Calm Co-Founder: Michael Acton Smith a Pioneer in Mental Health and Wellness
Michael tells us about how the idea was born from his own personal discovery of the power of meditation. In our conversation he tells the Calm founding story, and talks about the journey to making medication accessible to tens of millions of people while taking on stigma around meditation and mental health long before the recent surge in interest around the space.
In addition to being the co-founder of Calm, Michael also was the founder of Mind Candy and creator of Moshi Monsters, the online world for children that grew to 80 million registered users and expanded offline into books, toys, games, magazines, music and movies. Michael is also the founder of Firebox.com, Ping Pong Fight Club, and Berwickstock music festival. In 2014, he was awarded an Order of the British Empire for his service to the creative industries.
What If Fellowship: https://whatif.vc/fellowship
How Psychedelic Treatments Work with Ronan Levy of Field Trip
Ronan Levy joins us to talk about how psychedelic treatments work, what all the hype is about, where we are by way of regulation in the industry and the future use cases of psychedelic treatments.
Ronan is a co-founder and the Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health. Prior to Field Trip, he was an early pioneer in the medical cannabis industry which gave him a unique perspective on launching the world’s first integrated company in legal psychedelics. Field Trip currently has operations in North America, the Caribbean and Europe where their goal is to become to leader in medical and therapeutic applications of psychedelics.
MAPS Research Results (MDMA used for PTSD treatment)
NYU End of Life Psychedelic Study (long term positive impact of psychedelics)
Video Games as FDA Approved Medicine with Dr. Adam Gazzaley
Dr. Adam Gazzaley, founder of Akili Interactive joins us to talk about the intersection of molecular and experiential treatments for mental health conditions. Akili is the maker of the first ever video game to be approved by the FDA as a digital therapeutic treatment for a clinical condition. We talked about how Adam and his team figured out how to use video games in this manner, how they got approval to do so and the science that proves a video game can help improve cognitive function.
We dig into the future interactions of molecular and experiential medicine and where his revolutionary treatments can take us as we learn to leverage technology to help us get better when it comes to mental health, not tear us down or make us worse which is often how people think of technology these days.
In addition to his role as Founder of Akili Interactive, Adam is a co-founder of Jazz Venture Partners, and a professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Physiology at UCSF. Dr. Adam Gazzaley obtained an M.D. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, completed Neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and postdoctoral training at University of California, Berkeley.
Adam’s book: “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World”
Jessica Carson, Author of, "Wired This Way" on Entrepreneur Mental Health
My conversation with Jessica Carson
really helped me to grow as an entrepreneur, and investor. This is one of those conversations that you
wish you could have recorded to share with everyone, and I’m so grateful we get
to share it with you.
Jessica Carson is the Director of Innovation at the American Psychological Association where she leads the organization’s effort to innovation and product strategy. She has such an incredible and diverse set of experience from her role at the APA to being an expert in residence at Georgetown University, she was formerly a Neuroscience & Psychology Research Fellow at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and a Director at NextGen Venture Partners.
Jessica recently published a book called “Wired This Way” on finding mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being as an entrepreneur. The book has been called “the essential user’s manual for the entrepreneurial spirit.” I got so much out of this conversation personally, and I am truly humbled and honored that we get to share it with you. I hope you will get as much out of it as I did.
Check Out Her Book: Wired This Way
Read more about the book here: https://jessicacarson.co/wiredthisway
Conscious Ventures: Plant Based VC Fund With a Psychedelic Focus
Today’s guest is Richard Skaife. Richard is Founder of the Conscious Fund which invests in early stage startups pioneering plant powered medicine with a focus on psychedelics. To date, they have invested in startups such as ATAI Life Sciences, Bexson Biomedical, Cybin, Gilgamesh, Hive, Microdose, Numinus and more.
Richard talks about how he found his way into VC, and gives a great summary of the psychedelic startup ecosystem including an overview of the current regulatory environment.
