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The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 is the Real Pandemic
  ·  2020-11-28

Fear, anger, stress and anxiety are just a few of the harrowing emotions that flooded the public back in March when we truly understood the severity of the Covid crisis. Many worked hard to turn these lemons into lemonade as they optimistically waited for this to pass us by in the following months. Now, nearing the end of the year, the virus seems to be nowhere near a place of improvement, continuing to encourage social distancing and isolation techniques to slow the spread. The techniques used to slow the spread of the contagious COVID- 19 virus, however, are spreading another invisible pandemic, a drastic decline in mental health.

A common misconception is that mental health and mental illness are the same thing. The fact of the matter is, that while not everyone has a mental illness, every single person on this planet does have mental health. If we all have varying levels of physical health, then it makes even more sense that we all have varying levels of mental health. You do not need to have a mental illness to struggle or seek help, just like you don’t need a chronic disease to give yourself permission go to your General Physician. If you are simply feeling an emotion, that is all is needed for it to be “valid” enough for professional treatment and support.

Many people who have never struggled with symptoms of anxiety and depression before, are sinking into an imbalanced emotional place as lock downs continue and suicide rates, attempts and activity at hotlines has increased at an alarming rate since March 2020. An incredibly high-risk group for suicide rates is health care workers. Physicians are already at a 44% higher risk than the general population for suicide. PTSD, burnout, and depression are common symptoms that rise to the surface in health care workers. Burnout is a dangerous state, especially in a capitalist country that praises burnout as an elitist state of being.

It is no question that heath care workers have been one of the most affected groups during this Covid crisis. Nurses, doctors, and assistants have shown through social media, the daily uphill battles they are facing to keep themselves safe while trying to save as many lives as they can. On top of the high level of hours health care work has normalized, the pandemic has almost doubled the time they spend on the job, continuing to increase the risk of burnout. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point to similar increases in suicide deaths during other health crises. Suicides also rose in the United States during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline has even seen a 65% increase in calls and emails since March 2020.

Although stated many times over, it is important to maintain your physical heath while combating declines in mental health. It is very easy to slip into bad habits whether we are trapped at home or on the front lines. These bad habits can range from increased sedentary behaviors accompanied by a decrease in nutritional food consumption to working for hours, barreling through the day and forgetting to consume any water or food. Correcting these habits builds a great foundation for having some semblance of a grasp on your mental health. It is also important to distance yourself from the constant wave of covid-19 information while continuing to receive the crucial pieces from authorized sources.

Isolation is the one thing those suffering from depression and anxiety are advised not to do. Yet, this is what is expected of us to slow the spread. Make sure to call your friends and family. Although an undeniably difficult time to live in the world, we are undoubtably the luckiest generation experiencing a pandemic, technologically speaking. We have the ability to video chat with one person or groups, play virtual games, and stay linked through social media. Through the waves of disheartening news being wheeled out almost daily, it is important to focus on these silver linings anywhere they can be found.

No matter how isolated we are forced to become, help is always right by our side. The Pandemic has taken a lot away from us, but it has not taken away the desire to help others. While distancing physically, many have connected emotionally, bringing forth a beautiful level of unity and understanding amidst the tragedy being faced. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255. They are here to help and you are never alone.

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Talk Therapy is the Key to Strengthening Dysfunctional Families
  ·  2020-12-16

Everyone has mental health just life physical health. Therefore, mental health can dip on occasion just like we can catch a cold or a flu physically. Just as everyone is capable of developing a chronic illness, the same is true for mental illnesses as well.

When one of the two parties in a couple is struggling with a mental illness, it can create friction and cracks within the foundation of the relationship. Seeking professional talk therapy and couples counseling can help fill these cracks that have formed and help prevent new cracks from emerging. Not only will this create a space to have an open dialogue, partner to partner, about the effects of the mental health struggles that are impacting the relationship, but it also allows for the observance and input of an unbiased individual.

Counseling is a critical tool in stabilizing families struggling with dysfunctional behaviors that arise when a parental figure is suffering from a mental illness. When a parent is struggling it can be hard for children to compute. Children view their parents as superheroes. As they get older, they, naturally, witness their parents behaving in a very humanly manner, which can cause emotional turmoil by itself. On top of those struggles, when someone is suffering from a mental illness, it can stir the pot even more.

Encouraging a family struggling with the above to sit down in a group therapy session can help invite an open dialogue about each member’s individual feelings around the family struggles. These open dialogues aid in a family’s ability to develop resilience. The ritual and routine that accompanies regular therapy aids this process. Families that are also able to create a space where they can put the mental illness aside and spend regularly scheduled time as a family is beneficial as well. Humor is another wonderful coping skill that allows families to build resilience in the face of mental health struggles.

Mental health struggles in parental figures can increase the chance of children developing a mental illness as well. Opening communication around counseling and therapy within families can normalize the concept for any struggles that may arise within the next generation. Showing through example by developing strong relationships with therapists can help keep the younger family members in a realm of preventative care revolving mental health.

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How EMDR is The Key to Treating Trauma
  ·  2020-12-18

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. At first glance this may seem like an unorthodox approach to mental health treatments, however, many studies show positive results from this form of treatment. To put it simply, during EMDR therapy, a patient relives traumatic memories in small doses while a therapist directs their eye movements. The brain does not process traumatic memories the same way it processes all other memories. These traumatic events are integrated into the brain in a splintered manner.

EMDR is believed to be so beneficial because reliving a traumatic event is supposedly easier to do when your attention is constantly being redirected. This distraction also leads to incomplete retrieval of the full traumatic memory. The traumatic memory is then restored into the brain as a blurry memory making it less vivid and difficult to recall in the future. Think of this treatment as a way of removing the mental and emotional blockages that prevent our minds from automatically healing emotional wounds caused by trauma.

PTSD and other depressive or mental health conditions are statistically more likely to develop in individuals who experience the sudden and/or violent loss of a loved one. The sudden loss of a loved one, no matter how it occurs, is an incredibly traumatic event. Many will not initially believe the process of grief and bereavement to be one of a traumatic manner, which in turn will generally lead those suffering away from treatments from psychotherapists or EMDR professionals. However, the effects of traumatic grief can result in many differing mental health struggles that may not have been previously present in the individual.

Seeking professional mental health treatment in a psychotherapist is an incredible way to step in the direction of healing from a traumatic event and the addition of EMDR therapy can really move individuals into a place of peace and happiness again after experiencing a trauma. Developing a strong and comfortable relationship with a therapist is a critical step in maximizing the benefits of talk therapy. The road toward being able to form a strong bond with a mental health professional can seem scary to those about to embark on that journey, but being able to find a psychotherapist whom you connect with makes all the difference.

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How Mindfulness and Gratitude are Combating Depression and Anxiety
  ·  2020-12-20

In today’s society, there is a lot of casual talk about depression and anxiety. Many flippant jokes are made in the media about these difficult emotions and mental illnesses, which can lead to a lack of understanding about how these struggles truly affect one’s day to day life.

Depressive and anxiety disorders are much more than simply feeling sad or nervous. These struggles penetrate someone’s life much deeper than a normal emotional fluctuation. Someone with depression cannot find joy in anything in their lives and may find it nearly impossible to get themselves out of bed, or to shower, or cook themselves meals. Someone with anxiety will negatively spiral and panic at the sheer thought of doing something wrong or needing to do a simple errand like going to the store. These mental illnesses make completing simple daily tasks next to impossible for those affected. However, there is hope and it is possible to receive treatment that works.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a key element in the treatment of mental illness across the board, including depression and anxiety. Many varying studies have showed that the majority of those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety showed improvement after ongoing talk therapy treatment.

In addition to psychotherapy, integrating a dose of mindfulness, gratitude, and kindness into a patient’s regular daily routine can catapult suffers into an improved state. Mindfulness, kindness and gratitude interventions have shown to lead to improvements in life satisfaction, studies have shown. Thoughts are very powerful tools that many do not utilize. Focusing patients on shifting their present, negative thoughts created by their mental illnesses has proven to be a critical step toward overall mental health improvement.

The true key to healing from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety is to combine these two treatments. Working toward self-administered gratitude and mindfulness is a wonderful step, but to truly optimize a mental health treatment plan, it is crucial to seek psychotherapy treatment from a professional. Patients who take the time to build positive relationships with their therapist and other mental health professionals have shown to achieve consistently more positive results during treatment.

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The Growing Prevalence and Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders
  ·  2020-12-20

There is ever growing evidence that substance abuse disorders are an increasing struggle for many among us in today’s society. There are many factors that contribute to one’s ability to develop a substance abuse problem. These factors range from genetic, to underlying mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, PTSD, and even an attention deficit disorder, among others. It has also been observed that there are growing numbers of depressed or anxious emotions among many individuals, specifically teens and young adults.

Positively, our society is always growing, evolving and changing for the better. Technology improves along with medical science and medical treatments. However, with these positive improvements come negative outward effects. These result in easier access to addictive substances through prescriptions and increased mental health struggles due to isolation induced by the overuse of technology.

Simply the act of recognizing a substance abuse problem in either ourselves or a loved one is an incredibly steep hill to climb. Then, once that is acknowledged, seeking beneficial and successful treatment is another struggle. Many patients suggest that they needed to hit rock bottom before recognizing how much they lost control. Everyone is different; therefore, everyone’s struggles with addiction and mental illness are different. Treatment plans need to be made to support the individuals needs as well as abiding by the tools and tricks of the trade that have been proven to be successful.

Forming a strong bond, or therapeutic alliance, is a key element in successfully recovering from a substance abuse problem. The therapist/patient relationship is a very special and individualized one. It is a very personal experience moving forward and finding the right therapist to treat a substance abuse problem. Building a strong bond with a therapist allows patients to more easily be vulnerable and examine the sides of themselves they may not like. The sides that may be the root of their struggles. Studies have showed that casual relationships with therapists do not result in successful outcomes the way strong relationships with mental health professionals do. Therefore, taking the time to find a therapist with whom one can bond with makes all the difference when seeking treatment.

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Employee Assistance Programs - What is an EAP and How Can It Be Used?
  ·  2021-01-08

It is no secret that the past year has been difficult for most of those out there within their finances, careers, and personal lives. Many people are struggling to adapt to new forms of work such as remote work from home, sharing office spaces with those they live with, along with balancing work and home schooling their children. These transitions for many companies and their employees have been less than easy. Offering employee’s an employee assistance program that they can utilize during these tumultuous times can provide workers the support they need to continue to perform their job duties efficiently as well as maintain balance with in their mental and physical health which is more important now than ever.

Many employees find reasons not to utilize their company’s EAP, but much of that reasoning is due to misinformation. These programs are completely confidential, and an employee’s personal struggles will not be shared with HR or any department within the company. There is also no need to ask permission from your supervisor to utilize the EAP either. Many are also turned off by the stigma attached, but no one needs to know an employee is utilizing the program unless said employee is the one to share. One of the main reasons that employees may not utilize their company’s EAP is a lack of understanding of what an EAP provides as well as having no idea that the company offers an EAP altogether.

Companies need to make it clear they they do in fact offer EAPs to their employees as well as state concisely what exactly they can receive from an EAP. Emphasizing that EAPs are to be used no matter what the struggle is also a critical element in spreading this system of support to employees. They are not solely reserved for substance abuse or severe mental illness. Everyone is welcome to the EAP benefits they are lucky enough to be provided, and if these benefits are not being utilized, employers should spread knowledge and awareness of the program and employees should understand that it is all confidential and they are worthy of the support they need.

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The Mind - Body Connection - Why Biofeedback is Important
  ·  2021-01-11

Research and discussions around the mind body connection are growing in popularity everyday. Mental health and physical health are completely intertwined and when one is off balance the other follows suit. When someone is struggling with a mental health, figuring out what their physical body needs is incredibly important.

What is BioFeedback?

BioFeedback, boiled down is the process with which individuals learn how to modify their physiology for the sole purpose of improving mental, physical, and emotional health. Similar to physical therapy, BioFeedback requires physical participation and regular practice. Biofeedback helps patients learn to control what were previously believed to be involuntarily and uncontrollable processes.

There are seven different types of biofeedback such as Electromyograph (EMG), Temperature Control, Electrodermal (EDR), Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, Respiration, and Electroencephalographic (EEG.) These focus on all areas of the body ranging from muscle tension to brain waves.

How to receive BioFeedback Treatment?

Ask your doctor or health care professional if they are familiar with BioFeedback. Chances are they will say yes. They can then recommend you to a therapist who specifically works with biofeedback in your area. Many BioFeedback practitioners are licensed psychologists, nurses, or physical therapists. Some insurance planes now a days even cover biofeedback treatment. There are many ways to get help these days, and no struggle is too small or too great for treatment of any kind.

Why it is Important?

Many people struggling with mental health issues can feel like they are a slave to everything they are feeling and that there is nothing they can do to improve their situation because they are a victim to their mental state. However, learning to control parts of your body that you previously deemed uncontrollable is a great way to show individuals that they are in fact, in control of their bodies, minds, and spirits. While improving their physical health, they are also improving their mental health because they are taking the steering wheel back from their mental illness or mental health struggles.

There is strong evidence out there that suggests that biofeedback therapy can relax muscles, ease stress and even reduce headaches. Biofeedback has shown to be particularly beneficial for headaches that are induced by anxiety.

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Battling Your Inner Critic - Self Compassion Leads To Self Love
  ·  2021-01-21

Many of us have heard someone say, “we are our own worst critic.” While this phrase is repeated in our society until it feels as though it loses meaning, it still rings true. That little voice that resides in the darkest corners of our minds exists within all of us. No one is immune to this aspect of the human condition. However, the difference between people who seem to not have this voice at all versus those who are ruled by it is self compassion.

We live in a society that defines self worth by productivity and perfectionism despite the fact that human beings are not infallible. Mistakes are a natural part of life despite the high standards society has set. When that little voice pipes up telling you that you fell short, you should have done better, you suck, and that you should just give up, you do have the power to ignore it and even silence it. Having compassion for yourself and the inevitable mistakes you make is actually the key to success.

Self compassion is essentially taking your mistakes or faults and instead of scrutinizing yourself for them, utilizing a gentle, kind, and understanding approach to ease anxiety. Simply telling yourself, “it’s ok” can work wonders at easing the anxiety that accompanies perceived failure. Now you may be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I have no idea how to be nice to myself.” Well, there are ways to trick your brain into making it easier to be kinder to yourself.

One of the most effective ways to start practicing self compassion is to speak to yourself as though you are speaking to a close friend or, a younger version of yourself. Telling yourself that you are speaking to a friend is a great trick to make it easier to implement more compassion on yourself. You would never speak as harshly and cruelly to your best friend as you do to yourself. Therefore, why have you decided that it is ok to say these things to yourself. Acting like you are speaking to a younger version of yourself is another version of this tool. Imagine yourself at four or five years old. Would you tell your five year old self the same things your inner critic is telling you today? Absolutely not. There are many other tools to combat your inner critic such as meditation, positive affirmations, journaling and even talk therapy. All of these tips are wonderful things you can add to your toolbox, but it all starts with you and your desire to change your life and silence that noisy inner critic once and for all.

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Social Anxiety and Social Phobia - You Might Not Be “Just A Little Shy”
  ·  2021-01-28

We hear the terms anxiety and social anxiety thrown around a lot these days. People more commonly refer to their anxiety head on through phrases such as “that activity gave me anxiety” or “I was feeling really anxious last week.” Many people also may hear form others “you’re so quiet!” or even, “you’re just really shy. You need to come out of your shell.” While everyone has anxiety and can feel their own personal level of shyness, it can be difficult to figure out when your specific anxiety levels tip over into the danger zone.

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders someone can struggle with. One of the more common anxiety disorders is GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This disorder is shown through worry about everyday tasks and being unable to reel in average, everyday stresses. More or less, those who struggle with generalized anxiety struggle with heightened feelings of anxiety blanketed into most facets of their lives. However, there are more specific anxiety disorders that hone in those nervous feelings within one particular area.

Social Anxiety or Social Phobia is described as the ever-present fear of social gatherings or performance situations. This anxiety can present itself physically before someone has to engage socially or present in front of a group via sweaty palms, heart palpitations, shaking, or hyperventilating. Social anxiety can also coexist with other disorders such as depression, panic disorder, or agoraphobia. Social anxiety is not as uncommon as many may assume, affecting around 13% of the population.

If you’ve spent most of your life believing you’re just extremely shy and that’s simply the way it is, you may be struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder. Shyness is not always just a personality trait. Many people misconstrue their extreme social anxiety with shyness and accept it for what it is when it is very treatable. Talk Therapy and specifically CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have shown to be vastly beneficial to those suffering with social anxiety. Occasionally, medication such as an SSRI, can ease and balance those untamed nervous emotions as well.

Your shyness is not simply a permanent aspect of your being. There is a good chance your shyness is something more underneath it all. Reaching out for help may seem like more than half the battle for those suffering with social anxiety, but therapists are here to make you feel welcome, comfortable, and help you find peace and balance in everyday life. Your shyness is not a lost cause because there is always help and there is always treatment.

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Anger And Effective Ways To Manage It
  ·  2021-02-01

We all have those moments where we’re seeing red.  Maybe it’s because our partner said something rude, or perhaps it was someone that cut us off in traffic.  Whatever the cause, anger is totally normal, common emotion.  However, managing it can sometimes be difficult, especially if you are someone who is angry a lot.  So, allow us to lend you a helping hand by helping you get an in-depth understanding of anger and how to best manage it for your own health and safety, as well as those around you.

Understand that anger is a valid emotion

            First and foremost, let’s get something out there right away: your anger matters.  Your emotional reaction is totally legitimate and you have a right to feel your anger.  However, acting on it with your first reactions (often yelling or throwing) is not an effective reaction.  The anger is fine, it’s the reaction, and its appropriateness for the situation, that can be tweaked.

How to effectively manage your anger

            If you’re struggling to manage your anger and you want to help yourself out, here are some realistic tips to give you a bit of traction in the heat of the moment.

  • Do some deep breathing: You’ve heard this one before and perhaps it’s only made you angrier.  The trick, here, is to make sure that you are doing your deep breathing authentically and in a safe space.  If you need to excuse yourself to another room, do it.  If it helps to pop your earbuds in and listen to white noise, etc, do that too.  Deep breathing will calm you down physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It’s also great for making sure that you don’t say something you don’t mean, because deep breathing keeps your mouth busy!
  • Walk it off: If you’re one of those people who just has to move when they’re angry, don’t fight that.  When you’re feeling edgy and angry, go for a walk, run, take a few rounds at a punching bag, etc.  The main goal is to make sure you don’t overdo it (for example, don’t try to run 5 km if you can only run 3 km normally).  Feeling the pain from overdoing it will just make you angrier, anyway!  Exercise will release a lot of that energy and you’ll feel level-headed when you’re done.
  • Be honest about your triggers: Some things will make you instantly furious (for example: being called “sir” or “ma’am”).  Make an honest list of your known triggers and then do what you can to avoid them.  Work with your loved ones, too, when it comes to being in a situation where, to use our example, you are called “sir” or “ma’am”. If your partner knows that title makes you angry, they can step in and correct the unknowing person, or perhaps tell a joke to cut the tension. 

            Anger is a tricky emotion for all of us, but tips like these can help us all manage it effectively and make everyday situations a little easier, all around.

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The Collaboration Between Mental Health and Black History Month
  ·  2021-02-01

First thing is first.  Many people have made it their mission to work, every single day of their lives, to improve the lives of those people considered minorities -- such as African Americans.  However, despite the dedicated work of these people, marginalization still happens, and it has led to the creation, and celebration, of Black History Month. 

