Prevention & Awareness – Active Minds Blog http://activemindsblog.org Changing the conversation about mental health Mon, 10 Jul 2017 17:03:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Krystal Murillo’s Legacy at Mt. San Jacinto is Set http://activemindsblog.org/krystal-murillos-legacy-at-mt-san-jacinto-is-set/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:39:53 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6613 Krystal Murillo is a student and Active Minds Chapter Member at Mount San Jacinto College in Menifee, California. Over the last year, Krystal has been successful in advocating for the addition of a health center to her campus.

In the post below, we feature excerpts of a conversation between Krystal and Active Minds Associate Director of Training and Education, Maggie Bertram. To hear the audio version of this story, you can head over to the Active Minds SoundCloud page.

Maggie Bertram: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Active Minds?

Krystal Murillo: So, I am hopefully within my last year at a community college. I was a transfer student. I was new. And I remember I was in my psychology class, actually, and I had someone come and ask me, like, “do you—you know—are your part of any clubs?” And I remember being like, “Well, no, but I want to check out the Psychology Club. Um, ‘cause, you know I’m really into mental health and, you know, learning more, and getting involved.” And this person was like, “Well, have you heard of Active Minds?” And I was like, “No, actually. What do you do?” They were getting ready to have all the volunteers [at Send Silence Packing], and that right away caught my attention, so I just stuck with it.

MB: You mention advocacy, and that’s originally why we got connected was to talk about this huge advocacy effort that you’ve been successful in. Do you want to tell me a little bit more about that?

KM: So, the idea to get a health center on MSJC actually originated from past colleges I had attended. I attended two previous colleges before transferring. And just for me, personally, I wanted to make the transition smoother by talking to someone and reaching out. So I remember going on campus and asking students, you know, “Where’s the health center?” And some were like, “I don’t know, actually,” and I was like, “Ok, you know. Whatever. Sometimes you just don’t know where things are. And I remember going [to ask] another student, and I was like, “Where’s the health center?” And they were like, “Oh, do you mean the nursing building?” And I was like, “Yeah, if that’s where your health center’s at.”

Um, and I went in and they were like, “Oh, this is only for nursing students.” And I was like, “Oh, so you don’t actually have a nurse, or maybe like a counselor, or anything like that?” And they were like, “You know, I don’t even think we do!” And I was like, “Oh. OK—cool.” So, I kind of walked away with like—what do I do? You know? Like, who do I talk to–to make it better?

MB: So from those initial conversations where you established that there really wasn’t a health center, what did you do next in order to get people’s attention?

KM: I was pretty clear to both my English professor and my psychology professor. I was like: I think it’s something we need. And they highly agreed. And, um, so they were like, “You know what? Let’s do something about that.” And I was like, “Yeah! Help me!” So it was really cool to have that resource and use them as far as them connecting with other people.

And I remember it was during office hours with my psych professor, and was like, “You know, I’m going to shoot everyone an email and just say: this is what we’re thinking, who’s on board? Let’s make it happen.” And I was like, “Ok,” you know. I thought it was no big deal, but then I realized he meant, like, the entire school as far as faculty. So, he got a lot of great responses, and then we, you know, we didn’t know how to go about this, of course. Um, so we created a committee who agreed that we needed it, which included different instructors, different deans from all departments. Um, so just a lot of great teamwork put it together, reached out to the vice president for student services who was like, “You know what? Let’s do this,” and we headed into it.

It started with small meetings once or twice a month. It was just a group of us in a room talking about: What do we do? How do we get this started? You know, we sort of formulated a plan as to what I can do as far as students, and I researched other colleges that have health centers and their resources. And I remember putting together a survey just to see the need and demand for [the health center]. We got someone from the research part of the school to distribute the surveys out to students who then took the survey and listed exactly the services they wanted to see. Um, and then we went ahead and hired a consultant, I believe. Her and her husband came and they were really good about helping us financially establish, you know, how much things are going to cost, how to get different equipment, and things like that. How to go about hiring.

As we got all that and kind of got our ideas straight, we had to present to the board of trustees for the school. So, you know and I spoke and basically said again my reason for wanting this and how important it was.

MB: You must have done a lot of research in order to track down everything that peer institutions were doing, and, like you said, how much everything costs, and getting the consultant in there. That must have been quite a process on top of all the school work you were already doing.

KM: It was definitely worth it. I felt motivated and driven to do it. I didn’t see it as, like, “Oh, gosh. This is one more thing I have to do.” I thought, “This is exciting! This is going to be really good if this could actually happen.” Even if I don’t get to experience having the health center there, I’m excited that other students who are coming get to.

