Danielle Lee: Good evening, Jacksonville. Happy Saturday. I’m Danielle Lee, and welcome to The Conversation with Dr. Ali Kasraeian. You too can join the conversation. Just give us a call at 340-1045. We have a full house today, and even somebody on the line. Dr. Ali, I’m just going to toss it over to you.
Kasraeian: Welcome. Thank you very much. Welcome to The Conversation. We do have a full house today, talking about a very important and fortunately, more often discussed topic than, even as recently as years passed. Today we’re going to talk about mental illness as we move forward to a wonderful event happening next Saturday that we’ll discuss today.
In studio, we have a few guests who I’m honored to have here. One is Jeanine Hoff, who I had the good fortune of meeting and talking to after a wonderful presentation at the TED X meeting here in Jacksonville, Florida a few months ago. She was talking about mental illness and her amazing organization called Where is the Sunshine? We’ll talk about why she started that organization and … Sorry, I almost fell off the table here while sitting, which is an impressive thing to do, but I almost accomplished it.
We’re going to talk about that and the reasons why her organization aims to raise awareness for mental health through education, through advocacy, and raising the emphasis on the importance of early intervention and peer support for both the people dealing with the struggles of mental health, and also the family and the people that care for them, and our community at large.
Fortunately, I think we are moving in times where we, our communities and our nation and the world is becoming more accepting of the possibility of mental illness being an actual illness, as opposed to a stigma-ed issue that people don’t need to talk about and keep hidden. I’m very excited to have Jeanine on the show. Jeanine, thank you for joining us.
Jeanine Hoff: Thank you for having me, I’m excited to be here.
Kasraeian: Also in studio is Denise Marzullo, who is the Executive Director of Mental Health in America here in northeast Florida with a long and wide, or longstanding and wide breadth of experience as a mental health counselor. I saw that you have a business degree as well, which I think would probably help in terms of dealing with the advocacy and the boarding organizations aimed at raising awareness. Obviously, you want to raise funds for research and things of that nature, as well through the breadth of things that can be done. Thank you for joining us.
Denise Marzullo: Thank you for having me.
Kasraeian: On the line, our dear friend to the conversation and myself, Dr. Michael De La Hunt, who is a psychiatrist focusing on adolescent behavioral health at Wolfsons Children’s Hospital in the north clinics. Dr. De La Hunt, thank you for joining us. I spoke to him a second ago. I know he’s there.
Denise Marzullo: He sounds there.
Kasraeian: He’s on call this week, so he may be taking a call.
Dr. De La Hunt: Can you hear me now?
Denise Marzullo: Yes, there he is.
Kasraeian: Welcome to the show.
Dr. De La Hunt: Hey, thank you so much. Glad to be here.
Kasraeian: Thanks for joining us. Jeanine, to start. Your TED X talk was fantastic. It’s amazing. Anyone can go on, on the TED X Jax website. On your website, Whereisthesunshine, and look at it. TED talks are basically 15 minutes where people take a very broad topic and tell personalized stories of how this is important. They’re not only informative, but they’re profoundly entertaining.
I think the combination of two engages our community and our people and stories, that open our eyes to a perspective on issues. Here, mental health I think, is a field of medicine that people’s individual stories have such power, in terms of opening your eyes to the importance of this issue but also opening the eyes of those dealing with this issue, that they are not alone. I think that is key.
Jeanine Hoff: Yes, it’s true. With mental illness, some people just don’t seek treatment. They think, “Oh, I can get over it on my own,” or, “I can be fine,” or, “I just try not to think about it.” If you broke your leg, you’d go to the hospital. You’d get your leg fixed. If you were diagnosed with cancer, you’d go to the doctor.
You’d get chemo, you’d get radiation, you’d do whatever kind of treatment you could to survive. With mental illness, it’s a little different. With the stigma of it, people tend to try and avoid it or think, “Oh, I’ll get past it in a few days.” Sometimes they do, but many times they don’t. If it’s not treated early, it can get worse and a person can go into crisis mode.
Kasraeian: Let me ask you, how did you get involved in starting this organization, and how did you get involved in the world of mental illness?
Jeanine Hoff: It’s kind of funny, I actually have a degree in music so I did not do any training in mental health until I got involved in doing this. It was basically, based on my own experience in Jacksonville. I began to suffer from severe depression and anxiety to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t do anything. It was hard for me to take care of my children. To be a wife and be a mother, and I was working full-time.
I was working between 50 and 70 hours a week in a very stressful position. I stopped working, and it all just collapsed on me, my world. I looked for help, and there was professional help. I was seeing a psychiatrist. I was seeing a psychologist, but I wanted someone to connect with on my level. A friend, someone to understand. My friends were really supportive and really, they tried to understand but they just didn’t get it.
My husband too. He was the most supportive husband as could possibly be, but it was hard for him to understand what I was going through. I decided, after looking and not finding something out there like this, that I was going to create my own organization to connect individuals across the city with other organizations, with myself, to get them peer support. Peer support, I think, is critical. It’s the last missing piece in the puzzle.
Kasraeian: Basically, the idea of the support group amplified in a way that you can not only be an advocate for the disease process, but if someone needs help, they can reach out and talk to someone that has dealt with this issue or is currently dealing with an issue that may not seem that simple or that easy to answer when you’re getting the information from someone who hasn’t gone through it themselves.
Jeanine Hoff: I find that the people I come across, I’ve spoken to parents who have depressed teenagers. Their kids are struggling. They come to me and they’re just looking for advice. An ear or a shoulder to lean on. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re there to be their support system. To say, “It’s okay to go out there and find a doctor, find a psychiatrist. Find a psychologist or a social worker, and we’ll be with you.” We’ll be your foundation, if you will, and help them go and seek the treatment that they need.
Whether it’s for themselves or a family member or a friend. It’s done a lot of wonders for people. I’ve encountered so many people across Jacksonville in just the past year, who I thought were very successful, wonderful, everyday people who have reached out to me saying, “I’ve been struggling with depression for the last few months. I’ve been struggling with anxiety.” I would have never guessed, and that’s very surprising ’cause it’s hidden very well by most people.
Kasraeian: Jeanine, thank you for sharing that. Dr. De La Hunt, one question I had. For me, looking at the world of mental health and mental illness, it seems like some of the most difficult things for people to do when they’re dealing with a mental health issue is acknowledging and accepting, and even identifying that that may be going on. Then having the bravery to ask and reach out for help.
As a psychiatrist, what do you notice to be the process of something like Jeanine went through, where initially you have to identify and realize that something may be going on beyond just feeling anxious or feeling sad, where you may need help? Then how to leap over that hurdle of actually reaching the hand out and getting help from friends, family, primary care physicians, and ultimately a psychiatrist or a psychologist?
Dr De La Hunt: First of all, I have the advantage of actually, in my practice, when I’m actually meeting with somebody they’ve already made that step. We start from the point of like, “Well, thank you for coming in. Let’s address the concerns that brought you here.” As Miss Hoff had already indicated, acknowledging that is really the most difficult step that people take.
Where, all of us experience anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, on regular basis. In our experience, it’s always that we tend to get over it relatively quickly, but when it tends to persist and actually starts to impact our day-to-day lives and how we interact with others and how we’re able to perform our jobs, or whatever other responsibilities we may have.
It persists and becomes increasingly more painful, I think it’s the pain and suffering that we experience that will encourage us to start to reach out. Unfortunately, I think the most common experience for people is that it’s not until it really hits a crisis for them in some way that they have to acknowledge that they need to get help. Sometimes, once we acknowledge that we need to get help, then we can pursue that and-