Dr. Denise Interviews Jacqueline Basulto on her role in Mental Health Advocacy and Suicide Prevention at Columbia University – Podcast Transcription

Here is the transcription of my interview with Jacqueline on 6/17/17.

You will shed tears, be inspired and want to take action! Thank you Jacqueline.

~Dr. Denise


Dr. Denise: This is the Dr. Denise Show. I’m doctor Denise McDermott, an adult and child psychiatrist, specializing in an integrative approach to mental health. I believe in prescribing the least amount of medication, coupled with a comprehensive treatment plan. My goal is to empower you to thrive and I take a multidimensional approach to wellness, not illness. You are not your symptoms. Call upon your best and highest self to embrace your mental health. On this program you will meet many doctors, experts and pioneers who have helped pave the way to shift the paradigm of getting rid of the stigma of mental illness in our society. This show was created for those of you who would like new ways of thinking and understanding about mental health and helping your loved ones to thrive and cope in empowered ways.

Today I have the honor of interviewing Jacqueline Basulto. She’s a recent graduate of Columbia University. After witnessing seven student deaths in less than a year, and experiencing mental health challenges her self, Jacqueline felt the need to do something to change the way higher education institutions handle psychological illnesses. Today, Jacqueline lives in Manhattan, is the founder of the mobile application GeoPlay, and runs an educational company called Knowledge EDU. Good morning, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline: Good morning.

Dr. Denise: Thank you so much for connecting with me and being on the show today.

Jacqueline: Of course, thank you for having me.

Dr. Denise: I met Jacqueline, I was going through my Twitter feed, and just looking at different articles, and I met Jacqueline earlier this year. I was reading an article and there had been the quote in the news article, it was called, “Suicide at Columbia and the Urgency of Prevention in the Columbia Spectator.” And Jacqueline had said in the quote, when people are dealing with mental health diseases, it’s important to know that others are, too. So, if there was a more open dialogue about it, people would feel less alone and there would be empathy on campus. We need the professors, the student body, and the administration all working together to change the culture of our campus. That’s something you had said in that article and you had also told the New York Post that Columbia has a really hostile, competitive culture.

And then, when I read your articles, I was like, “Wow, I really need to reach out to Jacqueline and really get this conversation going.” And, Jacqueline, I want to let you know since December 1st of last year, I have now had 9 people in my practice that have been suicidal or referred to me. And 7 of the 9 are under age 18. So, I actually said a prayer before I did this interview because I know for those listening that it was going to be a very important interview, but I also wanted to honor all of you out there listening and all of people who have crossed to the other side, that this is a really serious topic and it’s near and dear to my heart.

And Jacqueline I would love just for you to comment a little further about your experience in the last year, and your desire to be the change and raise awareness for the importance of mental health.

Jacqueline: Sure. So, it all started last year mostly, I mean my entire life I have suffered with anxiety issues, but last fall it turned into something much more severe. I didn’t know at the time, but I had clinical depression, and I was so unlike myself. And every day I would just wake up and feel horrible, and I was no longer alive and there was no more purpose to me. Um, even enjoying, ‘cause I couldn’t enjoy life, so I didn’t feel like myself at all. I wasn’t able to study as much. I didn’t want to be around friends, etc. And I sought help from my university’s psychological center, um, I was put on a wait list for an initial phone call. And, I, finally had that phone call and I told them I was feeling suicidal and they said, “Well, we have an appointment in two weeks if you can make it at 8am on a day.” And I said, “Well, I have a class, but if that’s the only thing you can give me, I’ll miss my class.”

Dr. Denise: I have a question for you. Was that the first time in your life you had felt that despair and that thought that life wasn’t worth living?

Jacqueline: Yes, I am typically a really positive, bubbly person, I’ve never felt so hopeless before. I had always been really focused, really happy with myself and my accomplishments and the people around me. And I never felt that severely upset.

Dr. Denise: So, for everyone listening, parents, teachers, doctors, it’s very important that when someone’s never felt this way, having conversations with your child when they’re growing up, and also I think there is a shortage of mental health practitioners on most college campuses.
And I want people to feel like they can call their college mental health, but if you’re feeling hopeless, if you’re not having joy, having troubles doing your daily activities, there’s suicide hotlines, there’s emergency rooms. One of the biggest concerns and issues that I have as a doctor is a lot of people report to me that there’s a lot of shame, people don’t really know how to ask for this kind of help. Is that something that you were feeling? Or did you…What was your process with sort of reaching out?

Jacqueline: Well, first of all, I just want to comment on what you just said about not feeling joy and generally being confused when you’re going through this. I think something that I have really been focusing on, post-depression. When I talk to people about this issue is being able to identify it in yourself, before it gets so out of hand that you’re feeling suicidal every day. I didn’t feel joy when I would do things that I felt, that used to make me feel better like going for a run or listening to music. I didn’t feel any kind of enjoyment out of that. I think it’s really important for people to know to notice when there’s a change in themselves and to be, like you said, forthcoming about being able to talk to their parents or to any other adults about it. But, when I first felt like this, I, I mean I reached out to my parents, I’m really lucky to have a really supportive family that lives in New York, which is where Columbia is, where I went to school. So, I saw my parents frequently, they were really supportive. They didn’t understand the extent of the depression I was dealing with but I was really lucky to have them around. And I also was fortunate enough to be a senior at the time, as well, so I had a lot of friends already and I had an established support network on campus.

Dr. Denise: And, you also had an end point, like, OK, I can get through this, I’ve got graduation coming up, and you had loved ones around you. Some key factors.

Jacqueline: Yes, and that’s what inspired me to really get involved because I was in such a lucky position being from New York, having a support system and knowing my resources, as well. Whereas a lot of the students that have committed suicide on campus are international students, or they were freshman, and they had just moved here from, a small town. And, that experience must be so difficult.

Dr. Denise: I really want to take the time. I just want to say to the family members, or friends, or anyone that’s listening just to really pause for a minute for Uriel Florez, Taylor Wallace, Nicole Orttung, Mounia Abousaid, Yi-Chia Chen, Ezekiel Reiser, and Daniel Andreotti. Those are the students that are no longer on earth because of mental health and because of the anguish that they were dealing with this year and I, I hope you can hear in the tone of my voice, I’m just so grateful Jacqueline that you have the family and friends and the support, and that you’re still here and that you spoke out and you did something to make some change and raise awareness. And I would love for you to share with everyone what you did ‘cause you felt so strongly about this.

Jacqueline: Yes, I’d like to offer my condolences as well. I think it’s terrible that a parent has to find out something like this about their child. After sending them to such a great school with, such a bright future, and I just can’t imagine if my parents had to go through that, so…

Dr. Denise: No, and I have real tears even discussing it, and in the sense of tears of just connectedness. Tears because I think anyone that’s listening that’s ever had really intense depression or even children with learning issues, or being bullied, or ADD, you know people feel isolated, and they feel alone, and I think we all need to remember our lives matter, and that we all matter and we need to really get together when we are going through touch times and support each other.

Jacqueline: Yes, um, so, in January I was starting to recover, I met with a health care provider off campus and I was lucky enough to be able to afford to get off campus care so , that’s another additional concern that I have. I was feeling a lot better and, in one week, 4 students on campus passed away. And that’s when I thought I can’t just move on, and not do anything at all. I was so lucky to be in my specific situation. To be able to recover, like I need to do something, so I just started thinking and I decided to make an online petition, and it turned into something much more than a petition. What was most powerful about it was that not only did nearly 1,000 people sign the petition, but hundreds of former students, parents and current students shared their own stories of struggling with depression and how they dealt with it, why it’s so important to overcome as a community.

Dr. Denise: Oh, my goodness. That’s fantastic. Did you… have that published? Or how did you… like what did the petition say? And who did you present it to?

Jacqueline: The petition is to the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, and it’s, the title is, “Improve Mental Health on our Campus.” And my whole premise was thinking, our school has a billion dollar endowment at least, and it’s just not ok that we ignore, we virtually ignore suicide deaths that happen on campus. Especially when it’s an epidemic like this. Usually, we wouldn’t even have a vigil for students. As a student body, we just get an email that said, “Oh, by the way, this person in your grade has passed away today.” And I just thought that was contributing to this feeling on campus that if you’re dealing with a mental health disease, you shouldn’t tell anyone, or you can’t tell anyone. Or it’s just something that goes unnoticed. If you commit suicide, there’s just going to be another email. That was really bothering me.