One of my mentors I have who I work for now in the counseling department—at the start of this I was like, “Well, where do you—how do you even start this? What do you do?” And I remember her telling me, “You’re a student and only you can make a difference. You and other students are the only ones who can make this happen because if we say anything, it’s not going to be as impactful because we’re not students. You guys need to be insisting on any issue and making it happen.

MB: What advice would you give students who are preparing to do something like that?

KM: Um, to be honest, you know I would say find a level of support whether that’s with peers, families, instructors—anybody. Definitely have a support system and just, you know, be confident and remember what you want as far as like why it’s so important for you to get something done. And just speak out and voice your opinion over it.

If you’re interested in making significant change on your campus like Krystal did, go to www.ActiveMinds.org/Transform to access Transform Your Campus. There you’ll find resources to aid your advocacy efforts, including our featured campaigns on ID cards, orientation programming, and leave of absence policies.

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The Connection We Aren’t Talking About http://activemindsblog.org/the-connection-we-arent-talking-about/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:57:59 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6672 I was on Facebook when I stumbled across the video of a news clip that recently aired in the UK. It was an interview with the mother of Lily-Anna Winter, a thirteen-year old girl who died by suicide in May of 2017. Although I did not know Lily-Anna or her family, this was the type of story that would have a lasting impact on me.

Five weeks before she died, Lily-Anna was diagnosed with a rare and invisible illness, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I too have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Our shared Facebook support networks are the reason the interview with her mom traveled around the globe to my computer screen. But I think Lily-Anna’s story landed with me for reasons much more significant.

I am both a mental health advocate and a chronic illness warrior. I have always struggled to explain to people how important I believe the connection between chronic illness and mental health is. I have even had difficulties finding research on this topic, with the only real evidence being about the connection between chronic pain and depression. Don’t get me wrong, I think that is an important discussion to have. But what about everything else?

Chronic illness and mental health are intrinsically connected, in a few distinct ways:

Searching for a diagnosis takes an emotional toll on the patient. The path to a rare illness diagnosis is often paved with misdiagnosis and misunderstanding from medical professionals. The specialists for these illnesses are often located at the best hospitals, in metropolitan areas like Boston or Baltimore. Unfortunately, there are many providers who still don’t know the diagnostic “red flags” and will not be able to properly diagnose the patient in need. The inability for many providers to draw the connection between symptoms and a diagnosis often leads to a feeling of misunderstanding and hopelessness in the patient. Further, struggling to find a diagnosis can take a toll on the patients support system. When friends and family do not understand why their loved one is not able to participate in certain activities, restricted because of their illness or symptoms, they tend to distance themselves. For patients, not having the ability to say, “this is the illness I have, and this is why I am restricted,” causes confusion and disconnect from their family and friends.

Coping with the truth and adjusting your lifestyle can be shocking. Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is, in many cases, traumatic. Many of these invisible illnesses, like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, are incurable. This process can be discouraging and frightening. For many, mental health is rarely incorporated into patient’s complex treatment plans. Even the most knowledgeable, understanding, and caring health care providers seem to overlook this part of a plan that may be vital for many of their patients. Part of this is due to the distraction of constantly treating physical symptoms.  

Finding mental health support is particularly difficult. As we know, finding the right person to talk to is a trial-and-error process. This is only more complicated when the patient looking for help has a rare disease. There is a great deal of misunderstanding that comes along with a chronic illness diagnosis. Whether or not people try their best to have compassion for you, it is difficult to connect with someone who has not experienced what you experience.

Lily-Anna’s chronic pain started when she was nine years old. The pain and fatigue caused by her invisible illness went undiagnosed for years. Without a diagnosis, she was unable to receive the proper symptom management and treatment. She was also missing out on the opportunity to receive counseling or mental health treatment specific to the illness she was living with.

Raising awareness, not only about chronic illness, but about mental health, is incredibly important for this issue. We know that staying silent on problems like this can lead to stigma and shame. To avoid that, we need to talk about this connection and find more solutions.

Lilly-Anna’s family is working to form a charity that will work with The Ehlers Danlos Society and mental health organizations to raise awareness for earlier diagnosis, as well as target children at the point of diagnosis to ensure they receive proper mental health support.

This idea can be grown and replicated for many more of the chronic illnesses that exist, like gastroparesis, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, arthritis, endometriosis, celiac disease, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and many, many more. There are over 100 million people in the United States who have one or more chronic health conditions.

To make progress on this problem, and prevent more stories like Lilly-Anna’s, we need to continue the conversation on the connection between chronic illness and mental health.

While the issue is multi-faceted and complicated, it is vital that more people suffering from these invisible illnesses receive the mental health support they may need.

