Shattering Mental Health Stereotypes: A Conversation with Dr. Kimya N. Dennis

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Dr. Kimya N. Dennis is a prolific writer, college professor, community organiser, and a believer in interconnectedness and breaking down barriers. Her work combines the worlds of criminology and sociology, looking at cultural differences and encouraging a multidisciplinary approach for all doctors and mental health professionals where diversity is discussed every day instead of in workshops and seminars. 

She wants to shatter the myth in some communities that “only white people have mental health issues,” challenging our stereotypes, assumptions and beliefs about suicide, mental health and depression at every level - from the individual, all the way up to the organisations and institutions who are training the future health and wellness practitioners of tomorrow. 


Meet This Episode's Guest

 

Dr. Kimya N. Dennis

 

Dr. Kimya N. Dennis does interdisciplinary community outreach, consulting, teaching and research regarding mental health, suicide and suicidal self-harm, criminal justice processes and reproductive health and freedom. Dr. Dennis collaborates with community members and organizations. Collaborations include guest posts for Mental Health America of Virginia, interviews for various media outlets, board of directors for The Mental Health Association in Forsyth County and board of directors for Forsyth Futures, both in Winston-Salem, NC.

 

Please visit her website www.kimyandennis.com for more information! 

 

Click here to read her article discussed in the interview: Suicide isn’t just a ‘white people thing’

 

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What's your Poison? talking about cellphone addiction with Dr. Jim Roberts

Dr. Roberts is a marketing professor who has been studying consumer behavior for 30 years. Beginning with compulsive buying (aka shopping addiction), - ‘addiction’ being defined as an action or behavior you continue despite the negative consequences - he moved into social media and technology addiction.

His book Too Much of A Good Thing talks about the tipping point with technology, where healthy, productive use turns into destructive use. He enlightens us about the phrase phubbing - snubbing others in favor of our smartphones. We have all been either victim or perpetrator of phubbing - which can lead to conflict, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness in our relationships in love and in life.

How one uses social media can result in positive and negative feeling states -  active use can help us feel positive and passive use (called lurking and creeping) can make us feel competitive and upset and therefore have a negative effect.

So what can we do with our smartphones and technology, both a necessary evil? “We can learn to use these devices in a healthy way by wresting some of the power away from social media and back to us.” Dr. Roberts suggests we find “the digital sweet spot and use technology for all the wonderful things it can do for us.” And finally, while driving, lock your cell phone in the trunk!!!


Meet This Episode's Guest

james Roberts

James A. Roberts is the Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing at Baylor University (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and has been a member of the marketing faculty since 1991. He has had approximately 80 articles published in numerous academic journals. He is also the author of two books, “Shiny Objects” (Harper Collins) and “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to your Smartphone?”

Dr. Roberts is a nationally recognized expert on consumer behavior and has been quoted extensively in the media and has appeared on the CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, ABC Good Morning America, NBC The Today Show, and has been quoted and/or featured on The O’Reilly Factor, The Doctors on CBS, , Time.com, US News & World Report, New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour, and many other newspapers, magazines, websites, and television appearances.

Current research interests include the pursuit of happiness through money and material possessions and investigating the antecedents and consequences of smartphone addiction and its impact on personal happiness and professional productivity.

 
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Check out Jim's website: www.smartphoneloveaffair.com. or follow him on Twitter: @ProfJimRoberts.

Compassion Centered Addiction Treatment with Dr. Daniel Mierlak

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Dr. Mierlak is a psychiatrist who has specialized in addictions since 1995. He brings his knowledge of the advances and changes in the treatment of addiction to this fascinating and informative conversation with Susan. His practice ranges from work with addicted homeless mentally ill men at The Freedom Institute to celebrities in his upper east side office.

“There is not a one size fits all treatment for addiction.” He encourages all kinds of techniques, from AA to customized cognitive and behavioral methods, i.e. breaking down how you think about the substance, setting up obstacles to access, changing routines in your day to avoid triggers, etc. A more recent treatment is “harm reduction,” where the patient wants help but doesn’t want to stop using the substance, so the ‘how’ to reduce becomes the creative part of the work. There are a lot of forces working against patients coming in with addiction problems, hence encouragement is key to reduce the stigma, remove the moral judgement, normalize the problem.