Dr. Denise: I just want to say, I couldn’t agree more. I think when people I know have diagnosis of cancer, or other medical issues a lot of times people will set up sites or things and calls for help, and that’s not something you see in the mental health arena, it’s just society hasn’t progressed to where we are heading towards, which is going to be… which is happening now, thanks to you, and thanks to all of the pioneers, and celebrities and influencers with mental health, that people are speaking out. But we need to still have the infrastructure put in place so that yes, we are talking about but we want to go one step further and I think that’s what the petition start…is really creating a great ripple effect at Columbia.

Jacqueline: Yes, so, that was two-fold like you said, just the sharing of stories I think comforted a lot of people and I remember when I was going through depression I only felt better if I looked at the internet and saw celebrities that I loved like Lady Gaga, going through depression and overcoming it. It just made me feel like, “Oh, I can still have a great life, I can still accomplish so much.” Um, and then, secondly, like you said because the petition started getting press coverage, by ABC News, the New York Post and a bunch of other news publications, Columbia had to confront this problem. It was no longer something that they could ignore, and um, I, the day that I, I was on the night time news, in New York City, and then the next day Columbia started really doing more to address the problem because of how much publicity they were getting from all the student suicides. They started to have all kinds of initiatives, which have really changed the campus culture already. So, I’m really excited about that.

Dr. Denise: And I’m smiling, and I just want to, I know that this is so near and dear to your heart, and when we do things like this we don’t need the credit, but I just want to say, “Way to go!” As a role model, I would call you a mental health warrior, as I like to say, and I hope that people realize when you’re in your communities speaking out, going to your teacher, going to your best friend, letting someone know you’re just not feeling that well, you can speak up. You don’t have to sit there and feel isolated and Jacqueline, you doing that it really ignited something that Columbia is now looking at. And you mentioned to me when we spoke on the phone a couple months ago, that they were really almost like relieved, you know instead of it being like some big scandal, that was on the news and when change started to happen, can you share some of the feedback you got from administration and how they spoke to you about it?

Jacqueline: Sure. I, one of my biggest fears being so public about my struggles was that Columbia administration would be upset with me. Um, for causing fuss.

Dr. Denise: Of course, of course. I actually think I can totally see that and I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t speak up so…this is like a… I can’t wait to hear what they did.

Jacqueline: No, I actually had the opposite reaction. So, I, I was contacted by several deans at Columbia who said, “Thank you for bringing this to the public. It’s something that we’ve been trying to work on, but there’s so much internal…” um, what is it called, like….

Dr. Denise: Politics?

Jacqueline: Yeah, there’s so much bureaucratic, um, clout that we have to go through to change anything, I can’t directly impact the psychological center, we couldn’t get this program approved, etc. and now that it’s been made such a big deal, it’s something that we’re prioritizing, so thank you for, for doing that and also for sharing your story so that other people on campus felt comfortable doing so. Because it also caused a lot of the student, a lot of student clubs on campus started writing proposals for how to make things better on campus, um, like the student governments were writing proposals, and inputting new changes as well.

Dr. Denise: That’s fantastic. And I think the other issue is this happens at all academic institutions, there’s different styles that feel more competitive or more of a sense of community and I think one issue is there’s red tape when it comes to making the change at any university or hospital, or in politics, there’s a lot of different hoops to jump through. But I also think people need to realize that when you choose a response or answer that’s coming from a love based solution oriented, instead of a fear based solution, that a lot more can get accomplished. So, I think that when there’s that external need, maybe hearing your story, people felt connected, like wow, Jacqueline’s still here, she’s speaking out. It sounds like they responded to you and your story with a level of love, and compassion and there wasn’t this, “Well, we’re blaming Columbia.” It’s more like, let’s collaborate together to come up with a solution.

Jacqueline: Definitely. Because I think a problem like this is… comes from the culture, comes from a lack of one resource, or another, or from the academic pressure necessarily. It has to do with every single interaction that you have with people and just feeling ok saying, “I’m not, I’m not doing well today.” The first time that I admitted that to my friends I felt a huge amount of relief, just having them know that I wasn’t pretending to feel perfect all the time. So, it’s those little things that make a huge difference.

Dr. Denise: Well, and I was reading some other articles, before I was talking to you today, and I know, you know I did my child psychiatry at UCLA, and I’ve been at different, I was at Emory University, and every campus has it’s different milieu environment. And when you’re swimming with the sharks so to speak in a highly competitive Ivy league, everyone is at such a certain level of academic excellence, and I was looking that one change they were thinking of making at Columbia, and I think that this could be something that they’re looking at with other universities, it’s not only the way they handle mental health, and suicide prevention, but also the amount of credits people can take.

One of the articles I read, Dean James Valentini mentioned that quite a few students and this is not me… and this is just one factor, it’s multi-factorial, but creating a realistic schedule where people maybe aren’t loading on as many credits, where people maybe are given permission that you don’t maybe have this many credits or have as much competition going on academically.

Jacqueline: Definitely, I think, um, a really unique aspect about Columbia is that we’re in New York City and we also still go to school with many graduate students since it’s such a large research institution. Students try to pile on so many credits, like, it’s incredible. People will take like 7 classes, and then do an internship and another job in Manhattan. And so we have this pressure to feel like we have to be integrated in the city but also working so hard on our academics, and I think what Dean Valentini said about making sure people know it’s ok to take 4 or 5 classes, they don’t have to do all this extra non-sense for no reason, that’s really important and…

Dr. Denise: When you’re preparing your college schedule, to make sure that you can learn how to manage time, manage fitness, manage wellness, manage sleep, and that the milieu environment at a lot of very competitive academic institutions people are trying to be the top dog, meaning I’m going to take 7 classes, and then do an internship. And I think that I read that Dean James Valentini said that was on tangible thing they could do from just pure how many classes someone takes. And really working with your academic advisor to help make sure you have a schedule that’s realistic and not too stressful.

Jacqueline: Definitely. I think it will be impactful to just institute a limit, that communicates it’s ok to only take 5 classes, you should not be taking more. That way it becomes a norm and we’ve stopped feeling the pressure to compete about how many credits that we’re taking.

Dr. Denise: And I wanted to ask you, I noticed in the 2015 quality of life survey that they did at Columbia, and that on average, 9.32 days of the month, students felt worried, tense, or anxious, and that 14 nights of the month they didn’t get enough sleep. So what is… can you comment a little bit about the sleep habits, I know in college we all stayed up really late. But what’s it like.. What was it like for you as a college student at Columbia, did it seem like people weren’t sleeping much or what’s your observation?

Jacqueline: Oh, definitely. I mean, Columbia is the kind of school where we would spend the whole day at the library, on Friday night maybe leave for 2 hours to go to an event, and then come back to the library, and our library for our building and people were always there. Sometimes I’d see toothbrushes in the bathroom, and just some crazy things, and there’s a lot of pressure. Like sometimes people will compete in the morning and say, “Hey, I only slept for 3 hours, how long did you sleep?” Like that kind of thing.

Dr. Denise: Yeah, yeah…

Jacqueline: And I think that’s from this feeling that you constantly have to be working towards your academics or you’re not keeping up with your peers. Which is not necessarily true. Sometimes, most of the time it helps to take care of yourself more.

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and actually I interviewed a colleague of mine, we trained at UCLA together, he is a full professor at NYU. I interviewed Dr. Jess Shatkin last fall, all about the sleep studies that he’s done, and all the studies, and for mental health it’s really important that we get the sleep that we need. If we have any predisposition to anxiety, depression, bipolar, ADD, or if we don’t have any diagnosis, that for good mental health and the ability to cope when we have stress, it is very important that we get the rest that we need so It’s a really important mental health tool to remember.

Jacqueline: Definitely. And, I believe people should take care of their mental health just as much as they take care of their physical health, even if you don’t feel like you’re predisposed to a disease.

Dr. Denise: So, after your petition, what are some of the changes that have happened this spring? What, what’s the real tangible things that you’ve seen that have happened since this… all the loss of life this year and all the new discussions that have happened?

Jacqueline: There’s been a lot of effort from Dean Valentini and the student life office, to change how things operate on campus and what kind of events we have. They’ve instituted things like Mental Health Awareness Week, where there were various discussions about mental health, how to care for yourself and just different fun activities happening that made it.. made open spaces on campus to discuss health and well-being. And they’ve also had more fun events like a silent disco on campus, there have been some academic changes like lightening our credit load is in the discussion and, um, they’ve also changed a few of our core curriculum requirements. And the college has done an extensive research analyzation on campus through the Jed Foundation, over the summer they’re going to be working on instituting new changes that will take effect for the freshman class that is enrolling in the fall. To change the culture on campus for the next four years and hopefully longer.

