Mental Health Champions: Why & How Author Chaya Grossberg Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Eden Gold

Eden Gold
Authority Magazine
11 min readMay 19, 2024


Daily writing and journaling. This helps me immensely each day. I have been doing it since I was a teenager, rarely missing a day. I write with pen and paper and allow myself to write as much as I need to about anything I want. This helps me to identify my feelings and needs and often find solutions. It also helps me prioritize what is most important to me. It gives me much needed soothing, screen-free time as well.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Chaya Grossberg.

She is the author of “Freedom from Psychiatric Drugs,” a book that incorporates much of what she has learned over the past 20 plus years, working as an activist for change in the “mental health” system. Chaya provides people who are struggling with their mental health one-on-one consulting, and information about holistic alternatives to medication.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was like a lot of kid these days…. under a lot of stress. I started seeing a therapist when I was just 8 years old and my parents were going through a divorce. As I got older, the stress and anxiety only got worse.

I went to a very competitive high school in Manhattan with a 40 + minute commute each way and I was somewhat unhappy there, not to mention struggling emotionally. When I was 16 and Prozac was being heavily marketed, my therapist encouraged me to give it a try.

It made me a bit manic and impulsive. I would say things I wouldn’t normally say and I think it made me more of a people pleaser. More extroverted too. I definitely was not myself. Something was kind of off.

I stopped taking it and got more into creative writing, which was my saving grace as a teenager. I began writing almost everyday and had a wonderful writing teacher and writing community at my school. This opened me up to new ways of expressing myself and being recognized by others. As an introvert, I started to find ways to express myself that were more satisfying.

I also started to meditate and practice yoga, first from a book and then at classes. These practices opened me to a peace I had never known before.

You are currently leading an initiative that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit more specifically about what you are trying to address?

I want people to know that just because they’ve been put on psychiatric drugs by a doctor, doesn’t mean they have to be on them forever or there are no other options. The drugs can be highly harmful and doctors often dismiss these concerns.

There are alternatives that aren’t so dangerous to engage with emotions and improve states of mind.

Alternatives that have worked for me include yoga, meditation, creative pursuits, various types of exercise, support from like-minded friends, spirituality and following a healthy diet (amongst many others).

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I first became aware of SSRIs being prescribed more heavily to the average person when I was a teenager. It was a newer phenomenon. The generations before mine did not have psych drugs pushed on them so heavily as kids and teenagers.

I felt uneasy about this, because I was passionate from a young age about understanding my emotions and being true to myself as much as possible. I wanted to use whatever came up as material for my creativity and to guide me toward a meaningful life.

Over the years, doctors put me on Prozac, the benzodiazepine Xanax, and Risperdal, which is a neuroleptic or “major tranquilizer. They put me on another antidepressant and another anxiety medication too, and the medications actually made things worse for me.

When I made the decision to taper off the medications, I had withdrawal symptoms that were very tough on me. I was pretty much bedridden for close to two years; but once some time had passed and everything was out of my system, I found myself able to think clearly again and my energy returned.

Seeing how sick the drugs made me and how my health returned when I got off of them made me passionate about telling my story. I became aware that the doctors had given me inaccurate information and were doing this across the board. They told me I would need these drugs for life, when that was so clearly not true. If I had stayed on the drugs, I would have been completely permanently disabled physically and mentally from the age of 21 until whenever I died.

I would never have been able to go on to have good relationships, a thriving career and creative life and such a meaningful, dynamic existence, like I have had ever since then.

Life has not always been easy, but I have come a long way with so many of my goals and creative dreams.

Recovery was possible for me, and it is possible for others too.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

When I heard another person who had been told she would have to be on meds for life speak out, it was an AHA moment for me. She said she had been on a bunch of meds and was sleeping all day, and now she was off of all of them and worked at a coffee shop and felt like the average person working at a coffee shop. I suddenly knew I could get off of all the meds I was on and have a more “normal” existence as well.

Then when I connected with the Freedom Center and met others who had been through similar things with being debilitated by psych meds, I was emboldened to speak out and write and tell my story. I spoke right away to a college class of psychology students at Mount Holyoke, telling them what I had gone through.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The most interesting thing that has happened to me is becoming aware of how common challenges with psychiatric drugs are. Whenever I have been at a social event, such as a party or networking mixer, almost everyone I talk to asks me what I do. And when I tell them I do consulting with people who are coming off psych meds, almost every single one has a story about themself, or a close friend or family member.

Early on in my career, I encountered a lot of stigma about supporting people who are seeking alternatives, and even the idea that there are alternative approaches. Some friends and community members who doubted what I was doing early on have come around and now help me promote my work to their own friends and family who are struggling with psychiatric med withdrawal and/or finding alternatives that work.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Will Hall and Oryx Cohen, who founded the Freedom Center in Northampton, MA, were major mentors and cheerleaders for me when I started out. Will Hall chose me to be the Freedom Center yoga teacher (based on the students’ vote) and they both encouraged me so much when I was writing and telling my story.

They helped me to get opportunities to speak publicly and travel to conferences around the country and in Canada telling my story and teaching.

