Day 7: A Dialogue about Stigmatizing Words

Screen-shot-2012-07-11-at-10.17.44-PM-590x275The restaurant was bustling with the dinner crowd, and the noise level was rising a decibel at a time with each new arrival. Servers were rushing around with arms loaded down with steaming hot steak and seafood platters. Laughter could be heard coming from a large party of men at the bar, dressed in brightly colored polo shirts and neatly ironed khaki pants.

It was hard to hear what my friend was saying over the noise, but suddenly I became aware of voices rising from the booth next to us. I hushed my friend, who was in mid sentence. She gave me a puzzled look and then picked up her iPhone to respond to the ding that had just alerted her of a text message.

“So what is the big deal?” The woman said raising her voice. She looked and sounded like Fran Drescher.

“What do you mean what is the big deal, how would you like it if someone called you ‘psycho’?” The man said with an air of annoyance.

I diverted my eyes and continued to listen.

Fran’s look alike said: “Well, I would know they were kidding, of course. People need to get over themselves. Everyone is so PC these days – it is ridiculous.”

The man said: “Really? So if I were to call you a porker, you would be ok with that?”

Fran responded with a flip of her hand: “That’s different. That is personal. It isn’t nice to talk about people’s appearance.”

The man said: “But it is ok to tell my sister she’s too skinny and needs to eat a cheeseburger?”

Fran exclaimed: “Yes! That was a compliment. Everyone wants to be skinny.”

The man shook his head and said: “So in other words, it is up to you to decide what is and isn’t okay based on your own personal rules.”

Fran said: “That’s not what I said. I just mean that I don’t want to be walking on egg shells all the time. Some things are obviously not ok, but there are a lot of things that are in the gray area and I can’t always be worried about hurting someone’s feelings.”

The man asked: “What if the person you are calling psycho has mental health issues, and what if the person you are saying is too skinny has an eating disorder? How do you think that would make them feel?”

Fran replied: “I can’t worry about that. Maybe they need to hear it and do something about it. People are too sensitive.”

“Well then…I am glad we cleared that up!” The man replied, standing up. He threw his money on the table and walked away.

I could hear the cold, awkward silence that followed, despite the dishes clanking and the carefree laughter of the men in the bar.

I wanted to go over to Fran’s table and tell her about my mom, who had just been hospitalized for schizophrenia. I wanted to tell her about the years of teasing and cruel remarks she had endured from people who misunderstood her illness, and how that impacted her. I wanted to say a lot of things and then walk out with the man, but instead I turned to my friend and smiled weakly, as she showed me the picture of her friend’s adorable new puppy.

Bridging the Gap in Mental Health Care

Grand Canyon 2011 125I often wonder why more progress hasn’t been made in developing effective treatments and finding cures for illnesses that fall into the mental health category. For too many years these illnesses have been marginalized and treated more like character flaws than actual health conditions.

I did a web search today to learn about studies that are currently being conducted and found a rather large listing. is “a web-based resource that provides patients, their family members, health care professionals, researchers, and the public with easy access to information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies on a wide range of diseases and conditions”.

As a researcher and mental health advocate, I think it is so important to become involved whenever possible and to assert one’s voice in order to accelerate the progress of finding cures and treatments for these illnesses.

Click on this link to search for studies.

Suicide Prevention

From the NIMH Website:

Last year, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task Force released an action plan for suicide prevention, which outlines the research areas that show the most promise in helping to reduce the rates of suicide attempts and deaths in the next 5-10 years. A series of webinars organized around 6 key questions in the plan will run from January 29-June 24, 2015 to register go to:

National Suicide Statistics at a Glance

Smoothed, Age-adjusted Suicide Rates* per 100,000 population, by County, United States, 2000–2006

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Getting Help for Depression

PICT0012President Abraham Lincoln said of being depressed:

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”

Unfortunately, there were not many options for those who suffered from depression in the days of Abraham Lincoln. Today there are many types of treatment available, but the process of finding the right one can still be quite challenging.  It is hard to reach out when depression drains one’s energy, and the earlier you can begin the process, the better the outcome. Don’t give up!

