Opinion: Unempathetic leaders cause mental health deterioration, the world needs more empathy.

We are currently living in a very chaotic world. A world that is deeply divided by race, religion, status, and culture. We are now at a time where we need leaders with morals and love for peace and equality. Instead, our current world is being run by the 1 per cent and greedy corporations. In such a world, what may suffer most is our mental health.

Some of the Traits of Toxic Leaders as mentioned by Jean Kim M.D. (Psychiatrist) in Psychology Today are those who are poor at listening, constantly promoting self, lack of moral philosophy, and being abusive. We are seeing these characteristics in world leaders across our planet, men overcompensate or without ethics. Men whose idea of leadership are those who make others fear them, who belittle others, who take into consideration themselves and not the collective good.

We live in an era where we are seeing more investment in war weapons (with a rise from 7.2% from 2010 to 2019) than in the war against inequality. An era where our natural resources are crumbling and more and more frequent storms and wildfires are happening. An era where we have to constantly live in a state of anxiety due to the Pandemic. An era where inequality is rising. An era where you can see a black man be murdered by Police in broad daylight.

All of this has a direct and indirect impact on the state of our mental health. The more news we watch, the more our mental health erodes. The more inequality and injustice we see, the more our mental health deteriorates. The current state has shown that our leaders are very detached with reality. The reality that the majority of our earth’s population are living with.

We can barely name true empathetic leaders without having to take a long time thinking for one. The one name that is a true empathetic leader in the current day and age that pops up is Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has shown what a true strong leader is and how they can provide empathy and console a crying nation especially after the horrendous Christchurch Mosque shooting. She shows that true leaders takes into consideration the feelings of the people they are leading, that it is okay to be vulnerable, to admit failure and learn from it, and someone who is compassionate and nurturing. These are not weaknesses, rather essential skills.

Anything that can cause a disruption to our livelihood, can have both direct and indirect negative effects on our Mental Health. This in turn changes the way we view the world, our future, and ourselves. It slowly makes us feel hopeless in the world that is supposed to be full of hope and opportunities.

The culture that we live in also creates a reality of life that might be totally different. We all live in a bubble where we believe in things we want to believe and anything that is outside of that bubble is labeled as wrong. Challenging those beliefs can be hard and it can take a toll on Mental Health for both sides. This is because we have never really been taught the essential skill of Empathetic Listening in school.

The way we move forward is to build a future that is empathetic. A culture that provides a safe space for the sharing of new ideas, allowing people to admit fault without ridicule and promoting a culture that promotes compassion for all. 

This is the utopia that many of us young change-makers are challenging the status quo for. No matter which area we are advocating for, we are advocating for a better tomorrow and a better state of our mental health. 

For us to change the world, and be the leader of tomorrow, we need to start practicing the skill of empathy from today onwards. Checking in on those around us, on those within our communities, and most importantly checking in on ourselves. Many times we think that to be empathetic is to think about others, however, being empathetic to self is just as important.\

by Amornthep Sachamuneewongse

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