When a Family Experiences a Homicide
Leslie Schlachter, a physician’s assistant in the neurosurgery department at Mount Sinai, witnessed the murder of her sister by a jealous ex-boyfriend. She describes her long journey to recovery from PTSD and the impact on her work with Jonathan Depierro, PhD, Associate Director of the Center for Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth, and co-author of the third edition of Resilience, the Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges.
[00:00:00] Stephen Calabria: From the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, this is Road to Resilience, a podcast about facing adversity. I'm Stephen Calabria. Today we have a special edition of Road to Resilience to celebrate publication of the third edition of the book that served as the basis for this show's creation, as well as October being Mental Health Awareness Month.
[00:00:21] The book is called Resilience, the Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges, which can be found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. The newest edition of the book was composed in part by Dr. John DePierro, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
[00:00:38] He is also the Associate Director of the Center for Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth, which provides comprehensive programming to support the resilience and mental health of Mount Sinai faculty, staff, and trainees. Today on Road to Resilience, Dr. DePiero interviews Leslie Schlachter.
[00:00:54] A neurosurgery physician's assistant at Mount Sinai and a beloved member of the Mount Sinai family, Ms. Schlachter discusses the defining personal trauma of her life, the ultimate effect it had on her ability to treat patients, and how even in the greatest of struggles, there's hope for the future. We're pleased to have Ms. Leslie Schlachter on the show.
[00:01:15] Jon Depierro: My name is Dr. Jonathan Depierro. I'm an associate professor at Mount Sinai. I'm associate director of Mount Sinai Center for Stress Resilience and Personal Growth, and I have the pleasure today I was speaking to Leslie Schlechter.
[00:01:27] Leslie Schlachter: Hi there. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:29] Jon Depierro: So Leslie, could you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself?
[00:01:33] Leslie Schlachter: Sure. I am a physician assistant. Like you said, my name is Leslie Schlachter. I have been a PA here at Mount Sinai for almost 15 years. I worked in urology and now I work in neurosurgery. And, um, I have, you know, I'm from Connecticut.
[00:01:50] I now live in New York. I have a family, lots of friends. I love exercise. But, um, I have a whole lot of backstory. But the reason I'm sitting here with you today is because I, I also work here at Mount Sinai.
[00:02:01] Jon Depierro: Yes, we've met a couple of years ago, um, during the height of the pandemic.
[00:02:05] Leslie Schlachter: Yes, I, I think I knew you for quite some time before I saw what you look like in real life.
[00:02:12] Jon Depierro: Yes, I don't think I've met you in person more than a few times.
[00:02:15] Leslie Schlachter: I know, it's crazy. It's, it really is bizarre what happened during the pandemic, how we just got so used to seeing everyone over Zoom or FaceTime.
[00:02:23] Jon Depierro: So could you tell the listeners a little bit about your family? What was it like growing up in Connecticut?
[00:02:30] Leslie Schlachter: Sure. So I, um, I grew up in central Connecticut right outside of Hartford and, um, my mom and dad married, both worked. I had an older sister who's 15 months older than me. And it's just like your typical suburban upbringing. We were both very involved in sports when we were younger. And then as we got a little bit older in our teenage years, she became interested in performance and dance, the performing arts specifically, and I kind of veered more towards sports.
[00:03:00] I became a pretty avid basketball player, and I spent most of my teenage years just playing pick up every single night while she was, you know, out dancing. My high school career took off and I was recruited to play basketball in college. So I played four years as a division one scholarship athlete at the George Washington University in D. C.
[00:03:23] And my sister was always so upset because she worked just as hard as I did in dance and the performing arts, but there was just nothing out there for, for scholarships or opportunities for her. So she was kind of upset that my parents had to pay full price for her to go to school, whereas I got it for zero dollars.
[00:03:39] And then I played professionally for a year in Israel. Interestingly, I actually, the day that I flew to Israel from JFK to Tel Aviv was September 11th,
2001. That flight left JFK at like 7 o'clock in the morning. So I was one of the last flights out at JFK as the Twin Towers were coming down.
[00:03:59] My, um, my parents were really struggling that I made the decision. I made the cdecision to do what's called Aliyah is where you become an Israeli citizen and move to Israel. And they really struggled because they felt like it would be very dangerous for me to live in Israel as a very obvious American.
[00:04:16] And on the day that I leave, this is what happened. So I told her, I was like, you know, you're not really safe anywhere. You just have to do what's best for you. I really enjoyed playing basketball in Israel, but I think I enjoyed it more because I just liked being in Israel, not necessarily the basketball.
[00:04:30] Basketball's been a vehicle in my life. It hasn't been my life. It's been what's gotten me where I want to be. I played one season and then I moved back to Connecticut to be with my family in the off season to get ready to go back .
[00:04:45] Jon Depierro: So that was 2002?
[00:04:47] Leslie Schlachter: That was, I came back from Israel middle of April 2002. My sister was dating a guy for several years. His name is Jonathan. He was actually a veterinarian, and they were together for probably about three years or so. We adored him. Full of personality, charismatic, nice guy, smart. He really did check all of the boxes. There were a couple, I don't want to say red flags, but like pink flags, like a little possessive, maybe a little bit, just a couple of things that made her feel a little bit uncomfortable.
[00:05:20] And what turned out was he actually had gotten an offer to go back to vet school to get a large vet degree. He was, you know, like your typical vet that took care of dogs and cats and such. And he had asked her to move with her to Kansas while he gets that degree, and she didn't want to, and she wasn't really sure about the relationship.
[00:05:38] So they, they broke up but decided to kind of keep things long distance for a while. But, on May 22nd, there was a couple of things that led up to us being a little suspicious, like our car was broken into, her license was stolen, things were just not quite right, and we ultimately kind of had a feeling that maybe he was behind some of this, and as we were trying to figure out what was going on, we made our way up, we came home, we made our way up to my parents bedroom, and we were looking for the second key to her car, because um, if he had the key, then it would be very clear that he broke into the car.
[00:06:13] And right when we got up into my parents bedroom, he had been hiding in their bathroom. And he came out and shot her to death right in front of me. I had about a split second of a warning that this was happening and I was able to run out of the house and I called 911 and I told them to, you know, hurry up and get to my house.
[00:06:35] Something awful had happened. But in that moment, I actually convinced myself it didn't happen. I, I really did, i, I said, there's no way what I just saw happened and I went back upstairs. And, the door to the bedroom was shut. And I pushed it open. It was really hard to get open, almost like the the rug was curled up behind it, and it wasn't.
