By Glenda Cadogan
Originally published in May 2017 issue of The Positive Community, pg. 36.
“America’s Psychologist” is concerned about America’s mental health. As one of the leading experts in the field of mental health, Dr. Jeff Gardere earned the sobriquet of “America’s Psychologist” as every day he brings his unique problem-solving brand to the classroom, the boardroom, and the green room. Now he is sounding a tsunami type signal about America’s mental health. “My concern is that we are seeing an overwhelming amount of depression that is tied to fatalistic, pessimistic, and negative views.” He explained. “I am even more concerned that we are creating a society in which painting certain people as being enemies is commonplace. So instead of looking for ways we can negotiate a win-win situation, the approach is: how much can I win and how much can I make the other side lose,” says Dr. Jeff who has been a contributor to the FOX network, the Today Show, MSNBC, and CNN.
With this kind of prevailing behavioral “prescription” in today’s society, Dr. Jeff is standing up and willing to prescribe an alternative treatment protocol aimed at individual and collective healing. “First we need to get more active about volunteerism,” he says. “Then we need to get back to living in the question of ‘not what my country can do for me but what can I do for my country?’ We can accomplish both things by willingly working with the most vulnerable among us-the poor, children, immigrants, and senior citizens.”
Taking personal responsibility for our holistic health is also included in Dr. Jeff’s prescription. “The biggest threat to our mental health is stress,” he says. “So our greatest challenge is how do we frame and reframe stress? We do so by having a positive mental attitude and focusing on the blessings in our lives. We need the triad of mental, physical, and spiritual health in order to be our best selves.”
In moving toward a society of better mental health, Dr. Jeff-who in addition to his private practice in Manhattan is an assistant professor and course director of Behavioral Medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City-recommends that we look at ways of moving away from the stigma associated with the issue. “Unfortunately, too many people still hold on to the view that you only need counseling if you are crazy,” he says. “Contrary to this belief, most of the counseling I do in my private practice is for problems of living,” he says, adding, “and we all have those. We have all run into those road blocks that come up in our lives from time to time. Therefore, we must understand that it should not be taboo to receive counseling for our mental health challenges or illnesses.”
According to Dr. Jeff, his personal philosophy is that we must understand the connection between mental health and physical health. “I am one who truly believes that all of us need to be involved in physical exercise to the point our bodies can tolerate. Once we take care of our bodies, our minds are much healthier.” Dr. Jeff was host of VH1’s Dad Camp and most recently, resident psychologist on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Taking a view from all angles, Dr. Jeff also spoke “truth” to our elected leaders calling for compassionate, commonsense approach to the overhauling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Despite whatever they come up with in terms of repeal, I think the most important thing is pre-existing conditions,” Says Dr. Jeff. “Though I am no expert in this regard, I know it is critical that this aspect not be gutted. The issue is not about access to healthcare, but the right to healthcare for all. It is not the same; access is not affordability,” he explains. “In my view we should be looking at nothing less than taking care of every single person in need. Therefore, universal healthcare for all is certainly the way to go.”
Born in Manhattan of Haitian parentage, Dr. Jeff, at 61, also has his self-prescribed medicine for living a full life. “If you talk the talk then you must walk the walk,” he says. “So I approach my ‘walk’ in a way that says I am not trying to stay young, but rather age gracefully. And every day I thank the Creator and count my blessings. I cherish all the things that are good in my life and what’s not so good I work at turning it into the positive.” Beyond a doubt, this too, is good medicine for all-not written on a prescription pad, but evidenced in the life of “American’s Psychologist.”