Dr. Denise: And who’s spearheading that? Do you have a name that you know that you’ve been in contact with that I could perhaps reach out to and interview.

Jacqueline: Yes, so Dean Valentini was the dean of Columbia College where most of the suicides have happened, is spearheading that, he’s also overseeing a mental health initiative team, that is taking measures, that is focusing on taking measures to make mental health on campus better. But also our student governments have been really active in uh, researching, writing, researching and writing proposals and taking action, and supporting programs, so, uh…

Dr. Denise: Do you have a name for someone in the student government that you think would be a good person for me to talk with?

Jacqueline: Yes, I do. My good friend Neha, she is the president of the student body of the engineering school and she did a lot of work on this with Dean Valentini and the other administrators so…

Dr. Denise: Fantastic. I’ll get that information from you when we’re off, off air. That’s fantastic. I really think what’s so amazing is that when things happen whether it’s from a mental health standpoint, or a physical health, when we look and say, “Well, what can we do for prevention? What can we do to keep the conversation going? And how can we make long lasting change in the way we think, talk, and act about mental health?” And it sounds like Jacqueline the, your life experience, the petition that you did and the people that you’ve reached out to has really started a nice ripple effect to raise awareness of mental health. So I thank you for that.

Jacqueline: Thank you so much. And then, um, my next goal is, once all of the changes have been implemented in the fall, I’d like to forward my petition and the recommendations to different colleges that also struggle with this issue, so that we can make a bigger impact on the community.

Dr. Denise: Well, I’d like to talk with you about that, too. ‘Cause there’s been a theme, and I also don’t know if you, just recently there’s so much discussion. There was an article on CNN about the increased rise in suicidality, in my book Mental Health and How to Thrive, I talk about the CDC rates from the late ‘90s until now there’s been an increase in suicide rate across all age groups except like I think it was the elderly aged 75-80 and so, one of the concerns that’s hard to tease out I think that’s multi-factorial, for the increased rise in suicidality and also completion, I strongly believe that our social media, and we do have the data, Dr. Allen Tien M.D. MHS, who is associated with Johns Hopkins and now has own incredible company shared data that there is a two times risk of increased depression, for the person being bullied and the one doing the bullying, and so, we have a lot of to support this correlation. Bullying has been going on throughout history, we’re animals, there’s people that say unkind things, however, I think with the level of social media, that detachment that people have, when they’re sending a text or sending a message there is not the accountability that you would have if your were meeting face to face.

I feel like Jacqueline, you were brought up with all this social media, and so I do feel like there’s a huge need to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, kinder communication, and then prevention of suicidality so I just wanted to hear your thoughts on that.

Jacqueline: Definitely. Well, first, social media has exacerbated bullying in a lot of respects, because it permeates our entire life. As a teenager, you’re right. I would wake up, go on Facebook, get text messages, go to sleep text messaging, and during the day, be on Facebook. There’s no getting away from it. And it is much easier to say something mean over the internet when you’re not looking at someone, and it’s much easier to feel left out. I think there are a lot of ways that we can utilize social media as a positive tool for change as well, um, whether it’s helping people connect to others like them so they no longer feel like an outsider or so they, they understand that other people are going through similar issues. And I think it has to do with us educating um, students and young kids, about how to communicate with one another, like you said.

Dr. Denise: Yeah, I really think so. And, I’ve had this discussion on many of my different interviews, and I think we need to have a different approach with our younger children as they’re transitioning into the use of social media. There either needs to be integrative workshops within the schools throughout the United States, at the elementary school age, the teenage age, people are sort of calling each other out. You know how there’s times, I don’t know if this is every happened at any of the schools you have attended, but some of the schools in my neighborhood, if there are students that are worried about one another, they can anonymously let the student counselor know, so that people can call them in and say, “Are you ok?” And, so, if there was this broader, positive messaging, that, “Hey, remember it’s really good for all of our health that when we keep it a kinder tone!” By the way, I am not asking for perfection. I know people are going to occasionally drop and F-bomb, be rude, this is just… we’re human beings, and we’re not perfect. However, if at the forefront of your mind, it was like, “Am I doing the best to communicate in the kindest way possible?” Even if I’m upset, if we had people just thinking about the way they talk and the way they act, that was more in the forefront of your mind, thinking of not only yourself, in a self love way, but in an other love way, I believe that we could really shift things, and this wouldn’t just help with mental health, it’s all integrative, it would help with physical health as well.

Jacqueline: Definitely, and I think from a young age we’re told we shouldn’t bully one another. That we should be kind to other people, but now social media and the internet are such a huge part of our lives that, um, those factors have to be taken into account when we’re educating children, when we’re raising children, etc.

Dr. Denise: And, yeah, I think if parents are watching the news and the tone of the news or the tone of the news or the discussions become quite aggressive. I think it’s fine for parents to hit pause and say, “Listen, I wish that the news was communicating this way, or, there is a different way.” Because society has gotten almost addicted to drama, addicted to what’s the most exciting…

Jacqueline: Yeah…

Dr. Denise: Exciting thing, or what’s the most sassiest way, or the most nasty way. And, so, there’s a level of addiction, and also a level of giving permission for someone to talk in an unkind way. You’re, Jacqueline, part of the generation that you’ve lived with your device next to you since you were little, right?

Jacqueline: Yes.

Dr. Denise: Right. And I believe that our middle school where we live, the principal, there was so much bullying going on they started a no iphone policy at school. They had to sort of check them in. I think it would be really fantastic to see what could happen if we had more of a global outreach of what’s appropriate use of social media at different ages. And also a way to monitor it so people are more focused on epidemics and personally talking to someone face to face. Or learning that, “Oh, this is an emotionally heated discussion, this shouldn’t be done in a text. This shouldn’t be done in an email. I should either pick up the phone, or I should see the person in person.”

Jacqueline: Yeah, I think it’s something that our schools and our parents have to be aware of, and have to be proactive about. There’s no getting away from an iphone now, even if you take away the iphone away from kids in school, they’ll figure out a way to sneak them in, they’ll figure out ways to sneak them in, they’ll use them after school, it’s just a part of who we are now. As humanity, we use technology for everything. We have to be educated about how to use it, and how to communicate and what’s appropriate from a young age.

Dr. Denise: Absolutely. And can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now that you’ve graduated from Columbia about your mobile application and your education company?

Jacqueline: Sure, so, last year I started a tutoring company, here in New York, now I am still managing that company but my uh, most recent project is a mobile application called GeoPlay. It’s a… it’s a map that let’s you see into places around you. So for example, if you were looking for a restaurant to go to, you could click a place on the map and see photos and videos that were uploaded within the last 24 hours and if you were interested in what’s happening, in let’s say Paris, you can scroll to Paris and see which videos have been uploaded there as well. So, it’s an effort to bring communities together and to help us educate ourselves about what’s happening around us.

Dr. Denise: That’s fantastic, I know we’re now in May, for everyone listening, Jacqueline, it sounds like you’ve had a really good recovery from the mental health challenges that you were facing in January. Can you speak on..

Jacqueline: Yes.

Dr. Denise: Sort of what that process was like and just we can maybe end with some hope for anyone listening that’s ever had depression or anxiety or is feeling like this is a really important discussion?

Jacqueline: Sure, I think it’s really important to find a healthcare provider that you trust, and um, that you get along with and I was so lucky to find my Dr. Chris Walsh, here in Manhattan, and as soon as I met him I felt like I was so much more educated with what was happening to me and I knew that I had someone who was tracking my progress, who would message me if I didn’t talk to him in a week, and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Are you still feeling like this?” Um, he understood the illness and he could really be there for me. And that just changed my outlook completely, I felt like I was going to recover, and even if it took a while at least I had someone helping me. Um, and then besides that, just like I said, being honest with yourself and with others about how you’re feeling and thinking it’s ok for me, it’s ok if I don’t feel like going to a party tonight or if I can’t, if I don’t get an A on this paper because I’m not feeling well. Allowing yourself that time to breathe and to grow is really important.

Dr. Denise: And, I also want to let people know, that if you are feeling like you don’t have the joy, or you’re having troubles getting your assignments done, whether you’re in high school or college, and maybe just started to reach out to a primary care doctor, or a psychiatrist, or a therapist, you can ask your doctor for a note that says, “So and so is having mental health challenges, please take this into consideration.” And, in our school district, they have SST’s which are student study teams, or emergency meetings, and even in college, I worked with USC, and UCLA, and in my area, to help students really advocate for themselves when they’re feeling that way because it becomes a snowball effect, you feel like an avalanche when you have all the assignments due, so remember, you can hit pause, just because finals are coming up, you can reach out for help, start to feel well and get doctor’s notes, and get extensions on things so you don’t feel like there’s just no way out.