“Everyone has their struggles, their demons - including the therapist - we’re all in the same boat,” he says. “Don’t give up hope. It’s a very difficult process. Keep looking until you find the person who you think can help YOU.” To this end, every patient is a clean slate, Dr. Mierlak doesn’t assume he knows what’s best, he listens attentively to the stories his patients tell him, to help discover what is best for them.


Meet This Episode's Guest

 

Dr. Daniel Mierlak

 

Daniel Mierlak is a psychiatrist, board-certified in General and Addiction Psychiatry.  Dr. Mierlak received his MD and PhD from SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn in 1989.  He completed his residency training in psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Payne Whitney Clinic, in 1993, and completed his fellowship in addiction psychiatry at New York University Medical Center in 1996.   He has been Medical Director of the Freedom Institute, an outpatient chemical dependency treatment center in Manhattan, since 2008, and is on the voluntary faculty of the Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Mierlak has worked in hospital, clinic and private office settings, treating a wide array of psychiatric and addictive disorders.  In addition to teaching and lecturing, he has conducted research on psychiatric illness in HIV patients, and substance abuse in homeless, mentally ill men.  He is currently working on a series of essays on his experience as a psychiatrist.

Find out more about Dr. Mierlak on his website!

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A Spoonful of Sugar: Dr. Nicole Avena on Sugar Addiction

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Dr. Nicole Avena is a leading research neuroscientist on food addiction, specifically sugar.

Everyone loves sugar! It’s given to children as a reward for braving the doctor visit and makes an appearance at every birthday party. We use sugar to celebrate achieving goals and/or to boost ourselves up when we’re sad, lonely, depressed, dejected or just plain tired!

The average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day (6-8 is considered safe)! What makes sugar addiction so hard to see is the way sugar hides in society (as something good, as a reward) and in our foods (especially processed foods). But the truth is sugar acts on the brain the same way as drugs, such as nicotine, morphine or heroin - creating highs and lows, withdrawals, craving, and binging. And like a drug, the body needs more and more sugar in order to get the desired effect, hence leading to more and more consumption of sugar, which affects mood, influences how we think and feel, and over time seriously affects our health.

Listen in to Dr. Avena’s conversation with Susan and check out her book Why Diets Fail: Because You’re Addicted to Sugar to become more knowledgeable about sugar!


Meet This Episode's Guest

Dr. Nicole Avena

Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction. She is a pioneer in the field of food addiction, and it was her seminal research work that jump started this exciting new field of exploration in medicine and nutrition. She is also an expert in diet during pregnancy, and childhood nutrition.

Dr. Avena received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University in 2006. She then completed her postdoctoral fellowship in 2010 at the prestigious Rockefeller University in New York City, an all-research institution that lays claim to having had 24 Nobel Prize winners on its staff over the years.

Dr. Avena presently is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and a Visiting Professor in Health Psychology at Princeton University. She has published over 90 scholarly journal articles on topics related to diet, nutrition and overeating, and she frequently presents her research findings at scientific conferences and University symposia. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She has received research funding from prestigious sources, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Eating Disorders
Association. 

Dr. Avena’s book, Why Diets Fail (2014, Ten Speed Press) reviews the research on food addiction and provides a way in which people can remove added sugars and carbohydrates from their diet. She has another best-selling book, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant (2015, Ten Speed Press) that provides mom’s-to- be with nutritional advice on what to eat to ensure they and their baby are healthy. Her next book, What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler (released in May 2018), covers nutrition for babies who are just beginning to eat, and offers science-based advice and practical tips on how to get your baby to eat healthy foods, like vegetables. She has also been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts, and has been filmed for several documentaries on the obesity epidemic. Her work has been featured on the cover of National Geographic (Sept ’17), as well as in Time Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, The New York Times, Shape, Men’s Health, Details, and many other periodicals.

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Dr. Avena is a member of the Random House Speakers Bureau. She has a TED-ED talk (below), How Sugar Affects Your Brain, which was ranked #2 most watched (over 7 million views). Her video has been praised by educators and public health groups. She consults for many policy groups, pharmaceutical companies and baby-food manufacturers.

