had a traumatic impact on my mental health even to this day as a young adult. My experience with bullying was a significant motivating factor to launch Virtue Mental. Furthermore, during quarantine, I had the realization that many individuals had been wrestling with many mental health struggles as the pandemic had forced the world to shut down. Having this realization and reflecting upon the struggles and mental health-related challenges that many individuals had been undergoing was another motivating factor to launch Virtue Mental.
Virtue Mental and LILAS Wellness have a shared commitment to building community. How does Virtue Mental create spaces for communal discussions of mental well-being?
Virtue Mental strives to create spaces to encourage discussions of mental well-being through our monthly support groups. Every month, Virtue Mental hosts six different support groups focusing on different demographics of individuals, primarily focusing on minorities (AAPI, LGBTQ+, Latinx, South Asian, Women, and the general population). The support groups are facilitated by a certified mental health professional who encourages the discussion of various mental health topics such as healthy coping mechanisms, women's mental health issues, and the causes of depression and anxiety.
What has been your favorite moment or project that the Virtue Mental team has completed so far?
I think my favorite moment of Virtue Mental thus far was when my Intern Team and I had our very first team meeting. It was very fulfilling and beautiful to see so many people of all walks of life come together and brainstorm ways we can provide free mental health resources to underprivileged communities and make the world a better place.
How do you prioritize wellness in your life?
I prioritize wellness by dedicating at least 30 minutes to an hour per day to doing something that isn't related to academics, work, and nonprofit administrative tasks. Some ways that I practice wellness every day are by spending time with my parents, engaging in spiritual activities, and watching my favorite YouTube channels. Wellness and self-care are fundamental aspects that I not only emphasize to my team members within Virtue Mental, but something that I also strive to implement in my daily life as well.
Do you have any content recommendations (books, TV shows, podcasts, etc.)?
Some books that I recommend which have helped with my mental health are Think Like a Monk by Jay Shety and The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage by Brené Brown. Reading has allowed me to destress and nourish my mental health throughout the past couple years. Furthermore, some podcasts I recommend that have also helped to nourish my mental health are "The Happiness Lab" and "Throwing Shade." "The Happiness Lab" has my highest recommendation as it talks about what true happiness and fulfillment are.
A huge part of the LILAS mission is recognizing incredible women making major contributions to the advancement of women's health. Their hard work and dedication enable all of us to strive for progress and be optimistic for a future in which women’s health concerns are prioritized.