Everyday Mental Health Conversation

Here is a very good article, written by someone with bipolar disorder, that makes good sense.  She points out how innocent words we all say can and do bring hurt and anxiety to those around us who are struggling.  We do need to do better with everyday mental health conversation .  We do need to be aware of how our words will be received by the people around us.

I know none of us willingly says or does things to hurt others unless we are very mad.  That said, even in anger, we still need to control our words.  Once out of your mouth, they cannot be taken back and some things cannot be fixed with a simple “I’m sorry.”

Please read this article in its entirety here and make up your own mind about how you should proceed.  Maybe this doesn’t apply to you.  Maybe you are always cognizant of the effect your words have on others and you speak deliberately.  But for the rest of us who simply blurt out whatever we are thinking at the time, maybe we need to do better with our everyday mental health conversations.

 We Need To Do Better With Everyday Mental Health Conversation

“It was so awkward that I wanted to kill myself.”

“Yeah no totally. She’s psycho.”

“That party was so packed. I was gonna have a panic attack!

“Can you just like… chill?

These words are not not merely “just words” ― they echo in the minds of those fighting the weight of a mental illness. They seep into everyday conversations as if it were simply ordering a sandwich or our usual cup of joe. But we speak these words without recognizing the damaging effects to those who suffer from mental health issues.

Upon the news of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington’s suicide, a wildfire of dialogue surrounding mental health ignited – from celebrities to survivors and everyone in between.

But this subject has, sadly, always been stigmatized because it’s too personal and the fear that speaking it out loud makes it too real. But here’s the thing: it is real. And if we want to prevent – or at least help – those contemplating or attempting suicide then we must climb over the mountain of fear and change the words we speak. And I will shamelessly say, I have been diagnosed with a mental health illness. So please, hear me out. I will not, nor do I have any desire, to sugarcoat any of it. Doing so will only undermine the truth.

These everyday phrases I’ve listed above have always functioned as an effortless way to describe our emotions in any given circumstance. But how do we if know we’re in the presence of someone in the middle of a depressive episode while declaring, “I’d rather kill myself than talk to my ex again.” But the issue is that whether we’re aware of it or not, these colloquialisms can impact those around us who may be suffering.


It makes us angry.

It makes us feel misunderstood.

Hearing you speak these phrases – even as a joke – isn’t a joke. For you, it’s a passive statement that means absolutely nothing. For us, you have no right. To us, though we know there’s no bad intention on your part, it’s frustrating that you can throw such jokes out so casually, and it can feel like it’s being thrown in our faces. We know that you may not know we have anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder, etc. But frankly, it’s just not your place to say such things when you have no idea what it truly feels like.

Do you truly know the pain of not being able to breathe, in the most random moments?

Do you truly know the complete desire to be happy while living with a darkness will not leave you?

Do you truly know the fear of voices that are so unreal but appear right in front of you?

So, real talk. You’re asking “will changing the words I say…read the rest here.

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Depression and Anxiety in pictures

Here is a wonderful article on Upworthy that shows us in pictures what it feels like to suffer from depression and anxiety.  The photos are by a photography student, but they are stunning in the way they capture feelings and mood.

I did not include the photos here, so please click over to view them.  They are worthy of your time.  Viewing these photos may help someone to better understand the struggle that depression and anxiety sufferers deal with daily.


12 grave photos that capture how depression and anxiety can feel.

She captured in images what can be so hard to put into words.

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Violence Prevention–Social and Economic Costs of Violence

Here is a natural follow-up to last weeks post.  Doing nothing about violence in our society is expensive and damaging.  Here is a study done to enumerate some of the costs and consequences of non-prevention.  Basically, we all stand with our heads in the sand and pray for violence to go away; while paying through the noses to deal with the effects caused by said violence–whether it be prisons, police departments, military, or just mental health treatments.  We all pay to support this.

Please read this study to the end and see if you don’t agree that we need to be doing more for prevention of violence than we currently are doing.  The connection between mental health issues and violence seems to be that the mentally ill are most likely to become the recipients of this violence and then need more and longer treatment to help them.


Putting a value on the impact of violence, while often an incomplete picture, provides evidence for investing in preventive interventions. Both enumerated and estimated costs—economic and social—indicate an enormous burden on public health. In particular, violence at specific points along the life span can have a greater impact. Also, addressing violence after it occurs, in addition to preventing the recurrence of violence, can be costly.

Thus, investing in early prevention can have significant financial benefit. It can prevent violence before it begins, or it can prevent the development of longer-term outcomes of violence.