The importance of Black History month

            There are so many reasons why Black History month is important.  For our purposes, we’re going to keep it focused on how it refers to today’s African American youth and adults.  A lot of it has to do with mental health and even safety.  Black History month...

  • Raises awareness for proper diagnoses: Many African American people live in low socioeconomic situations.  This, in combination with factors such as education and access to professionals, means that African Americans are less likely to seek treatment for a mental health issue than the rest of the population.  This means that diagnoses are missed and many suffer from mental health crises as a direct result.
  • Helps reduce suicide risks in African American teens: While Black teens are less likely to die of suicide when teens, compared to other populations, Black teens are much more likely to attempt suicide than those in other populations.  This is often due to living in poverty and abusive situations, or feeling as though they have no clear path to a profitable future.  Understanding this data can help reduce these risks in youth and teens in the future.
  • Teaches everyone about the role of spirituality and health: African American populations have a strong connection to spirituality throughout their lives.  By understanding the connection between the Black population and spirituality, society can better understand how these practices need to be worked into mental health services to help make mental health treatments more accessible and more successful for Black youth and teens who are seeking solace and comfort from the church.

How it connects to mental health

            The more that we understand the needs, preferences, history, and role of African American people, the more that we, as a society, can progress our service and offerings.  When we take the time to understand how everyone’s need factor in, it promotes things like quality.  Since our history is so often an “us” versus “them” society, it is reassuring to see that steps are being made to help eradicate marginalization from the ground-up. 

            By making Black History month, and a true understanding of the Black population, a priority, it helps society as a whole understand the marginalization for what it is.  It also helps African American communities that their needs are as important as those in other populations, which is often overlooked.

            While we have a long way to go, the research is promising already that, by continuing to prioritize Black History month and understanding the importance of equality, we can help boost the mental health of African American youth as well as adults.  This promotes a more peaceful and healthy future for everyone, bringing us closer and closer to true equality.

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Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 101
  ·  2021-02-06

There are a lot of conditions out there that impact both children and adults alike.  One of the popular ones, becoming more and more prominent with each year, is ADHD.  This is admittedly a very complex brain and behaviour condition and there is no known cure for it.  However, as more information becomes known, treatments and therapies are also becoming more widespread and common.

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder that causes those who live with it to struggle with focus, concentration, and other “normal” day to day activities.  This impacts both the brain as well as behaviours, but everyone's a little different as far as what they struggle with and why.

How does ADHD affect people?

            The best way to understand ADHD, whether it’s in children or in adults, is that they have an issue with self-control.  This can come in terms of behaviours such as actions, and/or in saying things that otherwise aren’t common in everyday conversation (ie: rude or socially incorrect observations).  Some of the most common ways for ADHD to affect people include:

  • Excessive talking: This could be a constant stream of chatter, or it could be the need to have in-depth conversations (unnecessary to most of us) about something that doesn’t need as much level of detail. 
  • Needing to fidget, and unable to sit still: From tapping to leg bopping, to simply squirming in chairs, both children and adults who have ADHD often have a difficult time simply sitting and doing one thing.  This can also come out as chronic multitasking, too.
  • Constantly interrupting: This is different from the idea of interrupting out of excitement, as we all do from time to time.  This is interrupting almost every statement simply because they are too excited to wait their turn and have to talk over someone else.  It often comes out as the simple inability to be able to wait until it is their turn.

What treatments are available for ADHD?

            There are a variety of options available for treating ADHD both in children and adults.  These include the following options:

  • Medication: There are quite a few medications out there offering relief for those who need help concentrating.  Common stimulant options include Adderall and Desoxyn.  There can also be other non-stimulant medications such as Pamelor and Kapvay.   These all help “overcome” some of the chemical imbalances in the brain and help people concentrate more easily.
  • Mental health assessment and sessions: Behavioural therapies through mental health sessions are also very helpful.  They will often help retrain behaviours so that day to day life is easier.
  • Combination: Most parents will choose a combination of behavioural therapy with medication as a last resort, or they’ll often blend the two.  Adults usually will blend medication with treatment, too, to give them the best of both and help them enjoy an easier balance.

            While it was often rare for a diagnosis, more and more children and adults are now getting diagnosed with ADHD as more diagnostic tools become available.  This diagnosis often means that they have a path forward to helping them get more out of your daily life.

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Top Tips for Celebrating Valentine’s Day
  ·  2021-02-14

There is a lot of pressure around Valentine’s Day.  Whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, there is just a lot of pressure around celebrating the holiday “right”.  There is some sort of myth that couples have to be romantic and smitten on this special February day, and that those who are single, regardless of the reason, have to be miserable and embarrassed as everyone else around them celebrates. But, is that really what it’s about?

The truth about Valentine’s Day

            There are so many fantastic ways that you can celebrate this holiday, regardless of your relationship status.  In fact, it can be one of the best things that you can do for your mental health because it is the perfect holiday to practice self-care in a totally personalized way.

            Not sure just how to do that on a couple-themed holiday?  Here are some tips to give you some support in just that area!

Top tips for truly enjoy Valentine’s Day

  1. Don’t overspend to make a positive impression: Whether you’re shopping for a special someone, or just taking a look at some treats for your friends and other loved ones, be careful with price tags.  Sure, that fancy necklace is going to look pretty, but if the small teddy bear and delicious chocolate bar would make them even happier, go with that option!  The goal on Valentine’s Day is to get something special for someone that they will love.
  2. Limit social media posts: People love bragging about their special someone on Valentine’s Day.  There is absolutely something wrong with this, of course, but it can make even the most self-assured person doubtful of their plans or relationship status.  Or both.  For your own sake, limit access to social media and simply enjoy your day without feeling the pressure to have it look a certain way!
  3. Focus as much attention on your non-romantic relationships: Regardless of how you are celebrating, or with whom, make sure that you focus some attention on non-romantic relationships.  It can be as much fun -- if not more-so -- to give gifts and shower love and affection on your bestie, or your sister or brother, or even a parent.  Go for it!  It also helps you remember what the day is all about -- love!
  4. Check in with a professional: Feeling blue?  It happens.  If you have access to a counsellor, or even to a helpline, make sure that you take care of yourself and do so.  Just getting a professional’s perspective on things can help you see the doubts for what they are.  You deserve to have the same enjoyment of this holiday as everyone else, and a professional can often help remind you of that.
  5. Treat yourself: There is no better way to celebrate than treating yourself!  Whether it is a mani-pedi, a movie night in your jammies, or just a delicious meal, go for it!  What a fantastic way to show some love for yourself, too!

            Valentine’s Day can be a blast, regardless of your relationship status, and these tips will help you prioritize your mental health and actually make it a positive day without pressure or stress taking away from it!

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The Importance of Acts of Kindness for Mental Health
  ·  2021-02-18

            Every single one of us has the power to make someone else’s day better just by doing one single thing: an act of kindness.  While many of us see it as “paying it forward” in the coffee line-up, or perhaps helping a stranger load groceries into their car, there are many versions and examples of acts of kindness available every single day.  And studies show that all of them do great things for our mental health -- on both sides.

How do acts of kindness connect with our mental health?

            Many of us have done an act of kindness at some point in our lives.  Perhaps it was shoveling out a neighbor’s car or buying a cup of coffee for a friend having a bad day.  You know that warm fuzzy feeling that it gives you to do that?  That is great for your mental health.  In fact, there is a lot of evidence pointing to the idea that acts of kindness are more beneficial for the giver, than the recipient!

            Whether you are giving it, or receiving it, having genuine, unexpected kindness in your life with no ulterior motive helps you relax, makes your body release “happy hormones”, and can even reduce overall anxiety and stress levels.  It does not matter if it happens once or 10 times, the effect is as impressive either way. 

The recipient

            Most of us focus acts of kindness on the recipient.  We focus on how they’re having a tough time, or struggling with a difficult decision.  Whether it’s a stranger on the street or a coworker, we want to help make them smile a bit more, even if it's just for a moment.  By presenting them with unexpected kindness with no expectation of it being returned, it can make their day a bit brighter and easier, boosting them up as the take in this random act of kindness, no matter how small it may seem.  Additionally, they will cherish that memory.  Even if they never knew who created that act of kindness, anyone who is ever received one will always remember it fondly, especially in dark times when they need a boost.

The giver

            The person who plans and executes these acts of kindness (whether anonymously or just for someone special who needs it), also experiences joy, and a boost in mood.  It can even reduce anxiety and stress when they see that their act made a difference to the person’s day.  It helps boost our own self-worth when we see just what we can for someone else in a time of need, and more.  There is so much to love about the idea of deliberately going out and designing an act of kindness even when you feel down, yourself!

Examples of acts of kindness

            There are no end of options that you can consider, and we’ve named few above, but here are some great starter options:

  • Smiling at someone who makes eye contact with you.
  • Allowing someone to board the elevator before you / Holding the door for someone.
  • Complimenting a coworker on something they did well.

            There are many, many ways that you can explore acts of kindness, and as you get used to it, you can even personalize them to doing the ones that bring you the most joy.  They may be tiny, but they make a huge difference on both ends!

...

Teen Dating Violence - What Everyone Should Know
  ·  2021-02-26

Teens dating is a complicated issue for a lot of reasons.  From the point of view of parents, seeing their teen entering the dating world is difficult due to the need to let them go and experience a new chapter in their life where parents are often kept firmly out of the relationship.  From the point of view of teens, learning how to act and be a part of the dating world can also take some finesse, not to mention the social pressures that it often brings.  One of the things that no parent or teen wants to deal with?  Teen dating violence.  Yet, it happens, and it happens a lot.

What is teen dating violence?

            This is just like any other kind of violence.  It can take the form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence.  It also takes the form of stalking or sexting.  This kind of violence is when it happens between two romantic partners.

Dating violence is incredibly common, especially in teens.  Because many experience their first relationships in high school, that young age also makes them impressionable and it leaves them vulnerable to falling to, and accepting, abuse later in life. 

What are signs of teen dating violence?

            Physical abuse could take the form of either partner hitting or threatening to hit or hurt the other person when they do something “wrong”.  For example, when one partner tells a joke and the other one hits them to get them to stop.

Sexual violence is also common and hard for shy teens to recognize.  For example, many teens think it’s normal/“okay” for a partner to post intimate photos online without their consent.  Or, to be pressured into sending those intimate photos in the first place to keep them “interested”.  These are both examples of dating violence.

Psychological abuse in a relationship would be when one partner uses threats or a “guilt trip” in order to keep the other one under their control.  For example, threatening to kill themselves if the other partner breaks up with them. 

Stalking could be literally following their partner everywhere, or showing up (online or in-person) in places without being invited.  Sexting could be intimate images or sexually-explicit messages sent from one partner to the other unwanted, or perhaps even being forced into participating (which then borders on sexual violence, as above).     

What can be done?

            Teen dating violence is on the rise and it is as frightening to parents as it is to teenagers themselves.  When it comes to addressing it in these tentative relationships, the key points to focus on include:

  • Keep the lines of communication open: Parents and teens should have strong communication and open communication so that a teen can know they are able to safely and without judgement talk to their parents about an issue they may be having.  The safer a teen feels, the more likely they are to confide in Mom and/or Dad.
  • Make sure you/your teen knows what violence looks like: Whether you are a teenager in this situation yourself, or you have a teen who is dating, make sure that everyone understands what abuse looks like and feels like so that the teen can spot it if it happens.  The easier it is to spot, the easier it is for them to recognize it as dangerous.
  • Understand your rights: Violence between romantic partners is never okay.  Especially not in a relationship so young in a teen’s life.  Understanding that, and believing it, helps keep everyone safe.

            Even if it is on the rise, more and more knowledge for teen dating violence is also coming out.  This can be helpful for making sure that everyone stays aware of it, and on the look-out.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html

...

The Self-Esteem Levels
  ·  2021-02-26

From children to senior citizens, self-esteem levels can fluctuate depending on situations, conditions, and needs.  Children and teens are especially prone to low self-esteem, but adults and seniors are certainly not immune to it, either. 

What is self-esteem?

            While the term is thrown around a lot, not many people understand just what self-esteem is.  This is the term used to describe just what your overall opinion of yourself is.  How you feel about yourself and your potential as an individual, outside of what those around you may think of feel.  There are many things can influence self-esteem.

What are the kinds of self-esteem?

            Most people think of only low self-esteem when it comes to self-esteem in a world, but there are actually three different types to know about.

  • Too-low self-esteem: This is the kind that you are most familiar with, most likely.  This is when you think lowly of yourself, so lowly that you think you are worthless, and no one likes you.  It means you are unlikely to take chances and you think yourself incapable of achieving anything. 
  • Healthy self-esteem: This is when you have a just-right view of yourself.  You see yourself as being capable and useful, as well as capable in situations that factor-in some kind of risk (for example: asking for a promotion).  However, you also know that you are not the best at everything and that there are always opportunities for you to learn and grow.
  • Too-high self-esteem: The more colloquial term for this is “cocky”.  It means that you think very highly of yourself and that you can do no wrong.  You have no issues expressing your opinions, even in situations where it may not be appropriate.  It often means that you think you are the smartest person in the room, and you are the most deserving of a promotion or other chance that is presented.

Why self-esteem matters

            The middle option, of course, is the healthy option for your when it comes to your natural self-esteem levels.  When someone has low self-esteem, they are likely to get walked-over, overlooked by those around then, and suffer from other conditions such as depression and anxiety.  Someone with too-high self-esteem, on the other hand, can be demanding and controlling as well as a “sore loser” if or when something does not go their way. 

            Self-esteem is important because how you see yourself should, ideally, line up with how others who you are close to, see you.  That would be someone who is deserving, important, whose opinions and thoughts matter, but not above reprimand.  At the same time, self-esteem is also what allows you to stand up for yourself in a situation where you are being treated unfairly, and it makes you independent in a healthy, good way.

Everything from family life to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, to society around us can influence self-esteem.  It is considered normal for those levels to fluctuate throughout life, but understanding kind for what it is, and why this comprehension matters, helps keep it in the middle range as much as possible.

...

The Truth About Eating Disorders
  ·  2021-02-26

Eating disorders are much more common today than they were 15 years ago.  While they have been happening for years and years under the radar, both the undiagnosed and diagnosed numbers have skyrocketed in the most recent years.  Understanding this as the issue that it is, means recognizing it and treating it as an important crisis.

What is an eating disorder?

            An eating disorder is the term used to describe when someone has an unhealthy relationship with food or eating habits that directly impacts their physical, mental, and emotional health.  Most often disorders come from the need to control something in their life that, otherwise, feels out of control. 

What are common causes of eating disorders?

            The most common cause, as noted, is trying to control something in their life.  As far as actual causes of eating disorders, there is not really a way to determine that (much like depression or any other kind of mental health issue).  However, common triggers of eating disorders include social pressures to look a certain way, including magazines/TV, as well as role models in a young person’s life.  Other triggers could be very low self-confidence that leads many children and teens to believe that they will feel better about themselves if they just “eat less” or “workout more”. 

Is an eating disorder serious?

            Yes, eating disorders are serious in children, teens, and adults.  In fact, they are considered amongst the leading causes of death for teenagers.  Even if an eating disorder is considered “mild” when diagnosed, proper treatment should be sought-after to ensure the patient has the right help in place for recovery.  Just like a lot of other mental health conditions, treatment is long-term and an eating disorder can be a lifelong condition for some.

Signs of an eating disorder

            There are several kinds of eating disorders, but many share similar signs or symptoms.  These can include:

  • Reluctance or refusal to eat: Many will decrease portion sizes, skip meals regularly, and simply cut down on what they are eating to the bare minimum.  Others will only eat certain things.  For instance, protein shakes.
  • An incessant need to exercise: If someone has suddenly become obsessed with working out especially with those cardio exercises, this is another sign.  It could be working out for longer, or every single day, or even sneaking in exercise when no one is around to see it.
  • Low self-confidence: This could be negative self-talk, or a hatred of wearing clothing that is form-fitting, etc.  It is not always specific, or obvious to those around the person suffering.

Can an eating disorder be treated?

            Yes, an eating disorder can be treated.  With proper psychiatric, dietary, and general therapeutic treatment, recovery is not only possible, but probable.  Regardless of the age or the “cause” of the eating disorder, proper recognition and validation is going to be the key to make sure that anyone suffering can get the support and help that they need in order to recover and continue on in their life in a healthy and safe way. 

...

How Can I Seek Out Therapy Near Me? - Finding Mental Health Treatment in Wilmington NC
  ·  2021-03-01

The past year has been incredibly difficult for almost every person fighting their way through these uncontrollable and unpredictable times. Mental Health has been on a widespread decline. Those who already struggle with their mental health have felt it take a dip and people who have never struggled with their mental health are struggling for the first time. Deciding to seek out mental health treatment is an incredible feat on its own, but many people fall short when it comes to actually finding the treatment that they have finally decided to pursue. The thought, how do I find counseling near me, crosses many minds.

Finding a counselor in Wilmington NC or a therapist in Wilmington NC is no harder than finding treatment elsewhere. Thankfully, there are many counseling, therapy, and mental health treatment outlets that allow you to receive mental health treatment from anywhere in the world as long as you have at least a halfway decent internet connection. There are many services such as Better Help for one-on-one virtual therapy, or even Talk Space where you can seek out family counseling and singular counseling. These platforms can be used anywhere and from the safety of your own home. They are also more affordable for many people who are seeking mental health treatment on a tighter budget. These virtual counseling and talk therapy services allow for video sessions, phone sessions or even texting with a mental health professional who can provide you with the proper guidance and support needed from afar.

You can also utilize a service through the Psychology Today website, which contains a page where you can input your zip code and specifically find “family counseling near me.” A list of wonderfully rated counselors and therapists will show up along with a brief description of each of these therapists’ practices, specialties, and whether they accept insurance or if you will need to pay out of pocket. These lists will be able to specify if a therapist has experience with PTSD treatment, depression treatment, counseling for anxiety and many other specializations someone may need. Most importantly, they also provide their contact information for easier access to making your first appointment. You will also see the acronym LMFT near a lot of therapists’ names when searching. LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. When searching for “marriage and family therapists near me,” it will generally show up as an LMFT. This is the standard licensing a therapist with an independent practice will possess. While this does imply that they specialize in marriage and family counseling, LMFT’s are not pigeonholed to this one sector. They can help anyone who approaches them, you do not need to have specifically marital or familial issues.

You may have also heard about recent focus on the mind body connection. When someone is struggling with their mental health, figuring out what their physical body needs is an incredibly important step toward developing a healthy mind and a healthy body. Mental health and physical health are completely intertwined and when one is off balance the other follows suit. Those struggling with depression, anxiety, anger management, marital issues, and many other mental health issues can and should seek treatment, especially if these struggled have begun to manifest physiologically.

There are many varying types of mental health treatment you can seek for your struggles. There is regular talk therapy, which is one of the most popular forms of treatment and described above, and then there are more unique types of treatment that are showing positive results. Biofeedback, simply put, is the process with which individuals learn how to modify their physiology for the sole purpose of improving mental, physical, and emotional health. Biofeedback helps patients learn to control what were previously believed to be involuntarily and uncontrollable processes.

In your first counseling or therapy session, you will most likely fill out some standard paperwork containing basic medical background questions, similarly to when you go to the doctor. This will also be where you will note your family history and if any mental illnesses commonly show up in your specific family history. There will also be paperwork you will need to fill out more specifically tailored toward your present mental health status. Sometimes you will be asked to fill out these sheets before your session so the therapist or counselor can be ready to dive in when you show up for your first session. Others may have you fill these papers out right before the appointment.