Bob Whitaker, researcher and author of Mad In America and founder of, was another cheerleader. I had a dream of being a blogger on their website and then when I posted my blog about my friend Michael Samuel Bloom on Facebook, he asked me if he could publish it on Mad In America. I blogged frequently on that site for years afterward and it helped me to build my consulting business.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

There is a lot of stigma around being sensitive and having trauma. Some of it is the transfer of responsibility from abusers to those who they have abused. It is “easier” to call someone mentally ill and stigmatize them than for an abuser to face the fact that they harmed someone with their actions.

The stigma of traumatized and/or sensitive people who are unable to “keep up” with the demands of society is also a denial of their gifts. Often those who are stigmatized as mentally ill have profound, visionary, future thinking gifts that society is not yet ready for.

Another issue is the compartmentalization of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of existence. By compartmentalizing trauma and/or difficulties in society as “mental” illness, people can jump to the stigmatizing conclusion that there is something inherently wrong with the mind of someone who receives a diagnosis.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals should do their best to understand their own unique makeup and sensitivities and create a lifestyle that supports them. Individuals should become aware of their gifts and unique skills, and find ways to channel them in useful ways where they are supported in return. It is important for those who are suffering to find a sense of purpose and ways to turn their suffering into medicine or offerings for others. It is equally important that these offerings be compensated, financially and otherwise, as being recognized and reimbursed for our gifts greatly reduces stigma.

Society should recognize its shadow in people who are diagnosed as mentally ill. Those with a diagnosis are often holding elements that the rest of society wants to push under the rug. The sensitivities of people who are diagnosed can make the world a better place if they are respected rather than stigmatized. Society should offer holistic options and never force, coerce or pressure people into a one size fits all pharmaceutical model of mental illness. By offering people more resources and options, society itself can heal and evolve much more rapidly and the gifts of each and every person could be used to benefit everyone, rather than stigmatized and marginalized.

The government should stop being bribed by pharma (obviously) and be a completely separate entity from pharmaceutical companies, not accepting money from them to manipulate their actions. The government also should revamp the health insurance system to cover holistic and safe alternatives such as massage, withdrawal support (from psychiatric meds as well as other dependency creating substances) and nutritional support for children and adults. The government should focus more on helping people financially to have the resources they need like housing, healthy food and time to live a healthy lifestyle instead of using dangerous pharmaceuticals before meeting health and basic needs.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness?

1 . Daily writing and journaling. This helps me immensely each day. I have been doing it since I was a teenager, rarely missing a day. I write with pen and paper and allow myself to write as much as I need to about anything I want. This helps me to identify my feelings and needs and often find solutions. It also helps me prioritize what is most important to me. It gives me much needed soothing, screen-free time as well.

2 . Meditation. I have been doing this since I was a teenager as well. I simply sit in silence for 20 minutes per day. I set a timer, sit somewhere quiet and follow my breath. My breath often deepens and I am able to get some space from the go go go of my mind and daily tasks.

3 . Strengthening. I use my body weight and exercise bands (though weights are great too) to strengthen my arms, legs, glutes, core, etc. I alternate different exercises and usually skip a day in between to rest my muscles. This helps me to feel more emotionally and mental stable and centered.

4 . Daily walks. Whenever I can, I go for a daily walk. It might be a fast or slow walk depending on my energy levels. I might walk around my neighborhood, in the woods, by myself or with a friend. When I walk alone, I often pray out loud and/or talk to myself out loud, if no one is around. I speak my problems and worries out loud. The back and forth, arms and legs moving alternately, is soothing for my nervous system. The fresh air and daylight, sunlight (or moonlight) are all soothing. Images of nature and other things, perhaps people, houses or wild animals, all bring me back into the moment.

5 . Physical contact. Touch keeps me well. This could be holding hands with a friend, cuddling, hugs, dancing with others, getting a massage, etc. I try to get touch at least every few days, but the more safe, consensual touch, the better I feel.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Free Range Psychiatry

Beyond Meds

Anatomy of An Epidemic by Bob Whitaker

Daniel Mackler (films, videos, books)

Lauren Tenney, Talk with Tenney podcast

Not As Crazy As You Think podcast

Let’s Talk Withdrawal podcast

Inner Compass Initiative

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Living a life true to yourself and your mission will naturally make a positive impact on society. For me, despite the challenges, it has continued to get better in many ways. There is a certain confidence that comes with knowing you are committed to a larger mission. I have ended up meeting aligned and like-minded souls and gotten so many opportunities to express myself in satisfying ways that are healing to others.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Eden Gold, is a youth speaker, keynote speaker, founder of the online program Life After High School, and host of the Real Life Adulting Podcast. Being America’s rising force for positive change, Eden is a catalyst for change in shaping the future of education. With a lifelong mission of impacting the lives of 1 billion young adults, Eden serves as a practical guide, aiding young adults in honing their self-confidence, challenging societal conventions, and crafting a strategic roadmap towards the fulfilling lives they envision.

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Eden Gold
Authority Magazine

Youth speaker, keynote speaker, founder of Life After High School, and host of the Real Life Adulting Podcast