To read more about Lilly-Anna:

http://www.lilly-annastrust.com

To read more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome:

https://ehlers-danlos.com

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What Mental Health Month Means to Us http://activemindsblog.org/what-mental-health-month-means-to-us/ Fri, 05 May 2017 15:10:45 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org?p=6604&preview=true&preview_id=6604 If you’re reading this blog right now, then you are probably on at least one mental health organization’s email list and have been receiving reminders that May is Mental Health Month.

Now, let’s step back. How great is this? A topic so many people avoid talking about, avoid thinking about, avoid caring about takes center stage this month. As a community of advocates, we have a platform to talk about all the ways in which people are able to preserve their mental health, seek help when they’re struggling, and advocate for changes in our mental health care system. Additionally, those of us who struggle, are in long-term recovery, are suicide attempt survivors, or are survivors of a loved one’s suicide are reminded that we’re not alone, we matter, and we can make a difference.

I asked some of our Student Advisory Committee members what Mental Health Month means to them, and this is what they had to say:

I think having a huge event like this is amazing. Having a month dedicated to a cause brings it attention and gets a conversation going. Personally, it has also opened up my eyes to showing I am not so alone in my mental health advocacy or my mental health struggles. I am incredibly thankful for SAC and the times I have been able to talk to people throughout the nation on what we all can do. It’s also very inspirational to hear what other people are doing in the name of mental health nationwide. – Nycole Fassbender, SAC President and member of Active Minds at Marquette University

National observation for Mental Health Month means letting everyone know that mental health is for everyone. There is no shame in seeking and asking for help. It serves as a reminder for us to continue to be there for our loved ones who are suffering with a mental illness and for ourselves to keep practicing self-care. Remember mental health is just as important as physical health! – Raquel Sosa, SAC member and member of Active Minds at East Stroudsburg University

What I think is great about Mental Health Awareness Month, and any other awareness week or month for that matter, is that there is a certain amount of power in having one agreed upon period of time in which, more than any other time of year, you can see advocates being motivated to get their message out there and share in common goals and share the work, and this not only increases visibility for a cause but also strengthens the community of advocates and people who care about the cause. – Russell Fascione, SAC Member and member of Active Minds at University of Maine

If you’re interested in taking action this month, check out our programming at www.ActiveMinds.org, and tune into our friends at Art With Impact. They’re producing some great content this month, too!

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Racism is Making Us Sick http://activemindsblog.org/racism-is-making-us-sick/ Fri, 05 May 2017 14:54:05 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6608 Help and hope are available. Over the last 14 years, Active Minds has empowered students facing mental health struggles to share their stories to let others know they’re not alone and to spread that message: help and hope are available. During my time as a member of the Active Minds team, I’ve come to recognize that we and many of our peer organizations in the field share the same question: how do we ensure this empowerment is extended fully to students of color?

This past week, it was reported that a noose was found hanging in a fraternity house at the University of Maryland. This incident shortly followed a similarly despicable racist incident at American University.

There is a host of literature linking such instances of interpersonal racism to negative health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, distress, psychological stress, post-traumatic stress, and even biomarkers of disease, such as inflammatory markers, cortisol dysregulation, telomere length, and allostatic load.

This spring, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published a study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, in which they found a high prevalence of “imposter syndrome” among African American, Asian American, and Latino American college students – that is, a condition of feeling like a fraud because of an inability to internalize success and a feeling of incompetence – and that high imposter feelings were a positive predictor of anxiety and depression. In other words, the students’ awareness of racial prejudices and stereotypes (i.e. assumed lower intelligence among African American and Latino American students and “model minority” stereotypes of Asian American students) induced an imposter phenomenon and contributed to incidences of anxiety and depression.

In short, racism is making us sick.

Yet, despite all of this, research shows that students of color are less likely to seek help than their peers.

Last month, to help us better understand the broader context for which racism and health are interacting, a team of researchers from New York and Boston came together to point out in The Lancet that to truly reduce health inequities, we must be willing to address structural racism, involving “interconnected institutions, whose linkages are historically rooted and culturally reinforced.” Examples of structural racism impacting many of the students of color experiencing imposter syndrome and other forms of interpersonal racism include the failure by our university systems to consider mental health as a retention and graduation issue. Additionally, hiring and educational/training practices have produced counseling centers that are more often not “white spaces,” predominantly or sometimes exclusively staffed by counselors who neither reflect the diversity of their students nor are trained to help with often culturally-linked mental health concerns of students of color.

Not to mention the various examples of structural racism impacting students of color beyond the campus walls and in a range of disciplines and sectors, including but not limited to housing, employment and earnings, media, criminal justice, and so on.

We have a long way to go to ensure mental health services are inclusive of and utilized by students of color. I’m encouraged to see more public health professionals addressing racism head-on through their innovative research. Their work teaches us that we each have a role in applying that knowledge in our various sectors and communities.

