Anthony Acampora of Banyan Treatment Centers: “Avoid gossip and tearing other people down”

Avoid gossip and tearing other people down. I notice when I now hear gossip, it is like nails on a chalk board. Perhaps it is because I did it myself many times in the past. It really makes me feel worse not better and the reality is the people who are talking about others with […]

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Avoid gossip and tearing other people down. I notice when I now hear gossip, it is like nails on a chalk board. Perhaps it is because I did it myself many times in the past. It really makes me feel worse not better and the reality is the people who are talking about others with you will most likely be talking about you when you are not there.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Anthony Acampora.

Anthony Acampora is a published author and graduate of Vision International University where he earned a Master’s degree in Ministry. He also holds a Master’s diploma in Biblical Studies from the Int’l School of Ministry. Anthony is a Chaplain and Faith Program Director at Banyan Treatment Centers. He is an ordained minister, speaker and writer with articles published in numerous national magazines.

Most recently, Anthony was awarded the 2019 Professional of the Year by Broward National Recovery. In 2018, Anthony was selected as a Global Goodwill Ambassador representing the USA. In 2015, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Broward Country awarded Anthony its Volunteer Recognition Award. In 2014, the National Association of Social Workers, Broward County awarded Anthony its Public Citizen of the Year.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in Connecticut in a large Italian family. It was overall a normal upbringing with the usual sibling rivalries and arguments. Now looking back on it, growing up in the 80’s was actually a wonderful time to grow up in comparison to what kids are facing today. It was a much simpler time, perhaps a more pure time. Thankfully, there was no cancel culture, civil unrest, political hatred and Covid-19. Social media in my day was around at a keg party where you pay two dollars for all you can drink. People said what they meant and meant what they said (especially after a few hours around the keg of beer lol). It was not the artificial world of surfing the internet, social media, and being connected with people you did not know. This was a time when you simply looked for all the bicycles in the front yard. That was our social media, that is where I found true friends and would not change it for anything.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization is trying to address?

I am the faith program director and chaplain with a national substance abuse and mental health treatment center called Banyan Treatment Centers. I lead our Faith in Recovery program and I am also very involved in community outreach with our Veterans in Recovery program. I focus on providing our clients with a better understanding of who God is and walk them through the process of establishing or restoring their faith. Oftentimes, clients come in with a distorted view of God. Their view is one of judgment and condemnation, not of a loving Father. They may have spent most of their lives running or hiding from Him as a result of their addictions and terrible decisions. We allow them opportunities to focus on who they truly are and how God sees them, not the person they became in active addiction.

What occurs in our program is overwhelmingly spiritual. We see genuine transformations of the heart, not simply behavior modification. They come to realize that they have value and worth. The self –loathing and lack of purpose gets stripped away, and their true identity takes center stage.

The owner of Banyan and leadership are very supportive of this program and have an intimate understanding of the impact it has on many of our patients.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

In 2006, I began to experience first -hand the horrors of depression and anxiety. As a result of tremendous loss and resentments in my life, it was completely devastating to me on many levels. It is interesting how if an organ in the human body malfunctions, you do not have the stigma, judgement and ridicule. Yet if it is the brain, these things become a horrible addition to a horrendous package of misery. During that dark experience, an incredible outcome happened. As the Old Testament prophet Isaiah 61:3 wrote, “Beauty for ashes.” I developed a compassion for those suffering with mental health disorders and had a burning desire to help them. Even if it was an encouraging word or sharing some of my experiences with them so they would come to understand they were not alone and there is in fact hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

In the depths of my own despair, I often prayed to God to rescue me from this horribly nightmare so I could try to be a light in the darkness of others who were suffering. I knew it was not just random wasted pain that there would be a purpose for the pain. God has an amazing way of turning a mess into our message if we just get out of the way and allow Him to take the wheel.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

There are many, but I would say it is the same story with different players in this incredible adventure I now find myself apart of working in the healthcare field.

Our patients often arrive with little or no hope and not long after something incredible occurs, I see it in their eyes and their interactions with others. They begin to have hope and start to surrender their will to Gods will. They begin to trust God and sometimes even other people. They realize that they have value, worth, and God has not given up on them. It is truly an amazing thing to witness and I have a front row seat.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My Father was always very supportive and loving to me as were two of my sisters. They were there for me during the most difficult of times and went through a lot on my behalf and I am forever grateful.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I think in general most people fear what they do not understand. With that said, I believe mental health disorders are extremely difficult to understand. There have been many advances in modern medicine but mental illness is still an inexact science. The stigma is also exacerbated by the constant media coverage of mass shootings especially when involving the mentally ill. The old saying in the news business, “If it bleeds, it leads.” They just cannot help themselves from the saturating the coverage for ratings and clicks. In addition to increasing the fear and stigma of the mentally ill, it also provides incentives for those who may see committing a horrific crime as a way to see themselves on the national news.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals need to stop judging and implement the shoes on the other foot approach meaning put themselves if the other persons position. Have a conversation with someone who is having a difficult time and provide some encouragement. Society could begin looking at those who those who suffering with mental health disorders as people with problems rather them problem people. The government could play a much more active role with awareness campaigns to end the stigma as well as invest in quality programming

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Develop a relationship with God. It is not enough just knowing about Him and being a CEO (Christmas, Easter Only) follower like I was for many years

Take your thoughts captive by not feeding into a bad situation by continuously thinking about it. Whatever we feed grows.

Highlight the good things of each day and minimize the negative. Similar to minimizing something on a computer, you can always go back to your pain just as you can easily maximize what you were working on while on your computer.

Avoid gossip and tearing other people down. I notice when I now hear gossip, it is like nails on a chalk board. Perhaps it is because I did it myself many times in the past. It really makes me feel worse not better and the reality is the people who are talking about others with you will most likely be talking about you when you are not there.

Avoid toxic people. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33. “Do not be deceived bad company corrupts good character.”

Learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness as you may have heard forgiveness is for you not the person that hurt you!

Why would we want to empower the person who already caused us pain or loss the ability to continue to hurts us in our own mind? I had to learn that the hard way that is for sure.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

At the risk of not sounding modest, I would say my favorite book is, “Overcoming Emotional Obstacles through Faith.”

The stories are all real life experiences of mine and provide ways out of the torment through applying Gods Word to your life. If it worked for me, it could work for anyone! I also watch a lot of Biblical sermons on YouTube

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Begin the cultivate gratitude, spend time focusing on the things you have not on the things you lost or never had.

Seek God with all your heart and avoid overthinking like the plague

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook — Anthony Acampora

LinkedIn — Anthony Acampora

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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