INTERVIEWED BY SARAH KWONG
Mental health is a topic with so much stigma attached to it. It’s great to see advocates like psychologist, Laura Ellick, take raising awareness one step further by writing a whole book dedicated to mental health, speaking for it at many events, and pursing a career focused on it. We are so honored to have gotten to interview the inspiring Dr. Laura Ellick and hear a bit of her story. In this interview, we will get into deep, potentially triggering subjects such as eating disorders and cyber-bullying and mention depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!
“I am a New York and Florida licensed Psychologist, who has transitioned also into writing, public speaking and media driven psychology. I can now call myself an author, something that I never, ever expected!”
2. Why did you choose to become a psychologist? How are you able to create strong and trustworthy connections with clients?
“Since I was very young, I knew I always wanted to work with children. At first, my passion was to be a teacher. Later on, I felt drawn to TV shows and books in which the main character was a child going through a personal struggle. I knew that I was going to work in the psychology field in some capacity. When I started my freshman year in college and developed an eating disorder, I knew that I wanted to make an impact on those who had struggled in similar ways. First and foremost, making a strong connection with someone involves learning how to listen. It can be so powerful to tell your story out loud to another person. When a client comes to see me, very often I am the first person to whom he or she has ever opened up. I never take that lightly. I have great respect for anyone who walks through my door and shares their entire life with me.”
3. What does mental health mean to you? Has it made an impact on your life? If so, in what ways?
“Mental health involves taking care of body, mind, and soul/spirit (however that is defined personally). Too often in our society, we segment each area of our being. For example, there is a medical specialist for every organ of the body and no real “gatekeeper” who knows everything about us. We have lost sight of the fact that we function best when all three parts of self are integrated. As I previously mentioned, I have been out of balance when I struggled with my eating disorder, but I think that all of us go through tough periods in our lives in which we are not functioning optimally. Maybe we had a family member pass away or maybe we lost a job….when we can recognize that it is ok to reach out for help when we are struggling and need someone to talk to, we can make it easier for people to access quality mental health care without shame or stigma.”
4. On your IGTV, you have a short segment on self care. Do you believe self care is important? What do you believe is the goal of it? What would you recommend doing?
“Self care is extremely important and is something that I continue to struggle with on a daily basis. Taking time out to nurture your body, your emotions, and your spiritual side is incredibly valuable for building resilience and managing stress better. I have learned that self care doesn’t need to be extravagant or a full day affair. Just taking time to smell some lavender or to listen to my favorite song (on replay) is often enough to refresh me. I will coach my patients and encourage them to have a wide variety of self care tools available since what may be effective for times when we are sad might be different than what we need when we are angry.”
5. On your website, you mention you specialize in helping clients with eating disorders. You later mention in an interview with Time To Shine Today that people not only struggle with the disorder, but with sharing it and finding help. How would you encourage to find help or, at the very least, someone to open up to? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be about eating disorders; it can be about anything along the spectrum from depression to bullying)
“Scott Ferguson (the host of Time to Shine Today) has spoken about how difficult it can be for people to ask for help when they need it. There is still a stigma in our country about “mental illness.” When I speak to patients about never ignoring symptoms of cancer or diabetes, they get it….our culture has a tendency to ignore emotional pain or, even worse, to label it as “weakness.” We use “Google” for so many other things, but it’s easy to google Psychology Today or other mental health resources and find a professional near you. You can ask a teacher, coach, or neighbor for assistance. Listen to podcasts or find websites that can help you learn about what you are feeling and where to find help. “
6. As mentioned, you specialize in working with clients struggling with eating disorders. From your experience, why do these situations arise and how does it impact the mental health of those clients?
“Eating disorders are complex biological, psychological, and cultural disorders that have multiple causes. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet there is still so much mystery surrounding their development. We do know that eating disorders do tend to run in families and there is a genetic link between some eating disorders and other emotional disorders (such as OCD). One of the ways that I try to explain eating disorders to others is to identify it as a maladaptive coping strategy…when our stress level is higher than our ability to cope with the world, we tend to develop symptoms…based on genetics, culture, etc., we could turn to alcohol abuse or drugs. Since our culture has such strong values and opinions about body shape and weight, many vulnerable people will try to diet as a way to “get control” over their world. Unfortunately, receiving positive reinforcement for weight loss is so common in our country that it encourages the behavior until it takes on a life of its own.”