The following tips were taken from the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) Depression web page:

How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

If you know someone who is depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.

To help your friend or relative

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
  • Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
  • Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
  • Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.

How can I help myself if I am depressed?

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

To Help Yourself

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Everything didn’t get better overnight, but I find myself more able to enjoy life and my children.

Where can I go for help?

If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor. Others who can help are listed below.

Mental Health Resources

  • Mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Community mental health centers
  • Hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics
  • Mental health programs at universities or medical schools
  • State hospital outpatient clinics
  • Family services, social agencies, or clergy
  • Peer support groups
  • Private clinics and facilities
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Local medical and/or psychiatric societies
  • You can also check the phone book under “mental health,” “health,” “social services,” “hotlines,” or “physicians” for phone numbers and addresses. An emergency room doctor also can provide temporary help and can tell you where and how to get further help.

What if I or someone I know is in crisis?

If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, tell someone who can help immediately.

  • Do not leave your friend or relative alone, and do not isolate yourself.
  • Call your doctor.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help, or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.

Suffering is not enough

“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” 

Thích Nhất Hạnh


During our holiday festivities yesterday we got started on the topic of the “resting bitch face” and how at some point in our lives, we’ve all had that moment of being told to smile when we didn’t feel like it.  The women at the table were especially sensitive to these encounters, believing them to be somewhat sexist in nature.  My son-in-law quickly pointed out that it happens to men as well, and  he was tired of people asking him “what’s wrong” because he usually has a serious look on his face.

So how do we “smile” during those tough moments.  Do we pretend to be happy when we are not?  I do not believe that is what he is suggesting in his quote above.  Rather, I believe he is reminding us that we are not defined by the circumstances that happen in our lives.  At the core of our beings, we are radiant and beautiful, and peace can always be found within us.

I chose to post this picture of myself because I was going through a really tough time when it was taken, having experienced the recent death of my brother, my daughter’s illness, and the deterioration of my marriage. I smiled not because I was happy about those circumstances, but because I was able to find a glimpse of peace in that particular moment.



Hide and Secrets

It sure is hard to get to the point where it feels ok to be in one’s own skin.   This video is a great reminder to notice when I am attempting to hide my true self and how freeing it can be to stop worrying about what everyone thinks.


The Take Notice Challenge

Partial Eclipse 4

Who am I? – I am the silent awareness standing behind all this. What am I doing here? – I am here to grow into full awareness of my true nature, which is peace, creativity and happiness.” – Yogani

Today is a special day – as we are able to witness the total eclipse of the moon casting its appearance as the blood moon in certain regions of the globe.  The internet will be blowing up with pictures of this magnificent sight.  Witnessing this event from my upstairs window at its first appearance this morning, I was tempted to run and get my camera.  Instead, I decided to stand there and watch in silence, allowing my senses to absorb this rare occurrence in the moment.  I sent a text to my friend to check it out and advised him to take a picture from the park where he hoped to have a special view.

As I drove to work, I thought about the feeling I had watching from my window in the early hours of this morning.  I thought about how I hadn’t followed my own advice to take a picture and made a mental note to remember that special moment using my senses, rather than my camera.   Fortunately there will be thousands of photos for me to enjoy at the tip of my fingers.

So my challenge during this mental health awareness week, is to set aside time each day to put down your phones, cameras, and electronic devices and just be in the moment, bringing into full awareness what is in front of you.  This simple exercise is a great tool for taking care of one’s mental health in this fast-paced world.

Each day for the rest of the month I will post a reminder to challenge oneself to take time to take notice.

st johns rocks

The Message Matters – How to Talk About Suicide

hope-in-focusIn the wake of Robin William’s death from suicide, there have been many posts and messages circulating about suicide.  While most of these sentiments are well-meaning, it is possible to actually perpetuate certain misconceptions and stigmas about mental illness and depression, leading to a negative impact on those who may be most vulnerable.  The  Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention offers some great pointers on “promoting the positive in the form of actions, solutions, successes, or resources” as seen below:

What is the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Framework for Successful Messaging?

