"My Primary Objective Is To Bring Mental Health Into The Limelight" - Gordon McInally

BW Wellbeing World in conversation with Rotary International President Elect Gordon McInally (2023-24)

1. When did you join Rotary and what is your main objective for your presidential term in July 2023- June 2024?

I began my journey with Rotary at the young age of 26 and the past three decades have been immensely enriching, shaping both my personal and professional life. As a dentist hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, I couldn’t imagine creating a significant impact on a global scale. However, Rotary has allowed me to contribute to the world far beyond my local community and help improve lives in a way that I never could have on my own.

As the incoming President of Rotary International, my primary objective for my term is to bring mental health into the limelight. This is an issue that has personally impacted my family, and it's one that often remains shrouded in silence. As an ambassador for Bipolar UK, I have seen the importance of support for people grappling with mental health conditions, their families, and caregivers. In rallying Rotary members behind this cause, we aspire to create a stronger support network for mental health worldwide.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, I've observed a silent crisis unfolding around mental health. This has likely been among the most formidable challenges many of us have ever encountered. The isolation stemming from lockdowns, the loss of loved ones, and the uprooting of our social networks have all taken a toll on our mental well-being. While mental health struggles remain an ever-present challenge, Rotary is leveraging its extensive reach to proactively address this critical issue. By fostering open conversations around mental health, we can facilitate access to professional help and provide necessary support throughout people's recovery journey.

My leadership approach as President will be rooted in the fundamental value of 'caring'. This trait, ingrained in me since childhood and one I've imparted to our children and grandchildren, is also the cornerstone of my professional life as a dentist. Rotary gives people a vehicle to care and the opportunity to help their neighbor across the street or in different parts of the world. I believe that the world could be a more peaceful and better place if we all embraced a culture of care.

2. Rotary is known for its Polio and Immunization efforts, but very little has been done on issues like mental health. How do you plan to change this in the next year?

Rotary is the driving force behind efforts to eliminate polio, globally. When we launched our fight to end polio with partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, this paralyzing and potentially fatal disease affected 350,000 children a year.  However, due to massive vaccination campaigns around the world, led by Rotary and our partners, the number of wild polio cases have decreased by more than 99.9 percent. Our members have contributed over 2.6 billion dollars to protect nearly 3 billion children from this paralyzing disease.

Today, only Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to report cases of wild polio. Nearly 19 million people today are walking who otherwise would have been paralyzed by this vaccine-preventable disease, and 1.5 million people are alive, who otherwise would have succumbed to the poliovirus. Through our efforts to eradicate polio, the world has learned important lessons and strategies that are being applied to address other health issues.  With the infrastructure we helped create to end polio, we have built a lasting global health legacy that is now used to protect millions of people from other diseases – including Ebola, malaria, and COVID-19.

As we edge closer to eradicating polio, we're setting our sights on another pressing global health issue: mental health. Rotary members worldwide have already been proactive in championing mental health initiatives. With this groundwork, combined with the infrastructure and partnerships born from our fight against polio, we are well-positioned to bring a meaningful shift in mental health awareness and support.

Expanding upon our ongoing work, we aim to further intensify our focus on mental health, striving to reduce the stigma tied to seeking help, enhancing access to mental health services, and empowering individuals on their path to improved mental well-being. It's also important to recognize that mental well-being contributes to peaceful societies. By enhancing mental health, we're also promoting peace in our communities.

Our vision for Rotary is to become an organization known for caring for both its members and the communities we serve. By helping others, we also help ourselves – an approach that benefits our collective mental health and well-being. As we move forward, I'm eager to see Rotary leveraging its collective energy to make a real difference in mental health worldwide, showcasing our adaptability and capacity to confront health challenges beyond polio.

3. For India, are there any special projects or initiatives that will be undertaken?

India faces a significant mental health concern, with an estimated 150 million people in need of mental health care services. However, fewer than 30 million are currently seeking care.

Rotary has consistently emphasized mental health through a range of initiatives aimed at raising awareness, reducing stigma, and supporting individuals grappling with mental health issues. In India, Rotary has been actively working towards enhancing mental health by forming partnerships with local organizations, orchestrating awareness campaigns, and providing aid to those in need.

During my presidential term, Rotary clubs in India will prioritize interventions around mental health alongside other areas of focus. We anticipate an increase in awareness, diagnostic efforts, the establishment of more helplines, and counselling initiatives. Additionally, we aim to foster a heightened sensitivity towards mental health ailments across society.