[00:06:57] It was her. It was her dead body. And as I opened up the door and looked, he was in the room holding the gun, reloading his gun. So I ran out of the house again, this time believing what actually happened. And I was able to run down the street in my neighborhood into my neighbor's house where there was a hedge of bushes on our cul de sac and that hid me that saved my life and I got right into his house.
[00:07:23] We called 911. There happened to be a cop who was patrolling the area. He was actually one of my friends from high school and he arrested him immediately. And by the time I got out of the house and went back up to my my home, there was already the E.M.T. there and the E.M.T. That actually got to her was one of my sister's dear friends' mom.
[00:07:45] So she was the one that actually told me that she had passed, even though I, I, I kind of knew it. I was hopeful that I was wrong. And you know, thank God he was arrested immediately. But that turned into a year of, there was arraignment, sentencing, the investigation.
[00:08:04] We spent a long time in plea bargaining. He ended up taking a plea deal, where he was to be in jail for 42 years without parole. But we learned a lot after that about him and what led up to the murder. I don't know how in detail you want me to go, but it was just a lot of information that was quite surprising after the fact.
[00:08:25] And a lot to go through in a year while you're trying to put the person away that killed your loved one, but also grieving and going through the, like for me, just the terror of what happened.
[00:08:35] Jon Depierro: That's really horrendous. You went through this trial over the course of a year or so afterwards. What was it like for you personally,
though I can imagine, I can't even imagine, what it must have felt like emotionally?
[00:08:46] Leslie Schlachter: Well, the first, you know, first couple weeks, all you want to do is sleep because you don't want to be awake because it's just awful. You know, she's my best friend, my person, and, I actually wasn't even really able to grieve her for many years. I didn't realize it in that time, but I wasn't able to grieve the loss of my sister until I was able to just, like, breathe and exist.
[00:09:12] Because when you care about someone Jonathan was a part of our life, right? I trusted him. She obviously loved him. We cared about him. And then that person turned around and murdered the most important person in my life right in front of me. So after that, you can't really trust anyone. So I had a very hard time for months, ultimately years, having my back turned.
[00:09:37] I needed to see what was going on in front of me. if I was in a confrontation, or if somebody in the grocery store was mad, or God forbid I cut someone off on the highway, I then internalized that to, they're going to kill me. And so that, that was really, really difficult. So it was a year of very heavy, therapy.
[00:09:56] I saw, I had a psychologist, a psychiatrist, I was in group therapy, and, I was very much shut down. I lived in like true, true fight or flight for like about a year.
[00:10:08] Jon Depierro: It sounds like you described a lot of symptoms of what we call PTSD.
[00:10:11] Leslie Schlachter: Yeah, yeah. I think I ultimately, the therapy was quite helpful. I'm really lucky that I had the support of my friends and family. My grandfather at the time gave me a huge check and said, whatever, just put this to your therapy. I don't want you to worry about the bill.
[00:10:27] So I, I'm lucky that I had the means to get the help that I needed. I didn't even know I really needed it, but I needed it. I was given a lot of tools on how to live my life, but I didn't fully understand what that meant for like at least 10 years.
[00:10:43] You just had to let time pass. Some of it I'm, I didn't really understand until COVID hit to be honest. Because it re triggered all of my, it brought my PTSD back strong.
[00:10:55] Jon Depierro: Yeah. 20 years later.
[00:10:57] Leslie Schlachter: Yeah, 20 years later. It was incredible. You know, I was put on a, on a SSRI. I don't remember which one it was. The day after my sister was killed, when you are a victim of homicide, and it sounds silly like you would think if you're a victim, you're dead, but if you are a victim as meaning you were a part of what happened, you become part of a group, a club that you don't want to be a part of.
[00:11:19] It's called, um, The Survivors of Homicide. And there's a process that you have to go through, which includes an evaluation. And they put me on medication right away for fear that I would become suicidal. And I stayed on the medication for years. I convinced myself I needed it. And then during COVID, what happened was, I had a resurgence of all the exact same symptoms I had in that year after my sister died.
[00:11:42] It was like I was reliving it all over again, but not mourning her or feeling the death of her. It was a response to what was happening here in the hospital and was happening into my life. And it was all over again. My heart was racing. I was sweaty. I could cry at a moment's notice. I panicked about everything.
[00:11:59] I was overreacting about everything. Easy to cry, easy to anger. And I did the, you guys offered like the 14 sessions, the evaluation and the sessions and you guys offered therapy. And it was in my third or fourth session that the psychologist said to me, I really think you need to see a psychiatrist. I don't think you're medicated properly.
[00:12:23] And I was evaluated by a psychiatrist within a week. She went through all of my symptoms, and she's like, We absolutely need to change your medication. And she slowly took me off of what I was on, and titrated me up on a completely new medication to a dose appropriate for PTSD. And it was within two or three weeks of that, that I was like, Oh my gosh, my life has started.
[00:12:45] It wasn't until I was appropriately medicated almost 20 years later that I felt kind of normal again.
[00:12:52] Jon Depierro: So your life had been on hold for a couple of decades.
[00:12:56] Leslie Schlachter: My life, so I, I, I used to think of it like it was on hold, but now I look at it as I was going through something that eventually took me to where I am now, which I'm okay with because it's my journey.
[00:13:12] It's been really hard and it still continues to be hard, but I think that I have skills and coping mechanisms that many people don't have.
[00:13:22] Jon Depierro: What's been the most helpful to you? What coping mechanisms?
[00:13:26] Leslie Schlachter: Coping mechanisms? Breathing. I have a panic button that goes off quite a bit. My son's learning how to drive. So he's 16. He just got his license and it's like the worst thing you could do if you have PTSD is like teach your child to drive because every move to me is a catastrophic event.
[00:13:49] And from my therapy over the years and just from learning how to control my fight or flight, I've learned how to breathe properly and I could literally handle just about anything now.
[00:14:00] Like, And just be cold with it. And I deal with it slowly in my time, but I don't panic nearly as much as I used to. I'm very calm when other people seem to not be calm, which works really well when you're a neurosurgery PA.
[00:14:13] Jon Depierro: Yeah, I was going to bring that up. You do work with very sick patients. Patients with devastating neurological conditions, cancer, conditions that need immediate surgery. And those are very high-stake situations. And I can imagine the patients are very afraid.
[00:14:29] Leslie Schlachter: Oh yeah. I can't necessarily say that I don't like to have to be able to like truly empathize with someone. I can sympathize with just about everyone, but to really truly empathize with someone, they'd have to really go through what I went through and I'd have to go through what they're going through.
[00:14:44] And I've never had brain surgery. I don't know what they're going through, but I do know what it's like to be absolutely terrified. And be scared and worried for someone or yourself. And those feelings, it doesn't matter the cause of them. It feels the same inside of your body.
