Mental Health Champions: Why & How Elizabeth White Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

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My top five strategies are spirituality, exercise, music, sleep and connection. I identify as a Christian, so I usually begin my day with some form of prayer or meditation. That helps me to center myself and get ready for what’s going to be asked of me throughout the day. Spirituality can be an excellent coping strategy in a mental health plan, even for people who do not identify with my faith. Having some sort of spiritual practice is definitely something that can help people to ground themselves for the highs and lows that life can bring.

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

Elizabeth White, MA, LMHC, LCAC is the Team Clinician for the Indianapolis Colts. Elizabeth earned a Bachelors degree from Indiana University and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University. She is a member of Chi Sigma Iota Honors Society and The American Counseling Association. Elizabeth is a Licensed School Counselor, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor by the State of Indiana.

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 northern Indiana as the 4th of five kids with my mom and dad. One of the things I loved about my childhood was the extended family that was all around. There were great aunts and uncles and my grandmother within a couple of blocks of each other, so I grew up being able to go from house to house and spend time with family.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

First, let me start by saying I am so proud to be a part of the Colts organization. The Irsay family has dedicated its time and resources to this important mission and I am so proud.

Kicking the Stigma seeks to create a conversation regarding mental health, mental illness, and access to mental help support. There are basically two parts to the initiative which are to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental illness, and the raising and distributing of funds to nonprofits and institutions that support mental health causes.

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

I started to feel passionate about issues related to mental health when my husband and I fostered children for five years. I started to notice that the conversations we were having with our foster sons and the strategies we used to help them cope with their lives and circumstances were producing great results for them. The outcomes for children in the foster care system can be poor, and we saw magnificent outcomes in the children that became a part of our family, so I got curious about whether or not what we were doing at home was actually something that could be replicated. I then started to piece it together and discovered it was really the work of mental health and counseling, and that started my curiosity about what it would look like if I became a counselor.

I was so excited when Kicking the Stigma was announced. The Colts organization had already demonstrated their commitment to mental health by having me in the building for the last seven seasons. Sharing this deep care and concern for mental health and mental illness awareness with the Indianapolis community was the perfect next step. I leaped at the chance to help.

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?

I did not have a traditional a-ha moment. I had a lot of little whispers over time. I originally started off working in corporate America and found myself talking a lot with my colleagues about their problems and their lives and making plans with them to help them overcome the challenges we had discussed without ever really thinking about the fact that was really a form of therapy for them. As I saw the benefit of talking to those people, coupled with the benefit I was having talking to our foster sons at home, I started to realize that this was actually a calling for me, and it became a passion to start to learn the clinical skills necessary to be able to add to my God-given ability to talk to people and help them gain clarity and sort out the issues of life.

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

There have been many interesting stories over the years, but confidentiality won’t allow me to share many of those. I can say, I’ve gotten “air hugs” after a big play when a player saw me in the stands. I’ve received a game ball from a player who was thankful for the work we had done together that week leading up to the game. But, one of the stories that still makes me laugh at myself is the day that I met T.Y. Hilton. I had been in the building for a couple of weeks, and I was trying to get to know players and their names. I introduced myself to this player saying, “Hi I’m Liz.” The player answered, “Hi, I’m T.Y.” After those usual niceties were exchanged, I went on with my day and he did too. A couple of weeks later, I was in our cafeteria, and I looked up at the ceiling and at that time there was this kind of a ring of honor. There were banners that hung from the ceiling and there was T.Y.’s picture up there. I remember laughing to myself and saying, “Oh, that was a pretty important person that you met you know.” I did not know the magnitude of his career or his athletic prowess or anything at that time. So, I still laugh about the fact that I didn’t know who T.Y. was when I met him. I think it just says so much more about who he is as a person that he was not at all taken aback that I didn’t know him. It didn’t matter to him that I was not necessarily a fan, and he just introduced himself to me, welcomed me, and we moved along with our day. That’s been seven years ago now. It is one of the things about our players that I love so much, that they are really down-to-earth men. They are people with public jobs that have private lives and they are just regular people. That’s one thing I love about the Colts. I think that makes us different. We care about the total person. They are not just good players, they are also good men.

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?

My parents were my first cheerleaders. They worked in factories and so it was important to them that my siblings and I did not have to work as physically hard as they had to, so I was really proud to be able to be the first of the kids to graduate from college. The desire to have a college degree came from my godparents. My godmother was the first woman I knew with a college degree. Spending time with them definitely fostered desire in me for developing a professional identity. In my mental health work, I’ve been so blessed to come across great mentors and supervisors over the years: Lois Bushong, Terrence Harper and Dr. Denita Hudson have all been immensely influential in me arriving to this career ready to do the work of mental health counseling. Over the years, they have maintained an open-door policy with me. Any time I have needed support or guidance, they have been just a text or a phone call away to support me, and that has been priceless. In my Colts family, David Thornton, the Director of Player Engagement, has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration. He’s definitely been a cheerleader. He was so influential in me becoming a part of the team and now we take great pride in how we’ve been able to serve players together all this time.