During your first session, you will most likely lay the foundation for what you have been feeling and why you have been feeling that way. You do not have to discuss anything you are not ready to discuss during this session. Remember, a therapist is there to support and help you however best suits you and your present comfort level. This is a vulnerable thing to do, but it is an incredible depiction of strength, both emotionally and physically. It is also totally ok to share with this new therapist how nervous and uncomfortable you are. They’ve heard it all before and will not feel tuned off or offended in the slightest if you express your trepidation toward moving forward.

Therapy can feel like a scary journey to embark on, but a therapist will do nothing but make you feel heard, welcome, and worthy of mental health treatment, no matter how “big” your struggles may feel in comparison to the rest of the world. If you are feeling it, it is valid and it is worthy of treatment and support. The only qualification you need is to feel the feeling itself. Everyone deserves mental health treatment and support.

...

Brain Injuries And Daily Life
  ·  2021-03-03

Many of us have had broken bones, or perhaps an issue with something like appendicitis at some point in their lives.  Hower, one injury that many do not think about when going through the list of common injuries is a brain injury.  Many of us may accidentally hit our heads on something, and get a concussion, which they recover from.  However, a brain injury is much more common than people would like to think!

What actually is a brain injury?

            In the case of a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, this is a physical injury to the brain that changes the brain’s activity and function.  Whether the damage or injury itself can be seen, or it’s more related to the neurons, both are considered a brain injury as a result of something like a jolt to the head, or a penetration of something directly into the brain.  Veterans make up much of the population for TBI cases due to overseas combat.

What impacts can a TBI have on daily life?

            A TBI can have impacts on daily life, regardless of how “mild” it may seem when compared to other more serious brian injuries.  Common impacts for those with even mild TBIs include:

  • Attention and concentration issues: Paying attention to a conversation from start to finish, or being able to complete a task without getting distracted or forgetful on what they were doing are the most common symptoms of those recovering from a TBI.
  • Memory problems: From general memory recall, to being able to recite a sequence or pattern back to someone, short-term memory issues are common problems that can often have a serious impact on daily life, especially with something such as a reminder to do something.
  • General processing impairments: The best way to explain this is when something that used to make sense no longer makes sense the same way.  For example: finding a different way to tie your shoelaces because the way you used to use no longer makes sense.

            Over 80% of TBI diagnoses are often considered to be mild, but many report having issues like these, paired with headaches or emotional disruptions, which further impact day to day life and social interactions. 

In many cases, including with veterans, there is a strong link between a TBI and issues such as PTSD or depression.  While lack of short-term memory is often associated with PTSD, processing and emotional issues are more common with a TBI.  Often, one will exacerbate the other, too, meaning that a two-pronged approach is important for better recovery and a better quality of life.

How can people receive treatment?

            Proper diagnosis is important for a brain injury, and then treatment is possible.  In situations where there is moderate to severe cognitive impairments, treatment often can help alleviate a lot of the symptoms while the brain heals.

            In many cases, particularly with mild TBIs, the brain can recover after weeks or months.  Many report, however, having common symptoms and issues pop up seemingly out of nowhere or months or even years after the injury, even when the brain has, technically, recovered. 

            While there is a lot we are still learning about TBIs, proper diagnosis and treatment are both critical to making sure that those living with them can enjoy as best a quality of life as possible.

...

The Power Of Women
  ·  2021-03-05

Women make up arguably half the population in most societies.  They do all of the same things that men do: go to school, raise a family, work in the community.  However, despite these culture-based equalities, many women still find themselves on the lower rungs of the ladder when it comes to leadership roles.  On a day such as Women’s Day, this leads many to think about why that is, and what it could mean for the future.

The role of Women’s Day

            International Women’s Day is a specific day of the year where the world turns its attention to women’s rights and how they compare to a man’s rights.  This is true in the case of actual rights, such as the right to vote, but it also factors in “softer” details, including a woman’s role within the workplace.

            In many situations, women have all of the same rights as men, on paper, but actual day-to-day operations are a different matter.  Men still hold many of the high-ranking positions and women still hold the lower ranks.  Women’s Day brings the “why” of this into question.

Why are there not more women leaders?

            There are many powerful and driven women out there tht most of us are familiar with, but what about the everyday women that are around us?  When surveyed, many women said that they were more comfortable with lower roles in a company because they…

  • Lack of leadership positions: When comparing a male to a younger, more experienced female for the job, young women often have difficulty in getting positions, assumed because of their lack of experience.  In many cases, these overlooked younger options were better experienced than male applicants.
  • Suffered confidence issues: From negative comments in those around them, to simple self-confidence issues, most women are more comfortable following rather than being the leader at the front of the pack.  This is especially so with younger women.
  • Negative voices for female-led plans: Similarly, male co-workers or spectators often would look down on a plan designed by, and operated by women simply because a woman created it.  This negativity built into thep process makes many women simply stick to lower rungs.

            These are just a few of the issues faced in modern workplaces by strong, educated, and motivated women.

How to create a true “equal society”

            On a day where we look to women and their crucial role in society, many wonder how we can address these very modern and relevant problems for the better.  Possible solutions for easier equality could include:

  • More documentation on current female leaders: LAck of documentation means less data to work from, and it also leads many female students to believe that no one like them can make it to the top ranks.
  • Dedicated training programs for women: Studies show that women focus on these higher roels out of a sense of duty and responsibility to their community.  This is a common treat that can be used to help motivate young women coming into the workforce.
  • Acceptance of female leadership: Women focus on relationship supports, individual development and public service.  These are all things that can be, and should be, accepted into a company’s inner workings.

            While all of these problems and possible solutions should be front of mind each day, Women’s Day is as good a day as any to start!

...

The Stigma Of Epilepsy
  ·  2021-03-08

Unless you know someone with this neurological disorder, most people are unfamiliar with epilepsy other than just being a condition that some people have.  Since it is not talked about much in common social circles, this creates a stigma that it is “not a big deal”, or that it is something “weird” that “other people” have.  However, epilepsy is common and impacts over 50 million people worldwide.

Why does stigma exist with epilepsy?

            The reason for the stigma itself is familiar to anyone who lives with any kind of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so-on.  The main causes include:

  • Superstition over centuries: For a long period of time, history explained that epilepsy was a sign of the devil, bad genes, and so-on.  Over this time, theis negative impression of it (similar to, for instance, how Down’s Syndrome is perceived) has led to society believing that something is “wrong” with someone who has epilepsy.
  • Ignorance and disbelief: Since epilepsy is not part of the curriculum in school systems, there is a lot of ignorance to the topic.  This can even go so far as to lead people to feel as though those impacted by epilepsy can choose or control seizures.
  • Hidden disability: Because it is not a physical impairment, it is “invisible”, and a person’s needs are not always understood or even tolerated.

What does the stigma create?

            Stigma, especially over centuries, creates many issues.  The biggest one is that there is a strong viscous cycle between epilepsy and mental health.  Since many people do not understand epilepsy, those impacted with it are prone to being isolated and this can lead to issues such as depression.  This can lead to more epilepsy episodes, and the cycle repeats.

  • Predisposition to mental health conditions: Throughout studies, there is a strong correlation between epilepsy and predisposition to mental health conditions that can be lifelong struggles.  The most common one is depression, which can often be linked to suicide attempts.
  • Actual vs perceived stigma: Another byproduct of this stigma is that the stigma itself can take two forms, actual and perceived.  Actual stigma is when people around them look down on the epileptic person, and even engage with activities such as bullying and exclusion.  Perceived stigma is when the epelpetic person understands that people around then, as well as society in general, stigmatizes them.  This is the case even in situations where there is no evidence of stigma.
  • Dishonesty with employers, healthcare professionals, etc: In order to avoid stigma, many epileptics will be dishonest with job applications and even with healthcare professionals about epilepsy.  This leads to a compromised quality of care and a poor quality of life when it comes to keeping the diagnosis quiet in the workforce.

            Simply put, there is shockingly little information out there about epilepsy and even less about its connection to mental health.  The two are commonly linked together and, with this impacting so many people worldwide, especially those in lower socioeconomic classes, the time is now to change that for the better.  With more documentation comes an opportunity for growth, education, and change. 

...

Self Harm Awareness
  ·  2021-03-12

The world gets overwhelming for all of us from time to time.  This leads to darkness and struggle.  Most of us can recover from those and continue on.  However, there are others who are not able to pull themselves up and struggle with serious bouts of depression.  This can often lead to self-harm.  While often dismissed as a signal for attention or “drama” self-harm is actually an important indicator to mental health status and should be taken seriously each time.

The world gets overwhelming for all of us from time to time.  This leads to darkness and struggle.  Most of us can recover from those and continue on.  However, there are others who are not able to pull themselves up and struggle with serious bouts of depression.  This can often lead to self-harm.  While often dismissed as a signal for attention or “drama” self-harm is actually an important indicator to mental health status and should be taken seriously each time.

What is self-harm and why is it important`post_id` = '80', `post_title` = 'Self Harm Awareness', `post_content` = '

The world gets overwhelming for all of us from time to time.  This leads to darkness and struggle.  Most of us can recover from those and continue on.  However, there are others who are not able to pull themselves up and struggle with serious bouts of depression.  This can often lead to self-harm.  While often dismissed as a signal for attention or “drama” self-harm is actually an important indicator to mental health status and should be taken seriously each time.

The world gets overwhelming for all of us from time to time.  This leads to darkness and struggle.  Most of us can recover from those and continue on.  However, there are others who are not able to pull themselves up and struggle with serious bouts of depression.  This can often lead to self-harm.  While often dismissed as a signal for attention or “drama” self-harm is actually an important indicator to mental health status and should be taken seriously each time.

What is self-harm and why is it important?

Ideally, no one would ever get to the point where they engaged with self-harm, but this is not the world that we live in.  Self-harm can take on a few forms.  For many, it involves using a knife, scissors, etc to cut the wrist, arm, leg, ankle, stomach, or anywhere else where they want to.  Others use methods such as matches, lit cigarettes, poison, or even a gun.  The intent is, as the name suggests, harm yourself.

There is a lot of negative stigma around self-harm and how many people use it to “get attention” because they are “so depressed” and “want someone to take care of them”.  From media to society, this is seen as nothing more than theatrics by those who have to be the centre of attention.

However, clinically speaking, there is a strong link between self-harm and suicide attempts and completions.  Self-harm is seen as a warning sign that further support is needed immediately, since harming yourself implies that you no longer care what happens to you.   For this reason, self-harm awareness and compassion are both critical to preventing either of those.

Timing is key

As documented by studies, approximately 264 out of 1, 000 participants repeated self-harm within the same year where the self-harm was documented and diagnosed.  Out of 1, 000 000 participants, approximately 439 of them completed suicide, again, within the same year of having the self-harm on record. Those numbers are both even higher if the self-harm incident on record is considered “violent” (using a gun, for instance).

In order to prevent a second self-harm incident, suicide attempt, or suicide completion, a program designed for self-harm victims is important.  This can be out-patient or in-patient, but personalized care and assessment is directly linked to a lower percentage of making another attempt. 

Stigma plays a role

As with many things to do with mental health, having support from those around them plays a huge role in how likely they are to repeat within the year (or even in the years to follow).  When medical professionals take the incident seriously and help steer the patient to assessments and support, this is especially helpful.  As important, however, is having family, friends and the community around the patient understand the incident for what it is, and being compassionate and supportive for the patient as they take steps toward recovery.

While often shaken off as a theatrical attempt, self-harm awareness is extremely important when looking to intervene before another attempt, or a suicide attempt is on the horizon for those that are struggling.

Ideally, no one would ever get to the point where they engaged with self-harm, but this is not the world that we live in.  Self-harm can take on a few forms.  For many, it involves using a knife, scissors, etc to cut the wrist, arm, leg, ankle, stomach, or anywhere else where they want to.  Others use methods such as matches, lit cigarettes, poison, or even a gun.  The intent is, as the name suggests, harm yourself.

There is a lot of negative stigma around self-harm and how many people use it to “get attention” because they are “so depressed” and “want someone to take care of them”.  From media to society, this is seen as nothing more than theatrics by those who have to be the centre of attention.

However, clinically speaking, there is a strong link between self-harm and suicide attempts and completions.  Self-harm is seen as a warning sign that further support is needed immediately, since harming yourself implies that you no longer care what happens to you.   For this reason, self-harm awareness and compassion are both critical to preventing either of those.

Timing is key

As documented by studies, approximately 264 out of 1, 000 participants repeated self-harm within the same year where the self-harm was documented and diagnosed.  Out of 1, 000 000 participants, approximately 439 of them completed suicide, again, within the same year of having the self-harm on record. Those numbers are both even higher if the self-harm incident on record is considered “violent” (using a gun, for instance).

In order to prevent a second self-harm incident, suicide attempt, or suicide completion, a program designed for self-harm victims is important.  This can be out-patient or in-patient, but personalized care and assessment is directly linked to a lower percentage of making another attempt. 

Stigma plays a role

 As with many things to do with mental health, having support from those around them plays a huge role in how likely they are to repeat within the year (or even in the years to follow).  When medical professionals take the incident seriously and help steer the patient to assessments and support, this is especially helpful.  As important, however, is having family, friends and the community around the patient understand the incident for what it is, and being compassionate and supportive for the patient as they take steps toward recovery.

 While often shaken off as a theatrical attempt, self-harm awareness is extremely important when looking to intervene before another attempt, or a suicide attempt is on the horizon for those that are struggling.

', `post_category` = 'Self-Harm'

Ideally, no one would ever get to the point where they engaged with self-harm, but this is not the world that we live in.  Self-harm can take on a few forms.  For many, it involves using a knife, scissors, etc to cut the wrist, arm, leg, ankle, stomach, or anywhere else where they want to.  Others use methods such as matches, lit cigarettes, poison, or even a gun.  The intent is, as the name suggests, harm yourself.

There is a lot of negative stigma around self-harm and how many people use it to “get attention” because they are “so depressed” and “want someone to take care of them”.  From media to society, this is seen as nothing more than theatrics by those who have to be the centre of attention.

However, clinically speaking, there is a strong link between self-harm and suicide attempts and completions.  Self-harm is seen as a warning sign that further support is needed immediately, since harming yourself implies that you no longer care what happens to you.   For this reason, self-harm awareness and compassion are both critical to preventing either of those.

Timing is key

As documented by studies, approximately 264 out of 1, 000 participants repeated self-harm within the same year where the self-harm was documented and diagnosed.  Out of 1, 000 000 participants, approximately 439 of them completed suicide, again, within the same year of having the self-harm on record. Those numbers are both even higher if the self-harm incident on record is considered “violent” (using a gun, for instance).

In order to prevent a second self-harm incident, suicide attempt, or suicide completion, a program designed for self-harm victims is important.  This can be out-patient or in-patient, but personalized care and assessment is directly linked to a lower percentage of making another attempt. 

Stigma plays a role

As with many things to do with mental health, having support from those around them plays a huge role in how likely they are to repeat within the year (or even in the years to follow).  When medical professionals take the incident seriously and help steer the patient to assessments and support, this is especially helpful.  As important, however, is having family, friends and the community around the patient understand the incident for what it is, and being compassionate and supportive for the patient as they take steps toward recovery.

While often shaken off as a theatrical attempt, self-harm awareness is extremely important when looking to intervene before another attempt, or a suicide attempt is on the horizon for those that are struggling.

Ideally, no one would ever get to the point where they engaged with self-harm, but this is not the world that we live in.  Self-harm can take on a few forms.  For many, it involves using a knife, scissors, etc to cut the wrist, arm, leg, ankle, stomach, or anywhere else where they want to.  Others use methods such as matches, lit cigarettes, poison, or even a gun.  The intent is, as the name suggests, harm yourself.

There is a lot of negative stigma around self-harm and how many people use it to “get attention” because they are “so depressed” and “want someone to take care of them”.  From media to society, this is seen as nothing more than theatrics by those who have to be the centre of attention.

However, clinically speaking, there is a strong link between self-harm and suicide attempts and completions.  Self-harm is seen as a warning sign that further support is needed immediately, since harming yourself implies that you no longer care what happens to you.   For this reason, self-harm awareness and compassion are both critical to preventing either of those.

Timing is key

As documented by studies, approximately 264 out of 1, 000 participants repeated self-harm within the same year where the self-harm was documented and diagnosed.  Out of 1, 000 000 participants, approximately 439 of them completed suicide, again, within the same year of having the self-harm on record. Those numbers are both even higher if the self-harm incident on record is considered “violent” (using a gun, for instance).

In order to prevent a second self-harm incident, suicide attempt, or suicide completion, a program designed for self-harm victims is important.  This can be out-patient or in-patient, but personalized care and assessment is directly linked to a lower percentage of making another attempt. 

Stigma plays a role

 As with many things to do with mental health, having support from those around them plays a huge role in how likely they are to repeat within the year (or even in the years to follow).  When medical professionals take the incident seriously and help steer the patient to assessments and support, this is especially helpful.  As important, however, is having family, friends and the community around the patient understand the incident for what it is, and being compassionate and supportive for the patient as they take steps toward recovery.

 While often shaken off as a theatrical attempt, self-harm awareness is extremely important when looking to intervene before another attempt, or a suicide attempt is on the horizon for those that are struggling.

...

Racism And Discrimination - The Connection To Mental Illness
  ·  2021-03-19

Everyone is familiar with racism on one level or another.  With more and more calls for change with minority communities, there are many who are looking to understand racism from a place of compassion and general interest in changing how things work.  Worldwide, there is a strong link between racism and mental illness.  Addressing it, and changing how things work, is a starting point to getting to the point where there is, ideally, zero discrimination.

What does the connection between racism and mental health look like?

            According to the studies done specifically with a focus on discrimination and mental illness, the connection between the two has a few forms it can take.  Including:

  • Racism and discrimination can cause PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, often thought to be connected to military and veteran life, can also be applied to minority groups and people who experience racist attacks.  Whether it involves overt attacks or “acts of omission”, still counting as discrimination, this finding still stands. 
  • There are physiological symptoms of discrimination: Discrimination and racism also physiological impacts in combination with mental ones.  For example, those who are victims of discrimination can experience increased hypertension and health issues such as illnesses and even susceptibility to cancer. 
  • Statistics show the connection between racism/discrimination and mental illness:  A statistically significant connection is also matched with frequent diagnoses of depression and chronic anxiety in those who were victims of racism or discrimination, both overtly or in omission.  In workplaces where they were discriminated against, psychosis was also a common aftereffect.

Society’s interpretation of racism also factors in

            Aside from the actual connection with statistics and facts, there is also the fact that psychiatry and psychology often have a bias as well.  Even with the best intentions, there are many who discriminate against those of minority communities automatically. 

Since psychology and its medicine was developed from the so-called “white” point of view, a lot of minority issues are not programmed into it.  A lot of standard programs are considered racist because they do not factor in issues such as racial disrimination and culture and society as factors impacting mental health.  They focus on the “tried and true” textbook readings that, at the time of their development, focused only on “white thinking” and their problems -- race and discrimination were not included since they were not issues found in historical societies.

Not only does this psychological and psychiatric ignorance further victimize those suffering from mental illnesses short-term and long-term, but it also can create a further divide, as the system makes this institutional racism “your problem” (ie: the patient, rather than the institution).  Many minority group victims who seek help professionally often do not find it helpful, or it actually weakens their mental health instead, as it is not encompassing all of their needs.

            Studies show that, within the building blocks of psychiatry and even understanding what causes and irritates mental illnesses, there is a bias toward “white” thinking, with no built-in angle for those in minority groups.  As this information comes more to light, there is hope that it may spark a deep-seated change leading to zero discrimination in society, including that surrounding mental health.

...