[00:15:00] And when I tell someone that they require a major surgery that might have significant deficits, or whatever they're going through now might get worse, or God forbid someone has a terminal illness or something, I can really, really, I can empathize with them in ways that I wish I couldn't, but it, I feel so humbled and honored that I can do that for my patients, because I'm not sure many people really can.
[00:15:29] Jon Depierro: I have a colleague who does a lot of palliative care work, and she calls this unsought gifts, right? You weren't looking for it, but you got it.
[00:15:37] Leslie Schlachter: Everybody wants to be a provide- if you if you work in medicine and your health care provider, you want to be able to have the wins. Like a perfect job or a perfect career in medicine is like, you're just making people better all the time and people leave happy and skipping from the hospital. That's not reality. I have found that the biggest gift that I get is being a part of someone's tragedy, not being a part of a celebration.
[00:16:01] Because I can, in my own way, I can make it just a little bit better for them.
[00:16:07] Jon Depierro: They remember you. The family remembers you.
[00:16:09] Leslie Schlachter: Always.
[00:16:10] Jon Depierro: So it sounds to me like out of your sister's murder, it somehow allowed you to connect more to the pain of your patients.
[00:16:20] Leslie Schlachter: You wrote the, what is it, the new third edition resilience book. One of the points that you pick up is, one of the ways that you really, the only way to build resilience is to go through something. Are you really a resilient person if you haven't had to go through anything traumatic or difficult?
[00:16:39] No, that's not the definition of resilience. You have to go through something to become resilient or to be resilient. I think that what I have gone through has built me to be, like, very sturdy. No matter what comes my direction, I can always say to myself, Well... Can't get worse. You know, I mean, of course, my own mortality, but I don't fear that.
[00:17:05] I will say that now that I'm a mom, it's like that is scary because I worry about my child's mortality regularly. That's part of the disease of having PTSD is like you constantly think about the things that could go wrong. But, um, I have to take the good with the bad. I have to take the good, resilient, strong parts of me with the stuff that I still am working on that might never go away.
[00:17:26] Jon Depierro: Yeah. Right. These memories stay with you. People say sometimes that you move on or you forget about it, but that's not how trauma works.
[00:17:37] Leslie Schlachter: No, it becomes a part of who you are. It dictates your actions, your thoughts. You know, unfortunately for the bad too, right? So, to be honest, as a provider, there are people that come in my office all the time that are anxious and depressed and acting completely irrational about a very small benign condition, right?
[00:17:58] So if we have a patient that comes in and let's say they have a tiny, tiny benign brain tumor that doesn't require treatment, we never need to see them again. It's the equivalent of me saying, yes, you have, a birthmark on your hand.
[00:18:11] And they are just distraught. I really do try and sympathize and empathize with them. But at some point, I just want to be like, you know, let's put things into perspective here. Like, you could have a metastatic brain tumor and be dying. You're not. This is going to be okay. And so I do sometimes struggle with my ability to always have, like, turn on my empathy.
[00:18:32] Jon Depierro: Yeah, a lot of folks who struggle with medical conditions also have pessimism. Oh, yeah. And that's a toxic combination.
[00:18:38] Leslie Schlachter: Toxic. Yeah. Yeah. Anxiety. Especially, I've noticed in New York, there's a lot of highly, highly anxious people here. Highly anxious patients who need to gather a ton of information about themselves. But high, high anxiety and high pessimism without any real life experience that gave you resilience is a very toxic trio.
[00:19:00] Jon Depierro: So, I can imagine that those months and even first few years after your sister's murder were incredibly difficult. Could you tell the listeners a little bit about who you turned to during that time? Who were your role models?
[00:19:15] Leslie Schlachter: Well, if you ever want to know who your real friends are, you should go through something like I went through because a lot of people run and hide and don't even know how to show support and then the people you maybe didn't know were going to be there are the ones that show up.
[00:19:30] So, the first couple months in the year, it was really hard for me to rely on my parents, unfortunately. My mom had just lost her daughter, and she was struggling. My dad had lost his daughter, and he was struggling. We really tried to be there for each other, but it was really difficult.
[00:19:45] And I'll get back to my mom in a second, because she's definitely my role model. But in those first couple months, it was a handful of my friends. I
had a couple girlfriends who just never gave up on me. They showed up, they took me out to dinner, I mean they were there over and over, even when I did not want them there.
[00:20:05] I had a hard time sleeping at night. I really couldn't sleep alone. I was afraid to shut my eyes because I convinced myself someone was coming into my room or someone was going to jump out. I couldn't walk into rooms where there were closed closets or doors or a shower curtain that was shut because you don't know what's behind it.
[00:20:22] So two of my closest friends from my childhood, these two guys, Jared and Adam, they took turns sleeping over and literally held me every night, and, that got me through it. So, I don't think I had a role model in the first year or so, I think I just had people that got me through the first year, and then watching my mom just plow through life was I mean, she continues to be my role model.
[00:20:46] I, I definitely didn't see her like that as I was growing up. I think my dad was more of my role model. My mom, you know, she was my mom. She, you know, made sure I was fed and loved and hugged and kissed. But I, I'm not sure I looked up to her as anything more than just being an awesome mom. And now, oh my gosh, if I could be just like my mom, life would be amazing.
[00:21:05] She is a strong, happy, powerful woman who, if I could be half as much as her, I'd be fine. I mean, I, I, I model myself after her every day.
[00:21:19] Jon Depierro: You described having friends who essentially showed up and helped you feel safe.
[00:21:24] Leslie Schlachter: Absolutely. A lot didn't. Some of my, some of my family members didn't show up. I had close family members that I thought were, you know, your ride or die, so that never called. But I had friends, one of my closest friends now is not only someone who showed up every moment, every day, but still with a lot what's happening in my life now, I mean, she takes over for me. I was away on vacation last week and there was something going on with our legal process and she dealt with it for me. She went, she sat in court all day.
[00:21:56] So, you know, I think role models are important, but equally as important are like your safety net, your people that support you.
[00:22:07] Jon Depierro: As I was writing the book, I realized toward the end that I didn't talk about love enough. What you just described is the love that your friend showed to you.
[00:22:17] Leslie Schlachter: That's right. Love and accountability. There's nothing worse than knowing that you can't count on someone. There's nothing better than knowing that you can. So I, I think when you're young, you think about love as a romantic relationship. And, you know, I have a husband.
[00:22:35] He's an incredible human being, but like, the love that I feel from people that have really supported me throughout my life with what I've gone through, it's like the greatest gift. I hope that I, other people feel that way, that I've given that to them too. What a tragedy if they, nobody did.
