Mental Health Champions: Why & How Lisa Jacobsen Of Be Well for Good Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine
14 min readDec 19, 2022

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Laughter is key for me (which is one reason I married an Irishman). I can easily get lost on YouTube watching clips of comedians from both today and yesteryear.

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

Lisa Jacobsen is a Functional Nutrition Practitioner who empowers people to use holistic solutions to overcome health challenges. She’s helped hundreds of men and women fix everything from chronic fatigue to digestive issues so they can be their best, most productive selves. Before becoming a Functional Nutrition Practitioner, Lisa worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years. After struggling with her own health challenges and not getting answers from conventional medicine, she decided to educate herself in Functional Nutrition so she could heal herself.

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 a small, bucolic town about an hour north of New York City. It was the ’70s and early 80’s where most kids in the neighborhood would play outside until our moms called us in for dinner. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but my brothers and I always had what we needed, and I never felt insecure nor unsafe. If I wanted an extra pair of designer jeans, I picked up more babysitting shifts to pay for them. Most people would describe me as quiet, shy, and even keeled. I was also an overachiever — committed to getting good grades and being the first person in my immediate family to go to college.

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 am working to promote that if one is suffering from depression, anxiety and brain fog, to first consider that there may be a physical manifestation (and not psychological) that is brought on by mold illness. And the tricky thing is, the illness can be brought on whether your exposure to mold is current or happened in your past.

This is not a completely esoteric concept. It has been discussed in Psychology Today and there are many studies done by the NIH on the debilitating health effects of mold illness. Unfortunately, it is not often considered by most conventional health practitioners.

Mold illness is caused by mycotoxins produced by certain species of mold and the illness can wreak havoc on virtually any system in the body. While mold is most known for affecting the respiratory system, it can also affect your neurological, gastrointestinal, and reproductive systems.

I have seen this in my clients (and have even struggled with my own experience of crippling anxiety, depression, and other mold-related symptoms).

The statistics are startling: An estimated 47% or more of U.S. homes have water damage and consequently mold issues, 85% of commercial structures have had water damage, and at least 30% of our children’s schools have water damage, plumbing issues, leaky roofs and leaky HVAC systems which can harbor environments suitable for mold infestation. But because most healthcare providers don’t screen for mold illness, we don’t know the percentage of people who may have it and then we can’t correlate it to mental health issues.

Certain mental health disorders — particularly depression, sudden panic attacks and anxiety — can be caused by mold illness and it should be investigated first.

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

I work with many clients that have mold illness and have seen improvements in their depression and anxiety when they start to address the condition. I never really considered that there was a direct correlation between mold and depression, for example, because my clients were also making many other diet and lifestyle changes that would also positively affect their mental and emotional state.

It wasn’t until I discovered significant amounts of mold in our house and was suffering from multiple symptoms caused by the mold exposure that I started to put the pieces together. Some of the symptoms included deep depression to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks on end. My anxiety was so high that, for example, we couldn’t put our house alarm on at night because all I did was lay in bed apprehensive that I would open a door and set it off. The most inconsequential incident would set off a panic attack where I would shake uncontrollably, often drop to my knees on the floor, and had trouble breathing.

This wasn’t me. It was the mold illness. I knew that. And, fortunately, I knew I would get better by addressing the mold illness. I just needed patience.

But what if I hadn’t known the cause of these symptoms? I would have gone to a doctor and most likely been prescribed at least two (maybe more) prescriptions for the depression and anxiety. The drugs may have helped the severity of the symptoms, but the mold illness would continue — unresolved — wreaking having on my body and brain. Not addressing the root cause of my symptoms would just mean the symptoms would continue at some level, coupled with untold side effects from the drugs.

I don’t want anyone who has hidden mold illness and symptoms of mental health issues to go another day without knowing that they can be screened for mold illness and that there are therapeutic options to address the mold illness and heal their body and brain.

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?

My “Aha Moment” came at a time when I was getting sick a lot, often had pains in my stomach and was exhausted all the time. I feared there must be something wrong with me. So, I decided to seek help from medical doctors.

But all I got was the same refrain:

“Ms. Jacobsen, your labs are normal. There’s nothing wrong with you. Do you exercise?” one doctor asked.

“You work long hours and travel a lot. This is common,” muttered another doctor.

A third doctor told me that these are “just signs of getting old and suggested I take a multi-vitamin.”

I was 38 at that time and felt doomed.