Tobacco-Free Children and Teens
  ·  2021-03-26

Despite the fact that it is no longer a societal norm, there are still many people out there who regularly smoke tobacco.  From one cigarette a day to more than one pack a day, smoking is common in adults, but also in teenagers and even younger.  Most can agree that tobacco is not a good habit for children or teens to get into for many physiological health-related reasons.  However, there’s also more and more content out there that says staying tobacco-free is also important for mental health.

The connection between mental health and tobacco use

            Statistically speaking, over 44% of all of cigarette use is connected to those who have declared themselves as having a mental illness.  Per year, that means that almost half of all of the cigarettes smoked by those who are living with or dealing with mental illness.  There are two ways to look at this from the data:

  • Tobacco as the cause: There is some data that suggests that tobacco use can actually be thought to be a cause for mental illness, at least in part.  The best example of this is seen in anxiety.  When smoking tobacco, it is thought that the body’s anxiety sensitivity heightens, putting them more at risk for panic attacks, paranoia, etc.  The younger someone is, the more likely this is to happen.  More on this later.
  • Tobacco as the “cure”: Those with depression, anxiety, etc. also find smoking tobacco to be a “cure”.  Since tobacco is addictive by nature, those who deal with mental illnesses often find themselves suffering from the “need” for tobacco in order to help boost them from a depressive spell or calm down from a panic attack, etc.  This connects, in their mind, peace and serenity with tobacco and it causes them to lean more heavily on it.  The formal name for this is “tobacco dependence”.

Tobacco holds many risks

            There are many risks to tobacco use, both physiological ones and mental health ones.  Many of these risks are long-term as well.

  • Physiological health risks: Regular use of tobacco leads to a long list of health conditions, including various cancers, lung problems, obesity, and more.  While tobacco use may be helpful for those who need support in mental illness, these risks are still prominent.  The more they smoke, the higher the risks get.
  • Mental health risks: There is strong evidence indicating that smoking tobacco can impact mental health, as previously mentioned above.  As well, the risk of developing more serious mental health issues (chronic depression or chronic anxiety, for instance) is also heightened when smoking tobacco.  Some will even trigger a genetic predisposition to mental health issues.

The danger of tobacco dependence and young adults

            All of this is severe enough, but when connected with young adults and the rise in their tobacco use, these risks and long-term impacts are all magnified.  Smoking tobacco at a young age increases their chances of developing a mental illness, and having a mental illness increases their likelihood of smoking tobacco.

            This vicious cycle is heightened in children because they have more of their lives ahead of them with a longer chance of long-term addiction and mental illness.  As well, young, still developing minds are more susceptible to long-term physical and mental issues when they reach adulthood.  For all of the reasons listed above, keeping children and teens tobacco-free is

...

Nutrition and Mental Health
  ·  2021-04-02

Mental health is front of mind these days, but just because we tend to focus on it, does not mean that we always know how best to attack it.  More and more research has been focused on the correlation between mental health and eating a controlled, nutritious diet.  This leaves many feeling as though nutrition is going to be the key to really taking a comprehensive approach to mental health.

Is there a connection between nutritional and mental health?

            In a word, yes.  Research shows that mental health crises and long-term struggles for dealing with common mental health issues, can be connected to diet.  Here is what the research suggests so far:

  • Highly processed diets are thought to be negative influences: In this case, the focus is on processed canned food, takeout, and generally unhealthy, and unnatural food sources.  When those who are susceptible to potential psychiatric symptoms have these kinds of diets, their symptoms are more likely to pop up sooner and stronger.  An unhealthy diet is thought to be a trigger.
  • Natural and unprocessed diets can be preventative: On the other hand, eating a natural-based diet such as one loaded with minerals, nutrients, omega-3s, and actually naturally soured versions (aka a Mediterranean diet), is thought to actually work preventatively.  Even those who are considered to be susceptible to common disorders, such as depression and anxiety, a balanced and healthy diet can help prevent those symptoms from appearing and even put off any kind of onset until later years.
  • Diet can be a helping support for long-term health: Then there is the fact that a proper diet is also going to correspond to better long-term health physically and emotionally.  This means that even those who are dealing with more “severe” issues, such as moderate or severe depression, can find relief in a carefully controlled, natural-based diet.

Diet factors in more than just food type

            The other main detail that is coming out of the research specific to nutrition's role in mental health support and treatment, is that the diet itself should be acknowledged as far as more than just the food focus itself.

            For instance, a diet should be also controlled in the amount or portion, the number of meals per day, the timing and separation of those meals, and the variation between each meal (for nutritional purposes as well as taste and enjoyment).  When someone eats a proper, satisfying diet, those results also help boost mental health.

            As well, switching from a natural to a processed diet can negatively impact our mental health, even if you were previously symptom-free.  A sudden shift to an irregular, processed and unhealthy diet can bring symptoms forward quickly.  Additionally, it can often combine as a comorbidity with obesity and other physical problems in the body, adding more “fuel to the fire” for mental and physical health long-term. 

            Without question, there is a connection between mental health symptoms and quality of life, and a proper, natural, healthy diet.  As more research is done, it is thought that diet-based intervention can help offer up both prevention and treatment of many of the all-too-common mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression.

...

Bipolar Disorder - What Science Has To Say
  ·  2021-04-09

Despite bipolar disorder being increasingly popular in many young adults and full adults, there is not a whole lot of advanced study in understanding where it comes from, how it impacts patients, and what can be done about it.  For this reason, it is important to take it apart and take note of just what we do understand.  This leads experts to understand what must still be learned from further study.

What bipolar disorder signifies

            Detailed study on the science of bipolar disorder in patients shows that research and a full comprehension of this mental disorder is far from guaranteed.  The most recent study shows that bipolar disorder is thought to be part of a complex, multi-faceted biological issue.  Instead of simple hormones, it involves various parts of the body’s system.

            This includes the noradrenergic system, the serotonergic system, the dopaminergic system, and the cholinergic system.  These are all impacted by, and impact themselves, bipolar disorder. 

What experts know

            Bipolar disorder can fluctuate throughout a patient's life.  Mood swings between manic and depressive episodes do tend to change in their severity, timing and even the physical reactions in the patient.  Recent studies have clarified several details, including:

  • Neurotrophic and neuroprotective factors play a role: When it comes to understanding the role of these factors, there is thought to be a connection between gene depression and mood stabilizers.  Since bipolar disorder is understood to be connected to gene sequences and interruptions of those sequences, this is an intriguing detail.  Experts hope to understand how manipulating those factors can help when matching mood stabilizers for long-term treatment.
  • There is a neurobiological connection: More study is needed in the neuroanatomical study area, as many of the research results showed abnormalities specifically in the signal transduction.  It is considered to be a nutritional dysfunction specific to the brain, and understanding how to compensate for that with medication can help ease symptoms and mood swings in patients.
  • The circadian rhythm is interrupted: Responsible for proper rest and repair, patients with bipolar disorder can have an interrupted rhythm, particular when in the middle of a depressive episode.  This is a connection also found in those with major depressive disorder.  When these genes are not functioning properly, there is an established connection between the two conditions.
  • The brain looks different: Similarly, there are documented abnormalities when it comes to both blood flow and metabolic rates.  This is backed up further by a reduction in the overall CNS volume and cell number.

What does this all mean?

            While there is still a long way to go in understanding long-term mood stabilizers and the potential benefits for those living with bipolar disorder, the research is starting to show scientists and experts that there is an option to truly understand bipolar disorder from a biological perspective as well as symptom-based approach.  It means that in the future, research will give experts the position of easier, better, and more targeted treatment for all those struggling with current shortcomings.

            Without question, there is still a long way to go in understanding bipolar disorder and how it impacts the brain and biological processes, but research is starting to give a guide and a focus to help make treatment possible as well as better, overall, for all those who are currently living with it.

...

Stress: What Is the “Best” Way to Deal With It?
  ·  2021-04-16

No matter what the niche or what definition may mean, everyone defines “best” to mean something different from those around them.  While it can often open up debates and arguments to its use, reality is that individuality of “best” is precisely why this is the best word to use when looking at dealing with something as common as stress.  Proper management and long-term success is based on each person’s needs.

Where does mindfulness come in?

At its most basic, mindfulness is the art of being aware of oneself wherever they are.  It is acknowledging how you feel in a present situation and simply coming to terms with it.  Used widely across mental health, therapeutic mindfulness is thought to help each person get in tune with themselves internally to help them understand their journey to mental and emotional freedom.

While it is a form of personal self-gratification, mindfulness is intended to feel different for each person, since each person’s mind works differently and has different needs.  By using this unique approach, each person is creating personalized care and helps, generally, with human suffering as a whole.

Mindfulness applied to stress

Truthfully there is a very fine line between its role in medical culture and the more spiritual realm of mindfulness.  Historically, it was thought to be dangerous to Western societies because it focused on the Buddhist teachings rather than the traditional Christian ones.  However, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) is presently seen as very effective at providing the “best” methods:

  • Mindfulness alerts you to yourself: Turning your attention inward helps you become aware of yourself as an individual in your environment.  Since we tend to always focus on the environment around us rather than our role in it,this is a strong first step.
  • You become aware of racing thoughts, a pounding heart, etc.: With attention to ourselves, we become aware of stress reactions, such as looping and racing thoughts, shaking, a racing heart, etc.  Many times, we know that we feel “stressed”, but very rarely do we know what it actually feels like.
  • Understanding your reactions helps you acknowledge and calm them: Acknowledging these reactions helps each person understand where they come from and then starts to calm them using taught techniques such as deep breathing and the actual actions of mindfulness itself.
  • Calmness brings happiness and “freedom”: This physical calm brings equal emotional calm, which is often felt as “freedom” from stress responses.  This is especially so in those with chronic stress or an especially high stress response. 

Mindfulness as a therapy

Coming a long way from being seen as a danger to Western philosophy, therapeutic mindfulness is commonly received as being the “best” way to help reduce stress simply because it focuses on each individual’s needs and helps blend together the support of the medical world with a journey of self-awareness and stress that is unique to each person.

While a stress response is a human instinct, learning to deal with it properly for each person could be as simple and learning about therapeutic mindfulness.

...

Alcoholism: Therapy and the role of the self
  ·  2021-04-23

Alcohol and problem drinkers are common in our day and age, though there are still not many treatments available outside of counselling-based programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  As more research comes out, though, there is hope on the horizon for problem drinkers and therapies for dealing effectively with their want for change.

What are problem drinkers`post_id` = '86', `post_title` = 'Alcoholism: Therapy and the role of the self', `post_content` = '

Alcohol and problem drinkers are common in our day and age, though there are still not many treatments available outside of counselling-based programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  As more research comes out, though, there is hope on the horizon for problem drinkers and therapies for dealing effectively with their want for change.

What are problem drinkers?

            The drinkers studied in these cases were those who self-reported or were court-reported as having a noted and documented problem with alcohol.  Both the reactions on alcohol as well as the amount of alcohol consumed were contributing factors for the formal definition used.

Therapy options for alcohol abuse:

            The main kinds of therapy used to help both understand and treat alcoholics for the best chances at learning how to drink responsibly, including the three following approaches:

  • Behavior Tracking: This was a counselling-focused approach that helped each drinker self-monitor their drinking habits, learn about the importance of control analytically, and also how to recognize triggers for excessive drinking.  This approach often included a manual.
  • Aversive counterconditioning: This was pairing the enjoyment of drinking with shock therapy in order to train the brain to have a negative response to it so that the patient would no longer want to drink in the future.
  • Controlled Drinking Composite: This approach was similar to behavior tracking therapy, but it focused specifically on educating on the dangers of alcohol and learning how it felt for each person to be at those varying dangerous levels of drinking.  This was paired with shock therapy at higher amounts to help the body learn when to stop drinking.

What were the results?

            The results were intriguing when connected with real patient data.  Behavior therapy was thought to be effective but very expensive as it required intense therapy and counselling sessions at regular intervals. 

Aversive counter condition was thought to be effective to a degree, but it took a long time to start working and it often was questionable when it came to the concept of long-term success rates. 

Lastly, controlled drinking composite therapy was the most intense of the two methods because it blended both methods together.  Ideally, blending the two top pros and omitting the cons.

Just like any other kind of therapy and treatment, each kind of counselling is best matched to a problem drinker and their own preferences as well as willingness to change their habits.  Self-awareness also played a role.

What is the role of self-awareness?

            Scientifically speaking, alcohol reduces self-awareness because it interferes with the process of encoding information specifically to the self.  Essentially, you no longer care about consequences as they relate to you, leading to fights, embarrassing situations, etc.  Understanding about this change in biological processes can help problem drinkers really learn and appreciate that this change is biological after a certain degree of alcohol.  It is thought that it can help problem drinkers understand the importance of a limit.

            While there is still much to be learned about alcohol use with problem drinkers, there is hope on the horizon for proper support and treatment by relying on these 3 approaches and self-awareness.

', `post_preview_image` = '042321 - Alcoholism - Therapy Approaches and the Role of the Self.jpg', `post_category` = ' Substance Abuse'

            The drinkers studied in these cases were those who self-reported or were court-reported as having a noted and documented problem with alcohol.  Both the reactions on alcohol as well as the amount of alcohol consumed were contributing factors for the formal definition used.

Therapy options for alcohol abuse:

            The main kinds of therapy used to help both understand and treat alcoholics for the best chances at learning how to drink responsibly, including the three following approaches:

  • Behavior Tracking: This was a counselling-focused approach that helped each drinker self-monitor their drinking habits, learn about the importance of control analytically, and also how to recognize triggers for excessive drinking.  This approach often included a manual.
  • Aversive counterconditioning: This was pairing the enjoyment of drinking with shock therapy in order to train the brain to have a negative response to it so that the patient would no longer want to drink in the future.
  • Controlled Drinking Composite: This approach was similar to behavior tracking therapy, but it focused specifically on educating on the dangers of alcohol and learning how it felt for each person to be at those varying dangerous levels of drinking.  This was paired with shock therapy at higher amounts to help the body learn when to stop drinking.

What were the results?

            The results were intriguing when connected with real patient data.  Behavior therapy was thought to be effective but very expensive as it required intense therapy and counselling sessions at regular intervals. 

Aversive counter condition was thought to be effective to a degree, but it took a long time to start working and it often was questionable when it came to the concept of long-term success rates. 

Lastly, controlled drinking composite therapy was the most intense of the two methods because it blended both methods together.  Ideally, blending the two top pros and omitting the cons.

Just like any other kind of therapy and treatment, each kind of counselling is best matched to a problem drinker and their own preferences as well as willingness to change their habits.  Self-awareness also played a role.

What is the role of self-awareness?

            Scientifically speaking, alcohol reduces self-awareness because it interferes with the process of encoding information specifically to the self.  Essentially, you no longer care about consequences as they relate to you, leading to fights, embarrassing situations, etc.  Understanding about this change in biological processes can help problem drinkers really learn and appreciate that this change is biological after a certain degree of alcohol.  It is thought that it can help problem drinkers understand the importance of a limit.

            While there is still much to be learned about alcohol use with problem drinkers, there is hope on the horizon for proper support and treatment by relying on these 3 approaches and self-awareness.

...

The Reality Of Sexual Assault
  ·  2021-04-25

From college campuses to workplaces, to general communities, sexual assault is a common theme that is everywhere around the globe.  It is a common theme in TV shows, books, and even music these days.  There is no denying that it happens a lot and in many forms, but why are there not more people talking about it or seeking help?  It comes down to the reality that secual assault is minimized.

What does minimized mean relating to sexual assault?

This is a term that means an assault or an attack of a sexual nature is believed/perceived to be less “traumatic” (and therefore, relevant and important) than the reality of it.  Regardless of the situation, sexual assault should always been seen as important and relevant and traumatic, because it is.

You hear the term “victim blaming” used a lot in the media, which is a form of minimizing it and making it seem as though the victim themselves is responsible for the assault occurring.  However, many survivors and victims themselves will minimize it even if those around them do not.

What does minimizing sexual assault look like?

This takes the form of the survivor refusing to seek help and support after an event occurs.  It could imply reporting the assault, but it is used most often with seeking formal help in terms of therapy, support groups, etc.

Survivors often feel as though their attack was not “serious enough” to deserve support and help.  Again, this is self-imposed rather than coming from outside forces in many cases.  Since survivors do not feel as though their attack requires support, they suffer through its effects alone rather than reaching out.

What themes are present in minimizing?

In studies that focus on minimizing, three conclusions present themselves in survivors who were interviewed and assessed.  These are:

  • Minimizing has no societal factors: Survivors can be in any social or cultural circle and still struggle equally with minimizing their assault.  Some are worse than others, but the data shows minimizing knows no discrimination.
  • Minimizing is less likely where an assault was complete: The only time where minimizing was not quite as popular is when the assault was considered “complete”, otherwise understood as it was not interrupted.
  • Minimizing does not guarantee any long-term consequences or effects: Even when survivors minimize, this does not guarantee that they will or will not struggle with mental health or other effects as a direct result of minimizing it.

What does this mean?

While society has progressed in some situations where survivors are genuinely encouraged to come forward and then supported when reporting seeking help for secual assaults, these studies show that there is a need for change when it comes to the concept of minimizing and helping each survivor understand that sexual assault is always relevent and important and serious.  While seeking help is always challenging, it becomes easier when minimization is not a factor.

As society continues to move forward with awareness about secua assault nad victim blaming, minimizing sexual assault should also be added to the list to make sure each survivor genuinely understands that formal help and support is available and they have as much or a right to it as anyone else.

...

Living as a Minority
  ·  2021-05-01

Living as a White person or as a minority, including as a African American, holds unique advantages and challenges, respectively.  While this is something that many easily agree to, understanding how prominent and intrusive those realities are, is another matter.  Many in the White category, for instance, downplay the challenges and injustices that exist in minority communities.

Life as a minority group is laded with challenge and struggle that White people do not often even consider.  There is true danger waiting in the life of those within minority groups, and it can be seen in both testing gaps, as well as through sexual assault and mental health.

What is the testing gap?

This is an empirical gap that shows up in research, stating that one group has an advantage of the other.  It is not difficult to guess who would be the group with the advantage, which is the point.

When studied, African American individuals, as well as other minorities, experience significant gaps and losses both in terms of education and career potential.  It is not due to being unintelligent or inexperienced, etc.  It happens because minority group individuals do not have the same testing parameters and/r access to the same education and career options that White people do. 

When given the same test, minority groups would “score” lower than White groups simply because they do not have access to the same education or career opportunities.   This is a direct result of living in poorer socio-economic situations that are physically incapable of giving them the same advantages.        

How are minority groups impacted with sexual assaults?

There is also a link between minority groups and suicide rates when focusing on survivors of sexual assault.  African American women are more likely to both consider, and attempt suicide after experiencing a sexual assault. Minority women are also more likely to be victims of a sexual assault.

A direct cause for both is because many minority women live in low-income situations and neighborhoods that are frequent “hot spots” for sexual assaults, amongst other things such as theft.

Being a resident of these neighborhoods also leads many women to believe that it is their fault for being a victim and they do not seek treatment.  This puts them at a high risk of developing depression and this often leads to suicidal ideation. 

What is the “fix”?

Both in the testing gap and the sexual assault percentages, minority groups require true equality and opportunity.  For education and career gaps, this means that minority groups need access to proper education and testing fairness.  For sexual assault, the same access to, and understanding and appreciation of, mental health and formal treatments is crucial for reducing suicide attempt rates.

Life in a minority group is riddled with challenges and injustices that make life challenging from start to end.  Proper understanding of these differences is the starting point for increased awareness of equality and improvement for minority groups.  In understanding how these gaps and risks are high in these two sectors, this leads to the potential for a significant change and improvement in the quality of life for minorities.