To learn more about how to support the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color, seek out and get involved with one of the many organizations in the field working to empower students to speak openly about mental health and leading innovative mental health initiatives with a focus on diversity/inclusion. Some of these incredible organizations include Active Minds, Each Mind Matters, the Healthy Minds Network, and the Steve Fund. If you’re struggling, text BRAVE to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

A version of this post will also be published at The Activist History Review on May 5.

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Did You Hear about the Rose that Grew from Concrete? http://activemindsblog.org/did-you-hear-about-the-rose-that-grew-from-concrete/ Wed, 03 May 2017 12:00:57 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6594 “Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Provin Nature’s laws wrong it learned how to walk without
Havin feet
Funny it seems but, by keepin its dreams
It, learned to breathe FRESH air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
When no one else even cared
No one else even cared…
The rose that grew from Concrete.”

-Verse from “Did You Hear about the Rose that Grew from Concrete?”
Tupac Shakur, Nicki Giovanni

Imagine you’re the first person in your family to attend college.  You’ve been taught that you need a degree in order to achieve success, but outside of that, you don’t know anything about the actual college experience. You have no idea how you’re going to pay for it. You’ve never been outside of your neighborhood and no one talks to you about preparing for a new schedule or social and academic environment. Underneath all of this, you are experiencing mental health issues. How would you manage a semester?

I spoke with Farida Boyer, a therapist at the Family Outreach and Crisis center in Philadelphia. For six years, Farida has provided therapy and counseling services for black families in the city. She often works with teens and young adults from disadvantaged areas. Before that, she was a teacher and also worked with nonprofit organizations in the area.

When I asked Farida about mental health stigmas within black communities she emphasized a lack of information. Many individuals become accustomed to having friends and family with mental illnesses and regard them as “crazy, erratic, or weird.” There is a vast acceptance of one’s mental illness as being a part of the individual’s personality. In addition, the lack of information and unwillingness to seek help leads to many people self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Therefore, there is this misconception that the reason for someone’s behavior is a result of an addiction. According to Farida, “Many do not seek help until it becomes too much to handle.”

The most common mental illnesses that Farida sees in her collegiate clients include: separation anxiety, depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. If a college student lacks information about such an illness, something like separation anxiety could easily be dismissed as simply “missing home.” According to Farida, when experiencing separation anxiety, “one may become quiet, emotionally worried when he or she is not around familiar people, not eating, daydreaming, and a lack of focus. I had one patient call her mom like 20 times in a day. She needed to know where her mother was at all times.” And while many people associate PTSD with military combat, it is also prevalent in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

I asked Farida what she could tell me about cultural bias. “A lot. Many individuals call me because they feel that they can relate to me. Patients are insecure about being stereotyped. Therapists need to know and show that they understand the cultural backgrounds of their patients so they can make students feel comfortable and make sound judgments.” It’s common for students to fear appearing weak or to worry about treatment fees, so if they’re in an unfamiliar environment, it’s difficult for them to reach out to the school’s counselor. Despite feeling isolated, a rose in a new environment has to seek out a support system and create meaningful relationships.

In an effort to encourage anyone who relates to this article, I asked Farida to provide advice for college students lacking support. 

FARIDA’S TIPS FOR ROSES:

  1. Know who you are as a person.
  2. Check on your self esteem, does it need boosting?
  3. Have what you need to be healthy: medication, specific foods, etc.
  4. Understand what your what your triggers are, if not try to monitor them.
  5. If you do not have a support person to stay in contact with, find one.
  6. If you feel isolated or believe that you will experience cultural bias, do not be discouraged. Reach out to the counseling center. Trust that these individuals are trained professionals and will assist the best that they can.
  7. When you go home for breaks, check in with your therapist!

I wish I had Farida’s insight during my first semester of college at Louisiana State University! I was an out-of-state student who was overwhelmed by separation anxiety and insecurity. I attempted to isolate myself from my new environment and didn’t create the relationships I desired. If I were educated on these issues, I would have had a better experience. I reached out to Krishaun Branch, an alumni of Fisk University and documentary subject, to provide more awareness and encouragement. Stay tuned for part two!

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Borderline Personality Disorder Month: Practicing Compassion http://activemindsblog.org/borderline-personality-disorder-month-practicing-compassion/ Mon, 01 May 2017 12:41:53 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=4748 Stacy is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring her to your campus to speak about mental health.

PrinceMemeOf all the quotes I saw in the wake of Prince’s death — and I’m a Prince fan to the core — this is the most beautiful and resonant to me: “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.”

