The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

A little hope and resilience can go a long way 

A little hope and resilience can go a long way

Michael Diller, PsyD. has a passion for lifting others.   

As director of WellSpan's Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Mike and his team support more than 20,000 WellSpan team members, plus 150,000 more individuals through employer partnerships across South Central Pennsylvania and beyond. They do this through confidential counseling, professional development, critical incident debriefings, work-life integration, resources, and more. 

"Our [EAP] team 'why' has always centered on 'You are not alone,' " Mike said. 

"My role has been increasingly focused on providing numerous presentations, internally and externally, on topics of building resilience, supporting good mental health, and fostering a culture of caring, well-being, and thriving," he added.  

Mike takes this message on the road as he discusses these important topics at conferences and presentations. In fact, his expertise in lifting others has inspired a movement that has spread across the country and has touched thousands.  

The Hope Stone project 

When the COVID-19 pandemic surged in November 2021, healthcare workers faced unprecedented challenges and added stress. Mike and his wife, Ilsa, wanted to do more so that team members wouldn't feel alone. 

"I felt helpless and wanted to do something to remind them that someone still cared and that what they were doing mattered, and they mattered," Ilsa Diller said. 

So Mike and Ilsa began making Hope Kits to address emotional well-being and offer hope to WellSpan caregivers. They filled these kits with small personal items and included stones that Ilsa personally decorated with a message about hope and love to help lift spirits. They called them Hope Stones. 

Ilsa also was inspired to include the definition of hope in the kits, she added. 

"It starts with a verb: 'taking action – one person can offer, show, and give hope to another person,' " Ilsa said.  

The ripple effect 

Two years later, the messages of hope and resilience remain strong and are spreading far beyond WellSpan employees, two Hope Stones at a time.  

During his presentations, Mike gives each person two Hope Stones that Ilsa continues to decorate. One stone is for that person and the other is to pay it forward to someone in their lives who may need some hope. The stones recently traveled from New York to California to help inspire a kindergarten class in the Golden State. 

Mike also recently handed out the 10,000th Hope Stone during a community wellness event. The feedback from those who receive the stones is inspiring and heartwarming, he added. 

"We each get a chance to offer hope every day in the smallest of gestures," Mike said. "You just never know with our own life stories, when we may need it as well."