...

Counseling And Its Roots
  ·  2021-05-05

There is much to be said about the relationship between a counselor and a patient.  While it has long been acknowledged and understood that the proper working relationship, complete with trust, is important for effectiveness in the counseling outcome itself, there has not been much study in what all of those factors really are.  To help better professional relationships and the role, and importance of counseling, studies are underway to change that for the better. 

What factors play into the effectiveness of counseling?

Generally, women preferred having a counselor with a more thought and emotional focus.  Men preferred an action-based approach.  However, research suggests that the overall effectiveness of counseling, ignoring gender, is impacted by a few factors.  The main ones include:

  • How similar or dissimilar the counselor and the patient are: Some patients seeking help found that meeting with a counselor that was similar to them was helpful because they were able to connect with them.  This led to a better and easier outcome.  Contrastingly, other patients found that working with a counselor who was different than them helped them get a better outcome, due to a different approach and perspective.

The right match (or mismatch) is important in ensuring that every patient is able to both connect with, and find success with, the counselor and their chosen approaches for treatment.
 

  • The alignment between counselor morals and treatment: We are intended to follow certain treatment plans.  If their morals align with those treatment models, we are able to provide better and more authentic treatment for our patients than in a situation where our morals do not align.

    This is also the case for patients and whether or not their morals line up with the approaches that we are using.  If not, it is more difficult for patient to complete treatment and/or find it effective.

What makes counseling effective?

In understanding the need for similarities and morals, there is also the factor of effectiveness when it comes to the counseling in its use.  There are two main factors that can impact effectiveness in counseling when the above conditions are met:

  • Shared etiological beliefs: Counselors and patients, for effectiveness, must share etiological beliefs.  In both recognition, treatment, and implementation of that treatment plan, counselors and patients will have a more productive and effective relationship if these are shared.
  • The schedule of counseling: The other factor for best treatment is to ensure that it is a longer schedule.  Rather than having few sessions over a short amount of time, regularly scheduled sessions long-term gave both patient and counselor time to adjust to each other and learn how to communicate and work with each other.  Those who partook in long-term counseling over the span of years, found it more effective in changing their life for the better.

Counseling can play either a helping hand or a hurting hand in a patient’s life, and its effectiveness relates as much to the patient themselves as it does to the counselor and the course of treatment.

...

Autism Awareness and Acceptance
  ·  2021-05-08

While the world is supposedly much more forward thinking and “inclusive”, there is still a large divide within the society, particularly when focusing on the contrast between those who deal with autistic, or neurodivergent, individuals, and those who do not.  Awareness and acceptance of autistic people are not as “normal” as one might think, leading to studies specifically into the understanding of autism on a larger scale.

Perspective is everything

Within the study, two groups were interviewed and assessed.  One group were those who had connections to autism, be it through their own diagnosis or through that of a friend or loved one.  The second group had no stated connection to the world of autism.  This perspective revealed that interaction and awareness go hand-in-hand.

The results showed that the former group, who had a stated connection to the world of autism, saw autism as a character trait and a positive diagnosis with no need for a cure.  The latter group, with no stated connection, saw a large divide between themselves and neurodivergent awareness.  This is in line with the medical model, which aims to research and cure autism.

What this tells us

The results from this study have clarified several key points when it comes to wide-spread populations and their perspective on autism and neurodiversity.  These conclusions show a strong divide between one community and another:

  • Interaction with neurodivergent communities creates compassion: When people have some sort of interaction or integration in the autistic community, it creates compassion both for autistic communities as well as the larger community of neurodivergent populations.  These are the groups that see neurodivergence as a unique character trait and positive detail, rather than a flaw and/or something to cure.
  • Neurodiversity awareness is not widespread: Proper understanding of, and collaboration with, neurodivergent communities is not widespread and it leads to a disconnect both in the social implications between communities as well as medical communities.  It also leads to oppression and exclusion since many fear what they do not understand, or anything that “looks” different from what they are used to.
  • The approach of “deficiency-as-difference” is the standard way of thinking: Both socially as well as medically, autism is seen as something that separates one person from another; a negative detail that means someone has limitations or restrictions.  In social situations, this is seen as an exclusion, and in medical situations, this is seen as needing to find a “cure” to autism.

To create a better relationship between autistic people and the general population, empathy and open communication is needed.  Since the approaches to autism tend to overlap in both communities, better integration and acceptance is needed to make the most out of both sides.  From this, autism awareness and acceptance can be a true reality.

Until this is the case, however, there will continue to be oppression and exclusion between one community and another.  This leads to a strong disconnect between the former group with a connection to autism, and the latter group that have no interaction.

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Mother's Day: A Reminder For Mindfulness
  ·  2021-05-09

Celebrating Mother’s Day is seen as a positive event for many.  Whether in classic family situations, or a different form of family, this is an important holiday when looking at celebrating the woman responsible for taking charge of each family.  However, it is also an opportunity to help put mindfulness into celebrations, however they take place.

Maternal figures are not always “blood”

Firstly, mother’s day puts a lot of pressure and assumption on the actual form of mothers.  For some, as mentioned, it is the actual mother figure of a family network  But just as many have maternal figures that are not their actual mother.  Some find stepmothers, grandmothers, or aunts to be more maternal.  Or, perhaps no blood relation at all such as with a neighbor, a friend’s mother, etc.

When this holiday rolls around, many may struggle with whether or not they should celebrate their actual mother, if applicable, as opposed to with whom they actually associate the sentiment of the holiday.  In the spirit of the holiday itself, the answer for many would be the latter option, celebrating the figure who they see as their mother in the true sense of the world.

This can sometimes bring undue stress and pressure, though, in situations where both the formal figure of the mother feels as though she deserves celebration.

Both focuses are as personal to the “child” as they are to the situation, and everyone’s choice is as valid as someone else’s choice.

Holiday celebrations can be stressful on both sides

There can also be stress and anxiety related to Mother’s Day on both sides of the equation, specifically relating to the gift giving portion.  For example:

  • Mothers may not always feel they “deserve” celebration: Mothers who are struggling with raising their children, or who have lost their children due to death may not feel as though they deserve to have a celebration.  This can cause a lot of stress and anguish day-of.
  • Children may feel torn about what to get their mother: There can be stress about what gift is “good enough” to get their mother, and also whether they should get something heartfelt, or just as something special.

Mindfulness counts

Regardless of what side you are on, as mother or child, be mindful of the following details:

  • There is no perfect image of a mother: Mothers look, act, and are different for each and every person.  There is also no “right” or “wrong” way to celebrate the day on either side, as every family’s situation is different.
  • The day-to-day bond is far more important: If there is pressure to “do it right” in celebrations, both mothers and children should remember that the day-to-day bond between them is far more important than whether or not the celebration is “big enough”.
  • Choose to opt out, if you wish: Some will find the negatives outweigh and positives and can opt out.  This is a strong example of living mindfully and can be a great way to actually strengthen the connection when the decision is made jointly.

When making plans to celebrate this weekend -- or not -- keep these notes in mind to help make it authentic and mindful on both sides.

Sources:

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Child Abuse And Its Role In The Development Of Children
  ·  2021-05-12

The topic of child abuse and how children are directly impacted by it has long been studied, but not much has gone specifically into resiliency and how it can interfere with development at certain stages of life.  Resilience is a common outcome of surviving abuse, but it takes on different forms at different ages, and those same ages also bring difficulties depending on when intervention occurred with the abuse, specifically. 

The main stages of childhood
As far as the role of abuse and how a child’s development is impacted, childhood has been split into three sections, and these have been matched with characteristics in those sectors: early childhood, middle childhood and adolescent childhood.  Each stage of childhood, and treatment needs, revealed something a little different both in strength of the survivor and the specific needs of that survivor. 

  • Early-middle childhood: Resilience from child abuse in this stage often took the form of adaptability in social and education situations.  It also meant less symptoms of the abuse taking place.  Forming healthy attachments was another focus point and children who had support during this early stage of development were able to form healthy relationships and understand their importance. 
  • Middle to adolescent childhood: At this stage, children would start to learn how to be resourceful and express themselves in social situations, learning from those around them.  They start to learn who they are as individuals within that social situation, too.  Understanding and differentiating a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one can be a challenge during this age for some due to abnormal behaviors at home.
  • Adolescence and onward: There is a lot of development and resiliency here as far as understanding themselves as being separate from the abuse.  Their strength comes in the form of using their own voice to speak up and advocate for themselves.  This could be about their abuse, but also about life in general.  Children at this age group often struggled with control issues and feeling powerless, and this will help them advocate for themselves.

What does this mean for abuse?

At any age, abuse of children causes damage to self-development.  The earlier intervention and counseling can occur, the better the results when it comes to a child’s resilience in life.  There is research suggesting that the ability to be resilient as a characteristic drastically reduces with age.  The younger a child is, the more likelihood that they will be resilient at all stages in life, both in terms of overcoming their mistreatment and in general.

At any stage, abuse can help a child or adolescent bounce back into daily life and cope well with their lives, but their ability to be stronger because of it will decrease the olde that they are without treatment and support.

When understanding the needs of abused children and how they differ from one age group to another, more research is needed specifically relating to understanding what clinical needs should be met.  This will help each child learn how to reach their full potential with proper support at each stage.

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Youth Violence Prevention - Understanding The Causes
  ·  2021-05-15

There is nothing more horrific than a school shooting.  Sure to bring masses to the streets and walk-outs demanding change, it is a tragic and sickening repeated event that happens every year to unlucky communities.  In the aftermath, there are calls for change and the need for youth violence prevention. But, what does this actually mean?

What are the causes of youth violence?

There are many noted and researched causes of youth violence, including the most commonly discussed elements: mental health, desensitization through the media, access to guns, and social exclusion.  These are all factors influencing youth violence, without question, but there are also other important factors to consider when looking at youth violence with a bigger scope:

  • Many risk factors: There are many variables and factors that will impact today’s youth in their possible graduation to violence.  Amongst the examples above, there are many home-related causes as well as social expectations.  Many believe that we, as a society, will never know the true causes of a rampage schools shooting.  There are so many complex and interacting factors that determining the sole cause will be impossible to untangle.

    This leads to discussions turning to understanding youth violence on a larger scale and understanding it for the risk that it poses to both school children as well as children and teens out in the world.
  • There is a difference between aggression and violence: In youth, there is a strong difference between aggressive behavior and violent behavior.  In understanding this difference, warning signs of all youth violence will be easier to predict and watch for without misunderstanding aggression as violence, or vice versa in children and teens.
  • School vs street violence: realistically speaking, school shootings - as horrifying as they are - are rare.  Street violence is much more common and causes many social problems throughout communities, particularly in the US.  By putting more efforts into understanding and working to prevent street violence, youth violence itself will be drastically reduced and it will help make school shooting rampages even rarer as a hoped direct result.

What does this mean for prevention?

When looking at the data, it is clear that there needs to be a wider scope when looking at something as heartbreaking and horrific as a school shooting.  This wider view will allow for communities to help stop a school shooting rampage before it begins.

By reducing youth violence through the scope of urban street violence and proper awareness of its ability to escalate, this will help future school children be safer both on the street as well as in schools long-term.

Regardless of the focus that one takes on youth violence, researchers and experts agree that the prevention of youth violence and all of its examples, forms, and situations, should be a national priority.  The goal should be to alleviate the symptoms and thereby “cure” the problem so that youth violence is no longer a potential cause for concern in children or teens, both in the school systems or outside of them.

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The Stigma Of Mental Health
  ·  2021-05-19

            Across age groups, genders, and socioeconomic statuses, there is one common thread when it comes to stigma: mental health.  Often seen as being less important than physical health, mental health and its stigma has long been part of the discussion around the entire field.  Interestingly, it impacts both sides of the equation: patients and practitioners.

What is the stigma of mental health for patients?

  • Mental health concerns and conditions are underreported: Due to the shame and misunderstanding the true importance of mental health support, many concerns and conditions will go underreported and underdiagnosed, creating a challenged quality of life for those who require help.
  • It takes a lot for patients to seek help: Even in situations where patients do end up seeking help, they are often in crisis, or must suffer “hitting rock bottom” before they will even seriously consider getting help.  Early intervention can support an easier way of life and better quality of life, but stigma often prevents that.
  • Many patients fail to complete treatment: Even when they do seek treatment, many patients will leave before they have completed treatment.  This can lead to them believing that treatment is ineffective, complicating matters further.  In some cases, it may lead them to stay away from treatment in the future and tell others the same thing.

How does mental health stigma impact practitioners?

  • Personal biases and backgrounds factor into their treatments: As professionally trained as they are, mental health practitioners can have personal biases on the stigma around mental health that will factor into their treatments, both in terms of determining “how close” someone is to a crisis, and even the treatment plan itself for their patient.
  • They can distance themselves from mental health individuals, including patients: Just like the general public, who tends to distance itself from those who suffer from mental health patients, practitioners can take the same approach.  They may decline to treat certain kinds of patients, for instance, or only will take mild cases versus more severe ones.
  • Treatment becomes a routine treatment instead of personalized care: Like a grocery list of techniques, the treatment becomes routine and just “cookie cutter” rather than focused on each individual patient and their needs.  This can further alienate the patient as well as make the practitioner feel as though they are ineffective.  This can make things harder in the future on both sides.

Stigma and mental health are fused together

            From both perspectives, the stigma around mental health directly impacts society.  On both sides of the table, the stigma can impact the effectiveness of treatment and the long-term effects of proper support.  In order to guarantee success for both practitioner and patient, this stigma should be further studied and addressed on a case-by-case basis as well as part of the whole. 

            With proper comprehension and detail into mental health and its stigma, many will suffer in silence.  Addressing it on both sides, compassionately, will help promote a future where mental health is regarded as being as important as physical health.

Sources

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The Role Nurses Play In Mental Health
  ·  2021-05-22

            Within the medical system, everyone has several roles to fill.  One of the most underrated, but essential members of those medical teams is that of a nurse.  When it comes to mental health, this is especially so.  Understanding their many roles, and their importance to the mental health system, is critical to making the most out of all of it.

What is the role of a nurse with mental health services?

            Pulled from admission data and interviews with nurses, the main role of nurses when it comes to mental health services, is ensuring that patients have access to mental health services.  This comes mainly through education and explanation. 

            Nurses agree that many patients who need mental health support often have a hard time finding it, especially when it comes to understanding which avenue to take without mental health.  Nurses place a role in education and explaining those options.

            Many nurses will also explain the importance of early intervention when it comes to  accessing these services, too, as they understand that the time of intervention also is the starting part of recovery in patients.

            While not all patients will be convinced to seek treatment, nurses will focus energy and time on encouraging as many as possible through carefully fine-tuned strategies.

How nurses encourage patients to access mental health

            As mentioned, there are three main methods that nurses use to help encourage patients to seek mental health treatment.  These are:

  • Promoting the positive experience it can bring and making it seem approachable: Through explaining their own viewpoints on mental health and its success rate from past experiences, this can really help patients see that it is a positive thing for them to consider.  As well nurses will repeat regularly that these systems are very approachable and you do not have to be in a crisis to access them.
  • Using technology to promote access to the program: From online data to case profiles to other technology options, nurses focus on the new technology to help patients learn how, and why, to access the mental health services.  Since this is often the best way to reach teens and young parents they will focus on this as a main point.
  • Being available for questions and comments: Nurses also take on the responsibility of answering any and all questions from patients and their parents, repeating and expressing thoughts that will further encourage them to seek treatment.  This is often a tiresome part of the role, but a crucial one to making an informed decision.

The reality of nurses in mental health services

            While there are many cogs in the wheel when it comes to mental health services, many mental health nurses have focused on always making sure that they are accessible to patients who are in need of their services.  Not only does it help raise awareness of early intervention, but it also will focus on the importance of having a good relationship between nurse and patient.  Trust goes a long way with something like mental health.

            Realistically speaking, nurses with this responsibility have many roles to fill and this can often lead to them working on many tasks that seem invisible to those outside of the system.  With more recognition, nurses can receive extra support and continue helping all those who come to them.

Sources:

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Mental Health And Children
  ·  2021-05-26

            Children take up a lot of resources, all of which are required to ensure proper development.  Often overlooked in favor of services such as education development and physical development, mental health services are a critical factor in the proper, healthy development of children, though many do not optimize it as such. 

The problem with children’s mental health services

            While there are mental health services designed specifically for children, they are often underfunded and not implemented.  Many children considered to be “disturbed” and/or in need of any kind of mental health treatment are more likely to go without than an adult in a similar situation. 

            Even those who are fortunate to get into the system and access treatment, often are mis-matched and do not get the right kind of care and support that they actually need.  This leads to children dropping out of programs and continuing into adulthood without support that is needed for proper development.

How do children access mental health?

            Generally, the access to mental health services is seen as one of the biggest challenges that children face.  The main access point to services is through the educational sector.  Someone will refer a child to care and they will be assessed and then either enter treatment programs or not.

            When compared side by side, those who accessed the mental health services through education access points are not as successful, with poorer service.  Those who accessed that service did not get the same amount of treatment.  Those who accessed mental health services through the physical healthcare system were more likely to get better quality treatment, long-term.

How do these services and access to them need to change?

            Generally speaking, the programs themselves are rudimentary at best.  In order to best serve children and their parents and caretakers, they need to be integrated together.  By blending together mental health care with physical health care and educational systems, children will be able to access and benefit from the programs that are already there.

            As more children access these systems, experts and officials can see where the treatment is lacking and work to address it so that better, more specific approaches can be added to the system to make it stronger.

            Both in terms of access to, and the programs themselves, it falls on the officials in each of these sectors to come together to make this a priority.  Since children are unable to advocate for themselves, those in charge of various parts of their lives must do it for them.

Better access means better services

            When access to, and integration with, all childcare services is prioritized, children and caretakers get support and access to help that is very evidently needed.  Since childhood is the prime time for severe mental health disorders to be diagnosed, the sense of urgency can not be understated.

            In order for mental health to be effective in children, the right systems need to be blended together.  By working collaboratively, a child’s needs can be identified, assessed, matched with proper, effective treatment, and made a priority in a child’s development, just like every other aspect.

Sources:

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Memorial Day
  ·  2021-05-31

Memorial Day

            A solemn, but critically important holiday is Memorial Day.  A designated time at which many pay their respects for all those who served in the military, especially those who gave their lives in the line of duty, this is marked across the country, and beyond.  There is a lot of potential hidden in this special, sacred day, but many are not aware of it. 

What potential is available with Memorial Day?

            Memorial Day is a holiday dedicated to honoring, in particular, those who lost their lives in serving their country.  Honoring those from all conflicts and wars, at any and all points in history, this holiday is intended to bring everyone together in order to pay their respects.

            In modern times, this holiday can also be used to honor living veterans of all ages.  This is where the potential comes into being.  In true spirit to its original intention, there is the power to use the respect and honor in this holiday and use it as energy in speaking out about the need for services, treatment, etc for living veterans.  This adds more respect to the holiday, and also pushes it to mean more for those who continue to serve, or love someone who does.

How to make Memorial Day mean more for veterans?

            We all pay our respects and use our potential differently.  When it comes to helping the holiday mean more for veterans, in particular, there are several ways in which everyone can step in, and step up.

