Mental Illness: A Communicable Disease?

There has been an enormous amount of press and publicity about the Ebola virus and the lives this terrible communicable disease has recently claimed. The current statistic reports that presently the Ebola death toll nears 1,000 people worldwide. Thank goodness, steps are being taken to overcome this horrible killer. Lots of discussion, awareness, worry, work, research and medical methodologies are being implemented to find help. Lots of attention, lots of compassion…

What about Mental Illness? The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the following statistics (brace yourself):

  • One in four adults (61.5 million Americans) experience mental illness in a given year.
  • 14.8 million Americans live with major depression
  • 42 million Americans have anxiety disorders
  • Approximately 60% of those suffering with mental illness do not receive any treatment
  • Individuals with mental illness have an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions
  • Adults with mental illness die on the average, 25 years earlier than other Americans largely do to treatable medical conditions
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and the 3rd leading cause for ages 15-24

These statistics are based on reported and diagnosed cases. The real numbers are probably much higher. Experts report that mental illness is on the rise.

Research has already suggested that there in an inheritable component to mental illness. But, is mental illness also a “communicable” disease? Are some people carriers of mental illness? Is it being spread around? After 35 years of psychotherapy practice, my opinion on these questions is “probably yes”. If you have mentally ill parents or siblings, live with a mentally ill partner or work/play with mentally ill people, your chances of contracting some form of it probably go up. If you find yourself repetitively in a stress-filled environment, your chances of breathing it in and contracting it probably go up. Everyone is at risk for mental illness. No one is immune to mental illness. No one.

As with any serious disease, the potential outcome for having mental illness is death. Are you concerned about Ebola? Get way more concerned about mental illness. The chances of you or someone you know “catching” it are far greater. What are you willing to do about this epidemic? Can we even begin to talk about it?

RIP Robin Williams

Posted in Necessary Conversations, Second-Hand Shock, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JFK and I

I was ten years old when a teacher whose name I do not remember barged into my fifth grade classroom and cried out, “The President has been shot. They think he is dead!” I can still feel that electric bolt of shock shoot through my body, I can still smell the severe scent of dread.

Ten years old was a very tender age of development. It was a time when I began to feel the first flourish of abstract reasoning and I was looking for role models. JFK was one of my first chosen role models. I admired how he wore the cloak of leadership. It all started for me when my mother drove us to a mall close to where we lived in New York because he was campaigning and driving through town. We got to see him standing up in the limousine waving to the crowd, waving to us, waving to me. He was handsome and winsome. He had a beautiful smile and soulful eyes. Those were the days when you could actually get close enough to notice and appreciate smiles and eyes.

I became a fan of JFK on that day. I had a schoolgirl crush on him. I loved him like I loved the Beatles. I watched him debate Nixon, I saw him take the oath of office in the freezing cold with his warm breath visibly condensing in the frigid air. I was ten years old, a very tender age.

Those days of mourning over the loss of JFK were horrifying, sorrowful and greatly intensified by witnessing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV. I was home alone when I saw it. More trauma. I still feel traumatized when I think about it. All the grown-ups around me were also in a state of shock and so incredibly sad.

Our country was forever changed with the assassination of JFK and everything he symbolized. We lost an innovative, energizing and a global thinker. The New Frontier was now spattered with blood. How could someone who was anti-fragile (able to grow and thrive from some major physical and health challenges) be taken out in a few Zapruder film frames? I was never the same either as the curtain lowered on my childhood innocence and my first experience of profound loss introduced itself to me.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

This little unrehearsed video explains why collaborative practitioners will benefit from training in our Streamlined Protocols. On another note, I had to chuckle when I saw it…two coaching divas doing their thing. Click on the video link below to hear more.

Humor aside, this September 26th training in Tarrytown, NY will elevate Collaborative Professionals to far more effective and cost-efficient levels of practice. Join us with our co-trainers Andrew Hoffman, CFP, CDFA and George Richardson, JD, CLFS.  See you in Tarrytown!

