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Dear White Women

May 13, 2020

Sara and Misasha are pleased to welcome their special guest, Dr. Sue Varma, to the show to discuss the importance of mental health in these very challenging times.

Listen in to this conversation that dives deeply into the psychological and physical effects that we're experiencing from the coronavirus pandemic, from many different perspectives.

Dr. Sue Varma is a board-certified psychiatrist and practicing cognitive-behavioral therapist in New York City. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University (NYU) Langone Health and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She is the recipient of the inaugural Sharecare Emmy Award in 2019 and now has been nominated again for her role in CBS This Morning’s ‘Stop the Stigma’ campaign in 2020. Dr. Varma is a keynote speaker and has been a regular national media contributor to all the major networks over the last 13 years (Today Show, CBS This Morning, Dr. Oz show, Tamron Hall etc) and is now a mental health contributor for CBS News. She won a Mayoral Proclamation in 2019 and a public sector award in 2020 from the Indo American Psychiatric Association. She won the “Best in Manhattan” for psychiatry in 2019 and 2020. 

Her integrative approach to mental health includes cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, mindfulness, yoga, and nutrition. She is the former medical director to the 9/11 mental health program at NYU. Through her work in trauma and resilience, she became interested in positive psychiatry and is now studying the role of optimism to not only treat mental health disorders but also to prevent them. She believes that physicians have a duty to not only take their patients from a state of dysfunction to function- but also from functional to optimal. 

She is a native New Yorker but considers herself a universal citizen with travels to fifty countries and counting. Sue is a self-proclaimed foodie who also enjoys swimming in oceans around the world and sometimes with sharks!

Show Highlights:

  • Dr. Sue is fascinated by how the pandemic is affecting different segments of the population.
  • Dr. Sue shares some of her concerns for the disproportionate number of blacks hospitalized from the coronavirus in Georgia, and the elderly and minority women on the front lines.
  • We take so many things for granted, when in some parts of the world, there may be one working toilet for 1,400 people in the slums and no running water for washing hands.
  • There’s trauma when you’re on the frontlines seeing your colleagues getting sick, yet you’re still expected to show up for work.
  • Medical workers are feeling dispensable and unheard. Feeling like you don’t matter has severe consequences and puts you at a higher risk for trauma.
  • The US may rank as one of the wealthiest nations in the world but it ranks #14 in happiness.
  • Unemployment and financial loss, fear, and uncertainty increases the risk of trauma.
  • Being given access to information that is clear, accurate, scientific, and credible helps in trauma prevention or recovery.
  • Dr. Sue’s suggestions on how to check on others during this time and how to respond to somebody who says they’re not doing well. 
  • In depression, rumination is what’s going to take you down the deep, dark path. 
  • Some things will return to normal, and other things won’t.
  • Let’s make meaning out of this time.
  • Dr. Sue's advice: Be compassionate to yourself, be gentle, be forgiving. Be grateful for anything you’ve accomplished and anything you have. Keep a journal. Be patient. Recognize that what we’re going through is a temporary thing. Accept and understand that what we’re going through is hard and we’re going to have different emotions at different times.
  • Dr. Sue details the four M’s of mental health: mindfulness, mastery, meaningful engagement, movement.

Resources / Links:


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Connect with Dr. Sue Varma!

You can follow her on social media for all things mental health and wellness related - @doctorsuevarma:

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Suggested Episode:

Episode 57: It All Starts Here: Educational Inequality

Book Mentioned:

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams