Lise Abou Mansour is a 30-year-old journalist who used to work for France Télévision but now works in the health department of 20 Minutes newspaper. She's equally skilled in writing and video production and started the mental health media "Ma tête et moi" (My head and me) three years ago during a lockdown. When she's not scribbling in her little notebook, Lise likes to hit the movies, go for a run, bake cakes, and of course, devouring them ! Today she's invited us to 20 Minutes' office near Paris to give us a tour of her work environment, including the studio where she records her shows.
What is the moment you realized you had mental health ?
I think it's getting pretty late! Actually, it hasn't been that long. Ever since I was a little girl, I've had my fair share of ups and downs, just like many people. However, I never put a name to my feelings. When I broke my leg as a child, I immediately knew what was wrong, but when I struggled with my mental health, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I just told myself that I had a problem. But feeling sad, anxious, or angry in certain situations is totally normal. It wasn't until a couple of years ago, during some personal events, that I really started to become aware of all this.
“At first, I thought I only experienced three emotions: sadness, joy, and anxiety. But turns out, there's so much more to it !”
I've started going to therapy, and it's really helping me get a better grasp on the emotions I feel and what they mean. At first, I thought I only experienced three emotions: sadness, joy, and anxiety. But turns out, there's so much more to it!
I really wish we were taught to understand our emotions in school, starting from a young age. Like, "you're feeling angry because of this reason, you're feeling sad because of that reason. It's normal, it's not normal, etc." Having these tools to understand and manage my emotions earlier on would have made a huge difference for me.
What do you want to improve in terms of the population's mental health ?
I've noticed that we don't talk about mental health enough. It's still a pretty taboo subject in our society. If you have the flu, you have no problem saying so, but if you're struggling with burnout, it's a different story. Of course, it's not the same thing, but it's generally more challenging to admit to having a mental health issue compared to a physical one.
This is a real problem, and I think the media has a role to play in addressing it. For a long time, and even today, the health sections of the media have focused almost solely on physical health. While they do cover the subject, they barely touch on mental health.
Personally, I'm particularly interested in psychiatric disorders. There's still a lot of work to be done in this area, especially when it comes to media coverage. The media mostly covers these issues as news stories, which is a shame. These disorders, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or addiction, affect a significant portion of the population, and I don't think that the media's representation accurately reflects the experiences of those affected. There are still a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions.
What is your proposed solution to solve this problem ?
As a journalist I saw the need for more conversation about mental health, especially for younger people. I realized that many psychiatric disorders start during adolescence. So, I proposed to my boss at 20 Minutes to create a new video series to talk about mental health issues in young adults. We chose to partner with Snapchat because it's a popular platform among the 15-35 age group, and we wanted to reach our audience directly. I see it as my small contribution towards creating a solution, or at least a starting point, for this important issue.
The goal of the series "Ma tête et moi" is first to break the stigma by giving a voice to young people who suffer or have suffered from a wide range of psychiatric disorders. When someone speaks directly to us on camera, we feel much more concerned. For example, we have dealt with alcohol addiction, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, etc. But each time, it is a young person who speaks directly to us, so someone we can identify with: what is this pathology? How was it diagnosed? How does one live with it?
Of course, each pathology is different, and that's what we specify in each episode. For example, I'm thinking of schizophrenia, there are a lot of different kinds of schizophrenia. So just because one speaker talks about their experience doesn't mean everyone will experience it exactly the same way, but in any case, their perspective can help other people in distress.
And the second goal of the series is prevention. Before each episode, I call on psychiatrists to get as much information as possible. The idea is not, of course, to replace psychiatrists, but to provide enough reliable information to the viewer who might say to themselves "Interesting, that sounds like something I've experienced" or "I know someone who resembles what this person describes."
“In fact, one can be mentally healthy with a psychiatric illness and vice versa.”
The general idea is to keep the communication positive about recovery, and after watching 5 minutes of video, the viewer doesn't think "Oh my God, what a horror, I'm not feeling well!", but rather "Well that gives hope, even for people who are affected, in fact one can feel good."
In fact, one can be mentally healthy with a psychiatric illness and vice versa.
What are your plans for the future ?
I'm currently filming the third season of "Ma tête et moi". It's not easy to find people who are willing to testify, so don't hesitate, if you're reading this article and you want to participate. It's very courageous to open up publicly every time, and I really thank the people who have already come forward to testify for the show.
In parallel, I continue to write articles on mental health. For example, a little while ago, we tackled Dry January by explaining how to respond to those who push us to drink when we don't want to, and today (we're recording this interview during Blue Monday, ed.) I just published an article to understand the difference between a little down and depression. That's it, continuing to talk about mental health is the project for 2023.
Is there an artistic work, or someone inspiring that had a positive impact on your mental health ?
I realize that all the people who interest me and address mental health, it's not from a positive angle! I really like what Stromae does for example. His lyrics are fair and they really touch me. I saw him in concert and I cried all the tears of my body! I'm quite admiring of what he's done with the release of his last album in terms of media coverage and de-stigmatizing suicide, which is still a very taboo subject. It's really brave of him, and we saw it, there were a lot of calls to suicide prevention associations after his speech.
In another vein, the comic book author FabCaro makes me laugh a lot. It doesn't talk at all about mental health, but it's humor that's a bit absurd and also shows the absurdities of our society. And I cry (but from laughing this time) as soon as I read it. It's very effective.
What is the best way to contact you ?
Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com, I check it the most frequently, but you can also reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn. And if you missed any episodes of 'My head and me', they're still available on Snapchat. Additionally, we also publish a more in-depth version of the show on the 20 minutes website. 🙂
Interviewed by Thomas Cantaloup, on January 16, 2023
Photo credits : Thomas Cantaloup