The first paper in this section examines the value of prevention, by exploring the costs of violence and the costs of intervention. It also explores different methods of assessing value to highlight the importance of a number of perspectives on prevention.

The second paper is an example of a community-based preventive intervention that builds resiliency and prosocial behavior in individuals and the community as a whole. It also demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of prevention.


Rachel A. Davis, M.S.W.

Prevention Institute

Prevention has tremendous value, and there are many ways to think about its value in the context of preventing violence. Prevention is a systematic process that reduces the frequency or severity of illness or injury, and primary prevention promotes healthy environments and behaviors to head off problems before the onset of symptoms.

Ten ways of thinking about the value of prevention are the following:

1. Direct costs of not preventing violence
2. Indirect costs of not preventing violence
3. Savings due to prevention
4. Advantages of a prevention approach
5. Partnerships and multisector collaboration
6. A good solution solves multiple problems
7. Prevention works
8. Multiplier effect
9. Efficient government
10. Prevention reduces suffering and saves lives

Direct Costs of Not Preventing Violence

One way to appreciate the value of preventing violence is to understand the costs of violence. A single violent incident is far more expensive than many realize. For example:

  • Every fatal assault costs $4,906 on average, with another $1.3 million in lost productivity ().
  • Every nonfatal assault costs approximately $1,000 on average, with $2,822 in lost productivity ().
  • The economic cost of violent deaths was $47.2 billion in 2005. This includes medical treatment and lost future wages ().
  • The cost of sexual and domestic violence exceeded $5.8 billion— $319 million for rape, $4.2 billion for physical assault, and $1.75 billion in lost earnings and productivity ().

On top of the cost to the government and the taxpayer for each individual act of violence, add the expense of long-term incarceration for perpetrators:

Read the entire study here and see what you think about this topic as it relates to mental health.

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Gun Violence Research–Why can’t there be any?

Although I don’t see gun control as a mental health issue, really, it seems that anytime there is a shooting event in this country the very next topic will be to question the shooter’s mental health status.  I don’t understand this connection.

Yes, sometimes a mentally ill person uses a gun to harm someone, but that really is not the norm.  The only psychiatric disorders I know of that make someone more likely to use a gun for harm would be Axis II disorders of personality, not Axis I disorders.  Personality disorders are dangerous, but people with these diagnoses are productive and essentially normal except for how they perceive their connections and relationships.

These disorders, when treated, require much time and effort to overcome and usually there is no drug to “fix” it.  Borderline personality disorders have issues with abandonment, antisocial personality disorders have issues with empathy, narcissist personality disorders have ego issues.  True psychopathic personality disorders, while not found frequently in the general population, simply don’t care what any other person feels or thinks.

Where does this fit in with guns and shootings?  In this article, the Congressman who headed a controversial amendment in 1996 looks back at what he accomplished with great regret.  Good for him, but how do we fix the mess he left us all with?

Please read this article in its entirety and then make up your own mind about gun violence research.  Could good research over the past 20 years have made a difference in the situation we find ourselves in today?  I think it is possible.  What do you think?



10/06/2015 08:03 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2016

The Congressman Who Restricted Gun Violence Research Has Regrets

Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) authored the controversial 1996 amendment that remains in place. He wishes Congress would change it.

gun violence, gun research, gun control


WASHINGTON — Looking back, nearly 20 years later, Jay Dickey is apologetic.

He is gone from Congress, giving him space to reflect on his namesake amendment that, to this day, continues to define the rigid politics of gun policy. When he helped pass a restriction of federal funding for gun violence research in 1996, the goal wasn’t to be so suffocating, he insisted. But the measure was just that, dampening federal research for years and discouraging researchers from entering the field.

Now, as mass shootings pile up, including last week’s killing of nine at a community college in Oregon, Dickey admitted to carrying a sense of responsibility for progress not made.

“I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, told the Huffington Post in an interview. “I have regrets.”

The politics of gun control were as divisive in the 1990s as they are today. Republicans had won big in the ‘94 elections by campaigning against President Bill Clinton’s gun control legislation. And in the spring of 1996, the National Rifle Association and its allies set their sights on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding increasingly assertive studies on firearms ownership and the effects on public health. The gun rights advocates claimed the research veered toward advocacy and covered such logical ground as to be effectively useless.