  • Observe the holiday in a respectful manner: While many do attend ceremonies, gravesites, and more, some do not.  The best way to make Memorial Day mean more for all those who know someone who served, is to be respectful in celebrating it.  From attending parades, to paying your respect at gravesites, and beyond, there are many ways in which you can observe this important day.
  • Use the holiday to volunteer in a veteran service: Additionally, you can consider the idea of spending the holiday as either motivation to begin, or actively spend the holiday itself, volunteering for a veteran service.  It could be a veteran’s home, it could be a soup or food kitchen, it could be homeless intervention services for veterans on the streets, etc.  Find a volunteer opportunity that meets your skills, comfort level, and energy to help make a difference in the lives of veterans.
  • Use your voice to demand more services for veterans: Perhaps one of the most powerful ways that you can make this Memorial Day could be to actively use your voice to demand change in veteran programs and services.  By actively speaking out in favor of veterans and asking for more programs, budgets, and opportunities for veterans of all ages, we can change the operation.

Memorial Day can mean more…

            The importance of Memorial Day cannot be overstated.  A core part in ensuring that this is a respected holiday is by ensuring that we, as individuals, are doing everything in our power to help those who served, both past and present.  While it already means something to most of us, helping turn it into an outcry for more, can help it mean more to us, we well as the veterans who are being honored. 

            As we step forward to pay our respects, the potential impact of Memorial Day sits, waiting to be put into practice.  Make this year count by adding your voice to the conversation in one, or all, of the suggestions above.

Sources:

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Traveling and Mental Health
  ·  2021-06-01

            There are many who see traveling as one of the best things that you can do when it comes to emphasizing mental health.  This is certainly the case for many, but it can also be a potential trigger for those with mental health conditions and disorders.  Understanding the connection between one and the other is helpful in making sure that it stays as positive as possible when the time comes to pack the bags.

The positives of mental health and travel

  • Promotes relaxation and mental clarity: Being away from normal, everyday life and its stresses, can help promote clarity and relaxation that just is not possible in normal living situations.  It is a true break from daily life that can have positive impacts on mental health, as noted in studies on the subject.
  • Can stretch mental health comfort zones for travelers: For those that find travel a little challenging, especially those who suffer from anxiety, it can be helpful to see that trying something new is not necessarily a bad thing.  When done properly, travel cna help stretch boundaries and expand comfort zones for those with many mental health conditions.
  • A “change of scenery: can be positive: A different view out your window or different smells and sounds can simply reboot your mind and help you to see things differently.  It is good to have a change every once in a while, especially if it is to a place you enjoy being (such as the beach).

The potential negatives of mental health and travel

  • Can provoke anxiety, depression, etc.: Those who suffer from anxiety, OCD, depression, etc., may find that a large change like traveling can actually provoke flares of any, and all conditions.  It may be harder to find calm and positivity when you are abroad because your normal routines are missing.
  • Can be isolating from support systems: Travelling near or far pulls you apart and away from your support systems.  From counselling to family, to pets, it can be challenging for those who struggle daily with mental health.  Many find it comforting to know they have insurance and coverage if they feel the need to consult with someone while abroad.
  • Can add pressure to “have fun”: Simple, perhaps, but very relevant.  The whole intent of travelling and vacationing is to have fun and relax.  For some, though, travel is a huge cause of mental distress, and it is something that they strongly dislike.  For those who do travel, it could be a mental health exercise, rather than a getaway.  Adding pressure for them to have fun can make a hard task much harder.

The verdict

            While travel is often regarded as a care-free experience, this is not the case for everyone.  Filled with both positives and negatives, understanding the pros and cons to travel for everyone who lives with mental health conditions is going to be crucial for a successful trip every time.

            Travel can bring positive and negative thoughts to mind for those who are packing for a journey.  Both are equally valid and important to acknowledge.

Sources:

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Meditation and Mental Health
  ·  2021-06-03

            Those who follow mental health are aware of the connection between it and “alternative” practices, such as meditation and chanting.  However, very few understand the connection itself.  Fewer, still, believe that there is a documented relationship between meditation and mental health, outside of those who live an alternative lifestyle.

What is the empirical connection between meditation and mental health?

            Many assume that meditation is about “mind over matter” and you must simply ignore your stresses and worry while you turn your attention inward.  While meditation is about turning your focus inward, there is more to it.  Namely, there is a documented connection between meditation and heart rate.

            When you meditate, your breathing slows and deepens.  This will, in turn, slow your heart rate and your other body functions.  Deep breathing and meditation -- done correctly -- will trigger the body’s parasympathetic nervous system and will help it to, physically speaking, calm down and reduce a lot of physiological and emotional.mental effects associated with mental health disorders.

How can meditation be used as mental health treatment?

Physical and mental health are closely linked.  Meditation can, therefore, be a useful technique specifically to help use the physical in order to “treat” the mental.  For example, meditation can help in the following ways:

  • Reduces heart rate and breathing rate: As mentioned, meditation will help slow heart rates down to calm levels (similar to sleeping).  As a result, breathing will be deeper and steadier, too.  This brings the entire body down and can promote a calmer body.  A calmer body often means the mind will follow suit.  Done regularly, this promotes a stronger mind.
  • Promotes muscle relaxation: Meditation also helps prioritize physical details such as better muscle relaxation.  Since tense muscles are common symptoms and complaints of those with mental health, having “forced” relaxation of the body and its muscles, alleviates a lot of symptoms and promotes better overall relaxation in the body and mind.
  • Clears the mind: Meditation is deliberately designed to help clear  the mind.  Contrary to popular belief, the goal is to simply acknowledge thoughts and let them pass, bringing attention back to the body, rather than clearing the mind entirely.  This focus on the body helps curb a lot of mental health issues, including anxiety, depressive swings, and more.
  • Steadies emotions and thoughts: By focusing on the body and its breathing, emotions and thoughts steady themselves for easier comprehension and acknowledgement after meditation.  By “distracting” the conscious mind, the body is able to organize emotions and thoughts to help them seem more logical after a session.

Top findings of the use of meditation for mental health treatment

            While there is conclusive evidence, many who deal with mental health on a daily basis find that practicing meditation can help ease a lot of the side effects as well as onsets of mental health crises.  There is a strong connection between regulation and meditation, when it is practiced properly and regularly.  The emphasis is on the implementation of meditation with proper teachings, in combination with other mental health treatments.

Sources:

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Quality Time with Family and Friends
  ·  2021-06-05

             The role of family is a popular topic of study in mental health, but often from the point of view of how family and genetics influence mental health disorders and conditions.  There is another important element to consider when it comes to mental health treatment: the importance of quality time with loved ones, and its role in mental health treatment.

How do family connections factor into mental health?

            The role of family and friends can fall, interestingly, into two categories when it comes to the importance of time spent: helpful and hindering connections for those dealing with mental health conditions.

  • Helpful time with family and friends: Family and friends who provide love, compassion, empathy, and support to the person dealing with a mental health condition, have important roles to play.  From day-to-day operations, to dealing with a crisis, family can help ease the journey of someone who needs support and guidance.  Quality time spent with supportive people can also provide trust and a sense of centring for the patient, which is crucial to making other mental health treatments more effective.  Emotional stability can come from that time.
  • Hindering time with family and friends: Some time spent with family and friends, especially so-called “quality time” can actually worsen a mental health condition or crisis.  For instance, siblings who deliberately cause a flare up of anxiety.  Or, friends or parents who worsen a patient’s depressive episode by making light of it.  Sometimes family and friends can cause more harm than good, making separation a crucial part of a patient’s treatment long-term in order to create emotional stability.

Not all family connections are supportive

            From unstable parents to disrespectful and apathetic friends, and beyond, sometimes separation from “quality” time spent with them, can be a crucial part of mental health treatment.  Studies show that those who live alone, or separated from family and friends, can be just as happy and healthy as those who live in those households.  It often comes down to separating and determining a healthy and important relationship versus an unstable one. 

            Sometimes, “chosen” family is going to be more supportive and important for a patient’s journey, as opposed to biological or “assumed” family and friends.  Quality time spent with the former option can be helpful, whereas time spent with the latter, destructive.

Connection is important for mental health treatment

            All that being said, there is a designated role for family and friends when it comes to providing compassion and support.  For many, it is their family that they grow up with.  For others, though, family exists in other forms and in other people in order to help promote a stronger, better connection and better support. 

 The role of family and emotional support factors into mental health treatment at all ages, and its importance is thought to increase with time and age.  Quality time with the right people can be a core part of long-term mental health treatment.  The key is, of course, that it is quality time spent with the right family and friends.

Sources:

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LGBTQ Pride: The COVID Edition
  ·  2021-06-08

            While most will agree that the LGBTQ+ community is a popular target for discrimination, not many understand just what this looks like.  With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this discrimination has become abundantly clear through the inequity in healthcare, specific to the LGBTQ+ community.

What does the COVID-19 pandemic look like for the LGBTQ+ community?

            As a whole, this community already struggles with issues such as poverty and as extreme psychological stress.  The risks and the discrimination of the pandemic for this marginalized community take on many forms.  Some of the main ones include the following.

  • Social consequences of the pandemic are heightened: With the need for social distancing, everything from access to supportive loved ones, partners, and support groups have been compromised.  Since many in the LGBTQ+ community find comfort and safety in the community they create, being forced to stay isolated often heightens many mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
  • Higher chance of exposure: Since many are living on the streets, in shelters, or staying with supportive friends, families, or even other members of the LGBTQ+ community, their access to things like personal hygiene products and even something as simple as social distancing is harder to maintain.  This means that they have a much higher risk of exposure than the general population.
  • Higher chance of complications: The LGBTQ+ community also has a higher percentage of comorbidities including mental health issues, HIV, cancer, and more.  This increases their chance of complications or even death as a result of contracting COVID-19.
  • Lockdowns create long-term capacity for violence and abuse: Forced to shelter in place with unsympathetic or outright abusive family members makes the lockdown very challenging and dangerous for those in the community that do not have access to any other safe havens.  It can both endanger their lives and also further complicate mental health conditions.

    Similarly, there are social groups who blame the community for causing COVID-19 or consider the pandemic to be a punishment for those who “choose” LGBTQ+ lifestyles.  This can heighten fear and isolation to those who are living in this marginalized community.

What can we do about this?

            In addition to speaking openly about the discrimination, we also must take the time to learn from mistakes and misunderstandings so that they never happen again. June, 2021 is Pride month, and it is a time where those in the LGBTQ+ community stand tall and live their own truths.  While the pandemic makes this harder due to the need for social distancing, the month of June can be used to speak out against discrimination in the LGBTQ+ community, both generally, but also specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

            The time is now for everyone to band together and support this marginalized community.  While the pandemic has certainly not caused the discrimination, it has brought out the inequalities stronger than ever.  Allow Pride month to be the motivation that we all use to help bring the ugly truths to the surface so that everyone can move forward with the true support that they deserve.

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The Bias In Men’s Mental Health - Part I
  ·  2021-06-11

            Most existing studies and general interest content focus on identifying symptoms and treatment for the general population.  However, both of those things are biased towards a gender neutral or a female society.  Very little research exists for mental health and its symptoms as well as treatment specific to men.  This leads to many problems when it comes to men’s mental health.

What bias exists for men’s mental health?

            There are two main biases for mental health and its prominence in our modern society.  Both of these contribute to men having difficulty seeking help when needed.  These are:

  • Measurement bias: With this kind of bias, there is very little scientific understanding of a man’s experience relating to the mental health world.  Without proper measurement and documentation, experts do not have the data needed to change approaches or meet needs in the future.
  • Clinician bias: There is also a documented bias in clinicians when it comes to being sympathetic to, and aware of, men’s symptoms.  When men show signs of distress with practitioners, many will overlook them or outwardly ignore them, looking stead for the same markers that women show. 

Why do these biases exist?

            Both biases exist because men and women experience symptoms of mental health differently, as well as need different approaches to treatment.  Symptom-wise, men often will show external ones (ex: substance abuse, aggression) as opposed to internal ones that are often documented and reported by women. 

            Since men are expected, according to gender roles, to be more prone to substance abuse and aggression when they are members of the social community, these important symptoms are seen as “normal” instead of signs that a man is struggling and needs support, even when reported as such to a clinician.

            Without proper diagnosis by practitioners, as well-intentioned as they might be, there is no data recorded on men’s symptomology in mental health, leading to a lack of education specific to men’s health.  It is a vicious cycle that leaves men out of proper diagnosis and treatment.

What problems does this create for men’s mental health treatment?

            Most men find that their symptoms are ignored and the same goes for their cries of help.  This leads to an entire major part of the population left to struggle on their own with very little data on how to even deal with mental health on a daily basis.

            There is also a lot of shame attributed to men struggling with mental health, further complicating an already serious problem in society.  Ignored by both professionals and their peers, men often find themselves entirely on their own when struggling with serious, diagnosable mental health disorders and conditions.

            In order to ensure that men have proper diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions, there needs to be more of a focus on gathering data as far as symptomatology and treatment needs are concerned.  While there is plenty out there on men and women together, or a more gender-neutral one, there is not much out there with a primary, sole focus on men.

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PTSD And Its Relation to Functional Health Outcomes Part I
  ·  2021-06-15

061521 -

            There is no secret around the fact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a problem in many adults.  Whether it be caused by emergency services careers, serving in the military, or any other high-stress situation, it impacts many adults on a day to day basis.  While this is known through general and research communities, there is not much study on its relation to functional health outcomes.

An understanding of PTSD

            There are many triggers to PTSD.  For the purposes of study to bring in as much data as possible from those who struggle with it, the causes were stated as being exposure to combat-related trauma, and chemical or bio-warfare.  This was studied through the lens of actual contact with these two traumas, as well as the threat or perception of threat of either, or both.

            PTSD was separated into two categories, too, in order to help with clarity in the diagnosis line of thinking.  The first one was where the diagnosis was established through proper psychological testing.  The second was self-reported or self-diagnosed PTSD, done through recognition of symptoms and exposure to the threats.

What does PTSD look like for different groups?

            There was serious study needed as it relates to health, specifically functional health.  This was split into physical health and mental health to help experts understand just how PTSD can impact either, or both, without proper treatment.

            As far as research studies are concerned, those reporting diagnosed PTSD without symptoms were those more likely to have triggers associated with combat from previous deployment or duties.  In most cases, these were veterans or those who were no longer actively serving in their field of employment responsible for PTSD.  Those who were still actively in service or employed in their career paths, were more likely to report having PTSD symptoms, but without the formal diagnosis to back them up.

            Interestingly, there was a lot of data to back up the point that PTSD symptoms, or flare-ups of those symptoms even after treatment, were not always linked just to compact espoures or other triggers associated with PTSD.  It was as likely that triggers to exposures such as crowds, alarms, or similar situations in “everyday life” would create a problem for those still in active duty.

How does PTSD impact health?

            In both groups studied, there was data to suggest that both physical and mental health were diminished.  This implies that proper diagnosis and treatment for both groups is important to help those suffering enjoy better quality of life, specific to health.  Just like any other physical or mental condition, PTSD does have serious health implications that can last long after someone has retired from active duty or changed careers.

            Understanding the connection between PTSD and both mental and physical health is a critical first step to making progress.  However, more study on the actual health implications is important to offer better stability and progress reports for those who are seeking treatment for PTSD.  Perhaps in the future, this will also help use mental and physical health scores as an indicator as someone suffering from PTSD.

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Alzheimer's And Brain Awareness
  ·  2021-06-18

            Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is impacting more and more every single day.  This means that there is also a call for more research and more understanding of how it starts and progresses in order to help those impacted by it.  One of the most interesting areas of study is the concept of brain awareness and how this corresponds to a greater understanding of general brain awareness.

What is brain awareness generally?

            On a general level, brain awareness is an appreciation of, and focus on, brain science and how it is important to make it a priority in order to help enhance treatments  for many mental conditions.  Since there is so much to learn and understand about how the brain works, brain awareness helps specialists and scientists keep moving forward into a future where we know more every single day.

            This movement also helps raise awareness for the idea that there are so many conditions that can impact the brain that need more focus and study in order to help promote solutions for them.

What is brain awareness within Alzheimer’s Disease?

            This term, within the realm of AD and dementia, refers to the lack of connection between the brain and the comprehension of AD.  As patients diagnosed with AD progress, they are no longer capable of remembering that they have AD.  With this unawareness, comes difficulty in both reporting symptoms as well as seeking treatment.

            This unawareness also factors into larger problems such as depression, nightmares, anxiety, and more.  Someone who is dealing with AD  will forget that they struggle with these issues, leading to confusion and isolation when they happen, and then not reporting them to medical officials simply because they are not aware of them happening.

            There is also some evidence suggesting that lack of awareness in oneself can lead to delusions or worsen existing ones to the point of further worsening unawareness.  It is a vicious cycle that still is not entirely understood in Alzheimer’s Disease patients.

            Lastly, there is thought to be a psychosocial connection between AD and the concept of unawareness.  Many studies have made the connection, but there is still a lot to be learned about what it means and how it can be used.

The connection between them

            Brain awareness connects generally to AD, mostly coming down to the recognition that there is a problem needing to be fixed.  By promoting brain awareness in a scientific sense and promoting better funding and recognition for brain-related research and study, it can further help push science and research in specified fields of brain awareness in AD, as well as AD itself in a general sense.

As AD becomes more of a problem for many seniors, there has never been a better time for scientists and experts to put their focus on understanding it from an internal point of view.  With targeted study, it is hoped that there can eventually be an understanding of its risk factors, proper treatment, and even a cure.

            Brain awareness does not get the same recognition within AD as it does in the general community, though it is a condition that can expand from something like an AD patient to those with other conditions.  Proper understanding of it is key to a future in science and diagnostic medicine.

Sources:

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Father's Day: A Day for Mental Health Awareness
  ·  2021-06-20

            As Father’s day approaches, it leads to many searching for how to help their father figures celebrate with the proper combination of respect and actual enjoyment.  Whether celebrating stepfathers, biological fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc, taking time aside to understand what fathers really want can be a huge support in making it a positive day in all of the ways that matter most.

The best celebration is an honest one

            When celebrating Fathers Day, there is a tendency to make everything positive and happy and all about honoring the father in question, that it becomes false.  A Father’s Day celebration should be an honest and open day where the real situation is front and center, whatever that might be.

            In situations where a father figure is distant or not emotionally connected to his children, it would not be helpful, for example, to, shower him with love or praise.  He can still be honored and treated as “the star of the day”, but in a more appropriate way through something like a special meal or a funny card.

            This is also the case in situations where perhaps the father does not enjoy being recognized.  Some are shy and enjoy “letting the day slide by”.  As a child or a supportive family member, it is important to respect that need and see it as his decision -- it is his day, after all.

Real conversations about real problems

            If you do choose to celebrate with Dad in a traditional sense, through gifts and a dad-centered day, one of the main things that you can focus on for a noticeable difference, is the importance of bringing up mental health.

            Studies show that men struggle with mental health as much as women do, yet there are not many support systems in place, since symptoms often look different.  Focus more on external symptoms (ie: aggression, substance abuse problems), it is seen as conscious decisions and choices.  While we see a mother’s need for mental health as being unquestioned, that same right is not extended to fathers.

            In that vein, one of the best gifts for Dad to receive for Father’s Day, is recognition of mental health support specifically for him.  Even in situations where he has not disclosed his struggle, or he does not struggle openly, with mental health, understanding his family’s unwavering support is always a great gift.

            This can be done through physical means, such as encouragement to attend counselling specifically for mental health treatment, if appropriate.  It could be in something that is more guided, such as a book focused on helping men appreciate and understand mental health and how it relates to them as men, rather than the general approach.

            It also could be in something as simple as asking him, genuinely, how he is feeling and how he is doing.  Dads often get overlooked for emotional needs, but they are as important and relevant as those of mothers and children.  Instead of requiring him to be a strong pillar of support, use Father’s Day as a day to be safe, surrounded by support, and a release for his emotional self.