I spent a lot of years having very little compassion for other people, because I had none for myself. This is the aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder that causes the greatest stigma; it’s what causes others to view us as willfully manipulative and cruel.

But what was really happening is that I was severely mentally ill and without proper help for a long, long time. When I was finally diagnosed with BPD and found Dialectical Behavior Therapy — which is basically CBT meets Zen Buddhism — I started to learn what it means to be connected to other people. That connection is the basis of compassion.

And I believe now — I KNOW now, because by practicing it, I help save lives — that compassion is radical activism. There is nothing more terrifying, raw, and profound than looking into the eyes of another being and realizing that their pain, their suffering, their fear, their joy, and their dreams are yours too.

That realization, and the compassion of the people who saw the good in me when I couldn’t, is the one and only reason I’m not dead.

So hell yeah, compassion is an action word. Because to keep from shutting yourself off and approaching the world from a place of anger and fear — and one of the things I learned in DBT is that anger is just a secondary emotion to fear — is the hardest, scariest thing you will ever do.

You have to work really, really hard at love to overcome fear. It’s the one and only way. And just as there’s no anger without fear, there’s no love without compassion.

All is connected. All are one. Compassion for yourself is compassion for others. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. I love you.

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About Chris Gethard’s HBO Special: Career Suicide http://activemindsblog.org/on-chris-gethards-hbo-special-career-suicide/ Mon, 01 May 2017 11:00:01 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6578  

HBO is airing a new comedy special called Chris Gethard: Career Suicide on Saturday, May 6. Active Minds is proud to serve as a resource for his first HBO comedy special.

Many years ago Chris was a speaker at Active Minds’ national conference!

Chris is a (wry, funny, makes-you-laugh-just-looking-at-him) comedian who talks about his own personal struggles with anxiety, major depression, and suicidal ideation and attempts. He uses humor to make these topics more relatable and accessible to his audiences.

The show is great. It does have content that may be triggering to some people (and that does not entirely follow the guidelines that we at Active Minds use in our storytelling initiatives).

We believe the only way to combat stigma is by talking about our real experiences. As a person in long-term recovery, Chris is doing that in a deeply personal way, and we applaud his strength and vulnerability.

Chris and HBO also created a wonderful three-minute video called “A Story That’s Everywhere” where he talks with friends about how difficult it is to be open about their struggles with mental health. The video is authentic, funny, and heartfelt — we hope you’ll watch!

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line.

If you are a friend to a person who is in treatment or recovery from a mental health condition, you can find more resources at www.ActiveMinds.org/BeAFriend.

– The Active Minds Team

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An Open Letter to the Creators of S-Town http://activemindsblog.org/an-open-letter-to-the-creators-of-s-town/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:10:12 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6559 Dear Brian Reed, Julie Snyder, and the production team of S-Town,

First of all, thank you for yet another outstanding podcast series. I found S-Town to be an engaging, emotionally poignant story that challenges stereotypes and evokes critical thought.

At the moment that I was listening, I was traveling the state of California, training hundreds of students in how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and intervene to help save a life. I had no idea how relevant the story of John B. McLemore would be to our organizational mission at Active Minds, a national nonprofit that supports 12,000+ student activists throughout the nation who are changing the conversation about mental health on their campuses, with a specific emphasis on preventing suicide.

I thought a lot about how we may leverage this sudden propulsion of the issue of suicide into the national spotlight towards positive change. I believe that, with effective follow up, the teams at S-Town and This American Life are uniquely positioned to shine a light on the issue of suicide, a dangerously silenced and stigmatized issue.

In my view, S-Town did a phenomenal job of illustrating John B. as a multifaceted person, whose death came on as a result of many composite circumstances. Not only did he seem to have struggled with undiagnosed mental illness, he also lived as a socially progressive, atheist, closeted gay man in rural Alabama. On top of that, he seemed to have experienced more than his fair share of personal tragedy, and significant exposure to toxic chemicals.

S-Town also astutely explored the complex implications that John’s death had on the lives around him, which is an under-discussed repercussion of the epidemic of suicide. From Brian Reed’s own shock and confusion with the news, to the deep feelings of grief, anger, and turmoil experienced by Tyler Goodson, John’s out-of-town cousins, John’s mother and friends, and others. Suicide is complex, and it’s important that we steer away from over-simplifying its causes and those impacted.

Where S-Town missed the mark, in my opinion, is in the language used to describe and discuss John B.’s suicide. Not only were we hit with a graphic description of John’s death in Chapter 2 without warning, we also heard innumerable mentions of John having “committed suicide.” Language is both our most accessible tool for change, and our most powerful. It’s important that we change the way that we talk about suicide, shifting it away from the world of crime, stigma, and shame that is evoked with language like “committed suicide” and “killed himself.” Instead, we use the term “died by suicide” or “lost someone to suicide” which reframes the issue, building a foundation of support and acceptance of people’s very real struggles. Reportingonsuicide.org is a great resource for safely addressing the issue in the media, in order to prevent triggers and suicide contagion or copycats, a very real phenomenon.

