Real Talk With Misha McK, Co-Founder of SWWF, Actress, and Talk Show Host
Barbie was created in 1959 with one purpose – to teach little girls that they could do and be anything.
Now in 2023, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie is breaking box office records, showcasing to audiences the importance of learning to accept everything about yourself (flaws and all) to help make the world a better place. The film signifies a pivotal moment where we challenge outdated norms and embrace the power of female empowerment.
To celebrate this historical moment, we want to introduce you to four real-life “Barbies” changing the world with their incredible nonprofit organizations. While each has a different story and cause, they are all important examples to people everywhere that anyone can make a difference…
Our second spotlight in this series shines on Misha McK, co-founder of Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation (SWWF) in Jackson, Mississippi. With a Syracuse University background, she leads mental health change through “The Misha McK Show,” engaging art therapists, educators, and students to erase stigma. “HAPPY CARDS” and conversations combat the U.S.’s alarming suicide rate of every 11 minutes. SWWF’s programs address bullying-induced youth suicide. Join us as we rally behind McK’s I CARE Campaign, turning awareness into a movement.
Name: Misha McK
Location: Jackson, MS
Title: Co-founder of SWWF, Host of The Misha McK Show, Actress
Organization: Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation (SWWF)
What it is: Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to continuously promoting mental health awareness messages, PSA campaigns, and their signature programs and activities for the intervention and prevention of suicide and mental illness.
Educational Background: Syracuse University – Bachelor’s degree in English and Fine Arts with a concentration in British Literature
What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day is absorbed by my enthusiasm, excitement and creativity in constantly opening up discussions with everyday people, art therapists, teachers, students and other professionals of how we can continue to increase awareness about the importance of our country’s mental health and what we can do to rid the stigmas surrounding suicide and mental illness. This is very important because every 11 minutes many somebodies somewhere are taking their own lives.
Each of my days are filled with “I CARE” moments. I give out HAPPY CARDS. I talk to people about how important it is to mind our mental health. Also, I continue to make people aware that suicide is an epidemic and a crisis in America. We also have after-school programs focusing on reading, writing and math for students K-12 that I love to participate in. These programs are essential for a student’s self-esteem. We also conduct mental health awareness field trip workshops where we talk to students K-12 about how bullying is now one of the leading elements that cause youth as young as 6 years old to take their own lives.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
My favorite thing about what I do, is to educate and create awareness of the urgency that we are losing people! We need to rid the stigmas about our mental health challenges and to remind us that “It’s okay, not to be okay.”
What’s the backstory of your journey to co-founding Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation?
I am a member of Equity and SAG/AFTRA. In 2012, we moved back to the east coast after living in California for 17 years. One day we were traveling from New York to New Jersey on a local bus line, when the bus driver said, “more than 10 people jump off the George Washington Bridge every day.” This is where we began our research and discovered that the Center For Disease Control (CDC), The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have all labeled suicide an epidemic and a crisis in America.
What motivated you to establish a non-profit organization?
When we realized that the CDC, the NIH and the WHO all declared Suicide as a crisis and an epidemic in our country.
What is it like running a non-profit organization?
Running a non-profit organization can be challenging because the funding is not always guaranteed. You have to remind yourself every day that you believe in this cause. Their cause is our cause and we continue to march on!
What’s your biggest takeaway from your role in the organization?
My biggest takeaway is to encourage everyone to join in and continue to shout out the URGENCY of how AWARENESS is KEY to understanding this epidemic and crisis!
TOGETHER IS HOW WE WILL CHANGE THE CULTURE OF “It’s all about me” to “IT’S ALL ABOUT WE”!!!!!
Real talk – I saw that you are an actress, talk show host, entrepreneur, and, of course, run a non-profit organization. How do you do it all?
I do it all by caring about EVERYTHING I do and EVERYONE around me.
What unique challenges have you faced as a woman in a leadership position, and how have you overcome them?
You know as a woman, I would like very much to speak on this topic. First of all, the obstacles are there only if YOU see them. The great poet Richard Lovelace once wrote “STONE WALLS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE NOR IRON BARS A CAGE.” What you put out is what you get back.
Can you discuss any significant milestones or achievements that your organization has reached?
One of our special achievements that sets us apart from others is THE MISHA McK SHOW. The fact is, we are the ONLY non-profit organization with a TV host on a television program that airs weekly on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. on WAPT.
How has your degree helped you in your career?
My degree required a lot of reading and writing. I would venture to say that all of that reading and writing has helped me in my career to understand that we are living in a society where care is needed in order for us to survive the ups and downs and the challenges that can push us over the edge. Suicide is an epidemic and a crisis in America, and we have to care for one another, look out for one another, take care of each other. After all, we are our brothers and sisters’ keeper!
How would you describe your work/life balance?
My work/life balance is my passion for causes. That is my driving force. I would say that for me because I love helping people, I love coming up with creative ideas of how our organization can intervene in saving lives, it’s not work. So, honestly my work/life balance is all in one. I live life to the fullest everyday by caring about people.
Please share with us the best piece of career advice you’ve received.
The best piece of career advice I received was from the actor Moses Gunn. We were in a scene together on the television drama A Man Called Hawk. He said to me, “wait until you hear the word ACTION from the director and NEVER WALK ON YOUR LINES.”
How does that translate in the real world? Well, WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING… DO SOMETHING! That’s ACTION. Take time to listen first before you make a decision, pay attention and watch what you are doing. That is equivalent to NEVER WALKING ON YOUR LINES! “Haste makes waste.”
Do you have any big career plans on the horizon?
Yes! I consider myself the voice for the voiceless. So many people are suffering in silence. I am working on an I CARE Campaign. I am so excited because this campaign must become a MOVEMENT. Together we will make a difference.
I want to create a global platform and shine a light on how necessary it is for us to take care of our mental health. It is important that we check our mental health meter. A “check up from the neck up” is essential for those struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts! We must intervene, provide resources and care.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
I see Suicide Watch And Wellness Foundation as a household name in America and around the world!
Is there anything not covered during the interview you would like readers to know?
Recognizing “THE POWER OF OUR FURRY FRIENDS and the need for pet therapy! They are a lifesaver for so many of us! Pets bring comfort to our veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life, they help our rescue crews and first responders during disasters, and they provide emotional support and comfort to children in hospitals. They are by far THE BEST FRIENDS EVER!