David Eichler: “I take a vacation alone and drop off the grid”

I just got sick of feeling ashamed by something that is as much a part of who I am as my green eyes. And in this case of being bi-polar, there is such a long list of historically brilliant and talented artists and musicians etc who were/are bi-polar I decided it was time to be […]

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I just got sick of feeling ashamed by something that is as much a part of who I am as my green eyes. And in this case of being bi-polar, there is such a long list of historically brilliant and talented artists and musicians etc who were/are bi-polar I decided it was time to be proud of it.

As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview David Eichler. He founded Decibel Blue in 2005 and serves as Creative Director for the full-service digital, public relations and marketing agency. Decibel Blue’s clients include many nationally esteemed brands such as Dunkin’ Brands, Procter & Gamble, and Elements Massage. Since its inception, the agency has been honored with the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious IMPACT Award as well as being selected as a two-time finalist for the ASU Entrepreneurship School’s Spirit of Enterprise Award. In addition to taking home, numerous “MarComs” and “Copper Anvil” awards, Decibel Blue’s creative work was recognized as a finalist for the national OBIE Outdoor Advertising Award. In 2014, PR Daily named Decibel Blue as the nation’s top integrated communications agency with its ACE Award. A watershed year indeed, this was also when Decibel Blue expanded to Denver, opening its downtown office.

AZ Business Magazine has recognized David three times as one of Arizona’s “Top Business Leaders” and in 2017, he completed the Downtown Denver Leadership Program. Active in both the Denver and Phoenix community, David has been on the Endowment Board for ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for over a decade. Passionate about reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, he also serves on the Board of Project Helping, in addition to being published in Thrive Global on the topic. He is an inductee of the Phoenix Business Journal’s “40 under 40,” as well as serving as a long-time judge. His perspective has been featured in,, E! Online, US Weekly, the Denver Business Journal and the Phoenix Business Journal. He regularly speaks on, or moderates, industry panels as well as penning guest columns for Dun & Bradstreet’, O’Dwyers, and PR News.

David proudly calls himself a “mutt,” thanks to a career that has included a wide spectrum of roles and industries. After graduating from Wesleyan University (CT), David began an 11-year-tour-of-duty in Hollywood developing screenplays and overseeing the production and marketing of feature films for Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox, including “Rapid Fire”, “Free Willy 2”, “Broken Arrow”, and “Murder at 1600.” Ready (and then some) for a new adventure, David enlisted for the dot-com revolution in 2000, first joining a startup venture in Palo Alto as V.P. of Content, and then as the Director of Brand Marketing for an e-learning software company servicing Fortune 100 clients. After moving to Phoenix, he tackled the marketing and public relations assignments in the arts, retail, and tourism sectors before opening Decibel Blue.

When he isn’t growing his photography business Eichler Photos, collecting speeding tickets or being taken on walks by his two Havanese, Bam Bam, and Cali. David and his wife of 25 years, Diane (who co-founded Decibel Blue), like to travel, attend concerts at Red Rock Amphitheater, and travel some more.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

As my bio details, I worked on all the creative components of the filmmaking process in Hollywood. I was burnt out on the entertainment industry and living in Los Angeles. After much self-reflection and consultation, I came to realize that the advertising and public relations parts of making a movie were particularly interesting to me. I am a pretty good writer and photographer and have decent art direction skills, all of which transfer directly to a career in marketing. I got very lucky in making my transition because this was during the .com era and the Silicon Valley companies desperately needed people who could walk and chew gum so I qualified!

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?

People are scared of what they don’t understand. And generally, the first step toward understanding for most people is seeing. You can’t point at mental illness on an x-ray and you can’t run a blood test. There is no easy “proof” that mental illness is a disease.

Another reason is our society — men especially — have been brainwashed into thinking that feelings are inferior to thoughts. Someone who is “sad” is weak and not resilient. We are raised to believe that everything and everyone should be tough like in those Ford commercials on Sundays. We are a nation of steelworkers, coal miners and pioneers and real Americans don’t cry.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

Writing my article — was a giant step forward and now I welcome the opportunity to tell my story. Witness the fact that I link to the story in my bio. All the fear is gone and it’s nice to have my big “secret” open to the world. Very few people can say that.