In the final moments of the series, Brian reads a few chosen lines from John’s suicide note, including one in which he expresses that his absence will somehow free up resources and room for others. Including these words was a dangerous affirmation of the notion that one’s own death will benefit those around them. To those who heard these words and felt any sense that the world would be better off without you, know that that is not the case. You are not alone.

Lastly, and most importantly, S-Town is faced with a unique opportunity to educate their listeners about the signs of suicide. Throughout the story, we learn that John B. frequently discussed his suicidal thoughts with those around him. He discussed it openly, and made plans accordingly, but few people acknowledged his words as true warning signs of suicidal intent. I bring this up, not in an effort to place blame on any one person involved, but rather to draw attention to the lack of awareness that exists around suicide, as a culture overall. Suicide is an issue that has not yet been fully embraced as a public health concern, and therefore remains widely stigmatized and under-discussed. As the Suicide Prevention Resource Center posits, we all have a role to play in protecting people from suicide. When more of us are able to recognize the signs, and respond, we may be able to get an individual the professional support that they need, and reduce the rate of suicide.

That said, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the unique challenges that a rural area like Bibb County, Alabama faces when it comes to access to local mental health support. For now, we encourage residents of rural areas to utilize national support resources like the Crisis Text Line, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

John B. McLemore was someone who was in tune with, and constantly immersed in, many of the macro ills of the world. Unfortunately, he and many of those who surrounded him were caught completely unaware of one issue that many of us routinely sweep under the rug: the tragedy of suicide. Suicide is a very preventable cause of death, but its prevention relies on widespread knowledge of its risk factors, warning signs, and crisis resources.

I can’t help but think about how John B. himself might have delved into this issue, having had a glimpse into his proclivity towards diligent research, and seeking diverse worldviews. I imagine that he would insist that those around him understood the consequences of their action (and inaction) on the matter. A way that we may mindfully honor John B. McLemore is to let others know that they’re not alone, that help is available, and that there are ways that we may all be working towards the betterment of our overall approach to acknowledging and preventing suicide.

I urge S-Town and This American Life to consider harnessing the opportunity they have to steer the conversation of John B. towards one of raising awareness of suicide, reducing stigma, and helping to avert further tragedy. Thousands of Active Minds students are doing so every day. We invite you to join us.

Thank you for your consideration,
Becky Fein
Active Minds

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Tune in For Laughs: Staff Picks http://activemindsblog.org/tune-in-for-laughs-staff-picks/ Wed, 19 Apr 2017 15:12:19 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6355 Stress management is important, and we here at the Active Minds National Office have a bunch of different ways we prioritize it. Some of us like to go to the gym, take walks, meditate, do yoga, hang out with friends, go hear live music, cook, bake, or toss stress balls at each other from across the room.

But there’s one thing nearly all of us agree makes us laugh more and stress less: sitcoms.

Here’s a list of our favorite 30-minute format, laughtastic, sitcoms of all time.

Nate, Spring 2017 Operations Intern: Bob’s Burgers
It’s all about a family that is a little odd but is ultimately very kind and good natured. It’s hilarious, and acceptable for most age groups. You can find Bob’s on Fox, Netflix, and Hulu.

Louise Belcher Gif

Maggie, Associate Director of Training and Education: Please Like Me
If you like a hint of drama with your comedy, then Please Like Me is probably right up your alley. I fell in love with this Australian show right out of the gate, and its mental health plot points are realistic, compassionate, and strong. But honestly, it’s not the mental health storylines that kept me watching through the four seasons. The show makes me laugh out loud–even when I’m alone. Comedian Josh Thomas and his crew have written sarcastic, slightly cynical, definitely self-deprecating characters whose primary combined superpower is love. Please Like Me is available on Hulu.

Laura Horne, Interim Director of Programs: Seinfeld and New Girl
Seinfeld and New Girl (a present-day Seinfeld, if you will) are for folks who get a laugh from quirky friends, awkward situations, and discussing everyday yet unnamed phenomena (i.e. the “close-talker,” the “shusher,” and the “bronemy”). Find Seinfeld on Hulu and New Girl on Hulu or Amazon.

 

Emily Armstrong, Program Coordinator: Parks and Recreation
I could watch this show a thousand times and it would still make me laugh. The motley crew of characters, combined with perfectly timed humor and endearing personalities make it an all-around feel good show, sure to boost my mood every time. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want a Leslie Knope/Ann Perkins friendship? Parks and Rec is all over the various streaming services.