[00:22:55] Jon Depierro: Yeah, I'm sure your friends would say that you show up for them too.
[00:22:57] Leslie Schlachter: I hope so.
[00:22:59] Jon Depierro: I was thinking as you were talking, my wife is also a clinical psychologist and when she talks about trauma and recovery, she says that recovery from trauma is about adding more life onto the event. More than just the event. The event is part of what happened to you, but not who you are as a person.
[00:23:17] Leslie Schlachter: That's right. Yeah, and the people and experiences that I've had in my life, I don't think that I'd be capable to enjoy them as much if I didn't have my trauma. Which is kind of messed up if you think about it, right? There's these people that are walking around thinking they're having so much fun and grand times, and that is, they definitely are, but they don't have the bad to compare it to.
[00:23:40] Jon Depierro: I think I am so capable of finding, like, real joy and real meaning in some of the most minor happy moments. But, yeah, I, I absolutely define myself now as all the wonderful things that happen in my life.
[00:23:54] From what you've described, I'm thinking that it's the trauma and some pretty good therapy afterwards.
[00:24:00] Absolutely. But, I think the therapy was giving me tools that I was not yet capable of using until much later.
[00:24:08] Until the pandemic.
[00:24:10] Leslie Schlachter: Maybe, maybe so. I mean, I was, what, like 22, 23 when this happened, and I would say I'm 43 now, about 10 years. It was probably when I got married and had kids that I was, that I started really using some of the tools I was taught.
[00:24:24] Jon Depierro: One thing you had mentioned is grief, and people define grief in lots of different ways. How do you think about grief?
[00:24:33] Leslie Schlachter: I think when you lose someone that's important to you, obviously you miss them, right?
[00:24:38] But grief to me now comes at the most bizarre moments. It comes at my daughter's birthday where I realize, like, my sister will never meet my daughter or go to a birthday party. When I got married, I loved everyone that was there and I was so happy, but I would have given it all up just for my sister.
[00:24:57] So big moments is a reminder that she's not there. But also, I was reading a book the other night and something really funny in the book, and I think she would have loved it. Those simple things are where I miss her and I grieve her. I just like to remind myself that if she were here, then I would have to call her and talk to her and go see her.
[00:25:21] But now that she's passed, she's with me all the time. So everything that I experience and see and enjoy, she gets as well. So I try to remind myself of that.
[00:25:29] Jon Depierro: Because you have your memories of her.
[00:25:31] Leslie Schlachter: Right. Right. It is fun to... She still is very strong. She was very stubborn. She really was a pain in the ass.
[00:25:40] And when people say like, What would your sister say or what would your sister think? I can't repeat most of the time because like, It's not okay to say. People, after she died, so many people would come up to me and my parents and say she's in a better place, she's with God, she's with the angels, it's okay, she's not suffering, and I wanted to be like, you didn't know her at all, she is furious, she wished I was there with her, she is not happy, this is miserable, it's going to take years for her to forgive me.
[00:26:08] Like, it just, you know, it's funny to, when you actually internalize the person that you knew the most. And I find humor in that, because like, other people just won't get that.
[00:26:18] Jon Depierro: They have this idea in their head, or they want to say something comforting, but it doesn't match the situation. It doesn't match who the person actually is.
[00:26:25] Leslie Schlachter: It's comforting for them. And I believe, like, their religious or spiritual beliefs, that's what they're supposed to feel. And I'm sure they believe it, but, um, my mom and I found it just, like, almost just funny at times. People would say, let's meet at the cemetery and go see Elizabeth. And my mom was like, she's not at the cemetery.
[00:26:42] She's sitting at the kitchen, at the kitchen counter. Come on over our house. She's not in the cemetery. It is a gloomy, gloomy place there. That's not where she is.
[00:26:50] Jon Depierro: Yeah, people have all sorts of different ideas about what grief is. It's all, it's very individual how they express it and what, what their rituals are.
[00:26:58] Leslie Schlachter: Right. My mom grieved by action. And she still is. My mom became an advocate, a victim services advocate, she started the Connecticut Happiness Club. She speaks to kids and teens, victims of domestic violence. She has fought for this, this whole process.
[00:27:22] My dad, on the other hand, who has a history of depression, went into a deep, deep depression for many years, struggled with it for the 15 years afterwards. It wasn't until he received ECT and high doses of medication that he actually got better. Thank God, he's been fine. He's been much better over the last couple years, but it was really, really dark for him.
[00:27:45] And that was hard for me to deal with. You know, I had one parent who I was just running around the tri state area educating anyone they could on bad relationships and my dad, we couldn't even peel him up off the floor.
[00:27:56] And I was somewhere in the middle depending on the day.
[00:28:00] Jon Depierro: Your dad who's very depressed and your mom who's consumed by activity.
[00:28:02] Leslie Schlachter: Yep. And that's just how they deal with it. And to me it just shows the difference in the grief process for like a true optimist and a true pessimist. However, my dad has become an optimist. He just wasn't capable of it before.
[00:28:19] Jon Depierro: You had mentioned your mom's advocacy work, and that she is in lots of organizations, and she was teaching and lecturing a lot. Recently, you became an advocate for your sister.
[00:28:29] Leslie Schlachter: Yeah, again, things just pop up you don't know you're going to have to deal with.
[00:28:33] So, I had told you before that the guy who killed my sister, Jonathan, he accepted a plea deal of 42 years without parole. And so that means that the defense attorney, his defense attorney, and the prosecutor that we worked with went through months of plea bargaining to come up with a sentence that he agreed to and that we agreed to.
[00:28:54] So he would forego trial and agree to 42 years with no chance of parole. And then about a year ago, we got a letter from the Connecticut Department of Corrections, an agency called the Board of Pardons and Paroles, telling us that there was a new commutation policy. And for those of you listening who don't know what commutation is, commutation is basically a word for get out of jail.
[00:29:19] That's what that means. It's, it's kind of, kind of like a parole. And, the policy stated that if anyone in jail, for any reason at all, in the state of Connecticut, after doing any crime, murder, capital murder, rape, anything, if you were given a sentence of greater than 10 years, if you've served at least 10 years, and your sentence date is more than 2 years away, so we're looking at someone who's in jail a minimum of 12 years, which is a real crime, then you can apply for commutation to get out of jail.
[00:29:51] And a board reviews the application, and then does a pre-screen hearing, they review it, and then they decide whether you can move on to a hearing and get let out of jail. So we did not know that this was even, like I had never, I didn't even know commutation was a thing. Right? So when we, when we said yes to the plea deal, it wasn't, uh, 42 years without parole, but maybe commutation.