The next is volunteering as a board member, personally contributing and donating my company’s services to support Project Helping. What is Project Helping all about? “Everyone should have an opportunity to improve their mental wellness every day. That’s why we built kyndfulness — a daily practice that improves mental well-being through volunteering, intentional acts of kyndness, and gratitude. Volunteering is an effective, meaningful way to build your mental wellness. We make it ridiculously easy to join meaningful and social volunteer experiences specifically designed to improve mental well-being.”

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

I just got sick of feeling ashamed by something that is as much a part of who I am as my green eyes. And in this case of being bi-polar, there is such a long list of historically brilliant and talented artists and musicians etc who were/are bi-polar I decided it was time to be proud of it.

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

For starters, insurance companies should approach mental health treatment no differently than any other procedure or modality. And, I firmly believe that the pressure of our health care system is so bad weighs on all Americans’ mental health. When you get into a car accident, you know you have a deductible and you know the insurance company might increase your premiums, but on a basic level, you’re not scared to drive because you don’t think you won’t be able to afford to get the car back on the road. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for health care.

People also need to educate themselves on the basics of depression. When your loved one is curled up in bed, crying, saying something like “cheer up” only makes things worse. Along with that is recognizing the signs of someone contemplating suicide and taking it very seriously if they actually express the desire.

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?

1. Taking my meds! Far too many people resent, resist, fight or abandon their meds for a litany of reasons. I am proud to say I have never missed more than 2 days and that was only because I was on vacation and neglected to bring enough pills.

2. Once a year I take a vacation alone and drop off the grid almost completely. With the exception of text chats with my wife, I have absolutely no contact with work, friends or the world. No calls, emails or social media. I take off my watch and completely disconnect. I’m an only child so being alone doesn’t bother me. Having 1–2 weeks of absolute solitude and self-reliance is invigorating. The autonomy of choosing what you want to eat, when you want to eat, where you want to east without factoring in anyone else’s desires sleep is incredibly nourishing. This enables you to appreciate little things in life like a glass of freshly squeezed OJ, especially if you’re not reading an email on your phone when you drink it.

3. Turn off the news! I am a political junkie and while I probably shouldn’t tell you what flag I wave, suffice it to say I don’t own any tacky, red baseball hats. The world has gotten meaner than I could have ever imagined. The feeling of desperation and hopelessness today’s news can cause is stunning.

4. Eating well and working out are powerful weapons against depression however they are locked inside a box that mental illness can keep you from opening for days, months, years at a time. I have always struggled with my weight and am clinically obese. Although my doctor says I’m still in better shape than most skinny people. Food is an emotional band-aid for me, as is the case for so many. When I get focused and start taking care of myself I see results quickly and remember why I should do it. But then life happens, I fall off the wagon and the cycle repeats. I am trying to get off that wagon (or on it, depending on your favorite analogy) right now.

5. As touched on above, put down the damn phone and get off the internet! Read a real book. The human nervous system didn’t evolve over thousands of years to constantly have a device between us and our immediate surroundings. And yes, this also includes consuming social media. Looking at people’s perfect vacations, perfect relationships, perfect children, gourmet meals and job promotions make you feel like you’re a loser for not having the same. Never mind that many are exaggerating and very few people are broadcasting being fired or dumped by their significant other.

6. I’ve been married for 25 years. I’ve put my wife through more than her fair share of hell, including teetering on the brink of suicide for almost a year. Living with a bipolar person means you are on the roller coaster right next to them. But it’s not a slick, perfectly engineered, maintained and marketed, “Six Flags” kind of ride. It’s the rusty, creaking kind you dare get on at a traveling carnival. Without my wife, I have zero doubt I would be gone by now. I try to remember that and treat her with the TLC that she deserves every single damn crazy day.

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

Man’s Search For Meaning!! I have turned to it for help during some of my darkest days and I have shared with literally dozens of people. Frankl’s basic conclusion is that as horrible as your situation is, things could still be worse. I call this reverse optimism. It helps me put the challenges in life in perspective.

And as noted above I serve on the board of a Denver-based non-profit, Project Helping, that is benefitting tens of thousands of people in the pursuit of mental wellness.

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