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?

As a kid I remember hearing mental health counselors and psychiatrists referred to on TV as “shrinks” and “quacks.” There was a veil of shame in a person sitting or laying on the proverbial therapy couch because the thought was only “crazy people” have mental illness or only weak people need to see a “shrink.” I think the view is changing with movements like Kicking the Stigma because when we normalize the conversation around issues of mental health and mental illness it will help people be more willing to seek help. Many of us fear the judgement that can come when sharing personal trouble spots with someone, but that’s one of the things I love about the work, it’s a “judgement free zone.” Therapists understand life can get messy and hard. Bringing this conversation front and center with Kicking the Stigma will hopefully communicate that mental health has to be important to all of us and when a person needs support with mental illness we can rally around them like we would any other illness.

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

I think individuals can better support people suffering from mental illness by understanding that mental illness deserves the same love and support that any other illness does. Furthermore, we all need to learn how to cope with being imperfect. Individuals need to have compassion for people who are willing to take steps to protect their mental wellbeing. We’ve been hearing more about mental health and mental illness in society and the conversation is changing as folks are recognizing the need for more mental health professionals. That’s a step in the right direction. I think the government can better support people suffering from mental illness by being proactive and helping equip our educational system with more mental health services and resources for students, teachers, administrators, and their families. Just imagine what our world would look like if we started taking better care of our children and those we trust with our children all day. I think corporations can also play a big part in helping to Kick the Stigma by encouraging “mental health days” for employees and by including topics around mental health and mental illness in their corporate communication platforms and trainings.

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

My top five strategies are spirituality, exercise, music, sleep and connection. I identify as a Christian, so I usually begin my day with some form of prayer or meditation. That helps me to center myself and get ready for what’s going to be asked of me throughout the day. Spirituality can be an excellent coping strategy in a mental health plan, even for people who do not identify with my faith. Having some sort of spiritual practice is definitely something that can help people to ground themselves for the highs and lows that life can bring. I also love exercise, so right after that I can be found doing some cardio or riding my bike or something like that in the morning. I think exercise is a great intervention in helping manage mood. Music is a big part of my mental wellness plan also. I love to sing. I have different playlists for different things — I have a playlist for my morning drive, when I’m working with a group of women, when I’m on a flight, etc. I can also definitely be found taking a dance break in the middle of the day in my office. Sleep is an essential part of my plan, and I know when I get a good night’s sleep, I wake up feeling more alert and hopeful. I’m always looking for ways to optimize my sleep. As a matter of fact, Rusty Jones, the Colts Director of Sports Performance, talked to the rookies about the Oura ring a few weeks ago and suggested everyone try it. I took his advice and got one. That’s a good tool to track sleep. I’ve also used a Fitbit. The fifth strategy is one I really like…and that is to spend time with people. We have to stay connected to each other. Isolation can be a contributing factor in a declining mood. Relationships are so important. I don’t have a big circle, but I do have an intimate circle so the people that are in my circle I believe I know them well, and I think they know me well. That level of intimacy means a lot to me, so I can be found talking or texting or chatting or sitting with someone that I love. Those are the ways that I’ve been able to maintain my own well-being in my own mental wellness plan over the years.

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

I love the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf. She has a podcast which is called “Cleaning Up the Mental Mess.” I have recommended her podcast and books to many of my clients and they have found her resources very helpful. As far as other resources I have many mental health apps on my phone, and I keep them in a category called “Mighty Mental.” I can be found using Headspace which the NFL has partnered with and all the players have access to a free download of Headspace every year. Featured tools on Headspace are guided meditations, sleep support, stretching exercises and things like that. I also like the intervention of tapping. I use The Tapping Solution app. Two books I’d recommend are Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Nedra Tawwab’s Set Boundaries, Find Peace. A book I really enjoyed last year was Believe it by Jamie Kern Lima. While it’s about a woman building a business, her willingness to discuss her challenges and fight through them was refreshing.

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?

I think that’s why we are here. We’re not here just to live our own lives in a bubble. Our lives can be examples to others. We are all connected. We can make positive impacts on each other. When individuals are healthy and whole, the possibility of families being healthy and whole exists. When families are healed, the possibility of communities being healed exists. When communities are healed, a positive impact is made on our environment and in our society. That makes the world more livable for all of us. I always say I want people to be seen and heard when they enter my presence. I think that’s what most of us want, to matter to someone. I want to communicate to people that they matter. When my time on the planet ends I want someone to know I’ve been here. For me, the best way to live forever is to leave a positive impact in the lives of other people.

How can our readers follow you online?

The website to my counseling practice is and all of our social media can be found there.

I can also be followed on Instagram @lovinglifewithliz.

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

Mental Health Champions: Why & How Elizabeth White Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.