Jaime Lee Gleicher is an advocate for raising awareness for mental health and addiction as well as for the best treatment for those who suffer from such disorders. Her own experience as a patient at Silver Hill Hospital, which specializes in treatment for both mental illness and addiction, along with her education and work history, have led her to devote her personal and professional life to the cause and hospital.
Ms. Gleicher will graduate this month with a Masters in Social Work from the Silver School of Social Work at New York University, with a focus on group and individual psychotherapy for those with mental illness and addictive disorders. She is currently a Recovery Coach at the Dorm, a clinical counseling firm in New York City, where she works with adolescents and young adults with substance abuse and dual diagnosis disorders. She completed her residency at The Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and The Blanton Peale Institute, and had earlier worked with the New York Center for Living.
Ms. Gleicher currently serves on the Junior Committee at Silver Hill Hospital, which on May 14, 2013, is putting on the Young Professionals Party to benefit the hospital’s Scholarship Fund. In an interview, she discussed her views about mental health and Silver Hill Hospital’s role in the field.
Q: Tell us more about your involvement and dedication to Silver Hill Hospital, such as being part of the junior committee and participating in galas that the hospital has held?
A: As a grateful former patient of Silver Hill Hospital, I jumped at the chance to support the hospital in any way I could. When, three years ago, Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto generously decided to establish a Gala to raise awareness and funding for the hospital, I was thrilled to attend and support. In discussions with the development team at SHH, we noticed a lack of presence of my peers; which I found unsettling because the hospital treats so many young people such as myself. It was important for me to get my peers involved with this: addiction and mental illness do not discriminate, and so many of us are affected daily. When I was asked to be the speaker at this past year’s gala, I was honored and humbled. It was an incredible experience to share what the hospital had done for me, and the response I got was overwhelming. It seemed organic that the next step in raising awareness for SHH was to get young professionals involved.
Q: Why is Silver Hill Hospital an important institution for the field and its patients?
A: The quality of clinical care that Silver Hill provides is incomparable. Mental illness and addiction do not exist in a bubble. Often, patients are dually diagnosed and are battling two subsequent diagnoses. Silver Hill acknowledges this and treats both simultaneously. The other component of this is that mental illness and addiction affect everyone around the patient. Silver Hill integrates family work and support, and teaches the patient how to succeed both in the hospital and when the patient leaves. I have witnessed the level of expertise that Silver Hill provides as both a patient and more recently, as a clinician. Working in the field and having been treated at Silver Hill has been eye opening; the treatment that the mental health care professionals at Silver Hill provide is on another level, but beyond that; the compassion, the love, the devotion that Silver Hill has for each client is rare, unique, and healing.
Q: How is Silver Hill Hospital different than other institutions?
A: Having been a patient at other institutions, I can wholeheartedly say that Silver Hill Hospital was the one place that integrated every aspect of my life into treatment. My treatment plan was highly individualized and I was matched with the right doctors and clinicians for me. I formed connections and relationships not only with those who cared for me, but with other patients simultaneously. To this day, I met my very best friend at Silver Hill. We got sober together, and now that we are living happy, healthy and productive lives we often reflect and share our gratitude for a hospital that fostered health in such an integrative way.
Q: How did you become interested in your current line of work?
A: My illness and journey to health led me here. My pursuing a career in the field of mental health was absolutely inspired by the incredible treatment I received at Silver Hill. I witnessed such genuine kindness and sincere investment in my well being from the clinicians who treated me and they became my role models. After being in the entertainment industry [She worked on a reality program for MTV.] proved unhealthy for me, I decided to channel my energy and passion into giving back what was given to me.
Q: How do you believe we can fight the stigma of mental illness and addiction? What do you think your role is in that?
A: By talking about it, plain and simple. I had so much shame and guilt when I entered the hospital. I have an incredible family, financial means, a wonderful education. I blamed myself for getting sick and seemingly ruining everything. But Silver Hill taught me that it wasn’t my fault. Mental illness is just that: an illness. I couldn’t control that I had it, but I did have the power to keep my symptoms in check.
Stigma is dangerous to those who suffer. It keeps us in boxes, hidden, and is completely unproductive. I believe in the power of conversation and awareness, the more we talk about it, the less taboo it becomes.