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Mission Moments: Meet Hogg Foundation Public Affairs Rep Ike Evans

By Jessica Sinn

Ike Evans, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Since 2012, Ike Evans has been sharing the good work of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health through multimedia storytelling. The creator and host of the foundation’s “Into the Fold: Issues in Mental Health” podcast, Evans is often found behind a microphone chatting with experts in various fields—from psychologists to city officials to college deans.

We turned the table on Evans (aka “Ike at the Mic”) to learn more about his love of storytelling, and how he is working to draw a more accurate picture of the state of mental health and wellness here in Texas and across the nation.

What message do you strive to drive home with your readers and listeners?

Everything I do is related to getting the word out—not only about the impact of our work in Texas, but the importance of mental health in general. I’ve really been working to drive the message home that mental health is a community-wide concern. Impacting mental health at the community level is something that requires the energy, the effort and the buy-in from all sectors of the community, not just mental health experts. We all have the ability to positively impact the mental health and wellbeing of our communities, and doing that in the most dramatic way will take a concerted effort.

What do you enjoy about being the voice of the “Into the Fold” podcast?

What’s fun about the podcast is that it gives me an opportunity to take a deeper dive into different issues that are related to mental health. It’s been a pretty wonderful experiment, and I continue to learn new things with each episode. Some of our notable guests have included Dr. Art Markman, UT psychology professor and cohost of the popular podcast “Two Guys on Your Head;” Dr. Luis Zayas, dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work; and Austin City Mayor Steve Adler. The show gives me the intellectual invigoration that I need to stay engaged and it’s also a content engine for our communications work.

What are some benefits of this mode of storytelling?

Podcasting can be a way to control your messages and to broaden people’s horizons. I also think that it is emblematic of how the Hogg Foundation is trying to change the conversation about mental health by going beyond the surface level problems and delving deeper into issues, such as the intersections of racial disparities and mental health. The podcasting format really does provide an ideal venue for airing out issues of that kind of complexity.

What drives your passion for elevating conversations about mental health?

If I could make any impact here, it would be to complexify people’s images of what mental health looks like—and who it affects. Thankfully, the field in general is getting beyond the stereotypical images, for example, the white affluent patient undergoing years of analysis. Having to undo some of those preconceptions is a big part of our work and my work. I look like mental health and mental health looks like me. I’ve had my own struggles, and it has become easier for someone of my particular background to talk about mental health because of the work that the Hogg Foundation has opened up for me.

I just want to give a little bit of that to our podcast listeners, to anyone who happens upon our website, and to people who subscribe to our e-newsletters. This is what mental health looks like. It looks like all of us—every one of us. And whatever recovery might look like varies from person to person.

What other projects would you like to take on the near or distant future?

I’d like to create a repository of Hogg-approved stock images. I would like more positive, non-clichéd images of mental health and wellbeing that the whole mental health field is free to use in all their branding and imagery. We’re currently at the mercy of Google and all the different sites that provide stock photography. I can’t say I’m satisfied with any single one that we’ve ever had to use, so what I really want to do is diversify and complexify what is about mental health that people’s eyes take in.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just one more thing! As a former journalist, I would like to do anything I can to school my peers on best practices and reporting on mental health. The media has gotten better, but just to give you an example, whenever there’s a mass shooting, so much of our energy is spent on dispelling ideas and misconceptions about mental illness that have already taken hold. If I could make any kind of a difference, it would be to spend more energy on the next-level conversation, rather than instilling the basics, when it comes to reporting and mental health.