[00:30:12] It was just, he's not getting out for 42 years. So now we find out that there's this new policy, and then, a couple months ago, we find out that he applied for it, and he was given a prescreen hearing. And we had five days warning to get ready for that and our right as, because we know our rights because we're victims of homicide, we were able to drum up letters and show support.
[00:30:36] So thankfully his prescreen was denied, so he's not getting out of jail. But the rules say that he can reapply every three years. And unfortunately there's been, you know, a handful of people that have been commuted over the last six to seven years, but they've commuted almost a hundred people in the last year because of this new policy.
[00:30:53] So I reviewed the policy, and it turns out that one person, who is the chairman of this board, who was elected by the governor, made this policy and signed off on it himself. He did not need it to be signed off on by the governor, by any senators, the General Assembly, state's attorney. Nobody even knew about this.
[00:31:11] He made this policy, signed off on it, and is just commuting people with his board. So my family and I learned about it, went up to the state of Connecticut, met with the Senate, had press conferences, have been working back and forth with the governor's office to halt commutations in the state of Connecticut until they can revise or amend the policy to exclude serious crimes like murder, capital murder or serious rape crimes.
[00:31:39] The intent of the policy was to let young people like, you know, 15, 16, 17 year old that might have done something really stupid that have served 15, 20 years to maybe give them a second chance, but not for an adult, especially a doctor, who has committed a serious crime, premeditated crime like this. So I did not foresee myself reading a whole bunch of legislation, and um, learning all of this. But here I am.
[00:32:05] Jon Depierro: And so what's the status now?
[00:32:06] Leslie Schlachter: The status now is I'm going to be, we'll be meeting with the Board of Pardons and Paroles and having a round table with the governor and talking about what our concerns are. And it appears as though the governor is also concerned. Like, okay, this, this policy worked, we commuted a lot of people, but maybe let's take a second look at this and see if we need any revisions.
[00:32:26] I think they hear us loud and clear.
[00:32:28] Jon Depierro: And it's a policy, not a law set in stone.
[00:32:30] Leslie Schlachter: It is a policy. Right. So, like, a law, you have to go through a whole process to have it changed. A policy is simply something somebody writes down on a piece of paper and says this is what we're going to do, and then they just do it.
[00:32:42] It's absolutely bizarre. This didn't require multiple people to sign off on it.
[00:32:46] Jon Depierro: Yeah. The governor's approval, for example.
[00:32:48] Leslie Schlachter: I know. It's nuts, but here we are. Yeah.
[00:32:50] Jon Depierro: I was just thinking about getting that letter in the mail. What was that like for you, opening and reading that?
[00:32:57] Leslie Schlachter: I, I tucked away the thought that he would get out of jail, like a human being who I saw kill my sister and then looked at him in the eyes and I ran for my life, who's going to get out of jail.
[00:33:12] That never crossed my mind because I tucked it away for 42 years. I did not. I thought, well, when he gets out, he'll be 70 years old and we'll deal with it then. And I'm going to live my life for 42 years. And then to get the letter and think to myself, Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. He's still young. I have kids.
[00:33:30] What, what's gonna, what is he gonna do? I mean, I'm right back to day one. And it, I, I could not, I could not inflate my lungs for, until I had the, until we heard that the pre screen was denied. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't sleep. I was sweating. I couldn't stop crying. I was non functional.
[00:33:49] Jon Depierro: It threw you right back there.
[00:33:50] Leslie Schlachter: Right back. Right back. But, the old Leslie would have, gotten into bed and cried and probably had a glass or two of wine and just curled up. But instead, I know my triggers. I went to the gym. I drank a lot of water. I took extra supplements. I told everyone around me what was going on so I can have support.
[00:34:10] I went into like full action mode. I asked people for help. I asked for their support. I let people know that I might be a little off for a while. I focused on getting nine hours of sleep instead of seven. I acted in a way to like limit how I was going to respond to it.
[00:34:29] Jon Depierro: You realize that there's something you can do to control the reaction and maybe affect the situation.
[00:34:33] Leslie Schlachter: Yep. Absolutely.
[00:34:35] Jon Depierro: You didn't withdraw. Shut down.
[00:34:38] Leslie Schlachter: I felt my body shutting down. I just didn't let it shut down.
[00:34:41] Jon Depierro: You did the opposite. So you talked about going through this awfully traumatic event and being very fearful afterwards, which is very common, not being able to feel safe or secure in a room, facing a door and not being able to trust people. How did you get through those fears? What helped you the most face those fears?
[00:35:03] Leslie Schlachter: Time. So, when you're in a situation where there's death and your mortality is a reality, it sort of brings up your fear scale, right? You say to someone, what's your pain on a scale of one to ten? Well, you only know what ten is if you've had terrible pain.
[00:35:24] And the same thing with fear. You only know what real fear is if you've had terrible, scary fear. I have a very sensitive reaction to fear. It's very, like a hyper, hyper acute reaction. So if I'm playing a sport or I'm doing something and if I can perceive something bad happening or if I'm walking down the street and someone in front of me might look a little shady to me, I then internalize that as the worst case scenario every time.
[00:35:53] I would say on average I have an acute response to fear three to four times a day. For many years it was real. I convinced myself of it. It was debilitating. And then you enough time goes by and you convince yourself that you know in reality it's going to be fine, right, so you, you talk yourself through it.
[00:36:16] You're overreacting, calm down, take a deep breath. So I think my coping mechanisms were just time and realizing that I'm the one that's overreacting and I have to talk to my, my system and tell it to calm down. It's all still there, right, so I work up on the eighth floor and our old entrance to the office was just a door you could open and shut.
[00:36:39] And people are angry. We work on a floor where there's a lot of patients coming and going, and patients' families, people get sick, people die. And people used to storm into our office angry, and I couldn't function after that. So we put in a locking mechanism with a security bell, because I was scared. So, how do I cope with it?
[00:36:59] Really well some days, really terribly other days. So, I am a Mount Sinai employee who required a locked door with a security alarm. It's the only way I feel comfortable. But, I think every year it gets a little bit better, but it's definitely a response I don't think will ever go away.
[00:37:18] Jon Depierro: You're very sensitized to feeling fear.
[00:37:21] Leslie Schlachter: Very much so. Even with my children, you know, we went, we were on vacation and there were water slides and lots of activities and I'm sure most of the parents there think, I just, I mean, if there's a water park and there's people around, it's going to be safe. I can't do that.
[00:37:37] I can see danger at every corner all the time, and I convince myself that bad things can happen at all times, and then a second later have to say, calm down, you're doing it again, it's not going to happen.