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

I just returned from LA where, with my training team, I presented a three-day training in Collaborative Divorce. One initial observation I made from this training: many divorce lawyers who practice non-collaboratively are highly anxious and strung out about their work. Throughout the training, time and again, I saw and heard professionals express levels of high anxiety and borrowed worry about their clients:

  • “What about getting my client’s needs met?”
  • “I would feel ashamed of myself if I didn’t get in there and pitch for my client”.
  • “I am supposed to fight for my client. I just can’t sit around and keep quiet!”

Now that we understand, through many years of Collaborative work, that divorcing clients are at some level of trauma/crisis when they seek out a lawyer; we also realize that, as their divorce professionals, we are ever-at-risk to go into the trauma with them and begin reacting with impulsive, limbic aggression “on behalf of the client”. We mistakenly think that this is what is expected of us: to take on the trauma of the client.

In Collaborative Divorce, we notice the trauma of the client, but we do NOT take it on. Instead, we meet the client in the trauma-fog of his/her divorce and we help lead them out to various financial, emotional and legal safety zones which alleviate their anxiety and empower them to be rationally and responsibly present for a recuperative and constructive divorce resolution. This is a much more creative and satisfying way to work.

If you are a divorce professional, do yourself a vocational favor and get trained in Collaborative Divorce. You will be much less anxious and more pleased in the positive meaning of your work.

Upcoming trainings:

  • New York-September 26-27
  • Phoenix-January 16-18

I hope to see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You Tube: Transference and Countertransference

This video has received almost 10,000 views since I posted it to You Tube. You Tube is a great pathway to “show ‘em what you got”. Please have a look. It speaks for itself.

Link | Posted on by | 2 Comments

Linked In Think-Tank

Linked In is one form of social media that actually feels less “social” and more professional to me. It carries an air of being sophisticated, savvy and success-oriented. Navigating around Linked In usually feels like a worthwhile investment of my time and attention.

I use Linked In to generate interest in and direct traffic to my blog. Here is one strategy for optimizing Linked In:

  • research and join as many Linked In groups you can find that you believe would be interested in reading your blog.
  • every time you publish a blog, go to each group you joined and start a discussion with appreciative inquiry.
  • after you ask the respectful question, paste the link to your blog right after it.
  • be sure to return regularly to the discussion to graciously acknowledge and interact with everyone who comments on the discussion you initiated.

Here is an example. As a communication specialist, I belong to several alternative dispute resolution groups on Linked In. When I blog, I will go to each group and ask a respectful question, such as, “How do we help our children to be okay when divorcing parents continue to fight?” I will then follow the discussion question with the link to my blog which expands an answer to my posed question.

This think-tank approach has increased my reader-base and has kept my energy and enthusiasm elevated for continued blogging.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

In Pace Pipio

Tweeting is not really my strong suit. My nature is much louder and much more verbose than a chirp-here and a chirp-there. But, the times demand a tweeter and so I hesitantly take part and probably am not utilizing this form of media to a fraction of its  potential. Somewhat reputed for being redundant, I must admit that I am actually pretty facile with the  retweet.

As a former foreign language major, I am somewhat dismayed at the neurological wall I hit about twitterverse. It looks more like hieroglyphics to me. I studied latin and the romance languages, not the hash tag. However, tweeting has become the universal language and the ability to speak it is paramount to writing success. Is it available on Rosetta Stone? Latin for Tweet in peace: #inpacepipio.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Facebook and Mental Health

I have the honor of serving as a contributor/administrator of a Mental Health Facebook Page. This page has over 13,000 followers. The irony is that the page does not usually give me any direct exposure. I sign the end of each inspirational post with the name “Doc Ellie” and choose to stay somewhat sequestered in the social media shadows. Why wouldn’t I take more advantage of this platform?

Yes, yes; part of the reason is to maintain some privacy. But, in truth, the main reason is that I am using the platform to help others, not myself. Obviously, it is usually very rewarding. But sometimes, helping others through this social media venue is not for the faint-hearted. I have had some nasty, hurtful, attacking comments made on my “happy-to-help” posts for all to see. I have had to remove myself from my laptop on many occasions to refrain from defending my post, arguing or fighting back with some of the fans.

So what’s the point of this social media exercise? What do I get out of it? I have learned to thicken my author-skin, take some very raw feedback, push out of my comfort zone, and brace myself for some very tough love in return. I have learned to observe others be reactive to my writing in real time and just let it be. For me, these writing experiences might be better coined as Facebook Anti-Social Media with a silver lining. …some of the best training I have ever had.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sorrow at Sandy Hook: One Path for Children’s Trauma Relief

I am trying so hard to find a way to deal with my own trauma and grief from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One way for me to feel better during a time like this is to try to help. As a mental health professional, one way to get through my own sorrow is to share a trauma-relief option that might help the surviving children to deal with their internalized grief and sorrow. I might as well share it. I’m sure others have this same idea.

The children at Sandy Hook Elementary School have an incredible challenge ahead of them. They have to find a way to debrief and resolve the trauma that they have absorbed. The daunting trial for them lies in their experience of an extremely traumatic event, developmentally. This horrific experience defies their developmental ability to put words to it and verbalize their feelings about it. Internalized trauma has the potential to arrest, or at least arrest a portion of, their development at this painful point in time and burden them in the future.

So, here is one healing idea for the children who survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Help get them back into a new, safe, school environment as soon as possible. Spread out paper all over the gymnasium floor. Make sure that safe adults are standing all around the perimeter. Let the children create art and sign their names to it. Let them express themselves for most of the day, for the first day or two back into school. Assemble the children’s art and incorporate it in into a permanent memorial for their fallen classmates.

Just one idea.

Posted in Second-Hand Shock, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Divorce: Helping Economically Stressed Families

Little six year-old Robert sits on the floor by the low table in my office, carefully choosing crayons and chatting with me as he begins my requested task: “Please draw me a picture of a house.” Robert frowns and I become quite confused as he quickly completes the picture and hands it to me. I hold it up and remark, “Robert, tell me about this picture.” He whispers, “I drew a boat. I don’t want to draw a house.” He looks at me squarely in the eye and continues, “My Dad cries all the time and says my Mom is trying to make him leave our house because of the divorce. He says everyone will have to leave the house. He says there is no more money for a house. I am not going to draw a house.”

Yikes! Even after thirty-three years as a mental health professional it still never fails to amaze me when I experience the sadness and anxiety of children of divorce. When I shared this innocent child’s picture with his parents, they were shocked. They were shocked at the picture of the boat and how Robert placed it on the page in very heavily lined, dark, stormy waters. They became quickly motivated to find ways to stop power-struggling over their failing finances. They simultaneously got back to their commonly held value: the well-being of their son.

Honestly, I think things have gotten even harder for children of divorce after the Great Recession. Kids used to be scared about their parents, their stuff, their rooms in the face of divorce. Now I see kids, along with their divorcing parents, also fretting more and more about money and the financial challenges of two-household families. I, myself, worry about these transitioning families and believe now, more than ever, that Collaborative Divorce is the best option to care for this population.

Collaborative Divorce, with its full-team model of two lawyers, two coaches, child specialist and financial specialist can address all the dimensions of divorce and help today’s financially weakened families transition peacefully, putting the needs of their kids at the forefront. It has historically never been the cheapest divorce, but has always provided an incredible value for the family in flux.

So, in today’s world, how can fiscally struggling, divorcing parents afford to pay all the people on a Collaborative Divorce team? By attaining a streamlined Collaborative Divorce; that’s how. The economically stressed divorcing couple can now use the peaceful power of the full-team to help their kids while they help themselves to reorganize and regain control over their finances.

Collaborative Divorce Institute is offering the first-ever training in the Streamlined Protocols for Collaborative Divorce, January 10-12. These new protocols train the team of professionals to directly and efficiently guide, coach and educate the clients. The clients are thoroughly prepared within their team to skillfully communicate with each other and resolve their divorce as they set their sights for a brighter future. Children who witness their parents approach divorce in this capable, confident, and hopeful way are less anxious, less sad and more resilient. Don’t you think every child of divorce needs this type of experience? I sure do.

Calling all family lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial specialists! Take our contemporary, cutting-edge Streamlined Protocols for Collaborative Divorce in January. Reserve your place because it is filling up fast. Contact my co-director, Vicki Carpel Miller, at for details on how to register or visit our Facebook page: Streamlined Protocols Training: Collaborative Divorce. 

Posted in Collaboration, Divorce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment