Carey’s Corner: A Call to Action

Posted By on September 10, 2019

Taking a diverse approach to mental health

By Carey Peña

It was a busy weekday afternoon when my cell phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. I stared down deciding whether or not I should pick it up. I’m glad I did.

On the other end was Robert Meza, a well-known member of Arizona’s State Senate. I’d interviewed him on various news stories over the years and had always known him to be a champion of positive change.

Meza told me he was working with a group that he felt was going to revolutionize behavioral health in Arizona, and they wanted to know if I would emcee their “Champions Luncheon.” Heavy hitters were to be honored for their ongoing commitment to mental health, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Suns owner Robert Sarver and Congressman Greg Stanton, to name a few.

Resilient Health is a group that works to create a “resiliency experience” with a variety of therapies and activities specific to each patient, and I did end up as the emcee for their luncheon.

What happened on stage that day was remarkable. One by one, honorees and speakers dug deep and talked in personal (and sometimes painful) terms about what it means to be resilient and how, in our struggles, we have the opportunity to find strength.

The chair of the event, journalist and media executive Mi-Ai Parrish, gave an emotional speech about mental health battles in her own family. She talked about a long history of “fighting monsters.” You don’t often hear people open up that much on stage.

It was so moving, I wanted to learn more about what’s being done right now in Arizona to combat the mental health crisis.


My work as emcee at the Champion’s Luncheon led to an invitation to accompany a group of Arizona thought leaders and policymakers, led by Resilient Health, to Washington D.C. this month.

The National Council for Behavioral Health is having what’s called “Hill Day,” and the goal is to talk about forward-thinking solutions to these complex problems.

“Resilient Health’s innovative approach has resonated with leadership at the federal level and new partnerships are being forged to further develop this,” the group’s CEO Larry Villano told me.

According to Villano, Resilient Health is the nation’s first resiliency-building health care company to combat the rising rates of mental illness, addiction and suicide.

“We are consulting with experts in neuroscience and trauma,” Villano said. “The purpose is to deliver a resiliency-building experience based on our ‘5 pillars’ that… rewire the brain.”

They define the five pillars as emotional regulation, relational wealth, sense of achievement, meaning and purpose in life, and health literacy.

Part of this includes innovative treatments like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) as well as intensive art therapy.

Art is a big part of what they do. Resilient Health is working to transform a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown Phoenix into a central space for working artists and therapeutic modalities.

All of this will be talked about with national leaders in D.C., including representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For my part, I’ve been asked to travel with this group to present ideas as a journalist and content creator who cares about the mental health mission. How do we open diverse discussions that lead to better outcomes? How can we collectively help more people get well?

It’s time to take on the monster of mental illness and addiction in a new way.

Follow along with Carey’s reporting at

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