I started by reading all kinds of health books to try and figure things out for myself. Symptom questionnaires led me to self-diagnosis after self-diagnosis. Oh, yes, those symptoms fit me; I must have “adrenal fatigue.” And then another book. Oh, wait, now I think my issues stem from gluten intolerance. From an online quiz, I was optimistic that my problems would all be solved if I cut out sugar, gluten, and dairy, balanced my hormones, and tamed my estrogen dominance. I bought more books. And, of course, each book had supplement and diet recommendations, and I followed them to a tee.

I juiced. I fasted. I tried the raw diet, the Paleo diet, and the bone broth diet. Keto wasn’t around at the time, or I would have tried that too. Whenever I thought I had my “solution,” my husband would cheer me on. (If he thought I was nuts, he never let on.)

Did I start to feel a little better? A bit. Had I solved my adrenal fatigue? Nope. Was I really estrogen dominant? Not sure. Did going sugar, gluten, and dairy-free help? Yes, but because I was still not getting to the bottom of what was driving my exhaustion, I found myself bedridden and unable to work. This is when I decided to figure things out for myself and began training in applied functional medicine.

Functional Medicine takes a different approach to our bodies and health. It’s about understanding that symptoms are not meant to be squashed but rather used as a guide to the root cause of your ailment or disease. And often, that root cause is located far from the symptoms. For example, achy joints can be caused by certain foods you eat and/or an overgrowth of the wrong kind of pathogen in your gut.

This approach made so much sense to me because it’s not the wait-and-see approach of conventional medicine. Traditional medical doctors are trained to look for a disease when it reaches the clinical state when your lab results are out of range.

The medical profession considers a lab’s reference range the “normal range.” The reference range is based on the average population serviced by that lab. And the average population is not healthy. That’s why my results could be “within range,” but I was still experiencing symptoms, not feeling like myself, and why my doctors saw nothing wrong with me.

And now, as a certified Functional Nutrition Practitioner, I help men and women save hundreds or thousands of dollars in unwanted co-pays, prescriptions, and procedures by teaching them how to use diet and lifestyle modifications as their first line of defense. My method of investigating the underlying causes of symptoms uncovers paths to overcoming fatigue, hormonal imbalances, stubborn weight, and other lifestyle diseases.

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

What’s most interesting (to me), is the transformation that I see every day in my business. I watch how my clients can go back to work, improve their work performance and interpersonal relationships. There’s a photographer who couldn’t work because she couldn’t leave her house due to her digestive issues. An investor who couldn’t travel to meet potential clients due to his disabling fatigue. An executive who couldn’t climb a set of stairs and worried about being around for his new wife. Discovering that mold illness is behind so many people who suffer from various chronic conditions and that they improve once the mold is eradicated. These are real stories of people overcoming their health struggles that Be Well for Good, LLC is proud to have been a part of.

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 am very fortunate and humbled to stand on the shoulders of so many inspiring mentors in the Functional Medicine/Nutrition world. They are on the cutting edge of changing the health model to one of a patient-centered and evidence-based approach to getting to the root cause of disease. But who really helped me succeed is my husband, Robert. He saw the changes that I was making and the impact that it had on my health, outlook and how our family dynamic improved. When I decided to open my own practice to help others, he was my biggest cheerleader. It’s never easy to pivot in business and having support from a spouse or partner is key to making it successful.

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?

For one, I believe that the stigma comes from people’s fear and anxiety about not being good enough. Particularly in the U.S., the default expectation is that “happy” people have it together and are conforming to societal norms and if you’re not “happy” there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. That you must be doing something wrong that has put you in this state. There’s no room for weakness — particularly for men, where there is an expectation to fit the “strong, silent and masculine” stereotype. And if we don’t measure up to this ideal, it can lead to social judgement and condemnation.

Secondly, most people don’t really understand the complexities and nuances of mental illness. More importantly, they don’t even try to understand it. Part of it comes from downright laziness to do any research that, by understanding it better, would require them to do the work necessary to interact with people differently. Another part is that, if they truly did understand the plight of someone with mental illness, they would no longer have a reason to hold a grudge against that person’s symptoms.

Lastly, media outlets need to be held to a higher standard of how they report on and continue the conversation on various types of mental illness — which often furthers the stereotypes. For example, postpartum depression is often used as a catch all phrase for mood changes that some women experience after delivery or when the pregnancy ends. But there are many ways the symptoms can present and across many different diagnostic categories. Yet the stereotype is that a woman with postpartum depression is broken, hysterical and unfit to care for her child.