Behavioral Healthcare Innovation with Nicki Tessler of UHS
Today’s guest Nicki Tessler (Psy.D, MBA) is the Divisional Vice President for Behavioral Health at Universal Health Services (UHS) where she provides senior-level leadership for multiple hospitals across multiple stages for UHS. She joins us to talk about innovation in the behavioral health space and how UHS is leading the way with their “Innovation Hub” that supports behavioral health entrepreneurship.
Nicki is an extremely accomplished, and experienced Behavioral Health Executive with an impressive 20-year career in the space that began in Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, leading to Hospital Corporation of America and now Universal Health Services.
At UHS, Nicki has led the charge on innovation within the Behavioral Health Division by developing the “Innovation Hub” internally which promotes entrepreneurship in order to drive growth within the UHS business through innovation, speed, and urgency.
Nicki obtained her Psy.D. in Psychology from the University of Denver; Executive M.B.A. in Health Sector Management & Policy from the University of Miami; and M.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University.
You can connect with Nicki on LinkedIn here.
Martin Schappell - Behavioral Health Industry Veteran
Martin Schappell spent 15 years as a leader at Universal Health Services (the largest inpatient psychiatric hospital operator in the United States) as a Senior Vice President in the Behavioral segment. He joins us to talk about the behavioral health care industry, how care has evolved over the last 30 years, and the impacts of our current climate on the mental health of the seniors in our population.
In this episode we talked at length about why behavioral healthcare has changed so much, what is good about those changes as well as what is bad. We also discussed where the opportunity is for entrepreneurs in this space.
Martin now serves as president and CEO of Shell Point Retirement Community where he has been for the last 4 years. Shell Point is the second largest single site senior living community in the United States with 2,500 residents and 1,200 employees in Florida. Martin’s behavioral health care industry experience and his firsthand knowledge from operating Shell Point give him unique insights into the mounting mental health differences
Eric Dresdale - Early Pioneer in Addiction Startups
Eric Dresdale joins me to talk about building startups in the mental health and addiction space. Eric was one of the earliest entrepreneurs to build a startup in this space called “Next Step” which he sold to True Link Financial back in 2016.
He now spends a lot of time advising startups in the mental health space and has some unique insights into care models, care delivery, addiction treatment, and where entrepreneurs can find opportunity to innovate today.
Links: Eric on LinkedIn, KNWN Technologies
Using Tech to Stop Suicide with Amanda Johnstone
How can we use technology to stop suicide? How can we leverage technology to encourage vulnerability and connectivity to help people deal with difficult times? We dig in to these ideas today with Be A Looper Founder and CEO, Amanda Johnstone. Amanda and I met during a mental health tech conference (Transformative Tech Conference) in Palo Alto during November 2019. We had such a great conversation about suicide prevention, mental health, tech, and other stuff that I just had to ask her to come on and share her insights with our friends.
Amanda is from Australia. She is a social impact technologist, an inventor, an investor, a speaker an entrepreneur and has been recognized globally for her efforts around suicide prevention. Recently, she was awarded Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leader award for 2019. Past winners of this award include Greta Thunberg, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and others.
In this conversation we talk at length about the power of vulnerability, connecting with others, and how we can do a better job showing up in the world in a way where we encourage and promote others to be vulnerable and open in order to both live well, and manage through difficult times in their lives.
There are a number of ways to connect with Amanda including on social media which will be linked in the show notes.
Mentioned: The Power of Vulnerability with Brene Brown (Ted Talk)
Download Be A Looper here: https://www.bealooper.com/downloadlooper
Unwanted Sexual Behavior: What the Research Shows with Jay Stringer
Jay Stringer joins us to talk about unwanted sexual behavior (pornography, buying sex, affairs, etc.). Jay is a licensed mental health counselor, ordained minister, author, and speaker on the subject – his research revolutionized my view of this topic. His research shows a strong tie between past experiences, and sexual behavior and what we can learn from that connection.