7. You mention that you enjoy working with clients who struggle with work/life balance. With Revive, we have a younger audience, predominantly those who are still students. How could your advice in finding work and life balance translate to helping those who struggle to find a school and life balance? How should we go about improving that balance?
“Work/life balance can be very difficult to achieve because we are so tied to technology. It is literally possible to sit at the computer at home (particularly during COVID) and work all day. There are no more boundaries between work (and school) life and home life. There is no commute (which used to serve as a transition time), no changing from “day” clothes to “night” clothes, and generally no set family meal times. It is important that we MAKE time every day for rest, nutrition, exercise, fresh air, and social interaction. Use technology to your advantage: set a timer on your phone to make sure you get out after studying for an hour. Take frequent breaks. Call a friend. Stay connected to other people to prevent depression, isolation, and loneliness.”
8. Not everyone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder. However, many of us face common negative impacts on our mental health, such as stress or the lack of motivation. What advice would you give to manage stress? How can we improve those aspects?
“Managing stress is frequently about boundaries and limit setting.. Being able to say “no” and not to take on more than you can handle is key. We live in a 24/7 world with FOMO being one of our greatest fears. It is truly ok to put away the phone, turn off the social media, and disconnect. If there are people in your life who are “energy vampires” and drag you down, then you can decide to distance yourself from them. Surround yourself with people, things, and experiences that lift you up. On the other hand, here are many people who struggle with realistic daily problems, such as poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and abuse. Prolonged exposure to these issues can result in depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Being able to ask for help is key. There are people who are willing to help and there are services available. We need to publicize these resources and make them easy to access.”
9. What prompted you to start writing books?
“I never expected to be a writer….I’ve always known that I was good at writing and that I enjoyed playing around with language and expressing my ideas. When I decided that I had something to say that might be a bit different from what was already out there and that what I could offer might help someone, the opportunities came to me!”
10. The second of two books that you published, “Wisdom from the Universe”, is what you referred to as “nuggets of wisdom”. What was the purpose of the book?
“This book came out of an exploration of my intuitive, rather than my scientific, nature. I believe that science and spirit ARE compatible. I had denied my intuitive talents for many years because professionals in the science world did not want to hear about my experiences if they could not be substantiated by hard data. However, I believe that we all need love, inspiration, and peace, particularly at this point in time. It was a great opportunity to give a gift to people who just want to read something uplifting and that will put them in a more hopeful frame of mind. It is NEVER too late to change your life.”
11. For us living in a world immersed in social media, image has become increasingly important to users, both consciously and unconsciously. From that, cyberbullying has arisen as well. Have you encountered anyone who has had their mental health negatively impacted due to social media and bullying? If so, what advice would you/did you give them?
“Bullying has been around in one form or another for generations. It’s unfortunate that people don’t realize how traumatic being the victim of a bully can be. I have worked with kids who have had to change schools or switch to online schooling because they have been victims of rumors, aggression, or social isolation. While boys are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, girls destroy other girls by ruining relationships through social exclusion, trash talking, and nonverbal aggressive behavior (e.g., eye rolls). It’s easier said than done, but I always encourage kids to cultivate friendships outside of school and to develop all aspects of their personality so that they can broaden their friend base. For example, play your favorite sport AND volunteer. The more connections you make to others, the less likely you will be affected if some of those relationships do not work out. I also tell teens that when they are going to college, to make sure they check out the campus to make sure that they can find their “tribe.” For the most part, we can’t choose who we grow up with or where we live as kids, but we can choose our future environment to fit us much better.”
Check out Dr. laura ellick!
interviewer: sarah kwong
Having good mental health is always important for everyone everywhere. I hope to reach out and help people as a part of Revive, whether it’s just a friend to talk to or an outlet for information on how you, too, can help family and friends around you. As a part of of my personal experience, I believe no one should feel the pressure to keep quiet about anything they’re going through.