Mental Health Champions: Why & How Kathryn Greenberg Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

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… Move — I make a conscious effort to move my body in some way every day. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, just honor your body with movement. Nurture it in a way that feels safe for you, and don’t compare your movement to someone else’s. Since moving to Florida in 2013, I have found that the sun and sea have brought me tremendous peace and healing.

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

Kathryn Greenberg is a Certified Life Coach specializing in mindfulness, trauma, and addiction. She shares her journey of healing as a way to show those who may be struggling that their life is worth living. Kathryn’s unique approach is informed and inspired by the time she spends working with people in very difficult circumstances — jails and courts, homeless shelters, residential treatment centers, and human service agencies. Kathryn discovered that within those individuals, living in terrific pain and struggle, lies a store of inner strength, which when mindfully accessed, can liberate them from the darkest of places.

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 Washington, DC, which can be a frenetic and corporate city. I knew from an early age that I felt things differently from those around me. I was afforded a privileged upbringing, and a family who went to great lengths to ensure I was able to get the treatment I needed. I attended an elite, progressive school, which did not fit my highly sensitive nature. I learned differently from those around me. I received a wonderful education, the most important part being that I found that there will always be people who will continue to stand up for you, no matter the circumstances.

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?

Through my coaching and advocating, I am working to address what I would call a trauma epidemic. As a society, we often look at people who are struggling and treat their behavior rather than looking at their intention. As a result, we don’t address the root cause. We treat the symptom but don’t meet the need underneath. Thus, the cycle continues. My duty is to meet an individual’s needs so they don’t turn to behavior such as substance use. Every addiction begins and ends with pain. My role is to say, “tell me your story,” and truly listen and provide a safe space to help them understand the deeper cause of their distress.

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

Starting at 9 years old, something didn’t feel right with me. My heart felt weighty. My well intentioned parents took me to an older male psychiatrist who couldn’t relate to me, and the process felt overwhelming and even scary. By high school the voice inside me told me the pain was too great, and getting it out took the form of self harm. My school worked with me to help me graduate, including independent studies in art and poetry, which spoke to my soul. But my darkness continued into college. After surviving a violent assault my sophomore year, I was barely functioning, resulting in a return to Washington to begin my long healing journey.

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 have been in six residential treatment centers, the first in ninth grade in 1991. On October 15, 2011, I walked out of a 9 month stay at a residential eating disorder treatment center and made a choice that from that day forward, my life would be new. I had no idea what it meant, but I knew I must choose to evolve so deeply that my life would shift completely. I knew that I would have to make a decision to embrace it all, and work with what is, rather than what I wish were. I continued to receive treatment, I stayed true to my promise to evolve, to choose life, to choose love. While that may seem like a cut and dry “aha moment,” I didn’t just get up one day and do it and that was it. I get up every day and do it. The bravest thing we can do is stay alive when we want to die.

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

Every day, even every moment, is an interesting story. My day to day is not just interesting, it’s inspiring, invigorating, moving. It is truly life-giving. One example that comes to mind is a time where I was in court advocating for one of my clients who was incarcerated. She had struggled for decades with mental illness. I turned to the judge and said, “Please truly look at this woman. She is in terrific pain and has never received treatment. She is not a ‘criminal,’ she is a human who has experienced severe trauma. If we send her to prison, she will die.” He listened, and I was reminded, as I am every day, that when we save one life, we save the world.

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 family has always been my strongest support system. When I began struggling with my mental health, they made it their priority to support me. They researched doctors, residential treatment centers, made connections, and got referrals, making my well-being a central part of their lives, and I will forever be grateful. I believe that everyone who comes into our lives is either a blessing or lesson. Everyone we meet has something to offer. Interactions with people, as fleeting as they may seem, can teach us a lot about ourselves. Everyone plays a role in our journey, and so I’ve learned to keep my heart and mind open to everyone who crosses my path — whether it be for a moment, a season or a lifetime.

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?

While I believe the stigma for mental illness is slowly decreasing, I think we can point to a few reasons for its persistence, the major one being shame. People fear being vulnerable, and mental illness is harder to identify and therefore harder to “justify.” If you have a broken bone, you can see it and get it fixed, but a damaged spirit is harder for people to comprehend. I also believe that our definition of “strength” is backwards. Pushing through pain is seen as strong. Not resting is seen as strong, not sleeping is seen as strong! I would argue that knowing your boundaries and allowing yourself grace is true strength. Fighting off tears is seen as strong, when true strength is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and experience your emotions as they are, witnessing them with compassion rather than judgment.

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

a) I often think of the Mother Teresa quote: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

b) Be kind. Show empathy and compassion. The people in the most pain will seek love in unloving ways, approach them with compassion rather than judgment.

c) Cover mental health insurance, point blank. Many people willing and eager to get help can’t afford to in the richest country in the world, and it needs to change.

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?

Rest — I struggle with severe insomnia, so I am mindful about blocking out time for decompression, hitting the restart button, and reconnecting with myself.

Move — I make a conscious effort to move my body in some way every day. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, just honor your body with movement. Nurture it in a way that feels safe for you, and don’t compare your movement to someone else’s. Since moving to Florida in 2013, I have found that the sun and sea have brought me tremendous peace and healing.

Meditate — Meditation can look different for everyone. For me, it is time with myself in the mornings. Mornings are a sacred time for me where I am present with myself and set the tone for the day.

Journal — I carry a notebook with me always! I love to share my thoughts, stories, and burdens with paper. Sometimes it is formal journaling, and sometimes it’s notes on the back of a napkin. Writing allows me to unload some of what hangs out in my cognitive tumbler.

Memento mori — Latin for ‘remember that you die.’ We are not getting out of here alive! Eat the cake. Enjoy the moments.

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

Untamed by Glennon Doyle, Unlocking Us and Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction by Gabor Maté

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?

‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.’

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Instagram @kat.greenberg, Twitter @kat_greenberg, Facebook at, or on my website

Mental Health Champions: Why & How Kathryn Greenberg 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.