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

At an individual level, we need to cultivate more understanding and empathy for people suffering from all types of mental illness. We do not walk alone. We need more real transparency in our world and with each other. Vulnerability is one thing that binds is. Sharing our personal stories of our mental health condition is an important first step — particularly sharing that there is no shame in seeking help and being open with your situation.

At a societal level, we need to get better at understanding that there are all different types of mental illness with different manifestations and support/treatment options. Collectively, we need to avoid falling prey to the stereotypes. This includes having higher expectations from the media and our government officials.

At the governmental policy level, it’s important to recognize that for many people suffering from mental illness, pharmaceutical interventions don’t solve the issues and often create more issues in terms of their side effects. Recognizing that there are alternative therapies that are scientifically proven and supporting and elevating those therapies is key. For example, we’re finding that psychedelic therapy is extremely helpful for veterans suffering from PTSD and it has been life changing for thousands of veterans and their families. Also, it’s important to recognize that one’s mental health can be directly related to the stresses in their life that include food and/or housing insecurity, medical debt, poverty, domestic abuse, loneliness, child neglect, etc., and to create early intervention programs and supportive resources to address these issues at the local, state, and federal level.

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?

  1. The 4–7–8 breathing technique. There is a lot of evidence that shows that when you double the count of your exhale vs. inhale, it calms the vagus nerve, one of the main connections between the brain and the body. This allows the body to remain calm, not activate the stress response, even if your brain is stressed out. Here’s how to do it: Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Breathe out your nose for a count of 8. Repeat 3 to 4 times. The 4–7–8 can be done whenever you perceive a stressful moment. It can also be scheduled during the day to help your body retrain its stress response. Set a reminder on your smartphone when you’ll incorporate the technique throughout the day (i.e., it can be done hourly or 3 times per day). This breathing technique is helpful for anyone who has trouble with meditating.
  2. Emotional Freedom Technique (also known as “Tapping”). EFT is a simple and proven system of tapping on a series of acupressure points to reduce the intense emotional responses that impact the mind and body. EFT has the potential to significantly reduce physical and psychological ailments as it releases the body from the stress response. There are many books on tapping. I particularly like the one by Nick Ortner called The Tapping Solution. There is also a smartphone app called the Tapping Solution that has many different kinds of tapping sessions where you are lead through a full session for many different situations including lowering stress, anxiety, weight loss, pain relief and more.
  3. Laughter is key for me (which is one reason I married an Irishman). I can easily get lost on YouTube watching clips of comedians from both today and yesteryear.
  4. Get outside as much as possible. Early morning light helps to reset your circadian rhythm that can help set you up for a good night’s sleep. I’ve been hugging trees since I was in my early 20’s — sounds corny but it is such a great stress-reliever. Also, if you can, spend twenty minutes walking barefoot on the ground or sand– it has amazing grounding effects.
  5. I follow an anti-inflammatory diet. There are many studies demonstrating a causal link between diet quality and mental health. An anti-inflammatory diet excludes the most common triggers such as gluten, dairy, and sugar and emphasizes whole foods such as vegetables, some fruits and meat. There are also many studies demonstrating the connection between the gut and brain — particularly contributing to depression. Following a whole foods diet with minimal processed foods and addressing any digestive issues can greatly improve one’s mood, among other benefits. I always suggest trying it for three weeks, and then assess how you feel.

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

Books: the works of Drs. Gabor Maté, Joe Dispenza, and Daniel Amen provide game-changing insights into our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Podcasts: The Broken Brain Podcast with Dhru Purohit, Hidden Brain with Jason Wachob, We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon & Amanda Doyle, Rebel Health Tribe

Documentaries:

  • The Wisdom of Trauma with Dr. Gabor Maté explores the correlation between trauma, emotional suppression, spiritual disconnect, and physical disease as well as the interconnection between systems on all levels (personal, family, society, etc.)
  • The Broken Brain docuseries with Dr. Mark Hyman. Although I cringe at the term “Broken Brain”, the title is actually a misnomer. Dr. Hyman’s overall message is that dysfunctions elsewhere in the body contribute to problems in the brain.
  • Crazywise documentary — and the community they created including the blog and continued conversations — is educational, inspiring, and paradigm-shifting.

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?

Just start making your voice heard — in whatever way is most comfortable for you at first. Your perspective, experiences, and thoughts are unique to you and will resonate with the people who need to hear it. By not getting your message out there, you are actually doing a disserve to society. It can be challenging, but growth happens in the challenge.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: https://www.bewellforgood.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Be-Well-For-Good-LLC/100063613386686/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bewellforgood/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-jacobsen/

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
Authority Magazine

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