Warrior Heart, No Stigma: Mike Minihan
“It was a real appointment, which simply said 'mental health appointment,' and it went on Twitter. It started perhaps the most terrifying three days of my life.”
How can leaders continue normalizing well-being, mindfulness and mental health in their workplaces? Why does it matter?
Gen. Mike Minihan will be the first to tell you: The United States loses a staggering number of veterans or servicemembers to suicide every month. Indeed, a 2021 report pegged the number at 30,177 suicides among military personnel and veterans since 9/11. That’s about 127 a month. And it’s more than have died in military operations in that time—by a lot.
As Minihan put it, traditional approaches tend not to “crack the code” on the problem. One day at a leadership workshop, a retired chief master sergeant approached Minihan, commander of the US Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, issued a challenge to the general. If you want to make a difference, make a mental health appointment. Put it on your calendar.
Minihan was in the Pentagon on 9/11. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s ridden in military Humvees carrying human remains, watched body bags being loaded into planes, comforted grieving servicemen and women, and commanded airmen in combat zones.
But when he made that appointment, when he put it on his calendar, when he shared a picture of that calendar entry on Twitter, “It started the most terrifying three days for me.” How would it be received? Would it make a difference? “I’d rather fly into Baghdad.”
“Warrior heart,” the tweet read. “No stigma.”
In this episode, we look at the place well-being, mindfulness and mental health play in the workplace and what one leader did in one of the most traditionally hard-boiled institutions in the country, the US military. Minihan has no illusions that his statement will revolutionize attitudes, only that it’s a step toward normalizing attitudes about mental health.
This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:
- Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick, Judy Milanovits and Lesley Liesman, creative assistance
- Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
- Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
- Mike Martin Media, editing
- Sophia Passantino, social media
- Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
- Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support
Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.
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Download the podcast transcript (PDF)