Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaina Fawn.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a social worker and mental health therapist born and raised in New Mexico. I now live in Los Angeles, California where I have lived and worked as a professional social worker for the past eight years. My path to becoming a social worker was born out of an early understanding of my privilege and moral responsibility to help others. This lesson was bestowed upon me by my mother who would often take my younger sister and me to volunteer in our community and who would intentionally make space to teach us about inequality and racism. As a professional social worker I have witnessed pervasive systemic issues that continue to oppress vulnerable people and I have learned that the key to solving these problems lies in trauma-informed change. Living in Los Angeles and working with entertainment workers of various disciplines, has convinced me that this type of change is desperately needed in the entertainment industry. For this reason, I opened a private practice explicitly focused on the merging of mental health and entertainment.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
My mother faced debilitating depression her entire life. In spite of her condition she was loving, present, and nurturing for my sister and me. For several years, she was also a single mother, working three jobs to ensure we never went hungry. The lack of a stable father figure in my childhood in part influenced my choice of a partner who was verbally and emotionally abusive. Leaving was incredibly difficult and like many women, it took years. I credit my social work education for helping to push me through this time. In the midst of graduate school and my divorce, I would tell myself “this will make me a better social worker” over and over as a motivator on the toughest of days. More recently, I have worked in unhealthy work environments where I encountered executive teams that operated under the guise of a charitable mission, but behind closed doors abused their power and took advantage of the staff the mission depended on. The last place I worked was so toxic that I developed insomnia, debilitating migraines, and panic attacks. In some ways leaving this agency felt like leaving another abusive relationship. After this experience, I decided I needed to pave my own way through entrepreneurship and I haven’t looked back since.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
As my interest in the needs of workers in the entertainment industry grew, I began to research and found little about the extent of mental health challenges in this specific community. What I did find was disheartening. In an industry naively thought of as glamorous and wealthy, the reality is that these workers receive little to no support from the agencies employing them. In the United States, entertainment workers are four times more likely to think about suicide than the general population and many are afraid to seek mental health services due to stigma. While some mental health professionals specialize in serving this population, many do not engage in advocacy, research, and education. My vision for a trauma-informed entertainment industry is one that is based on social work values and is micro and macro-focused where we provide counseling not only to individuals but also consulting to companies, studios, and networks. Therapeutic Bridges seeks to engage industry stakeholders and promote knowledge on trauma and foster enhanced mental well-being for their workers. I believe that we can do better; that we can prevent suicide, psychosis, burnout, and depression by equipping all levels of the entertainment industry with knowledge and tools. This is so much bigger than just my business and making money. This is about social justice and I am willing to collaborate with anyone who shares my vision.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
Michelle Obama said it best when she said, “relationships should feel good.” This is such simple and solid advice that I find myself repeating it so often. My advice to readers is to find relationships that feel good; connect with a community of people who love and support you and your dreams. Find something you are passionate about and find a way to make a living doing it. Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big. Lastly, I want readers to know that success is a journey. There are many paths. The most fruitful ones at the ones in which you face obstacles because the obstacles have something to teach you. Never stop striving to learn and grow.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
This is such an interesting question. I feel like the word ‘success’ has many meanings for me. For one, success isn’t about the money. Money is useful of course – I need it to live, however, success for me is about living the life that I had dreamed for myself. While it doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would, it’s pretty close. I have achieved many of my long-term goals in recent years; including purchasing a home, traveling abroad often, learning to invest, and opening a private practice. I am proud of these accomplishments but as long as I have breath in my body there’s more I’m hungry to do. Ultimately success means that I never stop striving to make the world a better place. I figure if that is my goal, then I will continue to be successful.
What’s next for you?
In January of 2022, I will begin the process of pursuing a Ph.D. in Integrative Social Work to contribute to the research in this unique field of practice. In addition, I hope to develop and implement a pilot study in which cast and crew will have access to mental health professionals to observe measurable changes in well-being scores. Given what we know about mental health support provided in the United Kingdom, I anticipate this pilot to be successful. My hope is that this sparks a ripple effect and influences other stakeholders to engage in similar practices on their sets and productions. I also seek to develop focus groups to gather qualitative data that captures lived experiences in order to understand the type of support workers need. Finally, in 2022, I plan to continue to develop the Lights On! Mental Health podcast and formulate a collaborative or task force of industry and mental health professionals that can continue to build collective content, curriculum, and workshops that further the mission of a trauma-informed entertainment industry.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?
Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn: @therapeuticbridges and @lightsonmentalhealthpodcast
Lights On! Mental Health Podcast can be found on Spotify and iTunes
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