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An open dialogue on mental health and happiness

Psychologist to launch self-help book at Cradle of Aviation

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Lindsay Weisner believes that there is no secret method to achieving happiness.

“We’re so often stimulated by instant gratification with devices like our smart phones,” she said, adding that happiness is not a link you access with a single click. Sometimes, she added, it takes pursuing a personal project, striving toward a goal or trying a new activity.

She, Sandro Castrovilla and 24 experts of psychology navigate what it means to lead a fulfilling life in their upcoming self-help book Ten Steps To Finding Happy.

Weisner, 42, lives and works in Hewlett as a psychologist specializing in adolescent mental illness. She earned her Bachelors’ degrees in psychology and English from Georgetown University in 1999. On graduating, she worked at U.S. News and World Report, where she was responsible for delivering faxes to reporters. Weisner recalled being miserable in her role and realized that it was not the path she wanted to take.

She said that she took a leap of faith by pursuing a fellowship with the National Institute of Health, which inspired her to go to graduate school. She earned her doctorate in 2005 from Long Island University Post before furthering her education at the American Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Weisner said that she hadn’t planned to go to grad school just as she hadn’t planned to work with children or teenagers. What led her to pursue her current role was a growing concern about the mental health of high school students amid a spike in suicides among teenagers.

“I was angry with the way it was handled,” she said, referring to what she saw as a lack of resources for students expressing suicidal thoughts.

“We’re all close-knit communities on the south shore, so it definitely affected me and my town,” she said, adding that it has prompted her to have conversations about suicide with her children.

Weisner lives with her husband Scott and her children Hunter, 11, and daughter Elexis, 9. She said that she usually approaches serious topics by following her children’s leads, but this time she wanted to bring the topic up before they heard of it anywhere else.

Weisner and her children were at Adventure Land and she recalled using the log flume as a metaphor for the unexpected ups and downs in life. “The whole reason for the log flume is for the drop, but when you’re going up its scary and you forget that in a couple of minutes you’re gonna reach the good part,” she said.

She also hopes that adults change their conversations too. Often, she said, adults try to figure out reasons that someone dies by suicide, or faces addiction or mental illness. This is usually a coping mechanism to distance ourselves from the tragedy and feel comfortable about our lives.

“We look for a way to say ‘this wouldn’t happen to my child,’ ” she said. “But I like to tell adults that with depression there isn’t also a reason. It’s usually a disproportionate reaction to an external circumstance.”

She and her co-writer Selene Castrovilla, of Island Park, began writing their book two years ago after meeting through Twitter and sharing a goal of helping others struggling with mental health. Castrovilla had already created a list of ten steps to find happiness and was looking for someone to expand on her claims and back them up with science.

This is where Weisner came into play. She began working on the book and recruited 24 expert writers in different fields of psychology to add further support and information.

In planning the book launch, Weisner reached out to other authors and celebrities to promote the event and cause. All who attend will receive a raffle ticket for some of the following prizes.

Jerry Spinelli, author of Stargirl, and his wife Eileen Spinelli, author of When You Are Happy, donated autographed books. Joseph Ballarini, screenwriter and author of A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting and Atlantis 7, also donated autographed books and merchandise. And Sarah Weeks, author of So B. It and Firoozeh Dumas, is another name among many who have supported the launch.

“I’ve gotten so much support,” Weisner said. “People have really stepped up to try and help out.”

Outside of her book, Weisner approaches similar topics on a regular basis through the Neurotic Nourishment Podcast. She began the podcast “rather impulsively,” she said, to bring to light otherwise stigmatized subjects. “We are now talking about things that I didn’t even imagine existed when I was in my twenties,” she said.

Ten Steps To Finding Happy will be released on March 20, which is also the United Nations International Day of Happiness. Weisner and Castrovilla will be launching the book with a discussion and signing at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on March 18, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“My goal is for everyone to leave this book launch happier or with something new in their life,” Weisner said.