Dr. Avena has a blog on Psychology Today called Food Junkie, which explains relevant research findings in an accessible way. She also blogs for The Huffington Post.

You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook!

Gut Reaction: Getting to the Crux of Leaky Gut with Katrina Reeve

Is Gut Health on your New Year’s resolution list? If not, after listening to our podcast with Taryn Kennedy (In the Balance Associate Producer and Director of Online Media) and Katrina Reeve, a Naturopath from Brisbane, Australia, it will be!

Naturopaths want to understand the cause of your illness/pain - where does the imbalance in the body come from? Leaky Gut Syndrome - aka intestinal permeability - can have numerous symptoms; including digestive issues, acne/eczema, asthma, hormone imbalance, mood disorders. The causes can range from chronic stress, bacteria, chemical additives in food, infections, and/or medications.

Katrina walks us through simple and immediate ways we can improve our gut health; being mindful of our lifestyle choices that reduce stress - exercise, breathing, relaxation - being mindful of choosing foods that help our gut - bone broth, fibre, fermented foods. And in closing she gives us three simple tips to increase our gut health today: “Chew your food!! Eat slowly!! Don’t multitask while eating!!!” How simple is that?


Meet This Episode's Guest

 

Katrina Reeve

MSc, BHSc (Naturopathy), BA, Dip Opera, LTCL

 

Katrina is a qualified Naturopath, Lecturer and Researcher practising in Brisbane. Her interest in Natural medicine was ignited many years ago whilst forging a career as an opera singer, actress and teacher. In addition to lecturing and student mentoring at two universities, she runs a busy clinic in inner city Brisbane where she specialises in gastrointestinal health, stress management and fertility. Katrina holds a Masters of Science (Research), Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy), Bachelor of Arts and Post Graduate Diploma in Opera. She has presented at a number of National scientific conferences and has submitted a number of journal articles for publication. 

 

Check out Katrina's FaceBook page for more information!

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Adjunct Host

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Taryn L. Kennedy

 

Taryn is the Associate Producer and Director for Online Media for In the Balance. She has been working with Susan in various capacities for 6 years and is honored and thrilled to be a part of the In the Balance team. 

In addition to her work at In the Balance, Taryn is currently studying for her Bachelor's of Science specializing in Nutritional Medicine in Brisbane, Australia. She is also part of a pilot program in primary schools that teaches kids about food. Her interest in nutrition, how food is produced, and how food affects the body started over 11 years ago after reading the book, The Food Revolution by John Robbins. 

Taryn also loves to travel and has lived in New York, Arizona, Chile, and Australia.

 

Click here to sign up for Taryn's monthly nutrition and wellness newsletter!


A Note from Susan

 

Taryn Kennedy is now hosting her own mini-series as part of In the Balance: Connecting Mind, Body & Heart

I feel lucky and blessed to have such a brilliant and fantastic team for In the Balance which is comprised of Walker Vreeland, my producer, mentor, and an incredible podcast host himself; Taryn Kennedy, my Associate Producer and Director of Online Media; and Megan Rose, the beautiful writer, editor, blogger, and support.

Taryn and I started brainstorming awhile back: what would it be like if we started to develop a mini-series on In the Balance that Taryn herself might host? I confess, it was my idea at first, and it was my idea because I find Taryn to be thoughtful, imaginative, creative, and full of emotional intelligence that is moving and evolving every day. Taryn not only supports In the Balance but is a formidable force in everything that we strive to do with this podcast - which is to reach many diverse groups of people with the notion that everything we do is somehow connecting us with ourselves and other people. Taryn makes our newsletters ring and shine, she created a website that gives you not only information about our guests and what we do, but resonates with clarity and humanity, and heart. As a collaborator, Taryn is supportive, yet has her own point of view. Taryn is resourceful, always thinking about what is going to work for people both creatively and logistically, and she is curious and a high level thinker in every way.