He’s spent the last decade helping men and women gain find freedom from unwanted sexual behavior by helping them identify the unique reasons that bring them to this behavior in the first place. Jay talks to us about his book, “Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing” and the research he conducted on over 3,800 people living with unwanted sexual behavior.
We explore how the standard response by many people to the topic of sexual brokenness looks a lot like what we call “lust management.” This approach seems to work temporarily with some people, but ultimately it fails to bring people to lasting freedom. Jay explains that by listening to our lust, we can reveal the unaddressed and unresolved stories of our life in order to find true healing.
Sobriety is a Superpower with VC Steve Schlafman
Steve Schlafman is a friend, mentor, a sponsor of sorts to me, and a very experienced Venture Capitalist who also has 5-years of sobriety under his belt as of today, June 5th, 2020.
After 1 year of sobriety, Steve wrote a blog post under a pen name (which you can find here) explaining his experience getting sober and what it meant to him. Today, he’s sharing that blog post under his own name, for the first time (here on his site). Steve talks to me about how important it is to share openly because that’s what gives others the strength to get help and open up as well.
Steve explains that sobriety is a superpower. He talks about how his life has been radically transformed by sobriety as well as what life was life before, what changed and what life is like now.
You can connect with Steve here: Twitter, LinkedIn, Website, Instagram, High Output (coaching practice), Steve’s Personal Blog
Items mentioned during our chat: Steve’s Original 1-year blog post
Black Men's Mental Health with Kevin Dedner, MPH
Kevin Dedner is co-founder and CEO of Henry Health. Henry Health is a digital community that provides self-care support and culturally sensitive teletherapy. Henry Health’s initial target audience is black men who have the lowest life expectancy of any population. In fact, the stated goal of Henry Health is to increase the life expectancy of black men by ten years within the next twenty-five years.
Kevin has over 15 years of experience in public health (he also has a Masters in Public Health degree) – He’s worked on a variety of issues including childhood obesity, HIV/AIDS, and tobacco control. He has worked with numerous public health entities including the nation’s largest public health foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Links mentioned in the show:
Kevin’s Blog Post: Bernard Tyson was our leader, Why do Black Men die so soon?
Dr. James Sherman’s 1994 Report: John Henryism and The Health of African-Americans
KoreVoices Founder Jesse Stern
KoreVoices is a community of over 200,000 people overcoming mental health issues by sharing stories and offering support. The mission of KoreVoices is to build a movement that allows people to find solutions to their mental health issues, while also helping others. Here at the Stigma Podcast we feel their mission aligns very closely with ours!
Jesse built KoreVoices after spending nearly 10 years producing issue driven documentaries all over the world for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. KoreVoices has an incredible reach and helps untold numbers of people with the mental health, and with connectivity.
Bipolar 1 - Public Perception Versus Reality - Examples of Lived Experiences
Jason Finucan and I both live with type-1 bipolar disorder.
We have had vastly different experiences with the illness. In this episode, we explore what this disease looks like, how it manifested itself in our own lives and how we got better. We challenge the public perception of bipolar disorder and how the media portrays it. One of the key takeaways from this conversation is how differently two people can experience the same mental illness.
Today, Jason is an author, mental health advocate, stigma fighter, professional speaker, and founder of StigmaZero, Jason is also the creator of the StigmaZero Online Training Academy, where he combats work-place stigma and helps employers to create a stigma free working environment.
Starting a Business From Prison with Emily O'Brien
“I launched a Company While Serving Time for Coke Smuggling” – Emily O’Brien
I’m so inspired by our conversation with Emily O’Brien. Emily is a keynote speaker, entrepreneur, consultant, and convict. Emily is an entrepreneur, who started her current business from prison. She overcame far more than most entrepreneurs have to deal with, to start her business. She is the founder of Comeback Snacks where the website proudly proclaims, “We broke the law, but we fix good snacks!”
In this episode, Emily talks about why she went to prison, how her perspective on life changed during that time and how she started her business from prison. We talked about where she is with the business today, how it is scaling and what is next for her. Her story is incredibly inspiring. Check it out!
My Sober Compass with Arielle Dyment
Arielle Dyment is an influencer in the recovery community, and a highly sought-after sober coach. She joins us to talk about addiction, getting sober, and how she’s helping people who are falling through the cracks of the existing recovery solutions in the market.
Arielle built a recovery coaching platform called My Sober Compass in order to help people get sober and stay sober. In this podcast, she tells her story of addiction, how she found her way to recovery, and why she started a platform to help others get well.
It's OK to Need Medication to Be Ok with Nyemade Boiwu
Today’s guest is Nyemade Boiwu. Nyemade recently wrote blog post on the NAMI website titled “It’s Okay If You Need Meds to Be Okay.” This post caught my eye because I’ve been a part of several conversations lately about stigma where taking medication has been the focal point.
In today’s conversation Nyemade and I tackle the stigma of mental health medication from the perspective of two people who both take medication for mental health differences. I hope you learn as much from her perspectives as I did.
You can connect with Nyemade here and find links mentioned in the episode here: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, All her links on Link Tree, Nami Article: It’s Okay If you Need Meds to be Okay
Meru Health Founder and CEO - Kristian Ranta
Kristian Ranta, founder and CEO of Meru Health, lost his older brother to suicide in 2005 pushing Kristian to build a mental health solution that could help others dealing with the same problems his brother had. Kristian joins us this week to talk about how his brother’s personal struggle with depression and substance use was never addressed, in part, due to lack of access to quality care.
Kristian founded Meru Health in 2016 and the Company has evolved to become a tech-enabled telehealth practice that features a 12-week digital therapeutic program including therapists, psychiatrists, digital therapeutics and HRV bio feedback.
Kristian also shares with us his advice for entrepreneurs who are aspiring to build startups in the mental health space. He has published great content himself on this topic which we share below as well.
Men's Mental Health with EVRYMAN Founder Lucas Krump
Lucas Krump joins me on the podcast this week to talk about men’s mental health. Lucas started a company called EVRYMAN, for the sole purpose of helping men, improve their mental health and wellbeing by focused on the unique dynamics that men deal with around mental health and wellness.
Lucas is passionate about connection, community, and emotional wellness. As CEO and Co-Founder of EVRYMAN, Lucas together with EVRYMAN co-founders Dan Doty, Owen Marcus and Sascha Lewis lead a global movement that brings men together to develop their emotional skillset, enabling deeper connections with themselves and others. Since launching in 2017, EVRYMAN has supported thousands of men to lead happier, healthier more connected lives via retreats, weekly groups and online programs. EVRYMAN has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Health, The Today Show and The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.
He is an adventurer and a traveler. Lucas grew up in Kansas, after college he spent 10 years living in Africa and Asia before moving to New York City and now Hudson, New York. where he calls home. His passion for service and commitment to purpose are rooted in his Jesuit education and midwest values. He believes deeply in human connection and its ability to heal wounds and open hearts to the endless possibilities of the human experience.
The mission statement of the EVRYMAN program says that we cannot change what life brings, but we can change how we respond. This resonates strongly with a lot of what I have learned in recovery from addiction.
Zak Williams on Sobriety and Mental Health After Father, Robin Williams' Suicide
Zak Williams joins us to talk about how he handled the passing of his father (actor Robin Williams) and how he found his way to sobriety, and eventually to mental health advocacy.
Zak explains that finding ways to serve, and to help others, was a huge part of his path to wellness and that being vulnerable, is one of the most important parts wellness and sobriety for him.
His story of substance use, and difficulties with mental health differences reminds me of my own personal experience and is highly relatable for anyone who may be struggling or know someone who is struggling.
Changing Your Brain Chemistry with Dr. Laura Murray
Did you know we can manually adjust our brain chemistry leading to increased happiness (and health)?
Did you know that in countries like Zambia, people with a 4th and 5th grade education are being taught to successfully administer mental health treatment to local populations? What can we learn from that effort to improve access and cost to much needed mental health care services in the United States?
We discuss all of this, and how these learnings can be applied to help us manage our mental health during physical distancing due to COVID-19 with Dr. Laura Murray. Dr. Murray is a Senior Scientist at Johns Hopkins school of Public Health in the Department of Mental Health and International Health. She is a clinical psychologist by training.
Dr. Murray’s recent Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun: “Coronavirus stressing you out? Here’s how to cope (March 2020)
Combating Loneliness and Isolation in College Students During COVID-19
Dr. Danielle Ramo, from HopeLab joined me this week to talk about the launch of the Nod app. Nod was built by HopeLab in collaboration with Grit Digital Health. Nod’s mission is to reduce loneliness in young people and to prevent adverse effects during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
Danielle is a clinical psychologist and the Senior Director of Research at HopeLab, which is a non-profit social innovation lab based in San Francisco creating behavior change tech to help teens and young adults live happier, healthier lives. Danielle has worked extensively on projects ranging from addressing loneliness among college students, teen vaping, mental health of young parents, young people with cancer, and a multitude of others.
She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco, leading a research program at the intersection of substance use and digital mental health. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed publications and publications on drug use and mental health.
Connect with Danielle and her work: LinkedIn, Danielle’s website, Danielle’s recent article in Thrive Global on ways college students can deal with loneliness during the COVID pandemic
How to Fix Mental Health Care in America
Ben is a clinical psychologist and spent a decade as a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine where he did extensive work to understand how we can better integrate Primary and Behavioral care resources and what an idea mental health care system would look like in America.
Ben is one of the most well-informed people I’ve spoken to when it comes to:
What is wrong with mental health care in America?
How did it get this way?
How do we fix it?
Who is responsible?
I hope you find this conversation as helpful and educational as I did.
Connect with Ben: LinkedIn, Twitter, OpEd: Mental Illness is Epidemic Within the Coronavirus Pandemic by Ben Miller
Well Being Trust: Healing the Nation Report, Well Being Trust Website, Twitter, Pain in The Nation Report
Ginger Founder, Karan Singh on Building a Mental Health Startup
Have you ever wondered how to build a mental health startup? Are you an entrepreneur that is hoping to start a company in the mental health space?
In this episode Karan:
-Tells the founding story of Ginger
-Explains how Ginger has evolved and where it is going
-Shares what opportunities he sees available for entrepreneurs wanting to build a startup in the mental health space
COVID-19, Isolation, Loneliness and Your Mental Health
In the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s important to know how we can maintain our mental health. Kasley Killam, joins me for a conversation about loneliness, and isolation during this trying time and how we can protect our mental health even when we may not be able to connect physically with others.
Kasley is a Masters of Public Health Candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and a social health advocate as well as a Contributing Writer at Scientific American (and has been for 5 years).
In March, 2020 she published an article in Scientific American titled, “How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing.” In this conversation we cover her suggestions on this topic, and we dig into what isolation is, how it’s different than loneliness and why both impact us as humans so much.
Some of Kasley’s recent writing:
Keto Diet - A Cure For Mental Illness? (Dr. Chris Palmer)
Can the Ketogenic diet cure mental illness? Has it really been used to cure epilepsy? Is it safe? How does it work? We answer all of these questions in this conversation with Dr. Chris Palmer.
Dr. Chris Palmer is one of the world’s leading researcher on the use of ketogenic therapies for treating neurological disorders. He has done extensive research on the intersection of psychiatric disorders and metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and inflammation). There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about the ketogenic diet and therapies. Dr. Palmer dispels these myths in our conversation.