Jacqueline: Definitely. There um, you can’t, your health can’t wait. Everything else can. That’s what I think, so…

Dr. Denise: No, absolutely. Is there any other finishing discussions or anything else you wanted to add to the call today ‘cause I’m just so you know appreciative to have you.

Jacqueline: The best thing that I got out of going through depression was learning that my voice really does matter and I would like everyone who’s listening to this to be empowered to know that your story, your struggles and your accomplishments mean so much and when you’re vocal about something, you can change, you can change the world just by doing something as silly as starting an online petition. Or, telling your friend how you feel so that they don’t feel alone. It’s so great for us to all stand up and take action.

Dr. Denise: And stay connected. It sounds like your big message is you… we’re not alone. That we can reach out and that we can get help and that we all together.

Jacqueline: Definitely.

Dr. Denise: So, Jacqueline, can you let everyone know where they can find you on social media?

Jacqueline: Sure, um, so I, my name is Jacqueline Basulto on LinkedIn and Facebook. On Twitter, I’m @JackieO_NYC and on Instagram I’m @Jacqueline and my mobile app @GeoPlayApp on Instagram and Geoplay.US

Dr. Denise: Jacqueline, thank you so much for being on the show today and all that you’re doing and I’m glad you’re feeling better. It’s really wonderful to hear that you have reached out and done this. It’s wonderful to have you on the show today.

Jacqueline: Thank you, and thank you for all you do and for helping me spread the message even further.

Dr. Denise: Thank you. Thank you joining us today on the Dr, Denise Show. If you are interested in more mental health tips, tools, and discussions, I’m also on the web, at DrDeniseMD.com and I’m also on Twitter @DrDeniseMD and on Facebook. Ok, thank you everyone, have a nice week, bye-bye!

Columbia University Graduate and Mental Health Advocate Jacqueline Basulto on Suicide Prevention


Jacqueline Basulto is a recent graduate of Columbia University. After witnessing seven student deaths in less than a year and experiencing mental health challenges herself, Jacqueline felt the need to do something to change the way higher education institutions handle psychological illnesses. Today, Jacqueline lives in Manhattan and is the founder of the mobile application GeoPlay (geoplay.us) and runs an education company called Knowledge Edu (knowledgeedu.org).

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

Dr. Gurmeet Singh Narang on Happiness, Tavleen and the Tavleen Foundation


Dr. Gurmeet Singh Narang is a humanitarian, writer, speaker, and happiness teacher. His recent internationally recognized book was launched in November 2016 named “My Happiness-cultivating a noble and generous heart.”

Dr. Narang is an industrial engineer with a Ph.D in management engineering. An author (“The Words of My Guru”), singer (“Waheguru Simran”, “San ko data ram, “Nimaani”), and well-known motivations speaker, Dr. Narang was presented with the “Award of Honor” by the International Feteh Academy, Amritsar in 2015 and the “World Sikh Achiever” award in 2017.

Dr Narang is founder president and chief happiness officer of India’s only eternal happiness organisation –The Tavleen Foundation. The Tavleen Foundation was formed by Dr Narang in loving memory of his daughter Tavleen in 2009. Dr Narang lost Tavleen in 2008 due to bone cancer

The Tavleen Foundation is active in the field of values, social awareness and contemplative studies, working to reduce suffering in human lives and thus bringing happiness in life. The foundation publishes the prestigious journal “Soul Space“, featuring distinguished contributors from all over the world.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

Dr. Denise Interviews Rev. Howard Caesar – Podcast Transcription

There has been a lot of interest and commentary about my interview with Rev. Howard Caesar that was released on my podcast on 5/1/17. In order to make this valuable information available to as many people as possible, I have had the interview transcribed.


Dr. Denise: This is the Dr. Denise Show. I am Denise McDermott, an adult and child psychiatrist specializing in an integrative approach to mental health. I believe in prescribing the least amount of medication coupled with a comprehensive treatment plan. My goal is to empower you to thrive and I take a multidimensional approach to wellness not illness. You are not your symptoms. Call upon your best and highest self to embrace your mental health. On this program you will meet many doctors, experts, and pioneers who have helped pave the way to shift the paradigm of getting rid of the stigma of mental illness in our society. This show was created for those of you who would like new ways of thinking and understanding about mental health and helping your loved ones to thrive in empowered ways. 

Today I have the honor of interviewing Howard Caesar, he has been speaking, teaching and inspiring audiences of his transformational spiritual messages since his 20’s. Recognized as a leader in his field, he has served and built two large ministries. The most recent being in Houston, Texas where he has served for 30+ years. His positive, practical, progressive approach to spirituality has inspired thousands of people to live happier, more prosperous and fulfilling lives. He has traveled the world, lead pilgrimages to other lands, and he has presented uplifting messages to tens of thousands of people via radio, tv, and the internet. Always communicating inclusivity, diversity, love and oneness and today we will be discussing his new book, One Plus One Is One.

It’s just such an honor to have you on the show today Reverend Howard.

Rev. Howard: Well, I’m delighted. I really appreciate getting to know you and learning what you’re about as well which I’m very impressed with what I’ve come to learn. 

Dr. Denise: Well thank you, and you and I were introduced this week by Chris Bridge, my dear friend and children’s author of The Same Heart, this is a book that gives the message we are all different and each and every one, and we are all the same. So, this message of oneness is near and dear to my heart, and I know it’s really near and dear to yours too, and that’s actually how we met. 

Rev. Howard: I met Chris this week, well, I’ve known her a little bit but it was great to see the work that she’s doing, she brought her books in and I just resonated with what she was doing. They were really on the same page, really wanting to bring people together in oneness, the truth of oneness, that we are all family. She’s doing it with a real focus on children whichi s great, I really hope to help further her work as well. 

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and I think for me personally, as a child psychiatrist, and as a mother, 70-80% of lifelong mental health issues start before age 24. And so I think a message to reach our children about the importance of awareness, self love, other love, peace, and unity, the sooner we can do that as parents, as spiritual leaders, as doctors, the better society is going to thrive, and we’re going to thrive. 

Rev Howard: I agree, I really agree. I think it would be great if it was built into the curriculum of school systems a whole lot more. To really teach some of these things that are spiritual, and they wouldn’t have to necessarily divide it by religious lines, who is going to argue against oneness and love, right?

Dr. Denise: Right.

Rev. Howard: That makes the world work.

Dr. Denise: Right and I feel incredibly fortunate, where I live in Manhattan Beach, now are you familiar with Goldie Hawn’s program, The Mind Up Program? 

H: I’m not, I’m not. 

Dr. Denise: I t’s really fascinating. They’ve reached 1 million people so far, and it is that concept of an innovative curriculum, and so my son is learning about kindness, compassion, he’s also learning about meditation. And on every Wednesday they have a group, a kind of a spiritual kindness compassion day where the whole school gets together in the morning, and they sing a song together, and they give out kindness awards for each of the grades in the elementary school. 

Rev. Howard: Wow, that’s wonderful. That’s great. We got to have more of that spread around through the world. 

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and they also really emphasize the importance of the environment and which classroom has been recycling and so I think that kind of integrative well being is something that is important.

I just would love to hear about your book One Plus One Is One and the inspiration on that book because I think that resonates with all the topics we just brought up.

Rev. Howard: Yeah, I actually feel like my divine plan in life has been about oneness, since I was a little child it seems like that was something I would look around and perceive and be questioning why there were all this dividedness and divisions, and we went through high school, being a Protestant, dated a Catholic girl, it was worrisome to the parents, they were all on edge. There was just all this sense of dividedness in different areas and so and later, well actually I was in my early twenties, and I found a path that was for me felt right because it was about bringing humanity together in oneness and really recognizing and honoring all paths. And so from there became a minister and was speaking and teaching for some 40 years and have just written my first book, and want to just take it, again, to the next level. So, yeah I’ve written a book called One Plus One is One, and I have an 8 year old grandson who was on the phone with me and he said, he calls me Papa, so, what’s the title of the book? I said it’s One Plus One is One, and there was a long pause and he said, Papa, one times one is one, one divided by one is one, one plus one is two Papa! 

Dr. Denise: Oh, don’t you just love kids!