Framework GraphicThe Framework is a research-based resource that outlines four key factors to consider when developing public messages about suicide:

The central resource for the Framework is this website, (link is external).

The Framework was created by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention as part of its priority to change the public conversation about suicide. For background on the Action Alliance priority, see How does the Framework “Change the Conversation?”

Who is the Framework for?

It’s for anyone who is messaging to the public about suicide and suicide prevention. This includes, for example:

  • Suicide prevention organizations and projects
  • Government officials
  • Mental health organizations
  • Researchers
  • Community-based organizations
  • Institutions conducting suicide prevention activities, including colleges, schools, workplaces, and faith communities
  • Advocacy groups
  • Individuals speaking to the public about their personal experiences, including survivors of suicide attempts, survivors of suicide loss, and consumers of mental health services

The Framework initiative complements important and ongoing efforts to promote safer coverage of suicide in the news and entertainment media.

What do you mean by “public messaging?”

“Public messaging” is defined broadly as any communications released into the public domain. Examples include:

  • Education and awareness campaigns or materials (posters, PSAs, flyers, giveaways, etc.)
  • Organizational websites
  • Newsletters
  • Fundraising appeals
  • Publicity for events and observances
  • Social media
  • Press releases, media interviews
  • Public presentations
  • Publicly-available advocacy materials
  • Any other public-facing messages or materials

All of our messages and materials contribute to the public’s perceptions about suicide and suicide prevention.

What isn’t public messaging?

The Framework addresses only public messaging. It is not intended to address other important types of communications that relate to suicide, including:

  • Private conversations
  • Doctor-patient interactions
  • Interactions with individuals in crisis or who you think might be suicidal
  • One-on-one conversations with legislators or policy makers
  • Talking in support groups or other therapeutic settings
  • Training delivered to professional audiences, e.g. clinicians
  • Reporting by the news media

Not looking for guidance on public messaging? See resources for other types of suicide prevention communications.

Why was the Framework developed?

The background research section summarizes the research literature and background work that led to the Framework. In brief, we found that:

  • Resources exist to improve news and entertainment coverage about suicide (“the media”), but little guidance has been available for others communicating publicly about suicide (“the messengers.”) The Framework fills that gap.
  • Some prevention messages violate safe messaging guidelines, such as portraying means or talking about suicide in a way that normalizes it, i.e. makes it seem more common than it actually is.
  • Public messaging about suicide often has focused more on describing the problem than on conveying concrete actions or solutions. This unbalanced picture contributes to a harmful social narrative suggesting that trying to prevent suicide is hopeless  and no one recovers from suicidal thinking. Because the media often perpetuates these negative and inaccurate narratives, it is even more important that the prevention field counter them.
  • Suicide prevention messaging would benefit from adhering to recommendations from the broader communications literature, including:
    • Defining a clear purpose for communications before  crafting the message itself
    • Designing messaging as one component of a broader suicide prevention plan
    • Promoting specific behaviors in defined audiences
    • Using information about the audience to design more effective messages
    • Choosing delivery channels that match the message and audience
    • Assessing message success
  • The suicide prevention field is not taking advantage of the many extant best practice guidelines that can and should be used when developing messaging related to particular goals (e.g., stigma reduction), populations (e.g. LGBT populations), channels (e.g., social media), and other areas. The “Guidelines” section of this website provides links to many such resources.

What is the purpose of the Framework?

Our background work revealed that the most successful messaging will be shaped by at least four key factors. The Framework brings these together:

  • Strategy involves planning and focusing messages, so they are as effective as possible.
  • Safety is avoiding content that is unsafe.
  • Positive Narrative means ensuring that the collective voice of the field is “promoting the positive” in the form of actions, solutions, successes, or resources.
  • Guidelines means using any existing guidance or best practices that apply.


The Washington Post also offered some great insight into how to prevent a phenomenon called Suicide Contagion  that can be particularly prevalent amongst teens who are suffering from depression.


Ultimately the goal is to save lives through raising awareness and promoting resources that send a message of hope to anyone affected by these treatable illnesses.