[00:37:50] Jon Depierro: Do you ever think about how equipped you are to handle these situations if the worst were to happen?
[00:37:55] Leslie Schlachter: Oh, I, I mean, I think I'd be incredible. I think back to that day regularly. It infuriates me that I ran out of the room and left her there to be murdered, but I know in reality, I was, what am I going to do with a six foot six jacked guy with a gun who had 21 bullets? There was nothing I was going to do.
[00:38:13] I was going to be dead. I reacted. My reflexes were amazing. I ran. I handled it so well. And over the years, as being a PA in, in emergency situations or being in a hospital, I am incredibly calm and swift acting. I trust myself completely.
[00:38:33] I would argue that because of my condition or because of what I went through makes me just so much better at what I do.
[00:38:40] Jon Depierro: So, when you said you have an acute fear response, what do you notice?
[00:38:46] Leslie Schlachter: I would imagine it feels a little bit like an anxiety attack. My breathing becomes very shallow. My palms get sweaty. My heart rate increases. All my muscles start to tense up. I feel like I have to go to the bathroom very badly.
[00:38:58] I feel like I need to run to urinate. And, I become kind of stiff. And it's, It's really, really, really scary because in the moment that it's happening, you actually think something's like medically wrong, but, I know it's not. I recognize it and I force my shoulders down. I do my deep breathing and I just take a step back and, it goes away pretty quickly now.
[00:39:26] What used to take hours to go away and I'd have to take a day to recover, I can recover from within 5 10 minutes now.
[00:39:34] Jon Depierro: So, you peak very quickly, but then you can bring yourself back to baseline. That's recovery. I was thinking, you were scolding yourself, blaming yourself for running away. Have you changed the way you feel about that over time?
[00:39:51] Leslie Schlachter: So, in the moment when he jumped out and the seconds before he shot her, she looked at me and told me to get the F out. So, she was protecting me. I scolded myself for a long time because my dad, for weeks afterwards, because he wasn't there, he didn't understand the situation, he could not wrap his head around how I couldn't have done anything.
[00:40:19] And that really hurt, really hurt me that I had to explain why I couldn't save my sister's life after I had just witnessed her murder and now my sister's dead. I very quickly, very quickly, like replayed it in my head. Big guy, gun, many bullets, element of surprise. Like there was just, I know for a fact there's nothing I could have done.
[00:40:44] And I do not feel, I don't blame myself. I think I did blame myself for a while, but it was very short lived. It's just, it wasn't, I could not have done anything.
[00:40:57] Jon Depierro: I was thinking about the beautiful moments that you've had with your children, and these interactions, meaningful interactions you've had with your patients. None of that would have happened had you stayed.
[00:41:07] Leslie Schlachter: Yeah. I can't imagine what that would have been like for my parents. I, I... I look at my two kids every day, and I'm just so grateful for them, and then, in the exact moment that I feel grateful that I have these two incredible human beings, I think, my mom lost one of her kids in the worst way. And, I can't imagine what that would have been if it was both of us.
[00:41:30] Jon Depierro: She didn't lose two.
[00:41:31] Leslie Schlachter: Nope. I mean, she's so grateful. And she just called me, I mean, she calls me like ten times a day. And she's going to keep calling until I call her back. Yeah, she's so grateful.
[00:41:39] Jon Depierro: I want to just talk about something else briefly. You, I wanted to talk about your work with patients who have these neurological conditions. Are there ways in which there are role models for you of resilience?
[00:41:50] Leslie Schlachter: Oh gosh, every day. In what I do, nobody asked for this. Nobody did something or didn't do something to put themselves in this situation. A lot of what we deal with is just bad luck. And these people are put in a situation, whether it be a malignant brain tumor or a benign brain tumor, aneurysm, whatever it may be, they have to agree to let another human being put them asleep, open their head, do stuff around their brain and hope that they wake up and that they're okay.
[00:42:27] I mean, in the perfect situation, things go well. And you just, you know, you recover from surgery and you go back to life. And thank God, I work with an incredible surgeon and we do wonderful work. And most of our patients are much better off after surgery than they are before. But imagine the amount of trust you have to have to let someone do that.
[00:42:47] You let someone operate on your elbow or your knee, not that I'm saying anything about orthopedics, but like, oh, it's going to hurt. Maybe, you know, maybe something. But you let someone operate on your brain, you worry that's going to change you. Every single patient I take care of is absolutely terrified that they're not going to be the person they know themselves to be.
[00:43:05] And I just see these incredible warriors come out of this, most of the time. At least, all the optimists. The pessimists convince themselves that the world is coming to the end for many months, but I applaud, I'm in awe every day of the patients I take care of.
[00:43:21] Jon Depierro: And I can imagine the patients who are optimistic throw themselves headlong into their recovery, their rehab.
[00:43:27] Leslie Schlachter: Yeah. I saw a patient yesterday who is really struggling with her recovery. She, she's doing fine. There's nothing medically wrong with her, but she is just, you know, so fearful, so anxious, so depressed, she can't smile, she won't even make eye contact. She just can't, she can't follow my basic instructions of just walking.
[00:43:47] And I had to yell at her. I was like, you are now completely in control of your destiny. You are choosing a bad destiny. Look at me. Smile. Get up and walk. You have to move. I want photo evidence on a daily basis that you're doing what I need you to do. And by the end of the visit, she was making eye contact.
[00:44:04]] There was a smile. And, um, patients look to medical providers not only to tell them what surgery they need, what procedure they need, or what pills to take, but it is our job to sometimes, like, shake them in their pants. I often yell at my patients and tell them that they're doing a bad job. You have to do better.
[00:44:23] This is what I need from you. Just like I would write you a prescription for a pain medication, I'm writing you a prescription to get out of bed, go for a walk, and smile, turn on music, light a candle. What makes you happy? And uh, they need to think of it like that.
[00:44:38] Jon Depierro: Yeah, I was thinking about, you know, the cognitive behavioral therapy work that I do, you know, motivating folks, but also pushing, sort of nudging them in the right direction or giving them homework and telling them why it's really important that they do that.
[00:44:50] I can't make them do it. I can't follow them around in their life, but I can really impart to them that this is the key to their recovery. Getting up and moving is the key.
[00:44:59] Leslie Schlachter: I tell people, I know it's hard to get up and walk when you've had brain surgery and all you want to do is sleep and eat cheese balls and watch Oprah.
[00:45:05] I get that. But if you're not getting up and moving, eating healthy food, drinking the water, taking your pills on the time they are, the only person you're hurting is yourself. The harder you work now to do better for yourself, it's your life that you're improving. You're not hurting me. You're frustrating me, but you're not hurting me.