So I am thrilled to say that “Gut Reaction” is the first of many mini-episodes that Taryn will be hosting on In the Balance. Keep a look out and have a listen whenever you see her name.” ~ Susan 

Creating a Healing Path: Changing How We Think About Pain with Evelyn Hecht

Evelyn Hecht sheds light on pain: What is it and what can we do about it? She explains the difference between initial pain and chronic pain, and how we can retrain our brain to develop different patterns of response, thereby creating a path toward pain healing, a big step beyond pain management.

In her book "re.lieve: Solutions for Chronic Pain," Evelyn lays out simple tools, such as sleep, diaphragmatic breathing, and stretching exercises to help you take charge of your pain healing. “Listen to your symptoms, don’t fight them, have positive thoughts!”

Evelyn believes each person has the inner skills to create a healing path. “What are you saying to yourself about your pain?” she asks. How we answer that question can tell us much about how we relate to our pain and what we can do to change it.


Meet This Episode's Guest

Evelyn Hecht

Evelyn Hecht, PT ATC, is the owner of EMH Physical Therapy, specializing in pelvic floor & spine and all chronic pain for over 25 years.  She designed the pelvic health course for both NYU and Stony Brook University’s Department of Physical Therapy and taught  for 7 years.  

In 2014 she designed and launched an app, PelvicTrack, currently free on iTunes store, to help anyone suffering with pelvic floor dysfunction learn some basic exercises and track symptoms.

In 2017 she authored an e-book: “re.lieve: solution for chronic pain, self-help program” based on the modern science of pain with a guided self-help program to guide people suffering with chronic pain on their healing journey.

She earned her BS in Physical Education with a minor in Athletic Training from Brooklyn College and received her BS in Physical Therapy from Hunter College).

Check out EMH's website, Facebook, and YouTube channel for more information or to work with her in New York City!

Download PelvicTrack here!

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Activated & Present: A Fresh Perspective on Mindfulness Training with Paul Pitsaras

 Our guest Paul Pitsaras (right), and Mitesh Raniga (left): cofounders of The Open Mind Institute

Our guest Paul Pitsaras (right), and Mitesh Raniga (left): cofounders of The Open Mind Institute

Coming to us from Brisbane Australia with good news about mindfulness is Paul Pitsaras of TOMI (The Open Mind Institute). "ACTIVATE YOUR POTENTIAL" is the slogan and a passion for self-development and helping others is the fuel that set Paul and his partner Mitesh Raniga on the road to create TOMI.

A lot of people are entrapped, stressed out, bombarded by technology and a world of instant gratification, their potential out of reach, or simply forgotten. TOMI wants to bring people the mental tools to help! Using core techniques such as critical thinking, mindfulness practice, resilience, emotional intelligence, metacognition and attention control, TOMI offers workshops, one-on-ones and Skype sessions.

Paul reminds us that mindfulness has now been scientifically proven to be effective, and it’s been in use for thousands of years. So between science and ancient history how can you not give it a try?


Meet This Episode's Guest

Paul Pitsaras

Paul completed double Bachelor degrees in Law and International Business in Brisbane before moving to London where he completed a legal practice diploma at the College of Law. Whilst in the UK, Paul was employed by a leading Chambers UK law firm where he was assigned to a number of high profile/ cost cases at trial across various jurisdictions.

Paul was admitted to practice in NSW in 2006 and has since held posts at the DPP, a number of reputable private practice firms in Melbourne and Brisbane (specialising in criminal & civil litigation) and a further 7 year post as a senior lawyer at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, where he recurrently appeared across all Courts advocating on behalf of his clients.

In early 2014 Paul moved back to Brisbane returning to private practice as a senior civil litigation lawyer where he appeared in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts on a frequent basis. In his tenure as a lawyer Paul has managed and mentored junior lawyers and run training seminars and workshops to members of the profession, university students and bail justices.

In 2016 Paul co-founded The Open Mind Institute (TOMI) with a colleague from law school in light of their passion for bringing out the best in others. TOMI delivers presentations, workshops, one-on-one coaching and cutting-edge mental training (i.e. critical thinking, resilience, mindfulness, leadership & management training) to non-for-profits, educational institutions and professional services firms.

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Check out The Open Mind Institute's website and

follow them on their Facebook page or on Instagram!