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Stigma Podcast

Where we fight stigma by sharing stories of experience, strength and hope for those struggling with addiction and mental health.

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What is the Purpose of
the Stigma Podcast?

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Stigma Kills

Stigma is the number 1 reason why people do not get help when they struggle with mental wellness, or addiction, and most people who struggle, never get help.

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Sharing Saves Lives

When we share our experiences, a virtuous cycle begins. Others are encouraged to share, and eventually, people feel comfortable asking for help.

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Fighting Stigma

Host Stephen Hays, talks with clinicians, entrepreneurs, every day people living in recovery about how mental health has impacted their life and the lives of their loved ones.


Corporate Executive Mental Health Leaderboard with Rob Stephenson

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

You can learn more about Rob and his work here: Rob’s LinkedIn, InsideOut Leaderboard, G24 Global Mental Health Summit, Article on G24, Form Score overview

Coming Out About Mental Illness

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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.

You can learn more about Elizabeth here: Blog Post: Coming Out With Bipolar, Her Blog Site, Elizabeth’s Email, January 2020 Post on Self-Acceptance

West Point Grads Talk Addiction, Rehab, and Mindfulness - With Nick Padlo

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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

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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.

You can connect with Michael Perron and the Life Recovery group here:  Email:, Life Recovery Program, Life Recovery at Prestonwood (Facebook Group)

Homeless Naval Academy Graduate Gets Back on His Feet Via Entrepreneurship - Bob Moran

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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.

You can connect with Bob Moran here:  LinkedIn, Startup: Mirror Image Clothing on Etsy, Instagram, Email

Afghan Refugee - Mental Illness Startup Founder - Sophia Mahfooz

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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.

You can connect with Sophia here: LinkedIn, NeuroX Website, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Instagram

Streamlining the Pathway to Mental Health Care with Strong365 Founder, Chantel Garrett

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Chantel Garrett, Founder and Executive Director of Strong365 joins me for a conversation about psychosis, schizophrenia, and how we can help people when they first start to struggle.

One of the biggest problems we face in helping people who struggle from mental illness is reducing the “pathway to care” from the first symptoms until treatment. The average duration from symptom to treatment in the U.S. is 15 months when the World Health Organization says it should be under 3 weeks.

Strong365, is a non-profit, and a subsidiary of OneMind. Chantel and her team are on a mission to connect people who need help, and the loved ones of those people, through online education, 24/7 peer support, and connection to specialized care centers across the U.S. in order to reduce the time to care for those who need it.

Chantel has a degree in applied economics from UC SF and lives in SF with her husband, 2 daughters, 1 dog and 5 chickens!

You can connect with Chantel here: Strong 365 Website, Chantel’s Twitter, Chantel’s LinkedIn

Making Mental Health a Priority Issue in The Election

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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).

You can connect with Lindsey Boylan and learn more about her work here:  Campaign Website, LinkedIn, ‘Mental Health is Personal’ Video, Twitter

Walk and Talk Therapy in NYC with Clay Cockrell

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In this episode Stephen Hays chats with Clay Cockrell.  Clay is a therapist in New York, NY and has gained quite a bit of notoriety for the medium through which he meets his clients.  He meets his clients for walks.  Clay started Walk and Talk Therapy in NYC after realizing many busy professionals simply don’t have time to transit to therapy sessions. 

Clay has been featured on numerous TV shows, and in many publications including Good Morning America, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London and the NY Times for his unique approach of walking with his therapy clients instead of meeting in an office.

It is evident from our conversation that Clay is passionate about helping people navigate the complicated world of accessing mental health care.  His entire career has been focused on making therapy convenient.  He created The Online Counseling Directory – which connects qualified psychotherapists and life coaches with clients all over the world. 

Clay is also the host of the podcast “Finding Therapy” where he takes listeners through a step by step process of finding the right therapist and he hosts another podcast called “The Online Counseling Podcast” where he educates therapists on the ethical and effective ways to use technology to connect with clients.

You can connect with Clay Cockrell and learn more about his work here: Walk and Talk TherapyLinkedIn, OnlineCounseling.comPodcast: Finding Therapy, Podcast: Online Counseling.

Stigma, Discrimination, Recovery, and Politics

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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.”

You can connect with Ryan Hampton and learn more about his work here: Ryan Hampton’s Website, Book: American Fix, Ryan’s Twitter,

PsyberGuide - 'Consumer Reports' for Mental Health Apps

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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.

You can connect with Dr. Stephen Schueller and learn more about his work here: Stephen’s Twitter, PsyberGuide Website, Stephen’s LinkedIn, Facebook (PsyberGuide), Press on Dr. Schueller

Let's Talk About Sex (Addiction)

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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.

You can connect with Dr. Katehakis and learn more about her work here: Twitter, Center for Healthy Sex, Her Books on Amazon, Her Books on Her Website

Suicidal Ideation and Self Harm - What to do When it's Your Child

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Stephen Hays had a raw, personal, and honest conversation with Robbie Millward about mental health, suicidal ideation, self-harm and how Robbie struggled with these things in his life, and what he’s done to overcome them. 

Robbie is a military veteran and now serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI in New Hampshire where he has taken part in drafting materials that guide how New Hampshire’s state level first responders handle mental health crisis situations.  Robbie has overcome a lot with respect to his own mental health and he has used that as a platform to help others. 

I was moved by Robbie’s story of his experience with thoughts of self-harm, how he has gotten help and the action plan he has in place to prevent any future self-harm.  He also shares about how his daughter has struggled with these thoughts as well and how he has worked with his daughter to overcome those struggles.  We go into detail on how to develop an action plan, what to look for and how to respond when a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.

You can connect with Robbie here: LinkedIn, Twitter, Website, Video of Robbie Telling His Story

If you are in a state of distress or emergency and need to talk to someone, never hesitate to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Opioid Addiction Prevention – with Yossuf Albanawi Founder of Pilleve

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In this episode Stephen Hays speaks with Yossuf Albanawi, co-founder of Opioid addiction solution, Pilleve.  Yossuf is a graduate of Wake Forest University, he is a fellow at the Halcyon Incubator in Washington DC.

This conversation is about the Opioid crisis.  This is such a huge problem in our society, and we need solutions faster than we are bringing them to market.  While there are traditional resources available for people once they become addicted, there are no solutions on the market focused on preventing addiction effectively. That’s the focus of Pilleve – to prevent addiction to Opioids while still allowing doctors to prescribe these drugs, when necessary, with reduced risk of addiction.

You can connect with Youssef and learn more about his work here: Pilleve Website, Yossuf on LinkedIn, Pilleve on Twitter,

Children’s Mental Health and the Role of Educators

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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.

You can connect with Mandy and learn more about her work here: Her Website, Her Twitter, LinkedIn, Teacher’s Aid Podcast

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