Meet your neighbor...Tracey Masella, host of Silver Hill Hospital’s video podcast
NEW CANAAN — When someone is diagnosed with cancer, people flock around them, filling their refrigerators with casseroles as a show of support. But when someone is diagnosed or struggling with a mental illness, people are a little more unsure about how to react.
Tracey Masella, the program manager for the adolescent, transitional living program at Silver Hill Hospital, is trying to change that.
Back in May, Masella became the host of “Straight Talk with Tracey,” a monthly video podcast from Silver Hill tackling mental health and addiction. Through openly discussing topics like eating disorders and chronic pain, Masella, a licensed clinical social worker, is hoping to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness.
The idea for the talk show started several months ago after a conversation Masella had with Dr. Aaron Krasner, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who also works at Silver Hill.
“We were talking about the possibility of a radio show,” the New Canaan resident said. “In [Krasner’s] research, he came across the possibility to do a video podcast. We thought it was a much more vital medium. I often do presentations and people say they’d like to hear more. We knew there was interest.”
See the video podcast
To watch “Straight Talk with Tracey,” visit youtube.com/user/SilverHillHospital
So far, “Straight Talk” episodes have focused on adolescent mental health and LGBTQ issues. Masella’s guests have been experts who work at Silver Hill — Krasner has actually appeared on the show twice to discuss developing rules and expectations with teens and the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Going forward, Masella hopes to feature community members, such as Randi Silverman, co-founder and CEO of The Youth Mental Health Project and the producer and writer of the film “No Letting Go,” based on her son’s mental health diagnosis.
Masella, who’s worked at Silver Hill for nine years, said she found the prospect of being in front of a camera nerve-racking at first but has found the format to be effective among viewers.
“It was a little intimidating,” she said. “I think for these topics, being able to watch and see some talk about it, it’s like going to a presentation or class. It’s more engaging.”
In each episode, Masella and her guest make sure to touch upon ways viewers can support people in their lives who are struggling with mental health. Masella encourages family and loved ones to get educated and seek out support groups and other community resources. Even little things, like saying a person has an illness versus using the illness as a descriptor, can make a difference.
“Very often, it’s very simple things that are so helpful,” the New Canaan resident said. “Anything to prevent isolating a person is key.
“These are brain-based disorders,” she continued. “The brain is an organ that fails. It’s a medical issue.”
While the episodes are mostly geared toward addressing mental health in people of all ages, the show’s first two episodes focused on adolescent mental health, a topic near to Masella’s heart. She originally thought she wanted to work with teenagers when she was getting her master’s degree in social work at Fordham University, but worried it was too close to home since her own children were teenagers. During her first five years at Silver Hill, Masella worked with adults until an opportunity to work with teens came up and she took it because her kids were a little older. (Her youngest just graduated from New Canaan High School and her oldest just graduated college.)
“I love working with teens,” she said. “They keep you honest. They’re very straightforward and keep you on your toes. I admire teens brave enough to come in and keep getting help. It’s amazing to have that impact on someone’s life.”