[00:45:23] But they, they need nudging. They really, really do.
[00:45:26] Jon Depierro: So the, the provider is the expert and the nudger.
[00:45:31] Leslie Schlachter: Oh, I'm an expert nudger. That is probably my number one job description, is I'm a nudger. Yeah.
[00:45:38] Jon Depierro: Because you know how important those nudges are, preventing problems.
[00:45:41] Leslie Schlachter: That's right. I even have patients that, as they're recovering from surgery, I generally would only need to see them once or twice in the first couple weeks.
[00:45:49] But if I'm really worried that patient doesn't have social support at home, if they're not going to follow my instructions clearly, or I just... I just feel like they need to see my face. I tell them I need to, I need to see you in person once or twice a week over the next month. And I schedule those appointments.
[00:46:05] We don't make money off of those. You don't make money off of post op visits. It's taking up time in my day to look at this person, but I know that they had to get up, get showered, take the subway or get in a cab or something, physically come to me. Get there. So, it's a lot that goes into the process of making an appointment, and I, I do that regularly if I'm worried about someone.
[00:46:26] I make them come in and see me, even as to say, you know, let's have a cup of coffee together. Tell me how you're feeling. And it works.
[00:46:33] Jon Depierro: That's the downside of telehealth. You can just roll out of bed in your, or be in bed in your pajamas.
[00:46:37] Leslie Schlachter: There are so many good upsides to telehealth. I can pick up so much bad stuff on telehealth that you would never have picked up before, but guys, public service announcement.
[00:46:46] Do not take your doctor's appointments for telehealth from your bed and your pajamas. It is not helping me. Because I don't know, what are you doing every day? Are you laying in bed all day? Don't take your telehealth from the bed. It concerns me.
[00:46:58] Jon Depierro: That's my policy, too.
[00:47:00] Leslie Schlachter: Get out of bed! Sit at a desk, turn on a light. Let's go. But no, that's, it's acceptable now to just roll over in bed and take a doctor's appointment. It's bizarre.
[00:47:10] Jon Depierro: We're nearing the end of our time together, but I'm wondering, I've been asking you questions for over 45 minutes. Do you have questions for me?
[00:47:19] Leslie Schlachter: So I, like I said, I read the majority of the book and we talked a lot about myself personally, but I think you're not really able to do as well as you did writing a book on resilience unless you've gone through something yourself.
[00:47:33] Tell me a little bit about, you were bullied as a kid. Tell me a little bit about that, because I did not know that about you until I read that.
[00:47:39] Jon Depierro: Yeah, I was actually going to tell you earlier when you were talking about sports, my parents have been basketball coaches for many, many years. My dad is still a basketball coach on the weekends and the evenings, and they were very sporty and athletic, and you could guess I wasn't.
[00:47:55] And I grew up on Staten Island where sports were how people related to one another. A lot of baseball, basketball, and I tried to do those things, but I wasn't very good, and maybe I was pessimistic and gave up. But I got bullied a lot. I was called awful names. I remember a time I was in, I went to Catholic school for a couple of years, and then I was bullied, and my parents ultimately transferred me to a public school.
[00:48:22] And in one day in public school, in gym class, the person who was bullying me pulled my pants down in front of everybody in the gym class. I was wearing underwear, so I wasn't completely naked, but it was really embarrassing. And the school really had a hard time managing that. I know it's a big challenge now in schools, you know, how to respond to bullying, but I really didn't see any, any response other than, you know, kids will be kids protecting me.
[00:48:49] And the answer my parents had, which was well meaning at the time, was to allow me to just move around schools. And it didn't really change that I was kind of a fish out of water. And that steps weren't being taken to protect me adequately from kids who were just being really, really mean.
[00:49:09] Leslie Schlachter: Question. Now that you've went through that and you are who you are today, would you change it?
[00:49:16] Jon Depierro: That's a very good question. Probably not.
[00:49:18] Leslie Schlachter: So now you're a parent, and you have a kid just like you, and they're going through it. How do you parent through that? What do you do? What would you have done?
[00:49:27] Jon Depierro: I think I would show up and bang down the door of the principal's office and demand that something be done to protect my child.
[00:49:32] Leslie Schlachter: What's that something? What's the something to be done?
[00:49:35] Jon Depierro: I'm not sure. Detention? Or that, you know, I know that people who bully, being a psychologist, people who bully, generally, not always, but generally have some very difficult things that they're working through and bullying is the way that it's a vehicle for them to get out some of those feelings.
[00:49:52] And so I would be really wanting that, curious if that person was getting the support that they needed from the school too. It's sort of a holding in mind, like, they're responsible and there's probably a reason for their behavior.
[00:50:03] Leslie Schlachter: I knew you were going to say it. I was kind of, I was trying to lead you in that direction. Because I, I was bullied too. I know it's, it's silly. Like, you're bullied, people are bullied for every reason. You're too short, you're too fat, you're too skinny, you're too tall. I was bullied, I've been 6'4 since I was 13. And I was like a hundred and fifty pounds, bean pole, jolly green giant, I mean, you name it, I heard it, I was picked on.
[00:50:27] I asked four guys to my senior prom, nobody said yes. I almost went to my senior prom with my dad. I was bullied big time. And when I look back on it and I think of all those people that bullied me, I feel so sorry for them. And so now with who you are, I imagined your response to be. How would you handle it?
[00:50:51] They should have mandatory therapy. Because there's something wrong with them.
[00:50:56] Jon Depierro: Yeah. And there's the, probably the protective parent part of me too that wants something to be done to make sure my child is safe while the good therapy is happening, if it's available even. But I do think, just like you were saying, it's made me more attuned to the impact of different kinds of traumas, big and small.
[00:51:16] More attuned to people's emotions. And I think it's made me a better therapist, having been through some very difficult experiences as a child, and thankfully, you know, my parents were doing the best they could. They were young parents. My mom was 17 when she had me. My dad was 19. They had six children after me. I'm the oldest of seven. So it was a big family.
[00:51:40] Leslie Schlachter: You were the guinea pig.
[00:51:41] Jon Depierro: Yeah, that's a good way of summarizing, I was kind of the guinea pig, yeah. They were learning, they were growing up and learning
to be parents as they were parenting me. And there was a lot going on in my house. And it's hard to keep track of seven kids.
[00:51:55] It makes sense that it's, it's tough. And I learned to be independent. And I learned to sort of find my own way. It was messy. I was bullied for part of high school, too. But eventually, toward the end of high school, and then in college I found my pack. I found people who were like minded, who accepted me, you know, who liked me for me, like the song.