            Keep these focus points in mind for celebrating and honoring the father in your life.  They can make a positive difference in supporting his mental health, and also promoting better mental health year-round.

Sources

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Yoga And Mental Health
  ·  2021-06-25

            You have probably seen a lot of research out there about yoga and how it is seen as being magical for mental health.  Does science line up with that claim, though?  What is the actual connection between it, and how is it best understood as far as mental health treatment in children and adults, alike?

The science behind yoga

            There will be endless articles that explain how yoga helps you relax and enjoy life more, but how does that actually happen?  Yoga is a meeting of your mind and your body.  The entire focus of yoga, when done correctly, is to focus on your body moving through the stretches and paying attention to how your body feels in holding those poses.  Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yoga student, the focus is much the same.

            Biologically, stretching our rarely used muscles and also overtired muscles promotes better circulation and muscle relaxation in the body.  Yoga physically forces the body to relax and take a beat. 

            This is similar to the mind, since doing yoga the “right” way means keeping your attention to the instructor and/or the movements, rather than daydreaming about supper or your weekend plans.  This will simultaneously relax your body, and your mind, forcing you to enjoy the current moment and forget the troubles of the world.

            The science, then, is that your body and mind both take on a slower pace and both are able to relax and actually enjoy life in the moment.  Regular yoga can have positive effects on physical details like blood pressure and cardiovascular health, as well as improve overall clarity and mood. 

The effectiveness in yoga in children and adults

            When you look at the research empirically, that sounds pretty good.  But does it translate to actual results in everyday people?  Are these kinds of scientific “facts” actually perceived when it comes to study and analysis?

  • Yoga’s effectiveness in children: Children see benefits of yoga, blending physical and mental together firmly.  Physically, yoga makes kids stronger and can increase physical endurance when it comes to the idea of sitting in classrooms for longer periods of time without a break. 

    There are also emotional and mental advantages with yoga practiced in school settings.  It increases mood overall and can help children learn how to effectively reduce stress through focusing on the techniques taught in yoga classes to do just that. 

    This data implies that yoga programs in school can have advantages to physical and mental health in children.
  • Yoga’s effectiveness in adults: Adults often see most of the benefits for yoga as far as emotional health.  Doing yoga regularly can help improve mood, sense of self, and improve their overall self-confidence level.  While there are physical benefits to yoga, especially for those who struggle with blood pressure, most benefits are seen in adults through emotional and mental clarity.

            The reality is that yoga can absolutely be a positive influence on physical, mental, and emotional health in children and adults.  The key is proper, scheduled focus on it, and the reality that it is not a “cure” for mental health problems, but rather a helpful tool!

Sources

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PTSD and Long-Term Health Outcomes - Part II
  ·  2021-06-29

            Within the field of study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a connection exists between it and long-term health.  There is a connection between it and functional health outcomes, but how exactly those health incomes are impacted needs more research and study.  Below, is what science has connected so far in those suffering from PTSD.

Physical health implications

            PTSD is as much a concern to the physical body as it is to mental and health support.  Some of the recorded interruptions to health, especially long-term, included:

  • Cardiovascular weaknesses: The heart can be negatively impacted by PTSD.  This is seen through the prevalence of cardiovascular-related illnesses and diagnosis in those who are suffering from PTSD.  This is the case with PTSD being actively treated, or in cases where its triggers have been dormant for a long time. 
  • Metabolic disturbances: Impacting the immune system as well as weight maintenance, among other concerns, many dealing with both diagnosed and undiagnosed PTSD can have both minor and major disturbances with the metabolic system, noted in actual significant testing parameters.
  • Increased inflammation: Creating issues in terms of arthritis or fibromyalgia, as well as slower healing times after injury, etc, inflammation was another common comorbidity that could make other conditions worse, or create problems where there were not any of them.

Mental health implications

            While these are well known, the focus of these particular outcomes focuses a lot of energy on just how much these implications can have a negative effect on someone’s life in the true long-term sense.

  • Anxiety: From specific triggers in anxiety, to something like generalized anxiety or panic disorders, there are many who struggle seriously with anxiety after being diagnosed with PTSD.  This is even with noted triggers that previously were not a concern.
  • Depression: Ranging from depressive spells, to something like serious bouts in depression that can go for months and disrupt someone’s life, many struggle with some form of depression.
  • Social isolation: This can often exacerbate any and all mental and physical health concerns, earning it its own spot in the list of implications.  When PTSD is diagnosed young/early in a career, it means that these issues become more pronounced faster, and often will have implications much longer in life, simply because it starts out so young.

The importance of diagnosis

Since those living with PTSD are clearly at risk to some very real physical and mental/emotional concerns, improper diagnosis -- or missing diagnosis -- can be really detrimental to making sure they get the help they need to make their way to better, stable times.  In understanding these implications for long-term health, the hope is that those at the forefront of PTSD awareness can push it further and make it more of a priority for those who seek help and support.

Functional health outcomes and PTSD are connected, as evidenced through the physical and mental health concerns that are already documented.  It also brings to mind the concept that many are undiagnosed.  This further intensifies any, and all, symptoms and weaknesses in health.

Sources

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The Bias In Men’s Mental Health - Part II
  ·  2021-07-02

            With there being a bias in mental health, specifically to recognizing women in crisis more-so than men, interest turns to the concept of how to address that for the right kinds of results in both diagnosing and offering treatment for men.

An understanding of its roots

            Men struggle with mental health for many of the same reasons than women do.  Some of the leaders, particularly with common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, include:

  • Genetics: Just like any other physical illness or predisposition, men can be as predisposed to depression, anxiety, psychosis, and schizophrenia.  By having a proper medical history with that information included, it means that many can know what they should be watching for -- and specialists, too.
  • Work and life stress/triggers: Work, family, and general life can weigh down men as much as women, yet there are few supports in place for it.  Men do not often get access to stress leave or even counselling or other standard options within the workplace, for example.
  • Ignorance/isolation: Even when men report symptoms or struggles to those around them, personally or professionally, they often will not be heard, leaving them to isolate themselves and keep any future struggles (or ongoing ones) to themselves.  This includes discussion with fellow men about what they feel, too.

Why symptoms are external

            Men show many of the same symptoms as women do when it comes to the concept of the first ones.  For instance, many men will have outbursts, withdraw from society or family, and more. Where these symptoms would be flagged if it were a woman struggling with them, with men, it is often brushed off as him having a bad day, etc.

            Similarly, men themselves can sometimes see all other symptoms as simply reactions to current goings-on rather than something more serious.  They often will turn to self-medicating options, including gambling, drinking, etc.

            If or when they seek help from specialists, they often will not admit to self-medicating, either, leading many specialists to look at something more physical for a diagnosis instead of emotional.

How the industry needs to change

            Since men do not feel as comfortable being honest about emotional or physical reactions that they have had related to mental health or feeling as though they are “allowed” to struggle, it means that the industry itself does not look for it.

            To help change things for the better, the industry needs to openly encourage (and back up) support for men who choose to be honest about their symptoms.  From the ground up, the entire mental health industry can change things in favor of men, but support is going to be the first and all-important step.

            Men struggle with mental health as much as women do, and often without the proper support and diagnosis.  By bringing attention to what it looks like, and where it comes from (just as there is as much information, and discussion) about the same with women, the hope is that men’s mental health can get the same kind of exposure and recognition, easing the strain that many feel.

Sources

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Independence And Freedom
  ·  2021-07-04

Any nation has flaws.  All do, in fact.  The American dream is based on the idea of being free and independent, and it is the goal that all strive to enjoy in this nation.  This is a lofty goal, but an important one.  As July 4th draws nearer, there is no better time to understand that than on Independence Day.

What is the true value of independence and freedom?

When it comes to the concept of both of these values, the focus is one the same main theme from one to the other: safety.  When a nation is free, and its citizens are both independent and free, everyone is safe to be who they are.  There is no need to hide one’s true personality or to pretend to be something they are not.

Those who are fortunate enough to live in an independent nation like America have the luxury of simply living life how they best see fit for themselves.  The keyword here, of course, is luxury, since many other nations do not have this same freedom distributed throughout the nation as a whole.

Its value means peace of mind, comfort, safety, relaxation, and so-on.  Americans have all of these things on a regular basis.

What is the connection to mental health?

The connection to living in a free and independent country, in regards to mental health, is certainly palpable.  When living in safety, as discussed, people feel free to:

  • Seek support when needed: If you are looking for a chance to get mental health support or treatment, you will find resources waiting for you that are accessible in many ways throughout all stages in life.
  • Be themselves publicly: Regardless of how open or closed they wish to be about their mental health, disorders, conditions, etc., America is a nation that encourages everyone to be who they are in public, if they wish.  This allows many to feel free to express themselves, too.
  • Focus on their priorities without repercussions: Whether that be mental health treatment, or simply focusing on individual needs as far as health is concerned, the goal is always do what is best for an individual’s long-term needs, even if it means they are not able to focus on work or economical growth.

While not everyone will seek help, understanding that the resources are there and available on request can offer the first step to one day seeking help.

What we can learn

As we look forward to the holiday, we can also take it as a moment of reflection.  In being grateful to be a nation of free people, it also gives us an opportunity to appreciate what freedom and independence mean both as a nation and individuals.  It can also help us to speak up for those who do not have rights or freedoms as of yet.

The importance of both independence and freedom cannot be overstated.  By both enjoying it for what it means and also using it as energy to keep pushing for those who do not, it will help make the American dream even better for everyone who is looking to make it their reality.

Sources:

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The Power Of Kissing
  ·  2020-07-06

Kissing is often implied as something that only romantic couples do.  However, kissing actually appears in all sorts of relationships, and in many different forms.  There is serious power in a simple kiss, from one kind of relationship to another.

Kissing across relationships

Of course, there are multiple kinds of kissing across relationships.  The most common one in teens, adolescents and adults, is romantic kissing.  There are also other kinds, though that perceive kissing as a sign of affection.  For example, between siblings, parents and children, and friendships.  Romantic and affectionate kissing both have an important power, and a potential to them, as seen below.

The significance of kissing

Some children grow up in situations where they are not shown affection by parents or guardians.  This both means that they see affection, and kissing, as much more significant than those who grow up with it.  This can help them to really reach out to those around them and be affectionate to those in their life.  This also makes those around them return it and it can help really strengthen bonds.

Romantic kissing is often  what determines the connection between two potential partners and it has more of a role than most people realize.  In fact, a kiss, be it the initial kiss, or its frequency throughout a relationship can actually have a positive effect on attachment and relationship satisfaction. 

While most assume it is connected directly to the sexual aspects of relationships, studies show that this is not the case.  The connection between kissing and sexual activity is actually very minimal.  The significance of kissing in relationships is to a dedication from one partner to another, and the reassurance that they are there for each other.

The benefits of kissing

There are many benefits to kissing, both romantically speaking, as well as in other relationships (ie: between parent and child).  Most of these are seen through widening the scope from kissing, to showing affection in general.

From infancy and onward, the affection that is shown from parent to child, or between siblings, determines overall comfort in showing affection themselves later in life, which often can create friction with friendships and marital relationships.  However, it also means that affection and kissing in teen and adult relationships, romantically or otherwise, is also more important and more likely to be an accentuated part of a relationship. 

In other words, its value is appreciated on both sides due to lack of it in early stages, a lot more than in situations where infants receive ample affection.  This can make for stronger bonds and a focus on the “right” things long-term.

Additionally, there are strong physical benefits to kissing in any and all relationships, mostly related to stress.  Life gets the best of everyone and stress is a normal part of it.  When affection and kissing are increased, or perceived as being a regular part of life, the body’s physiological responses to stress are notably lowered.  The conclusion is that affection, specifically kissing, has the power to reduce stress. 

There is much to be said in favor of kissing, and it turns out to be connected to mental and physical health in a way that many never would have suspected!  All the more reason to be more affectionate with those around you.

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Mental Health and its Association with the Recovery Model
  ·  2021-07-12

            In many situations, there have always been two approaches to health.  Physical and mental.  This also means that the approach to each is unique and that they can not be mixed together -- or so many thought.  Recent study into the potential for the medical recovery model for mental health may lead to other conclusions, however.

What is the medical recovery model?

            The medical recovery model is essentially what you see with someone who is physically ill.  Through a series of diagnostics, a patient is diagnosed with an illness and then given certain tasks and medications to help them recover.  This is done through following a series of steps at proper intervals with regular doctor consultation to monitor progress.  They will adjust both of these approaches as needed throughout the process.  Once completed, the doctor will determine that the patient is healed and that they are ready to return to life with no need for further treatment or consultation. 

            This is a classic approach that we have all seen within the world of physical medicine and it has much success in the short-term and long-term for patients of all ages and illnesses, assuming the instructions are followed properly as directed.

How does it differ from classic mental health approaches?

            The process starts out the same.  Diagnostics will match a mental illness to a patient and that patient will be matched with a specialist.  The specialist will learn where the patient struggles the most and prescribe treatment that is designed to help with those problem areas.  The patient is expected to follow the treatment plan.

            This is where the results differ, though.  Mental health patients can heal and return to their daily life as before, or they could stop at a certain point and feel as though the treatment is no longer helping them, but hurting them instead.  The path to success with mental health is not quite as clear if a patient does not respond to the classic approaches to dealing with it.

Is there a place for a medical approach for mental health support?

            The medical model for mental health support and treatment can be effective when implemented properly.  The key, of course, is in implementing it in the correct way. Some suggestions include:

  • Having multiple diagnoses for multiple kinds of symptoms: Not all patients will present with the same kinds of symptoms.  Having different kinds of processes that ensure the proper diagnoses will help each patient to get the right approach to their treatment.
  • Having multiple pathways to success for those who need unique approaches: The treatment pathway will always be a little different for every person who is looking at the idea of short-term or long-term treatment.  This will, of course, match better with different levels of mental illness and different kinds of symptoms.
  • The idea that recovery takes longer with many ups and downs: Unlike a physical injury which will often simply recover and that will be that, mental illnesses often tend to come and go, rearing up months after a treatment plan has finished, or even years.  Long-term and intensive treatment should be seen as the norm.

            There is still a long way to go when it comes to applying the medical model of recovery to mental health practice, but it certainly helps a lot when it comes to the idea of seeing recovery as a medical condition.  The trick is to put it into operation with the proper focus.

Sources

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Emojis and their Connection to How We Communicate Emotions Digitally
  ·  2021-07-16

From smartphones to time on Facebook and other social feeds, and so on, emojis are just part of the language when it comes to proper digital language.  Despite their popularity, however, many come from a different perspective in using emojis properly.  Some even dislike them to the point where they will not use them.  So, do emojis impact communication?  Do they add to, or take away from, communication methods?

What does emoji actually mean?

While many use the term “emoji”, very few actually know the roots of it.  This is a Japanese term, which is where emojis actually came from, originally.  “E” means picture, “mo” means writing, and “ji” means letter or character.  A literal explanation of what an emoji is, if ever there was one.

How do emojis influence conversation?

When used correctly -- this can vary from one age group to another and from one situation to another -- emojis can influence a conversation.  They can provide tone and context to an otherwise text-based chat.  This helps uncertain messages come across the intended way, similar to on inflection and tone would do so in a face-to-face conversation.

Another influence emojis have in conversation is that they are multilingual.  While there are often different meanings applied to emojis, they are a way for people to speak to each other even if they do not otherwise speak each other’s languages.  If oten makes second-language learners much more comfortable, too, since at least they are “fluent” in emoji if nothing else.  This eases stress and encourages them to keep trying 

Lastly, emojis can add a new layer to a conversion that just is not there in traditional face-to-face ones.  The implementation of emojis helps people connect easier to each other and feel the “warm fuzzies” through distant conversations that might otherwise be lost.  It can soften tough blows or make someone crack a smile when they “read” the tone of a message through the addition of emojis.

Benefits of emojis

Both from a mental health as well as a larger cultural point of view, emojis do have benefits to them, despite many feeling as though they are constantly changing -- which they are.  Emojis can help in some of the following ways.

  • They enhance and liven a conversation: Emojis add depth and emotional range to rather emotion-less conversation.  This can help people connect to each other easier than normal.  This is especially-so in situations where they are not sure of how someone will read, or respond to, their own messages.
  • They can help some shy speakers feel more confident: If someone is shy or not great with words, they will often feel comforted through using emojis.  They can add confidence both in receiving them, and in sending them out themselves.  It can be very helpful for teens and other adolescents branching out in social circles.
  • They are reportedly helped on literacy scores: There are studies that state that learning how to be “fluent” in emoji can improve literacy scores.  Since these pictograms imply emotion and tone, those who learn to interpret them correctly, including as they adapt and shift over time, can apply that same learning and focus to other literary means like reading and general writing. 

Emojis appear to be here to stay, but it remains to be seen whether they are determined as positives or negatives when it comes to students learning language with emojis from a young age. 

Sources

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The Magical Power of Ice Cream
  ·  2021-07-19

To most of us, ice cream is a treat.  Perhaps it is a reward after a long day, or maybe as a special treat when the temperatures climb high.  Besides being a tasty treat that we have as a guilty pleasure, though, there is a connection between ice cream and mental health that is starting to get some traction. 

The reported power of ice cream

From vanilla to chocolate, and sprinkled or cherried, there are studies reporting that having ice cream as a breakfast food can have a positive impact both on your outlook as well as the actual day waiting for you, regardless of your age or what you are working on.  In a Japanese study, participants were given ice cream first thing in the morning and studied over time to see if it had a statistically significant effect.  They found that ice cream:

  • Promotes better mental alertness: Similar to how we see coffee or tea, having ice cream for breakfast made participants more metnally alert and feeling prepared for the day and its tasks, than those who did not have ice cream for breakfast.
  • Makes us happy: Participants also reported a greater satisfaction overall as far as mood, when starting their day with ice cream.  It often made them feel more enthusiastic and positive about the day ahead of them, even when they otherwise would have felt uncertain or frustrated.
  • Gives many a reason to get up and get going: Knowing that they would get their favorite ice cream waiting for them when they got up each morning, participants found that they were more willing to actually get up, even when dealing with a poor night’s sleep, or mental health conditions such as depression. 

Does it check out?

After some research, scientists agree that while ice cream certainly helps with all three of these focuses, it is not the only solution.  The mental alertness was matched with having a glass of cold water for breakfast, though not quite as high as the ice cream scores.  As far as overall happiness, this was linked to fat content rather than ice cream specifically.  The “get up and go” reasoning was much the same.

Mental health factors into daily lives for many people.  Even though ice cream itself may not be connected to the positive effects in participants, it is reassuring to see that something as “simple” as putting dessert first on the menu can make a serious, noticeable difference. 

For children, teens or adults that are feeling in a crisis and struggling to make ends meet, simply switching out breakfast food when going through those especially dark days and times can make all of the difference.

Bottom line: ice cream may not be the only cure for your morning drowsiness and lack of motivation, but it certainly does not hurt!  Plus, who can argue with the concept of getting to eat dessert before anything else -- particularly on a Monday morning.  It turns out that maybe ice cream does not need to be such a guilty pleasure, after all!

Sources

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Mental Health in Minority Groups in America
  ·  2021-07-23

Just like treatment for physical health conditions, access to mental health services is important to help everyone enjoy an overall quality of life through access to proper treatment.  However, as with many other issues in our society, those in minority groups often do not receive the same access to those services.  Or, they are not as effective as they could be.

Is mental health treatment fair within minority groups?

For the average person White person, accessing mental health treatment is simply about finding the right channel to get to it, and receiving the treatment until reaching the point where they feel they can leave the program.

However, finding the right match between patient and service, and then successful completion of the mental health program is much more difficult for those who are in minority groups in America.  This is a common thread with those in different kinds of minority groups, too.