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Lee Ann Gardner, Director of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau: Community
Great ensemble cast, spot-on writing and interesting story lines that take viewers from common, everyday community college issues like inept professors and scheming deans, to psychedelic animated adventures into other universes. Recurring inside jokes and themes give knowing fans of Greendale Community College’s star students and faculty plenty to watch for. You can watch Community on Hulu.

Becky Fein, California Statewide Program Manager: The Office
The Office will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2010, I moved to New York City for grad school; while exciting, it was an overwhelming and intimidating transition for me. When I arrived, I had ten days before my semester began, and I spent much of that time mentally engrossed in the small town of Scranton, PA, with the goofy and lovable cast of The Office. Their relatable lives and daily shenanigans kept me grounded and brought a smile to my face, in a moment that very little else could. Find episodes of The Office basically everywhere including Netflix and Amazon.

Robyn Suchy, Chapter Coordinator: Scrubs
Who doesn’t love a good daydream? I know I’m often lost down the rabbit hole of my own mind and it can be fun, but no one does the daydream like JD and his fellow doctors and nurses at Sacred Heart Hospital. Scrubs is a medical sitcom that uniquely brings laughter to what would otherwise be a somber, serious environment of a hospital. While it does address real issues through episodes dealing with illness and disease and grief, at it’s heart, Scrubs is a show about the power of friendship, perseverance, and not taking yourself too seriously.

So what are your favorite laugh-out-loud sitcoms? Tweet them to us @Active_Minds!
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13 Ways to Continue the Conversation about 13 Reasons Why http://activemindsblog.org/13-ways-to-continue-the-conversation-about-13-reasons-why/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 13:39:27 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6550 By Markie Pasternak

Markie Pasternak is a 2016 alumnus from Marquette University, where she served as Chapter President of her Active Minds chapter and President of the Active Minds National Student Advisory Committee. She is currently a graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington.

A note from Active Minds: Many people have found 13 Reasons Why triggering. In making your own decision to watch or not watch, we encourage you to review this resource from the Jed Foundation and SAVE. Markie’s perspective below is one of the many nuanced ways that mental health advocates and organizations have responded to 13 Reasons Why and we present her thoughts as a way to continue the conversation. Additional note that several spoilers are mentioned below.

In the spring of 2008, I was bullied. Even though these girls were in 8th grade, they had the ability to make me feel the size of an ant. They left me out, spread rumors behind my back and used me anytime they could. One of my other friends was also living with severe depression and attempted suicide.

This was a lot for a 14-year-old girl. So, on a rainy evening in April, at my local bookstore, I found a book that I thought might tell me why one of my best friends didn’t want to live anymore, why these girls at school didn’t see me as an equal. Most importantly, why when I was shouting out to the whole world for help, no one was answering. That book was 13 Reasons Why. Not only did this book help me to get some of these questions answered, but it created more questions— the questions I needed to be asking.

I am now a 23-year-old graduate student, but the new series based on the book did the same thing to me — it answered some of my questions, and is making me ask more. As advocates, it is our job to help facilitate these conversations. Recognizing that these are hard to do, here are 13 ways to continue the conversation about 13 Reasons Why.

  1. Say “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide.”

Hannah Baker did not “commit” suicide, she “died by suicide.” Why? Because suicide is not a crime, it is an unfortunate ending, often to a long battle with mental illness. When we use language like “committed,” we perpetuate a culture of blame on the victims, which makes people afraid to admit they are having thoughts about suicide. It also shames those who attempt suicide, adding to the stigma rather than providing support.

  1. Help others recognize their privilege.

I don’t speak for all women, but I know that I cannot be the only one who has been objectified by someone. This issue is dismissed in many of the reviews of the series. It isn’t just a women’s issue — anyone can experience sexual harassment or assault. If you have had the privilege of never having someone think that they had the right to treat you as less than human, take time to hear from those of us who have had these experiences. If you hear people dismiss issues that don’t affect them, call them out on it.

  1. Watch 13 Reasons Why with your parents.

If I were a parent and I saw my kid running around with cassette tapes for a week, noticed their bike was missing, and saw scars on their face, I would be concerned, too. But, setting aside that aside, the parents in the series were clueless about their children’s lives.

Parents need context for what is going on and to learn how to help. I know. “Do I want to watch some of those scenes with my parents?” I watched Gossip Girl with my mom in high school. Remember some of the things that went down in that? There were six seasons. You can do this.

  1. Bring social class into the conversation.

As we saw Justin admire Bryce’s family and get pushed around by his mom’s boyfriend, his character pulled in the theme of social class into the series.