[00:52:17] Leslie Schlachter: That was me, too, yeah.
[00:52:18] Jon Depierro: And in graduate school, too, I had a niche of people that were really in my corner. And that really made the difference. It boosted my self confidence. Like, hey, somebody actually likes me. They're not just exploiting me to have me do their homework for them, or they're setting me up to be made fun of in an embarrassing way.
[00:52:36] They, they actually like me, and they wanna be around me and they ask how I'm doing. And that was new to me. Because I was always sort of on the outs. I had the sense when I was growing up in elementary school that I would just be, I was just being invited to birthday parties because I was in the class, not because the kids wanted me to be there. Because it would be impolite or rude to exclude me.
[00:52:56] Leslie Schlachter: Or it was the school policy.
[00:52:57] Jon Depierro: Or it was the school policy. I don't even know what the school's policies are now. I don't even know how that works. But, yeah, I think they just had to give an invitation to everybody. But I was like sitting alone at the table having my pizza by myself in Chuck E. Cheese. So it's been, you know, quite a journey.
[00:53:13] But it's helped me relate to my patients. I think it's given me a lot of insights about processes of recovery, and yeah, there's still sort of battle wounds that we're all carrying around. Sometimes it's easier for my confidence to be shaken. And that's okay. That's just part of who I am, and I know that I have people that I can lean on to help patch me back up together when I stumble.
[00:53:36] Leslie Schlachter: I have learned over the last, I don't know, five, ten years or so that it's the people that we didn't necessarily like or understand or want to be with when we were growing up. Those are the best people to be around now. I feel like I finally got the prize. I love surrounding myself with completely different people whose brain works differently, that are not athletic.
[00:54:01] I hung out with the jocks. I wouldn't have picked on you or bullied you, but I would have been one of the jocks. And, I find myself heading in the opposite direction now. I love the quirky intellects now. It's funny how life turns out.
[00:54:13] Jon Depierro: I know. I feel like I'm becoming a jock because I started taking up, like, I see a personal trainer a couple of times a week, so I'm, like, lifting weights and doing split squats and things like that and having muscles for the first time in my life.
[00:54:25] Leslie Schlachter: Congratulations.
[00:54:26] Jon Depierro: Yeah. It's, it's a new experience, but it feels it builds my confidence, too. Like, I Did some really good push ups the first time a couple weeks ago And it was really like I was like shocked that I was able to do that.
[00:54:36] Leslie Schlachter: You walk around puffing your chest. have one last question. So, I I was able to take part and become a part of the Center for Resilience and-
[00:54:46] Jon Depierro: Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth. It's a long name.
[00:54:48] Leslie Schlachter: CRPG?
[00:54:50] Jon Depierro: CSRPG.
[00:54:53] Leslie Schlachter: CSRPG. Oh, yeah I think I got into that world because I, like, really needed it, right? There's probably hundreds if not thousands of healthcare workers out there that need help, and they're terrified of getting help from their workplace. What would you say to those people on what they're missing out by not taking part in getting help?
[00:55:16] Jon Depierro: Yeah, I can speak to our program, most, and I know, you know, we recently did a survey that showed about half of the healthcare workers that we surveyed thought about wanting therapy in the past year. So, Mount Sinai is 45, 000 people. You can imagine what half of that is. That's a big number. And of that, a little bit more than half of that 50 percent did not end up getting therapy. They thought about it and they didn't connect.
[00:55:40] Leslie Schlachter: Were the reasons in the survey, as to why they didn't?
[00:55:43] Jon Depierro: Yeah. One of the biggest reasons was, they didn't take the time to do it. They assumed that it would take a lot of effort or it was hard to access. At Mount Sinai, we're really lucky because there's been a huge investment in this resource, in this center, that provides immediately accessible care.
[00:55:59] We have done over 10, 000 treatment visits since October 2020. And people get appointments in just a few days. We try to lower the cost as much as we can. And so one thing I would say is that the barriers that you might have in your mind, the concrete barriers, we address, and we, every day, think about ways that we can make it more accessible.
[00:56:19] We've built telehealth spaces that our healthcare workers can use that are on campus if they don't have privacy. We've really tried to make the customer service experience, as good as we can make it by if you call, you'll get a human being on the phone. You don't have to leave a voicemail or enter a phone tree.
[00:56:38] You speak to a person and people are surprised that they call and speak to a person. And so I would say that those barriers that you might think are there for, you know, specifically for our center, may not be. And then there's stigma, the stigma of mental health. The concern that your co workers or your supervisor might find out that you're getting mental health treatment and judge you.
[00:57:00] Or the concern, there's actually a lot of advocacy work being done across the country, because when you're a healthcare provider like a PA or an NP, psychologist, MD, or DO, when you get your state license. or get credentialed for hospitals, you have to report on your mental health history in some way.
[00:57:19] It's asked all sorts of different ways in different places. But it de incentivizes people from seeking help because they assume that it will prevent them from getting a job. I'm a healthcare worker, or I'm a police officer. I used to work with 9 11 responders. I'm a police officer. I don't want to get help because it would be my job.
[00:57:36] It would be my badge and my gun. And that is something that we really need to address at a large scale. But, what I would say is these small things, like these conversations that we're having today about mental health, about your experiences, about your experiences in therapy, being a health care worker, that, those testimonials of sorts really make a huge difference.
[00:57:58] There's been research to show that hearing from somebody who is very much like you, who is going through the same thing, who got help and found it to be beneficial to them, really makes a difference. So as much as we can, we really want people to know that there's other people that are struggling that have got help and are better.
[00:58:17] Leslie Schlachter: Absolutely. Well,
[00:58:20] My name is Leslie Schlachter and I have PTSD and I'm doing just fine. You should get the help. It really is true.
[00:58:28] Jon Depierro: So thank you, Leslie, for taking the whole hour to speak with us today. And I hope you have a lovely weekend.
[00:58:33] Leslie Schlachter: You too. Thanks for having me.
[00:58:36] Stephen Calabria: Leslie Schlachter is a neurosurgery physician's assistant at Mount Sinai and a beloved member of the Mount Sinai family.
[00:58:43] Dr. John Depierro is the associate director of the Center for Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth. The latest edition of Resilience, the Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges, may be found on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
[00:58:56] That's all for this episode of Road to Resilience. If you enjoyed it, please rate, review, and subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform. Road to Resilience is a production of the Mount Sinai It's produced by me, Stephen Calabria, and our executive producer, Lucille Lee. From all of us here at Mount Sinai, thanks for listening, and we'll catch you next time.