Research found that access to, and use of, services was linked a lot to ethnicity of both the patient and the specialists.  Mexican American patients as well as Asian American patients often found difficulty accessing mental health services, so they were under-utilized.  Many African American patients, however, were recorded to have over-utilized mental health services.

The first two groups often found that when accessing programs and starting them, following through right until the end was difficult, leading them to stop treatment halfway.  This led to more research and focus on just where the break-off point was.  Most researchers agreed that in situations where there was no ethnic match, and/or no language/culture match, patients struggled to complete treatment. 

Where can mental health treatment improve for minority groups?

The room for improvement focuses mostly on understanding that patients respond much better to speaking with, and working with, those who they feel understand their struggles.  In the case of mental health treatment and minority groups, this would be a match between specialist and patient in cultural, language, and ethnic situations.  This helps patients to stay in treatment for the entirety of the course.

In addition, education within mental health systems on the importance of ethnic matches can also help provide better treatment plans for those who have only been educated in more traditional ways.  Matching a plan to a patient and their unique needs can help make it easier and more successful for treatment long-term.

When mental health services are provided that focus on those matches, researchers agree that more will seek help and those who do seek help, will see the treatment plan through because they feel that they've got the right support and compassion to do that. 

Patients need to understand that their needs are being met, and when it comes specifically to minority ethnic groups, this is even more pressing and serious, since they already feature a lot of negligence when it comes to mental health and stigma within the community.  It should mean that mental health will instantly be more accessible and more productive with these kinds of changes made to it.

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Fruit and Healthy Diet: Does it Make the Difference in Mental Health?
  ·  2021-07-26

We all know that eating our fruits and vegetables is going to be important for our health.  But is there a connection between our mental and emotional health?  Researchers and experts are looking carefully into just that question, both in children and adults, to see if diet could be more related to mental health than previously thought.

What is the connection between mental health and fruits and vegetable content?

With the prominence of childhood obesity and poor diets, many researchers are already studying the connection between diet and health.  As fast food becomes more common, there is also now a growing rate of children who are dealing with mental health issues, too.  Researchers have, as a result, started taking a look at just what that connection could be.

  • Children: When a proper diet rich in both real and processed fruits and vegetables is the regular diet of a child, they experience a stronger overall mental health status.  It is thought that a properly balanced diet can help ward off, or soften, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  While a healthy diet was not seen to be a “cure”, it is a prevention technique that can be helpful.
  • Adults: In adults where mental health issues are already present, a healthy diet is also seen as a great support for minimizing symptoms.  In people who deal with chronic anxiety and depression, proper diets with fruits and vegetables help them to both battle symptoms and also feel more positive overall.  By fuelling their body, their mental health was also fuelled and this made day to day life a little easier for those in need.

Since fruits and vegetables are loaded with minerals and vitamins that are not found in fast food diets, the common belief is that those various nutrients and minerals are what help the mind stay strong and “healthy”, just like the body.  Since it is properly fuelled, it can help both children and adults to likewise stay strong and healthy in mental health. 

There is also some research to suggest that a healthy diet will also fuel treatment plans easier.  For those who do not want to resort to medication, for example, it can be a good diet with proper counselling and treatment programs.  It is great for starting out or even weaning off of medications, too, if that is the chosen path.

How can this help mental health programs?

By understanding the connection between diet and mental health both short- and long-term, something as basic as a change in diet can give you support and actual noticeable treatment right from a young age to adulthood.  While a proper diet is long known as a great support for a long and healthy life, now mental health programs can also use it as a factor and a treatment.

In those who are genetically predisposed to mental health conditions, it could imply that a proper diet can both ease them in children, as well as help “pre-treat” them in teens and adults later, giving more time and support for programs. 

Sources

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091743512006330

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/1/115  

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Mental Health Benefits of a Picnic Day
  ·  2021-07-30

            The summer brings many opportunities for adventuring.  Children, adolescents and adults are all more likely to spend time outside, leading to notable increases in fitness levels, and more.  However, many of the actual benefits of something fun and family-oriented like, say, a picnic day, often go unnoticed. 

What benefits wait in outdoor time?

            The benefits of time spent outdoors are marked in children, adolescents, adults, and senior citizens.  This makes it one of the most effective and widespread choices for those at all parts of their life.

            As far as the benefits, there are the obvious physical ones that help promote better health and higher Vitamin D levels.  In children and teens especially, there is also a strong connection between proper emphasis on outdoor time and notably lowered screen time.  Since screen time is often seen as a danger for this age group, many will enjoy less negative effects and the addition of positive effects from the outdoor time.

            Generally, there is a strong connection, too, with outdoor time and positive effects in treatment of depression.  Since depression can have significant psychological effects, using structured and properly scheduled outdoor time as a treatment can help ease those for patients of all ages.

How do picnic days help bring them out?

            What, then, is the connection between outdoors and the picnics?  What makes a picnic in and of itself so supportive when it comes to mental health?  Here are the details.  Many of them are both surprising yet also believable.

  • Quality time spent with loved ones: Picnics bring people together around a makeshift “hearth” which often is not prioritized in our modern lifestyles.  Picnics are mentally-present moments where we are all together!
  • Helps promote communication on tough topics: Sometimes it can be easier to talk about harder topics over a plate of watermelon and sandwiches.  It can be potentially “hot” topics that cause arguments, or even sensitive topics like grief, anxiety, and so-on.  It serves as a buffer.
  • Works as a mood and taste booster: Eating outside can actually boost your mood.  Perhaps it makes your day’s worries seem smaller, or it just lifts them off of your mind for a few hours with some great food and companionship.  Many people also find it easier to eat healthier on a picnic since there is something about eating outside that just tastes better!

            Whether it is once a week as part of a schedule, or just enjoyed when life is about to get too much for you and you need a break, a picnic could be as beneficial as spending the day in bed -- or more-so.

Picnic days bring real benefits

            As explained, there are true notable benefits to regular time spent outside.  When combining outdoor time with something like a picnic, those benefits are even stronger and easier to see in those of all ages.  While these kinds of things may have fallen to the wayside due to the faster pace of life and the focus on inside activities, there are enough benefits that many families may want to consider making time for a picnic or two!

            As quintessential as that gingham blanket and basket may seem, there are real, modern-day benefits to be enjoyed by pulling it out of the closet every once in a while.

Sources

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Myths and Facts About How the Moon Affects Our Psychology and Biology
  ·  2021-08-04

            There is a lot of talk about the importance of understanding lunar cycles and respecting the moon itself as it applies to psychology and biology in our modern day.  Is it a legitimate thing, or just fiction?  Turns out, there is a little bit of both tied up in it.  Sorting out fact from fiction is helpful for everyone concerned!

The effect of the moon in biology

            The claim that the moon and its lunar phases can impact the body’s biology is FACT rather than a myth.  The basics of it all is that we are animals on the earth (like all the other species) and we are impacted by the moon and the natural changes that it causes.  Some theories suggest that noted changes in a person’s biology were due to a shift in the electromagnetic field of the earth as the moon shifted.  Others suspected it was the fact that the “tide” in humans is impacted by the moon as much as the tide is oceans.

            The biggest changes were seen in cardiovascular activity, though other studie show small changes in things like sleep patterns and other details related to the circadian rhythms and sleep cycles.  While human lives often seem to be independent of nature and its pulls on other species, these studies show that we are impacted, even if we do not abide by those biological changes. 

The effect of the moon in psychology

            When looking at the impact of the moon and its lunar cycles on human psychology, numerous studies have proven that this is MYTH rather than fact.  From one condition to another, from one patient to another, and throughout all of the lunar phases, there is no correlation.  In studies where a change in human behavior and psychological symptoms were marked, it was concluded that those changes were due to other changes in the body (such as menstruation, sleep schedules, etc) rather than influences directly related to the moon.

            There are some who feel, even still, that “lunar lunacy” is a thing.  This concept originally stated that during a full moon, humans would “shift” into supernatural creatures.  In modern day, many believed that the full moon brought out “the crazies” in those both who were mentally stable and otherwise.  However, there is no statistically significant research to back up any version of tha theory, no matter how mild.

The bottom line

            Understanding the differences between myth and fact will help make sure that both patients and practitioners take a proper approach when looking at the interplay between the natural world and its effect on the human body and mind.  It is interesting to note that it can impact biological and physical health, but not mental -- according to recent studies.  It implies that we are not so different from the other species on the earth.

            So, whether you were correct in your understanding of the moon’s impact (or lack there-of) in your psychological and physiological health or not, now you know the facts that will help you move forward better informed!

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The Importance of Boundaries in Mental Health
  ·  2021-08-11

            Mental health treatment is one of those complicated categories that everyone approaches a little differently.  When it comes to boundaries, this is one of the prime situations in which everyone takes a unique approach and it can mean a difference in how treatment is received as well as how effective each patient will find it.

What boundaries exist in mental health?

            There are several different types of boundaries in mental health.  The most important ones that directly impact a patient’s health and outlook include:

  • Between specialist and patient: A patient needs to understand where the boundaries are between them and their specialist.  What can they talk about, and what can they not?  How can the specialist help them, and how can they not?  This helps them know what to bring to their attention, and what to expect in return.
  • Between specialist and team members: A patient needs to understand the boundaries that are in place between their specialist and team members.  They should know what they discuss with coworkers and team members, and what is private.  They also should know what boundaries are in place when it comes to asking for advice for consultation, etc.
  • Between specialists and those close to patients: Lastly, patients need to know that their privacy is held even when specialists are in contact with people who are close to the patient.  They need to trust that boundaries in place and know that they are being upheld even if they are pushed.

Why are boundaries important?

            When it comes to enforcing boundaries, understanding their importance in the trade helps make them priorities.  Some of the biggest reasons to have these, and more, boundaries in place include that:

  • They promote safety: Patients feel safe in confiding things that they need to or want to to their specialists, knowing where those boundaries are going to protect them.
  • They promote trust: A patient who understands where the boundaries are is going to have an easier time trusting their specialist, including trusting a professional’s advice or feedback. 
  • They promote professionalism: Specialists who firmly put up boundaries that are logical and clearly communicated are going to be much more professional than those who do not.  It shows that they understand the need for them as well as clear communication on where they are for the better understanding and the patient.

Boundaries are essential

            While it often does not get the same focus that a lot of topics do in mental health, you will find that it does play a huge role in making sure that mental health needs are properly cared-for.  This implies that, in modern-day practices, boundaries and where they extend or fall short, is an important topic of conversation to have.  This is especially so between specialist and patient.  This is what determines how much a patient is able to improve their overall quality of life.

            More prominent in some places than in others, the world of mental health treatment and support has some distance to go in order for each patient to achieve full trust and treatment long term.

Sources

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How to Enforce Boundaries for Mental Health
  ·  2021-08-18

            Just the word “boundaries” can be interpreted many different ways, all of which imply that they need to be addressed differently.  This is half the truth.  In reality, boundaries play a huge role in mental health and are understood differently  However, the enforcement of those boundaries -- whatever they may turn out to be -- is standard. 

What does enforcement of boundaries look like?

            Interestingly, enforcement of boundaries often takes the form of a confrontation.  However, this is from the point of view of the person who is being “put in their place” rather than the one doin then enforcing.  This is not a bad thing, but it can often be a roadblock to those who are apprehensive about it.  As such, proper preparation is crucial to be successful.

How to enforce boundaries

            From one situation to another, and from one relationship to another, these are general tips to aid in enforcing boundaries professionally and with as much respect for both parties as possible.

  • Have a clear understanding of what the boundaries should be: The first step to enforcing boundaries is understanding what they should be.  This will depend on the relationship and the role that it has on someone’s mental health.  While these can be developed with some support from specialists, it will be important that they are the choice, and decision of the person enforcing them.  Boundaries are very personal, after all.
  • Focus on the importance of enforcing them: Before the actual conversation where you enforce those boundaries, each person should take the time to understand why enforcing those boundaries is so important.  Without understanding their importance, many are not able to “stand the heat” if the situation gets testy.  This will help stabilize and affirm the decisions.
  • Keep the conversation focused: Using the broken record technique, you will want to keep the conversation on track, gently guiding it back to the issue at hand when the other person starts to take over.  This keeps the focus on the important tasks that are being brought up.
  • Do not back down: This is challenging in situations where the other person is resisting, but it is a boundary in and of itself.  You must stay strong when others try to push you down because you are saying to them that this boundary and this conversation are both important.  Success will look different for each person, but it will help to make the conversation go over well.

Boundaries are important

            Whether someone is struggling with mental health or not, boundaries are crucial to mehal health in general.  From parent to child, child to parent, between friends, partners, roommates, and even patients and specialists.  Whatever relationship is out there, boundaries have an important role to play.

            Enforcing boundaries is not often talked about as much as understanding them, but the enforcement itself can be a huge undertaking.  Regardless of the situation or the context, enforcing boundaries plays a big role in mental health and will be integral to long-term, healthy relationships of any kind, both personally and professionally.

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The Role of Open Communication in Living With Mental Health Conditions
  ·  2021-08-23

            Arguably, there is more discussion today than there has been throughout history when it comes to mental health conditions.  However, there is still a gap between the communication offered, and that which is needed.  Open communication plays a key role in both diagnosis, and treatment, of mental health conditions.

The role of communication in diagnosis of mental health conditions

  • Discussion of symptoms: Symptoms vary from case to case.  If patients can explain the symptoms that are giving them the most problems, it allows for a better, more accurate diagnosis.  This pairs with the need for open communication in bringing up symptoms to specialists and professionals without fear or retribution.
  • Explanation on the severity/frequency of symptoms: By the patient being free to explain the severity and frequency of the symptoms that they are feeling, they will be able to give the specialist a better insight into how they are struggling, allowing for a better treatment plan.
  • Comfort in speaking “their truth”: Understanding their own reality for what it really is starts from open communication with trust between patient and specialist.  This is often a breakthrough point where patients start to see a way forward, too, since the diagnosis will line up with their explanation.

The role of communication in the treatment of mental health conditions

  • Admitting to a bad day: Bad days happen no matter how committed to their treatment someone is.  Openly discussing them and seeing them for what they are -- just a bad day -- helps the patient continue on the path to success and it also helps the specialist to explain and acknowledge that these bad days happen.
  • Identifying triggers: During treatment, open communication helps most people determine triggers so that they know what to avoid or take on, based on that.  Having the freedom to explain those triggers and express their importance is a key in that.
  • Seeking help: In dealing with a flare-up of symptoms and struggles, individuals who need help should have the freedom to express their need to seek that help without judgement or without feeling as though they can not speak freely about needing that help.

More communication is needed

            While the world has progressed, especially regarding the prominence of depression and anxiety in teens and young adults, there is still more communication needed.   Prioritizing it both in the idea of diagnosis as well as in treatment that is ongoing, everyone will be able to enjoy better access to the things that matter most to them at their current stage.  This is especially so with women who often lack the education to understand the importance of both open communication and mental health support.  Instead of simply following a script of preplanned explanations or delivering cookie cutter guidance, open communication between specialist and patient is the best way to guarantee the best diagnosis and treatment.

            Proper mental health treatment plays a role in long-term quality of life.  This starts with open communication as a direct part in that approach.  Though the world has come a long way, there is still some distance to go.

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How Open Communications Boosts Family/Relationship Bonds
  ·  2021-08-27

            Family is the root of life for most people, from toddlerhood all the way to being a senior citizen.  Yet despite this, family communication is often lacking.  This is a problem that continues to get worse as technology invades more of our home time and family time, leading to many specialists to start looking at how communication can actually strengthen family and relationship bonds.

The importance of communication

            Communication is more than just words.  It is how we connect with each other and find comfort, safety, and love.  Without proper communication, it is easy for children to get confused and for couples to drift apart.  There is more to it, though:

  • Communication in families: When proper and open communication is modelled in family settings, children learn how to both initiate it, and expect it, from those they meet in the future.  This teaches them to understand the value of open communication and build connections with people who will hold the same values.  In a modern world that is often loaded with deceit and unfaithfulness (in many forms), this is increasingly important.
  • Communication within relationships: Between romantic partners, open communication and expression is important.  It helps show that two people are compatible and that they will prioritize each other over the other connections that they have in their life.  It also fosters trust, respect, and dedication.  

Examples of communication

  • Make family mealtime a priority as much as possible: Mealtime, where everyone gets a chance to discuss their day, should always be a priority,  No phones, no distractions, and everyone should attend without friends or partners, etc.  Even if it is just once a week, it can be a great way to help promote a great space to talk.  This also works well with couples, too.
  • Interact on social media: Both families and couples can help ease communication through interacting via social media.  Faster and often easier when needing to discuss something awkward or challenging, it is also a great record so that you both can go back to it in times of struggle.
  • Encourage open discussions in a safe space: Whether virtual or in-person, from families to couples, open communication flourishes in a situation where the speaker feels that whatever they need to say is going to be heard and respected in a place where they will not be judged.  This is the key to discussing those harder topics.  It is also a perfect “test” to see how open a family’s communication plan really is.

The bottom line: keep trying

            Obviously, there are going to be times where open communication is extremely challenging, if not impossible.  However, making it a priority as much as possible is going to help each family member feel like they are part of the family network.  These days, that is no small thing.  By making sure that open communication is encouraged, the family is stronger, closer, and communicates more effectively when the time comes for it to be needed (ex: during a crisis).

            From families to relationships, open communication is a priority that no one really talks about as much as they should (see what we did there?).  It does not need to be a 3-hour conversation for it to be meaningful.  You simply need to focus on open honesty with those who matter most to you.

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Labor Day
  ·  2021-09-06

The Labor Day weekend is upon us, and it means that many are flocking to celebrations of some kind and looking forward to spending the day together before the start of the upcoming academic year, and onset of autumn and winter.  But, what does it mean, in reality?  How is the best way to celebrate this long weekend intentionally and with purpose?

The root of Labor Day

            As many know, the entire history of Labor day is focused on the idea of celebrating the moment and taking time to celebrate the workers and their achievements in the economic world.  It is intended to be celebratory and in support for those who are in the workplace and world of commerce. 

            To date, it is still celebrated that way, but there are many who are starting to look at the celebrations and how they are different, now, from the whole focus on treating employees with respect and genuine care.  Further, how this disconnect makes many feel as though they are unimportant as far as their needs and requests for change.

The areas for change

            According to workers of our modern day and age, there are several sectors that could use a detailed reboot in order to help better the quality of life for these workers themselves.  These focus areas include:

  • Availability and inclusion of health insurance: Many low wage or even “blue collar” jobs do not have very good health insurance.  Some have none.  This means that many are unable to properly care for themselves on a daily basis or have to worry about how to make their bare minimum coverage work with everyone in the household.
  • Access to mental health and addiction services: Easy and affordable access to mental health services as well as addiction services are also common requests that workers can seek the help they need and deserve to be their best selves.  The other focus within this sector is that there is a need for discretion, too, even when seeking the support through work services.
  • Preventative healthcare: This is important especially for those who are raising children and want their children, as well as themselves, to have preventative care for common health conditions to help prevent a health crisis down the road.  This is a common exclusion of many policies that do offer health insurance, or it is not enough to cover everyone.

The potential for Labor Day to spark change

            In speaking out about the biggest points of concern, many feel as though they can start to lend a voice to their needs as modern day laborers.  This is where a lot of mental health specialists are focusing their approaches, too, both privately in sessions with patients as well as publicly posting about it.

            While the wheels of change can be slow, the more voices that join in the conversation, the better the change will be.  Perhaps this Labor Day weekend will be an opportunity for many to branch out into a world of change that means something to them -- like it was intended back in the beginning.

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