In this conversation Dr. Palmer explains the ketogenic diet, how it impacts your body, what it can and can’t do, and how it can impact not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. We took a deep dive into the connection between the gut microbiome, mental health, and mental illness in this episode as well as how to use the ketogenic diet to reduce symptoms from psychiatric disorders.
Connect with Dr. Palmer and learn more about his work via these links:
Other resources mentioned in this episode:
Virta Clinic – Keto diet cures diabetes and other health benefits
Corporate Executive Mental Health Leaderboard with Rob Stephenson
In this episode I spoke with Rob Stephenson who is moving mountains to defeat stigma around mental health. He’s one of the most active, and most impactful people I’ve met when it comes to fighting stigma around mental health. His motivation is driven by his own mental health struggle with bipolar disorder and the overwhelming response he received a few years ago when he decided to come out about his struggles.
His main focuses today are:
InsideOut Leader Board – An annual list of senior leaders from corporations that have been open about their mental health struggles. The list is designed to celebrate each leader who has decided to be open, thus playing their part in reducing stigma and helping others within their organization to speak out and seek help. Click here to see the current list of corporate mental health role models on the board.
G24 Global Mental Health Summit – A global mental health summit, spanning a 24-hour period on May 18, 2020. The summit is designed to bring people together globally during this time of need around mental health. G24 will start at 9am Sydney time on May 18 and finish at 5pm in San Francisco and will involve 3 consecutive remote events hosted over 3 main time zones allowing the world to connect.
Coming Out About Mental Illness
Coming out about having a mental illness isn’t easy. Elizabeth Horner, psychiatric nurse, mother of 4, joins us to talk about how she decided to come out to her friends and family about her bipolar disorder.
In our conversation we both shared our experiences from finding out about our bipolar diagnosis, to how we deal with it and what we can do to encourage others to speak their truth and de-stigmatize having a mental health difference.
Elizabeth’s story of how she finally decided to get help, then how she spent nearly 2 decades keeping her truth to herself and how she decided to come out about her diagnosis sheds a lot of light on the stigma associated with mental health that we face from society, from family and from friends. This highlights the need for us to talk about these things and normalize them so stigma decreases.
West Point Grads Talk Addiction, Rehab, and Mindfulness - With Nick Padlo
Nick Padlo joins us for a very candid conversation about addiction, rehab, recovery, relapsing, and mindfulness. Nick is a long-time friend, and he’s a West Point classmate from the class of 2003. After a successful career in the Army, he obtained an MBA from Stanford GSB and ultimately formed a pledge fund to acquire and launch the Pet Loss Center. He drove the company to incredible growth.
In the midst of all of the success he was having as an entrepreneur, he struggled with addiction. But this isn’t a story of “entrepreneurship drove me to addiction” rather it’s a story of how personal struggles drove him to coping mechanisms which eventually led to addiction that impacted his ability to run his business.
Nick ended up going to rehab, then going again about a year later. After his second trip to rehab, instead of going to an IOP afterward, he took a trip to Southeast Asia to focus on something he knew he was weak at, which is mindfulness. We spend time talking about the mindfulness facility he attended in Cambodia, what he learned there, what it was like on a daily basis and how it has changed his life.
You can connect with Nick Padlo here: Nick’s LinkedIn
What is the Role of the Church in Mental Health
Michael Perron is one of my sponsors in recovery. He is also a minister who created and runs the Life Recovery Program at Prestonwood Baptist Church. This program has been very influential in my recovery and was instrumental in saving my life from addiction and mental illness.
Michael himself struggled for over 15 years with addiction to drugs and alcohol. In this episode he talks about a spiritual encounter that he had, that turned his life around and set him on a path to ministry and dedicating his life to helping others.
We dig into the role of Churches and faith-based organizations in helping people who struggle with addiction, mental illness, and mental health differences. We talked at length about how the Church sometimes handles this in ways that promote stigma and do not encourage wellness.
