Disaster relief workers, activists, social entrepreneurs, health-care providers, teachers, and others actively weaving the healthy, just, and caring fabric of our society live and work at the heart of great challenges. But even as these change makers find solutions and make progress, many are burning out and experiencing a host of personal challenges such as depression, divorce, and the early onset of chronic disease. At the same time, we are far from meeting the social and environmental challenges of our day; we need to unlock more collaboration and more innovation. Finding ways to address the personal challenges change makers face is therefore important not only because it matters in and of itself, but also because it has the potential to drive more effective social change.

The reality is that social change work is difficult and often traumatizing. Health workers providing cancer or HIV care constantly witness the passage of life, while environmental activists working to slow species and ecosystem loss continue to track their devastation. Add to this the fact that significant numbers of people joining the social sector have previously experienced personal trauma and oftentimes choose to do work connected to their own difficult personal experiences. It is not uncommon, for example, for someone who personally experienced bullying to work for an organization that deals with that issue. Connections like these are also common in anti-corruption and environmental organizations.

In the broader cultural context, discussion and practices related to issues like mindfulness and mental health have become commonplace, particularly in the West. And in the realm of social change, more and more people are recognizing that well-being is an underlying issue that the field needs to address openly and understand better.

Read the full article about supporting activists' well-being to enhance social change by Linda Bell Grdina, Nora Johnson, and Aaron Pereira at Stanford Social Innovation Review.