Justin felt so inferior to Bryce that he was afraid to stop or report the rape he knew Bryce committed. Bryce supported Justin. That made Justin feel indebted to him.

Digging deeper, Justin feared power and didn’t trust authority. He didn’t have the social/cultural capital to make connections with school professionals like Marcus and Courtney had. This left him feeling alone. We need to be aware of social class differences and how they affect people’s experiences.

  1. Educate yourself and others on sexual assault.

We can probably agree that Bryce’s comments about the rape were disturbing. The fact that this 18-year-old boy could not define what rape is, is terrible and a statement about how we are educating young adults about sexual assault and harassment. If you cannot define sexual assault and know the difference between assault and harassment, put this article on pause and look these things up. Then work on educating those who may not understand.

  1. Hold your school accountable. Be a part of movements for change.

Liberty High was reactive — hanging posters about drunk driving after a student had been killed drunk driving and posters about suicide after a student had died by suicide. The students did not respond well. Schools need to have these conversations before a tragedy.

We play a role in seeking justice and raising awareness. Host a suicide awareness week, apply for the Send Silence Packing® tour or an Active Minds Speaker to come to your campus. The best thing you can do is help prevent tragedies by letting people know they are cared for and help is available.

  1. Think critically about pornography.

Clay realized the picture of Courtney and Hannah had affected him, too. He had used their picture for pleasure, but after listening to Courtney’s tape, he deletes the picture and all the pornographic images on his computer. My arms flew up in victory, not just for Clay but for all.

A man who was committing the crime of stalking took the photo at the expense of the dignity and respect of Hannah and Courtney. But let’s talk about how a lot of porn is actually produced. Some porn comes at the expense of women trafficked into sex slavery, some porn comes at the expense of women who leave their families to film porn because they feel they have few other options. Let’s start talking about where porn comes from and how, in many instances, it perpetuates rape culture and oppression.

  1. Don’t be afraid to question mental health professionals.

We cannot afford for mental health professionals to respond to students the way Mr. Porter, the school counselor, did. Beyond telling Hannah to ride out the next two months because her rapist will soon graduate, he disregarded Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.

There are A TON of skilled mental health professionals out there who work every day to ensure their clients’ wellness. However, for those not doing it well, we need to call them out. As advocates, we can help make sure our schools’ resources are quality. If we don’t call out a bad practice, then we run the risk of deterring a person who has gained the courage to try counseling from returning.

  1. Take a vow to stop using the words “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore.”

Again, language matters. When we use words like “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore” to describe women, we are perpetuating a culture in which we label, shame, and objectify women. In the show, it was never “Hannah Baker, the amazing poetry writer” or “Hannah Baker, the smart, witty girl who stands up for herself.” It was “Hannah Baker, best ass in the sophomore class.” When we call women or anyone these names, we take away their humanity. As we saw in the series, these ideas about a person can spread.

  1. Get certified in QPR or Mental Health First Aid.

Think about getting certified in QPR (Question Persuade Refer) or Mental Health First Aid to develop the skills to help someone in crisis. Ask you campus counseling center if they offer QPR or Mental Health First Aid certification. If your campus does not offer these programs, look up where you can get certified in your local community or reach out to Active Minds for more information.

  1. Recognize that Counseling Centers are many times a “white space.” Start talking about what inclusivity looks like.

Mr. Porter is a black, male counselor at Liberty High. That is pretty cool! Why? Because there are not many mental health professionals who identify as people of color. (Side note: if there aren’t enough people of a certain identity being represented in a specific space, it isn’t helpful to portray them in that space negatively.)

Most counseling centers are predominantly white spaces. Many students of color are not feeling that their experiences are validated. This is a huge problem. We need to include students of color and multicultural groups in our efforts. Listen to their perspectives. Advocate for inclusive hiring practices.

  1. Make connections with people different from you.

We are tempted to surround ourselves with people who are like us in interests and identities. The more we do that, the less we allow ourselves to learn new things about the world and about people.

Here’s a quick activity: think about aspects of who you are. What identities do you hold (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, social class, religion)? Now, think about the five people you are closest to. How are they different from you? How are they the same? Think about what you’ve learned through those relationships, and recognize that there is so much more you could be learning by getting to know other people.

  1. Reflect on your thoughts about the series with others.

What ideas came as you watched the series? Anything you saw that you never thought about before?  Did anyone in the series make you consider a new perspective? Take time to think about it.

Then, talk to other people who have watched the series. Gather their thoughts, too. Start thinking about the issues presented in the series and start asking questions. Maybe even write a blog post like this one. This is the way we are going to create change on our campuses.  Everyone has their own unique ideas. Trust me when I say, the world wants to hear yours.

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