Rev. Howard: So, anyway, yeah, yeah, but anyway, I’ll be explaining to him and he’s excited about the book, but you know it’s the principle that is earthly math you look at object and we look at each other and we think there’s distance and separation. One tree plus another tree adds up to two trees, one apple plus another apple, one person plus another person, it all seems to look like it sums in total you know way beyond one, but in spiritual math, in cosmic math, in spiritual universal principle, we’re really all one, we’re one family and in the spiritual level and domain there are people that are waking up to this, they feel that their core, they’re longing for it, they’re reaching for it, they’re hungry for it, I really feel there’s a wave of this kind of energy being birthed right now.

Dr. Denise: And I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more with you and I think in this time in history it’s really interesting when you talk about the energy of the universe, and how, I just actually before I was going to have this call with you I watched an interview that you did on the Deborah Duncan Show with Deepak Chopra back in 2015, and you and he were having an interesting discussion about cosmic energy and positive forces and negative forces and things balancing out, and I think we are living at such a time where people are using a lot more divisive terms and needing to be like, “What team am I on? What team are you on?” So, I think this also gives people who are thinking in terms of oneness and unity to really step into their power that they have and really that any act of kindness, love, and compassion, towards oneself, creates, or to others, creates a ripple effect that can raise the vibration of collective consciousness.

Rev. Howard: Absolutely, absolutely. Everyone has an opportunity and that’s part of what the book is about. You know, we change the world one person at a time, and every person who is willing to work within themselves to take greater responsibility for reminding and remembering their true self is about love to come from that. And the biggest obstacle that people have is really starting with loving themselves, because you really can’t give away what you don’t have yourself. There’s a lot of healing that needs to be done in people that have been conditioned in various ways through their childhood through situations and circumstances, people have been wounded, and gone through pain and suffering and is basically is the result on some level of creating a separate self. And so what we’ve created we can also release and let go and return to our true heritage which is really that we are all one.

One with the one Divine, the one presence and power in this universe. That takes us into a oneness with ourselves, our true higher self, the more we connect with that, identify with that, then the more we have to offer and help others as well. And make a difference really as the circle continues to ripple out and become part of the critical mass, really. 

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and I think for children, they’re so connected to source, and to love, that it’s such an amazing time to give children a set of tools, at a very young age with help from their parents influence or teachers, a spiritual presence of prayer or mantra, or meditation, so that people can realize that they’re having a witnessing awareness of their experience here. How am I feeling today? Is my stomach okay? Am I sad? Am I happy? When people have an awareness of their emotional well being and their physical well being and they’re trying to get to a place of being “your own best friend” and loving yourself, that actually can help you remember and stay connected to your higher self. 

Rev. Howard: Absolutely, and I think, I think a big part of it is we tend to try to escape our feelings and then we go numb. It’s wonderful to be able to be with a child who is able to feel everything. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about a child’s feelings with them as opposed to making them wrong. And just talk them through and ask them what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling the way they are and making it okay and having a level of understanding then taking them around to seeing another way of perceiving a situation. We’re creating neural pathways all the time and it’s crucial at the time of a young age, and if you can help them develop perceptions, and really actually neural pathways as they’re talking about in brain science, then these days the child is almost automatically going to slip into those things they have learned and the seeds that have been planted at a young age.

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and I really look at it as a child psychiatrist, doing a lot of cognitive therapy and talking to people about their mindset, and positive ways of thinking and I like to teach my son, and my son is 8, about the importance of words, actions, and intention and that everything is energy. We know that in the physical manner, the neural science, but from a cosmic level that’s true, too. And then I teach my patients ways to cope with cognitive behavior therapy strategies, and to shift to positive thinking.

So, can you share your message about positive thinking and the vibration of love verses fear? And the way you’ve worked with people throughout the years from your perspective? 

Rev. Howard: Sure, um, basically, it’s always in it’s most simplest terms, that, really, separation is our greatest problem. At some point in our lives, we basically separate out from who really are and our truest selves as children. And that’s why even Jesus becomes a little child, it’s kind of returning to that state. And what happens is we get filled with a lot of concepts of what to do and how to be through all of this we lose a sense of ourselves and our authenticity. And so it’s a matter of returning back to just loving ourselves for who we are and just coming from a place of being-ness. As opposed to having this um, this stress of having to be this, or having to become that. It’s loving ourselves where we are in each moment as we’re continuing to evolve, and live our lives. And, I just believe so firmly that at our core every person is absolutely beautiful, wonderful, whole, complete, pure, perfect, absolute goodness. And what happens is that true self gets covered over by a separate self that we make along the way. And a lot of it has to do with simply the conditionings, you know the things we introduce to the different voices in our world, the different things that happen to us, and circumstances, and uh, and a lot of times, it becomes a matter of unlearning and releasing, letting go some of the things we have in consciousness covered over who we really are and really meant to be. So, if you can help a person release those things that have ultimately kept them in fear, or anger, or wounded-ness then they begin to find who they are once again, begin to love themselves once again, then they’re able to love as well as receive it in and their world becomes more joyful and peace filled.

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and I completely am in alignment and it’s really interesting, 20 years ago when I decided to do private practice, verses working for someone else, I realized when I was in the hospital, I looked at my child psychiatry at UCLA, I loved my training, I also was in the South, at Emory University, however, in Western Medicine at the time I was training, it was the decade of the brain and how a lot of the words that we choose can keep one feeling sick, or ill. And so, as a doctor, it felt, the words that, and I really honor science. I am so happy I went to medical school, I’m very very happy with that, however, I intuitively knew that I had to go and work on my own so I could be in the energy environment that really would help my patients to heal, and then also, the words that we choose because the word mental illness verses mental health, or the word disorder verses reorder.

I think that for people, knowledge is power, so let’s say, for instance, someone comes in and they’re having generalized anxiety, I like to take a multi-dimensional perspective which includes my modern medicine understanding and also integrate with Eastern philosophies, but I also really just sit there and just connect soul to soul with someone. And, so I also like to teach peoples, and someone’s like, “Oh, my goodness, generalized anxiety, oh great, now I know what’s going on.” That’s fine, but also help people not to land themselves there, not to define themselves from a place of illness and actually imagine and also to embrace the struggle because we all have crisis, we all have struggle, and so I think it’s very important, I’m interested in hearing your, how you handle this and people you work with. But I really try to educate, and then if someone needs medicine, that’s one tool that’s in my toolbox, but I really want people to come from a place of empowerment, a place of self love, and a lot of people when they come to see a psychiatrist, they’re feeling really shameful, like there’s something wrong with me, and so, that’s one of the reasons why I’m reaching out and doing the work that I’m doing now.

I do believe that the sooner people can realize self love and self awareness and that everyone has different feelings and thoughts and not to judge them, that’s going to help societal mental health, and that people won’t have the shame in reaching out for help, whether it’s coming to talk to you, or coming to talk to me. So, I think it’s really important that we teach our children at a young age that the words that we choose, the actions and the intentions, carry an energy vibration, that can make us feel well, or can contribute to us not feeling as well as we can. What are your thoughts on that?

Rev. Howard: Well, I agree completely. I think labeling is always very dangerous because then it kind of locks the mind into this is what I am, and we have to be careful where our identity is really formed. Where we live from. The best thing we can ever do in terms of empowerment is keep our identity pure and whole and complete and just have an unconditional sense of love for ourselves. I also think it is important that a person learn that, you know the only place you can really feel is, you can’t feel with your mind, you can’t feel a thought, you can only feel in your heart and so if you’re living in your head and your intellect alone, um, basically, it’s the heart that knows the way. Wisdom is where it resides, in the heart. And so, the more that we begin to stand back and see that we have thoughts but we are not our thoughts, we have a mind, but we are not our mind, we have a body but we are not our body, and begin to learn to be in that part of themselves that is the observer. And is able to check things out, be in touch with themselves before they say, and be in touch with actually looking at what their thoughts are and whether these are healthy for them or not. And choose higher. And again, it’s just back to, whether it’s children or any stage of life. To be more self-observing, and more conscious and to choose higher, always.

Dr. Denise: Yes, and I think some tangible tools kind of in the throws of motherhood, with my son, I try to say, “Was that kind? Or unkind?” And at times my husband will say, “That was rude.” I know that the term rude is in our modern vernacular, however, when you choose the word unkind verses kind you are actually raising the vibration, you’re expecting a different expectation, and so I guess I would say I feel really fortunate that I adopted my son when I was in my late 30’s because I had a lot more wisdom. And so um (laughter) I also feel that teaching him, kids are such sponges, they pay attention to the words that we choose how we act, and I think very simple tools that we can teach our children and also parents on how to talk with their children, and to talk to themselves, cause I think we all try to heal at all different stages and ages of our life. 

