Executive Mental Health

Dr. Ari D. Kalechstein, president and CEO of Executive Mental Health

During the course of the pandemic, a certain tradition fell by the wayside at Executive Mental Health – the monthly celebration of the birthdays of staff. In retrospect, I’m thinking that most everyone understands why that happened. We were all so busy in 2020…it just never occurred to us. And, when I say us, I mean myself.

The whole tradition happened by accident. Some time back, our chief clinical officer mentioned that we might want to do something, I said sure, and, before we knew it, we were celebrating birthdays every month and flying people in from Northern California and a state that was not part of the contiguous 48. We would spend time figuring out menus, then our executive assistant would freestyle and order enough fried chicken to feed 60 people, our community liaison would bring in Filipinx dishes that were definitely not on the American Heart Association recommended list, and other team members would decorate because that’s what they like to do.

It turns out that the team really liked the celebrations. It allowed them the chance to come to the office and see that there really is a billing staff that verifies referrals, and download about their respective experiences, vocational and otherwise. Moreover, and of equal if not greater importance, the celebrations allowed the central office team and the honorees to reconnect. Really, when you get down to it, the celebrations fostered cohesion and closeness amongst the team.

Personally, I miss those celebrations. As the company has evolved and grown, I see team members far less often than I did when the company was smaller. Yes, that’s the privilege of running a successful, expanding company, but I liked the chance to catch up with people who I’d not seen since the final interview before we hired them.

Not surprisingly, with the onset of the pandemic, there exists a certain challenge related to maintaining that closeness with our mates, e.g., life as a series of Zoom calls, social distancing, wearing masks. From my perspective, that closeness serves as one of the ties that binds the EMH team together. We should treasure that closeness and caring, particularly in an era in which divisiveness and polarization have permeated our society.

So that’s why on December 16 we sent out nearly 100 cakes to our team, which arrived like clockwork in time for a festive – and very special – Holiday Fireside Chat. An example of how we’ve had to evolve as a team in 2020, the Fireside Chats have gone from a timely update on all things pandemic-related, to a chance for friendly, albeit virtual, co-working fraternity. In this occasion, we ensured there was a tangible and tasty reminder that despite the craziness of 2020, we are a team and are here for each other. While the smell of fried chicken and face-to-face contact was missing, the sentiment and connection was still all there.