At first, the House tried to close down the CDC’s entire, $46 million National Center for Injury Prevention. When that failed, Dickey stepped in with an alternative: strip $2.6 million that the agency had spent on gun studies that year. The money would eventually be re-appropriated for studies unrelated to guns. But the far more damaging inclusion was language that stated, “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Dickey proclaimed victory — an end, he said at the time, to the CDC’s attempts “to raise emotional sympathy” around gun violence. But the agency spent the subsequent years petrified of doing any research on gun violence, making the costs of the amendment cleareeven to Dickey himself.

He said the law was over-interpreted. Now, he looks at simple advances in highway safety — safety barriers, for example — and wonders what could have been done for guns.

“If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment,” Dickey said. “We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence.”

Read the entire article here 

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Pets Invaluable to Those With Mental Conditions

In this article from WebMD, this is a look at a study done in the UK and is based on self reported answers from patients there.  Pets are a valuable source of stimulation, and comfort for those with mental conditions yet pets are rarely thought of when treatment plans are being built for that same person.

Pets help us much more than we give back to them.  Pets aid some with anxiety, sometimes pets become caretakers for medical conditions, pets provide social interactions for a segment of the population that is usually not included in social activities.

Please read this article and do your own research.  See if you don’t agree that pets can be a major asset in the life of a mentally compromised person.


Pets Invaluable to Those With Mental Conditions

6 out of 10 patients put furry or feathered friends at the top of their support list, study finds
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Robert Preidt   HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Cats, dogs, birds and other pets can help people manage their mental disorders, a new study says.

Researchers from the United Kingdom asked more than 50 adults with long-term mental conditions about the role pets play in their social networks.

Sixty percent placed pets in the central and most important circle — above family, friends and hobbies. Another 20 percent placed pets in the second circle.

Many said the constant presence and close proximity of their pets provide an immediate source of calm. For some, a pet helps distract them from symptoms and upsetting experiences such as hearing voices or suicidal thoughts.

“You just want to sink into a pit… the cats force me to sort of still be involved with the world,” one patient said.

Another patient said: “I’m not thinking of the voices, I’m just thinking of the birds singing.”

The findings were published Dec. 8 in the journal BMC Psychiatry.

“The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles, such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgment,” said study lead author Helen Brooks, from the University of Manchester.

“Pets were also considered particularly useful during times of crisis,” Brooks said in a journal news release.

“Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which [the patients] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,” she said.

Despite this, pets weren’t considered in the individual care plans for any of the people in the study, Brooks said.

The results suggest pets should be considered a main source of support in the management of long-term mental health problems, Brooks and…(read the rest here)

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For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness

Here is a wonderful article from NPR about a whole Belgian community that has a very different take on dealing with the mentally ill person.  Mental illness is not viewed as something to be afraid of or to treat.  The mentally ill strangers in this town are placed into the homes of the citizenry, who then take the responsibility for watching over and helping that person.

There is a process to be allowed into this community if you are mentally ill.  They do screen for violence and antisocial behaviors, so they have very few problems in the community.  Mostly, these people live lives full of support and help but not control by others.  The community simply views the behaviors of their visitors as just who they are and they accept them exactly as they present.

I am truly amazed at this community and wish we could do such a wonderful thing here in the United States.  The treatment of mentally ill people in our country is not harmless and does not encourage living a fulfilled life.  Please read the entire article and make up your own mind about this remarkable community.


For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness



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How to Help Save the Mentally Ill From Themselves

This article is from the NY Times and gives us a glimpse of the impotence we feel when we have to try to save the mentally ill person from themselves.  This is a sad story but one that recurs quite often.  A mentally ill person dies from poor judgement or unsafe practices.  It is not against the law to be mentally ill and those who are mentally ill have the same rights and responsibilities as each of us do.  That being said, it is clear that our legal system is struggling with this problem more so than our mental health system seems to be.

This author sustains a devastating loss of his son and feels despondent that he was unable to help him.  How many other family members feel the same way?  What can we, as a nation, be doing to prevent unnecessary loss of life for the mentally ill?  How can we, as a society, stand to lose some of the most creative people among us?

The author talks about this new bill being placed before Congress that may help us to deal with just this issue.  It is not the total solution, but it is a temporary step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, most bills that reach the Congress are subject to politics and argument–with a lot of compromise worked into it.  This bill may never pass.  This bill may pass but not be the bill it was when it was presented.  We have a problem and I hope someone, somewhere is listening.

Please read the entire article and see what you think about this issue.