Rev. Howard: Mmhm, yeah, I think the key there would be as you use the example kind or being rude or whatever, it’s being able to say, well, I’m not rude, what I just said was rude. 

Dr. Denise: Correct.

Rev. Howard: So, I know that, I’m not, I’m not that. So the identity still remains above whatever was said, whatever was done and they once again, they don’t have to shame themselves and they can just choose again and be aware and I think it’s great to teach a child the virtues of awareness. To be praising them from the level of how much you have become aware of yourself and are noticing and choosing higher, because everything is a choice in terms of how we direct these life energies that are flowing through us.

Dr. Denise: Can you discuss a little bit about the structure of your book and some of the tips and tools that you’re hoping that people are going to gain from reading One Plus One Is One?

Rev. Howard: Yeah, the intent of the book is to really help people connect, and realize that we are all one, to reawaken states of oneness. that takes people beyond their sense of separation which leads to various suffering and unhappiness in life. And take them back to love, joy, and peace. Now, I say that the three most important things in life are um, relationships, relationships, relationships. 1, 2, and 3. It starts with your relationship with your higher power, um, out of that you learn more of what is the truth. You also generate life giving energies moving through you and it’s about bonding, there actually is a bonding and a partnering knowing there is a presence and a power that’s working through you that gave you this life and that it’s precious. And there’s an honoring of it, so it starts there. And from there you move into the fact that this power lives within you so it’s about your relationship with yourself, knowing yourself, knowing your higher self, and identifying with that and starting each day by identifying with who you are, this higher sacred self that is a part of you, that you have come to express and it’s true nature, it’s essential nature is love. And so, um, out of knowing yourself, you move into the states of loving yourself more and more and accepting yourself and when you’re able to accept all of yourself, and even your humanness, even your flaws, then you’re able now to really unconditionally love and accept others. Because we recognize we are all in the process of evolving and perfecting, and bettering ourselves in terms of expressing the highest and best that is in us. And so as we learn to accept others, um, again, we begin to impact our world. I also feel, you know, an area in which I say and teach, you know it’s all God. It’s all God.

There’s that Greek philosopher Empedocles.There are many people I think that who say unquote who said this but it was actually that Greek philosopher 500 years before Christ who said God is a circle, whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is no where, meaning nothing is outside of the circle of this life, this intelligence, this living loving energy, it’s all God. And so then it becomes a matter of actually looking at a tree and knowing, you know, there’s a life in this tree. There’s an intelligence in this tree, and in a flower and so everything is alive and it can speak to you, animals can speak to you.

I’ve been and seen where sages have carried an energy in which where, um, oxen who were walking around and would be just coming up to this individual because it’s consciousness was so pure love and has such a connection with these animals. And, of course, St. Francis of Assisi demonstrated that in others. But one of the chapters is about recognizing that everywhere you go, and everything and anything is within the circle of God, the stars, the sun, the moon, everything. When you begin to awaken that awareness, there’s a shift inside that makes you feel so connected with it all. Uh, it’s a new, empowering energy. 

Dr. Denise: I’m just smiling because I’m very attuned to the words and the thoughts that you’re saying and, I just, I think children come into the world so connected and aware, and full of love and it’s like we said earlier in our talk then they forget. So I think daily tips and tools to keep people in that state of grace, and awareness, are very important. And I’m going to share a couple of my tips and tools, and I would love to hear yours. I know a lot of my patients are like, “Fine Dr. McDermott, that sounds great but I’m really annoyed with my da-da-da-da.” So, they’re like, what are some tools? Give me some tools.
And so one thing that I like to, by the way, I think we all have our ability to connect with what our own tools are, this isn’t me telling you what to do, I think giving ideas are very important and that spurs and you kind of co-create together.

But being in a place of gratitude, I think before your feet hit the ground in the morning, I like to pause, I like to just think, what am I grateful for, what’s ahead of me, what challenges, and then I like to create a way to stay in gratitude throughout my day, ‘
because that’s a tool that keeps me connected to my higher self and to my awareness. And then, what I like to do, ‘cause some of us are more visual, some of us like words, some of us like to pray, some of us do moving meditations with exercise, so I think I like to encourage people to find their own way, where they stay connected to gratitude and a place of love. And I try to work with my patients, so not only the change your thinking, and the western way, but I help them get their own tools in their tool box. So, how about yourself? What are some tips and tools that you would give or things you like to do to give to stay in that space?

Rev. Howard: Well, I really love nature. So, I have to get out in nature from time to time, but I’m also really blessed that at this point in my life I have a home on a small lake, and it’s up against a nature preserve, and I have lots of flowers that I plant in the spring, and each morning I get up and go outside, and just, um, breathe it all in, feel it, say Hello to the flowers and the trees, and all of it, and as you say, just immensely grateful for what I’m surrounded with, the life I’m living, and just gratitude throughout the day is super. I also, you know have, I meditate everyday and of course that’s a very important time for me in connecting, you know that launches me as well with energetically. And I use affirmations,

I like to surround myself with photographs and pictures, and things that speak to me and remind me, you know of a truth, or just kind of smile back at me, whether it’s a picture of my grandchildren or if it’s of my family as a whole, my children, things like that. When it pertains to a child, I think it’s great to have a child learn to meditate but also, be given a pet of some sort that they can love, there’s just something about them feeling like this is theirs to care for, that’s very healthy. And, even I suggest to people and children, just having a plant to help it come along, and talk to it, and ideally have be it a plant, even if it’s just in a pot, if they’re living in an apartment or something, put it on a window or something, something that blooms. There’s kind of this life that is speaking to them, and it’s emerging, and it has a message. All of those things I remember just being so intrigued, even as a child, watching the seed of a bean grow through a glass, and you know, you watched it burst open and come up and push through and the soil and I still remember that to this day. You know, there are ways that children can see and feel and just feel the glory of that life. 

Dr. Denise: I agree with you, we have our own little zoo here in our house. We have a Newfoundland dog named Boomer, he’s 180 pounds. And then my little 8 year old really wanted a…

Rev. Howard: Oh, my God, 180 pounds?!

Dr. Denise: Yes, yes. He’s like our own little mini horse. And then we have two cats that we just adopted, Leo and Nova. And then our 18 year old wanted rats, so we have 2 rats, and we also have a little hamster. So, we don’t live on a ranch, but it sort of feels like we’ve got our own little zoo here, in the beach cities.

Rev. Howard: Yes, yes. Yeah, that’s great.

Dr. Denise: And I agree with you it’s about being connected, and other living beings and sentient beings, just I think also what we’re just describing is being in the love, or being in awareness of all that is, when you’re really surrounding yourself and feeling like you’re a part of it and integrated, then you can really realize the oneness.

Rev. Howard: Yeah, and you know, another thing that is important is that through our childhood we’ve had moments, moments where we’ve felt connected, to where we can go back and remember, whether it was a time laying on our back in a field looking up at blue sky, and watching birds fly over, and we just had some sort of a wave of energy come over and touch us in our hearts and just an expansive feeling. And I’ve always asked people if they can remember moments, and every person can cite moments, whether it’s from their childhood or various points along the way in their life where they were given precious sacred moments of feeling really connected and it’s important to remember those and carry them with you, and go back to those and say, that lives in me as a reminder, of how it can be, and just to get into that energy, sink into that energy, and, and carry it forward into your day, into your life, but those are meaningful moments not to be forgotten. 

Dr. Denise: You know, that’s really a great point to be made, when I see people they usually come to me as like the last line of defense when they’re done everything they can. And one of the questions I ask them is when is the last time you remember feeling joy? And then we go back, and they…

Rev. Howard: Mmhm, that’s great.

Dr. Denise: They think about it. They think, where was I? What was I doing work-wise? Who was I hanging out with? What kind of fitness routine? Where was my passion to get connected to what really fuels their soul where they feel alive and they feel well. 

Rev. Howard: Yeah, you know sometimes the separate self, which is a creation of the mind, and really we are not saying the mind is bad by any means but if you don’t use the mind, the mind uses you. So, that’s, you have to transcend the mind or begin to master the mind, and to use it properly. But, if you, um, I lost my train of thought where I was going. Um, oh, what was I going to say? Forgive me. 

Dr. Denise: That’s ok. We’re just talking about the wellness, and over all the joy, and reconnecting to joy, and for what that’s like for someone to really feel alive. Talking about the mind, the mind can get in the way. 

