There are many sources of information out there and a lot of media noise. It’s important for people to get the right information and focus on the facts. Many are feeling anxious for a few reasons, but mostly due to the unknown of the situation, whether being job security or lack of toilet paper at the supermarket. We must focus on what we do know, and any new or updated information can be found from trusted sources
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Christopher von Jako.
Dr. Christopher von Jako is the CEO and President at BrainsWay, a company that developed Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS), a noninvasive FDA-cleared treatment for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
For as long as I can remember I was interested in guiding businesses to reach their fullest potential. To me, the culture of a business is very important, and many who decide to work in the healthcare industry specifically, tend to show passion about raising awareness, helping others, and making a difference. 25 years later, and after many successful global healthcare leadership experiences, my career path has followed these interests.
On a personal level, I’ve seen many people in my life struggle with their mental health. What brought me to BrainsWay is the passion I have for noninvasive treatments like Deep TMS, the company’s proprietary technology, and its impact on society. I wanted to be part of a company that is moving the needle in mental health and providing a fresh and innovative treatment option outside of drugs and psychotherapy, which have been around for a long time.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Most of my reading interests lie in books about leadership and business because I am always trying to be a better leader. I believe that by continuing to fine-tune my leadership skills, it will result in more successful employees, physicians and ultimately, patients.
More specifically, a book that has made a significant impact on me is “The Little Big Things” by Tom Peters. I discovered Tom Peters’ books when I started running my first business before 9/11, and this was a book that he published around 2010 when I had just begun running a new business. It’s an easy read because it acts more like a reference of the author’s tips to success, ranging from leadership and networking to accepting or creating change. I have used a number of lessons in the book, and I continue to; but one particular passage in there is called, “We are all in sales. Period.” I use that all of the time, because I believe that you don’t have a business if you don’t sell something and ultimately, everyone is selling something.
In BrainsWay’s case we are selling a system that offers hope to many, where they believe there is no hope. In the best case, we are offering health. If we don’t sell our systems, I can’t pay our employees to produce, service, improve, and expand our innovative technology to provide hope and health to people who are in real need.
Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Coronavirus Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- First and foremost, it’s important to remember that we are not in this pandemic alone. We will get through this, both as a nation and a society because we are fighting this together. Look at what we’ve overcome in the past, whether it be 9/11 or the financial crisis. We have to weather the storm, but we’ll get to the other side and as individuals of society, we must have hope in order to get there.
- As we navigate through this pandemic, there has been more and more conversation around mental health because it exacerbates feelings of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more, even for those who may not have struggled with these feelings beforehand. During this time, it seems like many are understanding that it is okay to not feel okay and are reaching out for help. Amid all of the uncertainty, it gives me hope that we are breaking down the stigma around mental health and talking about it.
- To my previous point, there is a heightened increase for mental health services and professional support. In fact, it was recently announced that in New York more than 6,000 mental health professionals are offering free mental health services because of the demand and that in itself is extremely inspiring. It shows that we do have the resources available to support those who are struggling with their mental health during this time.
- Many are using this time to find their passions again and discover hobbies that they have not had a chance to or even forgot about. I think about history and how after losing his accountant job during the Great Depression, Leo Fender turned his passion into a business which is now known as the infamous Fender guitars and amplifiers. This gives me hope that there are good things to come after this pandemic.
- The technology that we have available today is incredible. We’re encouraged to remain isolated but this doesn’t prevent any individual from seeing a friend or loved one over video chat, meaning that we have the tools to prevent feeling lonely.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- BrainsWay’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Aron Tendler, spoke to our company yesterday to share some tips on how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. One of the biggest takeaways that I’d like to share is to remember that you are isolated for the greater good. Each individual is contributing to the end of this pandemic by staying home, washing their hands, and following other guidelines put out by credible organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Another way to combat these feelings of anxiety is to make goals every day that you can control. This crisis makes many feel out of control, so focus on what you can and make it part of your daily routine. It can be as small as taking a few minutes to meditate every day or ensuring you get a workout in.
- Keep a good sense of humor, and this is not a tip to be overlooked. In the midst of all the news and seriousness, it’s important to find some lighthearted humor.
- If you are feeling anxious, limit your exposure to the media. Focus on fact-checked resources like the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO) for the most up to date and reliable information.
- Sometimes simply reaching out to loved ones is the best way to show support. I know many people are taking this time to reach out to the friends and family who they may have not had the chance to speak to in a while.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
There are many sources of information out there and a lot of media noise. It’s important for people to get the right information and focus on the facts. Many are feeling anxious for a few reasons, but mostly due to the unknown of the situation, whether being job security or lack of toilet paper at the supermarket. We must focus on what we do know, and any new or updated information can be found from trusted sources like I mentioned earlier, including the CDC or WHO.
I also encourage people to check in with themselves. If it’s not possible for someone to see their therapist or attend a Deep TMS session, I encourage trying to understand what you are feeling and how to cope with those emotions. If you’re isolated, try and call someone for support.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Two of my favorite quotes are, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it,” by Thomas Jefferson and “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop,” by Confucius.
My entire career has always been focused around hard work and continuous improvement, something that has been instilled in me from my parents who left communist Hungary in the 1950s. They always taught me that if I worked hard and never gave up, I’d have the best chance of reaching my goals. While there are too many stories that relate to my career, one that I am particularly proud of is how I persevered to run the Boston Marathon. It had been a dream of mine since I was a kid, although I was never the best athlete. I attempted to train and run the marathon before I turned 30-years-old, but my back went out and I was advised not to run anymore. After years of putting that dream aside, I rediscovered my need for this challenge at age 40 and started training at home on the treadmill, during late hours of the night outside of work and family time. In 2007, I finally ran the Boston Marathon with the added challenge of running in a nor’easter!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I come from a family of physicians, and a few months ago I was walking with my son telling him about BrainsWay, as it was the new company I was joining. As I was talking about the company, it reminded me of a previous conversation we had, where he pointed out that while my dad helped patients one at a time, I was doing something more by helping doctors all over discover treatments, which means helping hundreds of patients at a time.
When most people think of the costliest major health conditions, diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, always come to mind. However, the conditions that top the list are diseases that, unfortunately, also have long had a stigma associated with them — mental health disorders. Unlike other health conditions, it is very difficult to navigate a mental health issue, find a treatment that works, and also someone comfortable to talk about it with. My goal is to spread awareness about mental health and noninvasive treatment options like Deep TMS, but more importantly to break the stigma. I believe that this will bring good to many, many people.
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