How to Help Save the Mentally Ill From Themselves

Credit Lilli CarréPhoto by: Lilli Carré

MY older son, Matthew Ornstein, died at age 34 on Jan. 3 from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was accidental — he fell asleep in a tent with a propane lantern — but his death was shaped by a lack of judgment driven by a 10-year struggle with mental illness.

Matthew was a brilliant, warm, funny, compassionate and empathetic person. He was a national champion high school debater and celebrated standup comic who excelled in his studies at Princeton, then moved to Hollywood, where he and his debate partners created a sharp and witty show called “Master Debaters.”

At age 24, Matthew had a sudden psychotic break, and that began a difficult decade-long journey for him and for his family and friends. Whatever his illness — his condition was never formally diagnosed, but he probably suffered from bipolar disorder — Matthew was particularly afflicted by one component of his illness: anosognosia, the inability of a person to recognize that he or she is ill. Since Matthew was over 18, neither family members nor professionals had any legal authority to get him treatment for the symptoms that kept him from living a stable life.

Matthew was not violent at all, and largely kept to himself. His appearance could be off-putting — he kept a long beard, did not cut his hair and smoked heavily. We constantly feared that a police officer might misunderstand his condition and that he could end up injured or killed; we also at times prayed that he would get arrested and could have the happy ending that Pete Earley describes in his powerful book “Crazy,” when a compassionate judge offered assisted outpatient treatment for his delusional son.

We tried everything to help Matthew, from acceptance and enabling to tough love, but the trajectory was not a good one and its ending has scarred and devastated our lives forever. I cannot say with certainty that if we had been able to force treatment on Matthew, including anti-psychotic medications, that he would have survived. In addition to suffering from anosognosia, Matthew became very religious after his break, embracing his Judaism, keeping kosher, and he was convinced that taking medication was dishonorable and would offend God.

But I do know that for many, treatment saves lives. The true insanity is that our laws leave those who suffer to fend for themselves. But Congress is now ready to grapple with the issue in a bipartisan bill introduced by Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania and the only clinical psychologist in the House, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas who is a psychiatric nurse….(read the rest of the article here)

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For Police, a Playbook for Conflicts Involving Mental Illness

Here’s an article from the NY Times about how our failing mental health system is forcing our police to learn new ways to deal with conflicts involving mental illness.  I believe that is a good thing, but I also sympathize with the officers who have to go through hours of additional training to do their jobs.  I have never thought that being a police officer was an easy job.  In today’s world, policing of any kind is under a microscope–increasing the pressure the officers feel when they go to work.

Please read the article and see if you agree with the author that this change is for the good and more police forces need to follow the lead of these officers.

For Police, a Playbook for Conflicts Involving Mental Illness

Officers in Portland, Ore., with an individual they interact with on a regular basis who was later taken to the hospital. Credit Amanda Lucier for The New York TimesPhoto by: Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

PORTLAND, Ore. — The 911 caller had reported a man with a samurai sword, lunging at people on the waterfront.

It was evening, and when the police arrived, they saw the man pacing the beach and called to him. He responded by throwing a rock at the embankment where they stood.

They shouted to him from a sheriff’s boat; he threw another rock. They told him to drop the sword; he said he would kill them. He started to leave the beach, and after warning him, they shot him in the leg with a beanbag gun. He turned back, still carrying the four-foot blade.

In another city — or in Portland itself not that long ago — the next step would almost certainly have been a direct confrontation and, had the man not put down the weapon, the use of lethal force.

But the Portland Police Bureau, prodded in part by the 2012 findings of a Justice Department investigation, has spent years putting in place an intensive training program and protocols for how officers deal with people with mental illness.

At a time when police behavior is under intense scrutiny — a series of fatal shootings by police officers have focused national attention on issues of race and mental illness — Portland’s approach has served as a model for other law enforcement agencies around the country.

And on that Sunday last summer, the police here chose a different course.

At 2:30 a.m., after spending hours trying to engage the man, the officers decided to “disengage,” and they withdrew, leaving the man on the beach. A search at daylight found no signs of him…(read the rest of the article here)

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We’re surrounded by smiling, successful, talented people who are depressed

Here is an article from Quartz.com.  It denotes the fact that mentally ill people are all around us and we may never know it.  She states that there are many successful and talented people walking around who are depressed.  She talks about a group in England that started up to walk together for anyone with a mental illness.  It seems that giving this population a sense of community may be beneficial and may help us all to de-stigmatize the mentally ill.

I was pleased to read that she was planning to start a group in New York soon.  For most if not all of the mentally ill, there is a terrible sense of loneliness fed by the very illness they are dealing with.  I hope that she starts her walking group and that it flourishes and many more groups just like it pop up all over the U.S.

Please read the entire article to see if what she proposes makes good sense to you, too.

We’re surrounded by smiling, successful, talented people who are depressed

  • By Olivia Goldhill, qz.com
  • September 11th, 2016

You don’t need to be told that mental illness is very, very common. There are statistics galore: One in five people in the US will experience mental illness this year. When considered over a lifetime, that figure rises to one in four people worldwide.

But it still doesn’t feel very normal. We’re surrounded by millions of people who look great, do brilliantly at work, and walk to the subway every day feeling totally trapped and isolated.

To help change this, my friend and former colleague Bryony Gordon has set up Mental Health Mates, a walking group in the UK for people with mental health issues. This fall, I’m setting up the organization’s first New York branch. We’ll meet at the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library by Prospect Park at 10:30am on the 25th of September. It’s not therapy, there won’t be professional advice, and those who come don’t have to talk about their problems—although of course they’re welcome to do so.

I love this group exactly because it isn’t formal or clinical. Professional treatment is an absolutely necessary and proper response to a mental illness diagnosis. Thankfully, the stigma has faded enough that most people now recognize that. But mental health doesn’t have to be a secret locked behind a doctor’s door. Indeed, Gordon’s second book, on her struggles with OCD, explores just how normal it is to be weird.

She says she started Mental Health Mates after hearing an old interview with the novelist Carson McCullers (who later died due to alcoholism) talking about how she felt like everyone was part of a “we” except for her. “I thought, ‘You were wrong, you were part of a we, you just didn’t know it,’” says Gordon.

Rationally, I understand that many people, including friends and colleagues, are quietly living and dealing with mental health issues. But during the two, thankfully brief, periods when I had depression, I forgot. I didn’t feel confident enough to talk about it until I was better. And yet when I did, nearly all of my friends told me that they too had experienced some period of mental illness.

Fostering this sense of a shared identity is important. The internet can be a useful tool, and there are many online support groups and forums for those looking to connect and talk. But this virtual openness hasn’t yet translated into openness in everyday life. Chris Barker is a professor of clinical psychology at University College London and a researcher who specializes in the benefits of both professional and non-professional psychological support. He notes that online support groups “can be very anonymous” and many members “feel a bit lost.”

In contrast, the social aspects of in-person relationships can provide real benefits. Seeing others with mental health issues creates a powerful sense of community. “There is de-stigmatization, there is empowerment, people feel less ashamed and embarrassed about their condition and feel stronger generally,” he says. “It normalizes their own problems to know other people feel similarly.”

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The Misconceptions About Mental Illness We Need to Unlearn

This is a really good article from Lifehacker.com.  The author knows what he is talking about and he is honest.  He goes on to list 5 misconceptions about mental illness that interfere with our ability to really see the mentally ill person.  I especially like that he points out the difference between mental illness and a sinus infection!

Please read this article to the end.  I think he makes valid points and speaks from personal experiences.  He does not hold out “false” hopes, but rather states that to do nothing is to get nowhere.  I hope by reading this article you will better understand what the mentally ill person is going through and you will be better able to support and help them.

The Misconceptions About Mental Illness We Need to Unlearn

Mental illness isn’t like a sinus infection. You can’t just wait it out or take a pill to make everything go away. Our brains are complex and enigmatic, and mental illness is no different. This leads to a lot of misconceptions that make recovery much harder. Here are a few things you should know, whether you’re a sufferer or not.

Just get over it!

Just get over it!

Before we talk about misconceptions, it helps to identify just what “mental illness” means. Everyone has stress and difficult emotions from time to time and this is normal. Mental illness, on the other hand, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect your relationships, your job, or prevent you from reaching any otherwise attainable goal.

If that sounds like a pretty wide definition, it’s because the human mind is complex. Mental illness can range from anxiety and mood disorders that have a severe and tangible effect on your emotions and motivation, to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that affect your perceptions or senses with things like delusions or hallucinations. Living with any of these can be debilitating. We rely on our senses, emotions, and perceptions to get us through the day. When any of those fail, it can make life difficult.

I’ve struggled with mental illnesses for decades. Over the years, I’ve had diagnoses ranging from depression to Asperger’s and I’ve encountered a ton of misconceptions. Some are basic things that the general population just hasn’t learned about, while others are deep-seated beliefs that even I have had to un-learn. Here are some of the ones that still seem to stick around…(read the rest of the article here)

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