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Mental Health Champions: Why & How Erin Pash Ellie Of Mental Health Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Travel — this nurtures my soul. Everyone needs to find that one thing that just helps you feel like you. Even if it is a little stressful! I don’t care if it’s a road trip to a cabin or a big trip overseas, the whole travel process ignites me in ways that other things don’t!

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

Erin Pash is a millennial co-founder and CEO of Ellie Mental Health. Erin not only sees the big picture, she understands that truly innovating systems requires challenging the status quo and generating in-house solutions to overcome complex barriers. She attributes Ellie’s success to the wisdom of surrounding herself with the other like-minded, eager, industrious dreamers of the world as she knows that the spirit of Ellie is much larger than any single individual.

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 grew up in suburban Minnesota with my two parents and two sisters. I am the middle child and while still embracing every bit of my “fiery red head” personality, I also loved to talk through issues and keep the peace. I am still very close to my parents and sisters!

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?

The biggest thing we aim to address is stigma. Mental health carries a heavy burden when it comes to stigma. History hasn’t been very nice to people who struggle with their mental health. We are on a mission to make sure people know that ALL mental health matters, from more severe and persistent symptoms to just not feeling quite right about your relationship. We have to get rid of stigma and let people know that all feelings are valid and can and should be addressed without shame!

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

I was always “that” friend. Both passionate when experiencing my own emotions and also the one who others came to when they wanted advice or just someone to sit with them when they were overloaded. I loved being that safe person for people who they could trust. I would also describe myself as fiercely loyal. So when people come to me I don’t take it lightly, and that feeling that can be felt when someone is loyal and supportive, is sometimes all people need to know and feel that “this person will help me.”

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?

To be totally honest, no. I have ALWAYS been described as passionate, driven, and even at times difficult, which I refuse to accept as a woman in business! I love the mental health field and making people feel seen and heard. I learned a very strong work ethic from my parents early on and every day I just keep plugging along. One day I woke up and realized, holy cow, look what we’ve built and put my head right back down and kept working on all the things.

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

I always talk about therapy being a journey for everyone in the room, not just the client. I mean how can you be “in therapy” 35 hours a week and not learn something? The most fascinating thing that has happened to me is when I get that chance to look up and see how much I’ve learned or have grown. One day I could be hyperventilating about a financial problem, and then a year later, I can approach it calm, cool, and collected. The parallel process of growth and change in my business and myself as a person has been a pretty cool experience.

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?

I HAVE THE BEST PEOPLE! I know everyone says that but there is not a single day where I have ever been alone on the journey, and I literally have a daily gratitude ritual where I call out how much I am grateful for what they bring to my life. From the team at Ellie, to my family, to the extra special people in my life I call “therafriends.” I learned very early on that the collaborative perspective of lots of people makes me better.

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?

I think that people carry the weight from previous generations not knowing how to best support people’s feelings. Humans feel a deep loyalty to their familial ways and ties and it’s not as easy to detach from at times maladaptive patterns of coping. Feelings also make us vulnerable. Our bodies are trained to survive first and foremost and when we let our guard down and share our feelings, it exposes us to vulnerability that can be super uncomfortable. Humans typically avoid being uncomfortable, so they ignore it!

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

It might sound counterproductive, but slow down. It feels like everyone is trying to rush and fix the problem which is actually creating more anxiety for people. We can’t fix any one person or societies mental health crisis overnight and there is actual a very rational approach to how we can make change, and it happens overtime. We need to continue to expand services in every community, reduce stigma by removing barriers to access care, and we need to be methodical about how we want to remove those maladaptive patterns of coping for future generations.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Daily gratitude — I list 3 things every single day before I go to bed, I am grateful for that day. I have a reminder in my phone!

SLEEP — everyone always asks, when do you sleep? And I proudly reply 8 hours every night. I am useless and the worst version of myself when I don’t get enough of it and I know this.

Therapy — I go to therapy when I need it. I have a therapist I have seen on and off for a couple of years and I make sure that when things feel really hard, I make the time in my schedule to talk to her. It helps every time I do it.

Travel — this nurtures my soul. Everyone needs to find that one thing that just helps you feel like you. Even if it is a little stressful! I don’t care if it’s a road trip to a cabin or a big trip overseas, the whole travel process ignites me in ways that other things don’t!

Alone time- I never used to want time to myself but as an adult with kids, and a very busy job I have learned that a couple hours a week to be unapologetically myself, by myself, is exactly what I need to recharge. Setting up that boundary was hard at first and now everyone in my life knows how good it is for me and is very respectful of it!

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

I follow lots of mental health companies on social media. If I ever need an inspiring quote to just pick me up, I know I will find one in my feed! It’s important to keep people around you that champion you and your mental health. There are tons of books I love snippets of but truly it’s those daily reminders that help ground me day in and day out to keep being a champion for mental health.

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?

Educate. Learn about your brain and your feelings. If more people understood that their feelings aren’t working against them, we would have a deeper understanding that we are all human. We would have more compassion for those who are different, and we would be able to access skills that many people already possess if we remembered that we could slow our brains down on our own.

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook — Erinkellypash (PAGE, not personal profile)

Youtube — Ellie Mental Health

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

About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded WasabiPublicity.com.

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Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Michelle Tennant Nicholson

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A “Givefluencer,” Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., Creator of WriteTheTrauma.org