Lara Lavi is a professional, Grammy award-winning, Americana singer-songwriter, media/tech/entertainment law attorney, entrepreneur, entertainment company executive, business development specialist, film and TV producer & writer.

By: Jason Kalka, Khoa Tran, Ilya Tsemekhman, Youchul “Greg” Shin, and Ben Williams, University of Washington Bothell School of Business

It was a typical cool and gray day when we walked into our classroom at the University of Washington Bothell. When we entered our classroom, it was alive with excitement. Grammy award winning artist and business leader Lara Lavi was assisting her son, and client, Cameron Lavi-Jones. As the co-founders of the Hold Your Crown youth mental health initiative, Lara and Cameron were invited to our business communications class to talk about the importance of mental health in the workplace, as well as give our class an intimate performance of Cameron’s band, King Youngblood’s, new song “Cried in My Cadillac.”  You can read more about Cameron, Hold Your Crown, and his experience with mental health here. After the performance, we had an opportunity to sit with Lara and talk about the importance of mental health in the workplace.

Hello Lara, thank you for talking with us!  You’re a very busy person!  You’re a lawyer, a songwriter, a performer, a manager, and a child advocate.  How do you fit all of this into your day and what are your priorities right now?

LL: “The hardest thing for me is setting aside time for self-care. I think that the most important thing for mental health and also physical health, is to make sure that you actually schedule in the time for self-care. So, for me, something might be on hold, like, maybe I don’t do any songwriting that week, but I know I’m scheduled to do some writing the next week. So, I have a lot of juggling going on and I try to delegate when I can.”

What role does loneliness and disconnection play in mental health?

LL: The higher up you go on the ladder, the lonelier you can feel because you have less and less people to relate to. The key is to surround yourself with great people. For me, that’s Corbin or Cameron and some of my other colleagues, because they know me as me. I think that whether you’re a poet or musician or you have another creative way in business, it is important to transfer those feelings into your art.

Approaching any kind of conversation around mental health can be difficult. What are some good techniques to approach somebody that we may not know or might be in the work environment to say “hey what’s going on?”

LL:I think that the most important technique, and I say this unequivocally, is to start the conversation in a genuine, timed way, of saying “I identify.” If you were talking to a four-year-old, you would get on the floor and talk to them at eye level. You wouldn’t talk above them, because if you talk above them, you’re immediately in authority mode, so you must get at eye level with your person and say to them, “this is what I have felt, and this is what I’m seeing, and this is what I’ve experienced in the past. What I’m seeing could be serious, and I say this out of love to you because you’re precious to me. And whatever it is, we’ll figure it out.”

In the 90’s, nobody ever talked about mental health in the workplace. Now people are very serious about mental health. Can you talk about how viewing mental health has changed?

LL: If someone had cancer and she had to go through chemo and a variety of things; the world would be patient with her. So why is it any different if someone is in the depths of despair and mental illness? They need to be on medication, and they need help. This is the difference between stigma and non-stigma. In the 90s mental health was stigmatized, so people didn’t talk about it. I lost a lot of my musician clients to depression and addiction. We’re trying to change that with Hold Your Crown, to say it’s okay to ask for help.

Mental health is finally coming to the forefront of public awareness, yet there is still stigma associated with it. If you need help with your own mental health or you are caring for someone with mental health issues, you are not alone.  NAMI Seattle has numerous resources to help you on your journey towards mental wellness. Thank you to Lari Lavi and King Yougblood for their time giving this interview. If you would like to learn more about Lari Lavi and King Yougblood’s mental health initiative “Hold Your Crown” click here.

This blog post is the result of a collaboration between NAMI Seattle, the University of Washington Bothell School of Business, and our professor, Laura Umetsu. Special thanks to Ashley Fontaine for her feedback and guidance to all contributors to this piece.