Michael explains how faith-based organizations can be effective in helping people who are struggling as well as the loved ones of those who are experiencing mental health differences and substance abuse issues. He also talks about how the federal government is getting involved in supporting churches in this effort via the Department of Health and Human Services.
Homeless Naval Academy Graduate Gets Back on His Feet Via Entrepreneurship - Bob Moran
Bob Moran graduated from the Naval Academy in 1983. He served honorably as a Marine officer, but as he neared retirement from the military, he didn’t make the transition into civilian life as smoothly as others do.
Like many veterans, Bob struggled to integrate into society, struggled to get the right jobs, and perpetually under-earned versus his potential as a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. This struggle, combined with his own mental health differences led Bob to losing relationship, his home, and his income.
Eventually, Bob found help in a civilian homeless shelter and made his way to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA helped him get back on his feet and now Bob has turned to entrepreneurship, in the mental health space, to build a better life.
Bob’s startup is called Mirror Image Clothing. He explains what they do and their mental health mission during our conversation.
Afghan Refugee - Mental Illness Startup Founder - Sophia Mahfooz
Sophia Mahfooz is a survivor, she is a role model and she is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met. She was born pre-maturely, as her village in Afghanistan was bombed while her young parents fled to a refugee camp. This trauma shocked her mother into labor and left Sophia with very little chance to survive. Shortly after this, her family quickly fled the war-torn village where she was born after their home was destroyed.
Sophia spent many of her formative years living as a refugee in Afghanistan, and later in England. In our conversation, she tells the story of her family fleeing Afghanistan, making their way to England, and eventually how she moved to San Francisco to become an entrepreneur.
She originally traveled to the U.S. to care for her brother who struggled with bipolar disorder. She couldn’t afford to seek treatment for him within the U.S. healthcare system, and she couldn’t send him back to England, so she decided to figure out another way to treat him. Her efforts resulted in a solution that she hopes to replicate and commercialize for others who are trying to help their loved ones find relief from serious mental illness in a cost effective, and natural way.
She is building a startup to bring her vision to market to help others. Her business is called NeuroX.
Making Mental Health a Priority Issue in The Election
In our latest episode, I had the chance to speak with congressional candidate Lindsey Boylan. She is a candidate for congress in NY’s 10th district.
I found myself getting emotional a few times during my conversation with her. She has a very personal reason for pushing a mental health agenda as part of her campaign. If you do nothing more than watch her short video on why mental health is such a big part of her platform here.
In this episode Lindsey explains how the people in her district are spending more time searching for things like mental health, depression and anxiety on Google, versus gun control, climate change and plumbers. Not to diminish those other issues, but her constituents need a candidate who cares about what they care about. Americans needs politicians who care about what we struggle with because they have experienced it personally.
Lindsey is a New Yorker, a lifelong public servant and has done some great work in her service efforts to help secure hundreds of millions of dollars for underfunded public housing in NY, she’s worked to generate job growth in NY state, and she was heavily involved in the fight for a $15 minimum wage in NY.
She is a Board Member at the Design Trust for Public Space, she is on the Powerhouse Committee at “Run for Something” which is a group that encourages young progressives to run for state and local office, and she spends time advocating for NAMI-NYC (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Stigma, Discrimination, Recovery, and Politics
In this episode Stephen Hays chats with Ryan Hampton about Ryan’s personal addiction journey that has led Ryan to the forefront of our national conversation on addiction and recovery. Ryan shares his story and talks about where we are as a country on combatting addiction, fostering recovery, and defeating stigma. Ryan really tells it how it is, and if you are at all concerned about how the government is dealing with (or not dealing with) drugs or addiction, you will feel better when you hear that Ryan is on our side (and when you hear what he’s doing).