Rev. Howard: Yeah, and I think it’s just being able to take charge of the mind, and to, again, remember that you’re partnering with the heart. The mind and the heart are to become really buddies. And the more you bring the heart into the mind, and you’re bringing wisdom in as well. And look at what it is you can let go of, but the mind, I know what I meant to say is that the mind actually separates itself when the ego part has a problem. And so it’s almost learning that there’s a part of the mind that wants to focus on a problem, and if it doesn’t have a problem, it wants to go find one, and that awareness is really helpful so that you begin to take charge of your mind and see that this is really characteristic of a separate self that has been created and it’s the only way that it continues to have life so that you continue to move yourself back to something positive, something good, a reminder of who you really are, what life can be, you’re higher intentions, loving yourself, loving others, sometimes I think when people are most inactive, that separate mind takes over and they just dwell on the problem, focus on it and it eats them up. 

Dr. Denise: Yeah, and I’m actually, I just, that was someone yesterday. And I think what we’re talking about is when people get in a place of feeling stuck, and that rigidity, that ruminative thinking over and over again, or playing a tape in your mind that just no longer serves you. It just doesn’t serve you, but you can’t help it.

It’s like you’re going to, it’s like when you’re stuck in a car, you can’t get out of the parking lot. And da-da-da-da-da-da. And so for instance, yesterday I had someone who kept saying, “But, Dr. McDermott, was so, I was so traumatized by what happened in 2015 and I kept going over again and saying it and saying it.” And I asked the person, “Is this something you do everyday?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Ok.” Then we broke it down and I said, “You know, you don’t need to say that to yourself anymore. We’re in this moment right now.” I validated that it was awful, that she had a trauma, cause a lot of times people have PTSD or Generalized Anxiety, and there’s a tape that keeps going back and so I think sometimes people do need to see a psychiatrist and even be put on medicine.
I do a lot more than that. I give cognitive behavioral tools, meditation, prayer, so I’m not against prescribing, but it’s not my go-to.

So, I don’t want to minimize for anyone listening that there’s times that medicine can be very helpful, however, you have to have a routine to hit reset, in a place of self love, and sort of list out what’s no longer honoring you. Cause the animal part of us gets in our behaviors, and the rigidity and chaotic part of, that’s really the mental illness, and the disorder, and the reorder thinking is coming from a place of love, awareness, heartfulness and compassion. Compassion for oneself, and compassion for others. 

Rev. Howard: Yeah, it’s really important to stay active in the moment, in the now, because if we don’t our mind will take us into the past, about something to mull over, or, it will be about worrying about something in the future. Your, and life, is really lived fully in the moment. That’s really where, uh, you experience life. You’re not experiencing life if you bring the past with you into the moment. Or, if you are worried about the future, and you bring the future into the moment. We’re all going to have a certain amount of fear when we are in the leading edge that’s new and unknown, that’s ok, we have to make it all right and make our peace and just breathe our way through it cause that’s just being human. But the more we can bring the divine in, and trust that even though it’s unknown, this can be exciting, this can be meaningful, we can create a picture of how we would like it to be. Not make a right or wrong, or have to judge ourselves as passing or failing, but experiencing life. The mind tends to want to judge, everything and judge ourselves, and judge others, and then all that does it separate ourselves from ourselves, and from others. It’s just a tendency of the mind that we’ve been conditioned into doing because we tend to amplify the differences, and that’s again just a learning, conditioned factor.

And again, my book is intended to take us beyond that. To see how that stands in the way of a joyful life, a life that really is full of peace, love and connectedness. There can be an absolute shift vibration in a person as they go through this book, and begin to find themselves, once again. 

Dr. Denise: That’s fantastic, and then, I just wanted to, it came to me, to finish up, just discussing the importance of disengaging, or, engaging in a positive way on social media, and monitoring the quality and quantity of news that one allows themselves to get everyday. I think that…

Rev. Howard: Right.

Dr. Denise: I love nature, I love everything we’re talking about but all the young generation, everyone is so connected to their iPhones, the news, they’re texting, they’re snap chatting, I have some tools and tips I’d like to share, but I’d love to hear your insight in how you talk to people about positive use of social media and how to be kind of self aware of how much news one can handle and the quantity and quality of information you allow yourself to receive everyday. 

Rev. Howard: I’d love to hear your tools, too, but basically mine would be very simple and just say, they have to monitor themselves. They have to able to be in touch with themselves enough to be measuring how is this skewing their perception of the world, how is this impacting their life, how is this draining perhaps even their energies? What is life giving? How much is causing draining of energy? How much is contributing to their overall state of being? I think that everyone ought to discipline the amount of time that they give to all of this that’s coming at them. Because it can be endless and it can be so inhibiting in terms of the life that wants to be lived in you. So if it was a youth or a child, I would limit the amount of time that it was on and I would talk to them seriously about the impact that it has with them. Adults I talk with, we just have so much information coming at us from so many directions, and it’s just multiplying and it’s increasing, and speeding up, and so, everyone needs to be able to just have some compassion for themselves, to cool their jets, calm down, quiet their mind, be still, be with themselves. Because simply, all of this contributes to taking you away from you. 

Dr. Denise: Yes, and I think what’s happened is, technology has grown at such a rapid rate, there hasn’t been enough scaffolding, a lot of the parents who are raising children who are not in this information age.

I have to tell you, there’s been an increase in suicidality since the late 90’s and there are multiple factors, diet, nutrition, the micro biome, you know, all different reasons, food is medicine, exercise is mind medicine. However, I do believe that there has to be some correlation when people started to be very active on their electronics. Cause there has been such a shift across all age groups of increased depression, and suicidality, and I talk about that, a little bit about that in my mental health and how to thrive book, and so I also interviewed some people who had some severe cyber bullying, and I spoke to Dr.Allen Tein who is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins and all the data shows that verbal bullying increases for the person being bullied and the person doing the bullying increases the risks of depression by 2x the amount.

And, so, this is why Reverend Howard, I am so passionate about reaching our children, at the youngest age with these tips, tools and ways to connect with nature, mindfulness, unity, and oneness. And the specific tips and tools that I have for parents and for children, is, you know, first of all, limiting your amount of social media, limiting how you talk, having rules, is what I’m saying kind or unkind?

And my husband, I love what he said to our kids, he said, “If you were to put a billboard up, on the 405, which is the big busy freeway here in California, and you were to write that text message or you were about to put that, think about what you’re going to say as though the whole world sees when you do something on social media.” He gave that as our rule of thumb to our children, so that’s one tip. And then another tip is to pause before you hit send on something, a lot of times people will discuss very emotionally charged situations via text or email and are really conversations that should be done in person, when you’re making eye contact, and when you can hear the tone in someone’s voice. So, I think our children need tools on kinder communication, and realizing that there can be real positive things from using social media, but there can be things that are not positive about it. 

Rev. Howard: I really think that there should be classes now that it’s become so dominant. I think that it should almost be a course in school, but they’re doing it themselves. And how far it takes them away from relationships with others, there’s so much time spent that they lose the personal interfacing with others and also the time that used to be spent just being with themselves. That’s just another escape, whether it’s TV, or the Internet. It can just be a way of not being with yourself and not being with others. So, people isolate. I think that’s some of the suicide, too, is that um, they just fill themselves with all the stuff that’s coming across there and they’re not able to be with themselves and with others in a way that is fulfilling. 

Dr. Denise: I agree with you. They haven’t, haven’t gained the skills, they’re losing skills of interfacing with each other. I don’t think they have the skills because they’re inundated, it’s an addiction, so they’re feeding with an addictive mindset, that’s why I have such compassion for these children and so I think that the oneness message and the same heart and the work I do as a child psychiatrist, and the ministry work you do, I think that all different age groups to come together as one, and scaffold our wisdom,

I think that you and Chris Bridge talked about doing some work together. She and I are co-creating a book, that’s why I really think that as a child psychiatrist, and as a mother, I am setting a strong foundation of my presence on social media. I did not want to do Twitter, and all this image assets and everything, I was like, “Really? Do I have to do this?” And, I’m like, yes, I do, because I have to relate to the current medium of communication. I have to be relevant, because so many of our elders have the wisdom just like the ancestors and sages throughout history do, and so we have to keep up with the times. So, I agree with you, I think on having a workshop, perhaps that would be something really cool to do in Houston with Chris, maybe I can talk about that off record or at another time, but that kind of responsible communication that can actually promote more about oneness and unity, and compassion I think that’s a very important thing that we have to embrace as a society.