The resolve of Rotary members in India was exemplified during the Covid-19 pandemic, when clubs stepped up to address the surge in mental distress cases. The Rotary Club of Bombay, for instance, established a 24/7, multilingual, free wellbeing helpline to support the mental health of those impacted by the pandemic. With over 600 volunteers enrolled and trained, and more than 50 professional counsellors onboarded, the service was a beacon of support for individuals who had lost jobs, were grieving the loss of family members, or were experiencing the stress of prolonged lockdowns.

The enhanced focus on mental health during my presidency will build on the robust foundation laid by these and other important initiatives.

4. What is Rotary’s future and how will the organization continue to grow?

Rotary's essence is its diversity. We are a global organization comprised of individuals from different backgrounds, generations, languages, and cultures. This diversity is our strength. By appreciating our unique regional perspectives, we can understand how to grow in a manner that is both sustainable and organic.

A regionalized approach to membership and engagement can make us stronger, more adaptable, and more closely aligned with our core values. The future of Rotary, and the good work we do, depends on our capacity to evolve while ensuring that our members have a rich and rewarding experience.

We must not fear taking risks, and even failing, as it is through these experiences that we learn, progress, and grow. This includes the design of service projects with known, evidence-based outcomes. We strive to foster open, inclusive, and compassionate engagement with each other and everyone we serve.

In our work and the relationships we form, we seek opportunities to transcend generations and borders. We eagerly welcome new ideas and perspectives that can create lasting change in the world. Our vision for the future is to make Rotary an even more open and inclusive organization that embraces the best people and ideas – no matter where they come from.

5. Why did it take so long for Rotary clubs to make mental health a priority?

Mental health has long been a focus of our organization and its members around the globe. Rotary clubs worldwide have been actively addressing mental health needs in various ways, with several notable initiatives making a significant impact.

The Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives, for instance, brings together a dedicated community of Rotary members passionate about advancing mental health efforts. With a wealth of toolkits and resources at their disposal, the group has seen its membership triple amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to heightened awareness surrounding mental health and wellness. Furthermore, the innovative "Wellness in a Box" initiative, a school-based mental health awareness campaign conceived by a Rotary Club in Massachusetts, has expanded to numerous schools in Nigeria, Puerto Rico, as well as India. Each location is managed by local Rotary clubs, demonstrating our organization's ability to make a global impact.

Our members' compassion also extends to vulnerable populations, as evidenced by Rotary doctors in Germany offering mental health support to Syrian and Ukrainian refugees grappling with depression, addiction, or post-traumatic stress disorder. To break the stigma surrounding mental health, Rotary members in England launched a media campaign called "Don't Bottle It Up." Featuring local athletes and celebrities, the campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage those facing mental health challenges to seek help.

We acknowledge that in various regions and among certain demographics, discussing mental health can be more challenging due to cultural norms and societal expectations. Rotary is committed to fostering open dialogue and addressing cultural barriers, and to empower individuals to embrace their vulnerability, build resilience, and access the care they need.

As President, my mission is to amplify the remarkable work of Rotarians and unite our global community in prioritizing mental health. Rotary's unique strength lies in its ability to connect people across cultures and foster hope through acts of kindness. By building on this foundation, we have the power to extend our culture of care even further, creating a positive impact on the world around us.

Tags assigned to this article:
President Of Rotary International Gordon McInally


Around The World


Novel Approaches For Anticipating Outcomes In Pregnancies With Foetal Complications

Improved prediction of which pregnancies are likely to result in stillbirth, neonatal death, or extremely preterm delivery will aid in identifying the...

ISKCON's World Holy Name Week And Bhadra Poornima Celebration

The celebration concludes along with over 15,000 Bhagavata Purana Sets distributed ...

Amrita University Unveils Groundbreaking Research Projects During Amma's Birthday Celebration

Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) —spiritual leader, humanitarian and visionary—was born on 3rd October, 1953 in a remote coastal village in Kerala...

Genetics Helps Explain Childhood Cancer: Study

The findings, which will help with genetic counselling were published in The Lancet Oncology....

The Power Of Mindfulness: A Secret Weapon For Competitive Exam Success

Being fully present when studying, rather than letting the mind wander, can lead to more efficient learning and better recall during exams...

Spiritual Well-Being And Mental Health

Discussing the connection between spiritual well-being and mental health and exploring practices that promote both ...

Quick Connect With BW Wellness

Subscribe Our Newsletter