Ryan is a former white house staffer (Clinton Administration) and is leading the national conversation about addiction and recovery. He is the author of the book, American Fix – Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis and How to End it. He’s also part of a team that released the first-ever U.S. Surgeon Generals Report on Addiction (2016) and has been called a “top social entrepreneur” by Forbes. He’s appeared on countless broadcasts on Fox News, CNN, NPR, HLN, and in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Vice, HuffPost and many other publications. He is an authoritative figure on addiction and recovery in America.
Ryan has been instrumental in getting addiction legislation drafted, and passed both in California, and at the Federal level including HR 4684, also known as “Tyler’s Law” or the “Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act of 2018.”
PsyberGuide - 'Consumer Reports' for Mental Health Apps
In this episode Stephen Hays chats with Dr. Stephen Schueller about the role of technology in treating people for mental health conditions as well as the landscape of existing technology solutions, and those that are yet to be built.
Dr. Schueller is an assistant professor of Psychological Science at the University of California in Irvine and he is also the Executive Director of PsyberGuide, which is a non-profit functioning as the ‘consumer reports’ agency of the mental health technology world. Dr. Schueller has a team of people who evaluate technological tools (such as apps, and other tools) used in the treatment and improvement of mental health.
Let's Talk About Sex (Addiction)
Stephen Hays sits down with Dr. Alexandra Katehakis to talk about sex addiction. Dr. Katehakis is a pioneer in the study of sex addiction, and healthy sexual behavior. In this episode we talk about what sex addiction is, where it stems from, how to treat it, and how to know if you need help. It’s a provocative conversation on one of the most stigmatized addictions we face.
Dr. Katehakis is a Marriage Family Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist/Supervisor and Certified Sex Therapist/Supervisor, and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. Dr. Katehakis has extensive experience in working with a full spectrum of sexuality; from sexual addiction to sex therapy, as well as and problems of sexual desire and sexual dysfunction for individuals and couples. She has successfully facilitated the recovery of many sexually addicted individuals and assisted couples in revitalizing their sex lives.
She has written numerous books on the topics of sex addiction, erotic intelligence, the neurobiology of sex addiction, intimacy, and other topics related to this space.
GETTING SOBER WITH ALEX WILHELM OF TECHCRUNCH
In this episode, Stephen Hays and his friend Alex Wilhelm talk about their shared experiences in recovering from addiction. Alex was most recently, the editor in chief of Crunchbase News, and is currently the host of the Equity Podcast on TechCrunch. He’s been covering the tech world as a journalist for many years and has had a wide variety of experiences in the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystems.
Alex had a huge impact on my decision to get sober, and my decision to get help when I got to the point where I decided I wanted it. In this episode Alex shares why he got sober, when he realized he needed help, how he got help and then what he has done to maintain 3 and a half years of continuous sobriety.
We also talk about how society views addiction, and how stigma plays a role in that societal perception as well as when and how some people get help.
Children’s Mental Health and the Role of Educators
Children’s Mental Health and the Role of Educators
In this episode of the Stigma Podcast, Stephen Hays had a chance to speak with Mandy Froehlich. Mandy is an educator, and personally, opens with us about overcoming PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Mandy is an experienced educator who leverages her professional experience, and her passion for learning, to teach, train, and inspire other teachers to renew their excitement for teaching, and re-engage with their profession in an innovative way.
Currently, she spends her time consulting school districts and post-secondary institutions on effective use of technology to support teaching, mental health support for educators, and how to create organizational change within educational institutions.
Mandy has published a couple of books. The first was titled “The Fire Within: Lessons from defeat that have ignited a passion for learning” – where she discusses the idea of mental health awareness within schools. Her most recent book, titled, “Divergent EDU” is based on an organizational structure concept called “Hierarchy of Needs for Innovation and Divergent Thinking” which was developed to support teachers in innovative and divergent thinking.
Mandy is also the host of a podcast, called “Teacher’s Aid” – which focuses on provided social and emotional support for the very personal challenges that teachers face.
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