Rev. Howard: I agree, and I think people, people have a void, and they don’t know what to fill it, or how to fill it, or what the emptiness is. They can’t define it. But it basically boils down to they’ve lost the sense of being able to be with themselves, love themselves, love life. So much of the information that they’re getting is so much in, the head and in the realm on concepts and things that are going wrong and things to fear in the world, and all the judgments that the world is placing on them. Or people around them or what have you, they just need to really pull back from all of that and spend some time with themselves and be taught once again who they really are, and how precious they are and to move away from the mind and into the heart where wisdom resides, and where they’re able to again reach what is really called causeless love. That’s the ideal that we all want that to love without a cause. In other words, I don’t have to find something good about this or that person, or something good about this or that day, to have the energies of love flowing through me. And that’s something that is needing to be taught more to people, how to get there and to experience what is causeless love. Causeless joy. That is our norm. That was how we are meant to be. And that is the state of being from which we are to live. Needing to get back to that.

Dr. Denise: I completely agree with you. And, I know this has just been such an honor and privilege to have you on the show today. I’d love to, since we in such a spontaneous way set up the show too, want to set the intention that I’m going to make sure I’ll email or call you briefly afterwards and we will set something up outside of the show to discuss this more because I think it’s such an important topic and perhaps address it on another show. 

Rev. Howard: Ok, that sounds wonderful. I thank you for, it was just kind of divine order, I guess, that you and I connected so quickly and so fast and that, you gave me this opportunity and I really appreciate it. And thank you.

Dr. Denise: Thank you. And I will be out in Houston sometime in the next 4-6 weeks, but for everyone listening, can you let everyone know that your book is about to be released and how they can find you and also there’s so many great interviews with you. Speaking of media, positive media everyone, if you want to look up Reverend Howard Caesar, there’s so many wonderful shows you’ve been on and pilgrimages you’ve lead, and the organizations you’re in. So, will you tell everyone a little but about where they can find you, and where they can order your book? 

Rev. Howard: Well, I’m just actually launching it on my own website because I’ve been a part of a ministry and it’s website I, um, so it will be HowardCaesar.com and that should be up in the next day or two, and it will be continuing to expand and broaden. My book One Plus One is One, making oneness a way of life, by Howard Caesar, is available on Amazon, and so hope you check that out and um, and basically our ministry here is UnityHouston.org 

Dr. Denise: Fabulous, Ok, well I’m so grateful, I’m just smiling, I know I’m not seeing you face to face but I hope you can hear my words, I have a huge smile of gratitude today for meeting you. And I look forward to further discussions and thank you for all the work you’ve done in the world. 

Rev. Howard: Again, my pleasure, smiling at you as well.

Dr. Denise: Ok, take care, Howard, thank you. Bye.

Rev. Howard: You bet. Blessings.

Dr. Denise: Blessings. Bye. Bye.

Let’s Discuss “13 Reasons Why”

It is children’s mental health awareness week and I have been asked what I think about the Netflix Series, “13 Reasons Why.” I cannot tell you how grateful I was to receive this email from our school district that my own children attend. As a mother and a child psychiatrist I am sharing this with all of you as I think it is well written and offers great tips, tools and more as to how you can be a “present parent” in engaging your children in important discussions about this show, other “mature audience” shows, their use of social media and more!

Here is the email I received this morning:

Dear MBUSD Community:

By now you’ve probably heard about the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why (13RW), based on the popular book by Jay Asher. In the story, a group of high school students attempt to piece together a story left behind by their classmate, who died by suicide.

The series is rated TV-MA, for mature audiences only, which means that it may not be appropriate for children under 17 because of crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. While the series does attempt to bring up important topics, it goes against the recommendations of many mental health providers and suicide prevention models. There are real concerns that the series potentially glamorizes suicide and does not offer crucial  information regarding mental illness and available support. 

Many of our students are watching the series, and while we are not making recommendations about the show itself, we know that families will of course make their own decisions . If you decide  to allow your children to watch it, we strongly encourage you to watch it with them and engage in conversation about the sensitive and emotional topics that it raises (in addition to suicide, these topics include teen drinking, bullying, sexting, rape, etc.). One of our parent education partners is Common Sense Media. They provide excellent guidance for parents on many media pieces, and they do have recommendations about this series. Their recommendations can be found here.

We take all threats of self-harm seriously. If a student makes any kind of threat of self-harm, we will take appropriate next steps , including risk screening and contacting parents and guardians . We never want our students to feel that suicide is a solution. We also want to make sure that parents and guardians know what to watch for; you can read more about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicidal behavior here. 
These are difficult topics to discuss with your children. Specific talking points for discussing 13 Reasons Why can be found here

If you need more information or support, please feel to reach out to your school’s support staff or me.

Sincerely,

Assistant Superintendent, Student Services
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

I emailed MBUSD to say thank you for this and to say, “Well done.” It is OUR responsibility as parents, teachers, doctors and adult role models to help our children thrive and to engage in their lives.

As an adult and child psychiatrist I have been on the mental health front lines battling mental illness crisis’ now for over 20 years. Since last December I have had 9 suicidal referrals to my practice and 7 individuals are under age 18 who are now safe and are in recovery. This is a higher than average amount in my practice and I believe the level of fear, anger and hatred on social media, in the news, and in our discussions is contributing to OUR societal mental health emergency.

I strongly feel as a society we can focus on prevention and reducing the stigma and shame around mental health issues. I posted an article, “The Reality of Suicide” last month and my article on “Cyberbullying Takes Lives” reached >40,OOO people.

WE as a society need to come together and decide to set examples for our youth and for each other that OUR collective mental health and wellbeing is a top priority! I am so happy that Lady Gaga, the Royal family and other celebrities and athletes are talking about mental wellness and encouraging OUR youth to speak out and get help.

All of you that are “MENTAL HEALTH WARRIORS” are making a difference and I thank you for your posts, shares, and messages! It is team “WE” and I know that we are shifting and changing the way WE think, talk and act about mental health!

With gratitude,

Dr. Denise
Denise McDermott M.D.

For more tips, tools and more about mental health, check out my ebook!

Dr. Richard Aiken on Food as Mind Medicine


Dr. Aiken is a chemical engineer and physician emphasizing in Lifestyle Medicine. Has a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an MD from the University of Utah, where he was a tenured professor. His residency in general psychiatry and fellowship in child psychiatry were at Washington University in St. Louis. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe and is the author of many peer reviewed scientific articles. He is Board certified in psychiatry and is associated with Missouri State University’s Taylor Health & Wellness Center.

Dr. Aiken is the author of Neurodietetics: The Dietary Science of Human Flourishing.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

Dr. Denise and Rev. Howard Caesar Discuss Oneness, Unity and Love


Howard Caesar has been speaking, teaching and inspiring audiences with his transformational spiritual messages since his twenties. Recognized as a leader in his field, he has served and built two large ministries, the most recent being Houston, Texas where he served for 30 plus years. His positive, practical, progressive approach to spirituality has empowered thousands of people to live happier, more prosperous and fulfilling lives.

He has traveled the world, led pilgrimages to other lands, presenting uplifting messages to tens of thousands via radio, TV, and the internet, always communicating inclusivity, diversity, love and oneness.

Rev. Caesar is the author of the newly released book “One + One Is One”.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

An interview with humanitarian and holistic therapist Dr. Marcy Cole


Marcy Cole, Ph.D is a Holistic Psychotherapist, Bestselling Co-Author, Speaker, Community Mobilizer, and Humanitarian Visionary.

Dr. Cole is a blog author for the Huffington Post, as well as Thrive Global, and contributed to two best-selling anthologies:
Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts that Came Wrapped in Sandpaper and Get Your Woman On: Embracing Beauty, Grace and the Power of Women.

She has been featured on television shows including Dr. Drew’s Life Changers, Millionaire Matchmaker, Braxton Family Values, Issues with Jane Valez- Mitchell on HLN, and Taboo on the National Geographic channel.

Marcy founded a women’s group called First Tuesday LA, offering on and off line programming to promote social connectivity, professional networking and social service.

In the fall of 2011 she launched a virtual platform for women without children: Childless Mothers Connect, providing an online haven to share their stories, resources, struggles and triumphs with one another.

Marcy is also the Founder and Executive Director for the Non-Profit organization ”CMomA” (Childless Mothers Adopt), offering opportunities to childless single women, and couples who adopt the organizations mission of helping orphaned children in need through adoption, foster care and mentorship.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016