Mental Health Monologues at Winona State University

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MHM 2015Active Minds at Winona State University recently won Active Minds’ Programming Innovation Award for their mental health story-sharing program, the Mental Health Monologues (check out their videos)! Based on the highly popular Vagina Monologues, students, faculty, and staff (some as actors and others as authors of the stories) brought mental health struggles to life by reading personal experiences with mental illness  in a theatrical setting.

The overall goal of this program was to “erase the stigma surrounding mental health and show that there is hope of treatment and recovery for mental illness.” They hoped that this emotionally-charged public presentation of personal stories would reveal the ways in which mental illness affects different people, whether they are personally struggling or supporting a loved one.

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The White Balloon Could be Coming to Your Campus

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white balloonLooking for a creative way to start a conversation about mental health and engage a large population in your community or on your campus? Active Minds at Rochester Institute of Technology may have found one of the most creative ways yet to engage their campus, get the word out about their chapter, and educate their peers at the same time: they brought The White Balloon to their campus.

The goal of this program was to inform peers about the proportion of college students who live with mental illness in the United States. They accomplished this goal in three ways: balloons, mystery, and social media.

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Suicide Prevention Month: The Happiest I’ve Been

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here

Please Note: The following post mentions childhood sexual abuse.

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From a very young age, I had to fend for myself and protect those who were around me, whether it was my little brother from my mother’s beatings or my cousin from my step-grandfather’s sexual abuse.

I was never looking out for me.

I never had anyone to turn to. In school I was bullied by so many people including people I called my friends. Even my teachers bullied me because in their minds I wasn’t “smart” enough.

I would go home and be abused whether it was sexually, physically or mentally. I would go through everything, and afterward I would pretend I was okay.

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Suicide Prevention Month: Love Letters to Myself

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

love-letter-e1393478060868Walking back to my apartment one night, I passed by the fluorescent lighting of the local hospital. The combination of the sight of the emergency room and the sour, medicinal smell made me remember my suicide attempt in a way that was so visceral, I started shaking, feeling my lungs tighten around my ribcage and wondering when the tears would start.

I will spare the details of my attempt because for some time I hated anyone who knew what happened that night. I hated my friends for calling the EMTs. I hated my college’s crisis counselor for holding my hand in the ambulance. I hated the nurse who gave me crackers when I woke up the next morning in a hospital bed, embarrassed and terrified they would force me to leave school for the rest of the semester.

I wanted to hate myself, too, but they told me not to do that anymore.

I was able to leave the hospital the next morning and go back to school, but not without the pain of being abandoned by friends who believed I was too dramatic. This resulted in my habit of pretending nothing happened at all. The rest of the semester was shaky, filled with constant uncertainty and regular reminders that the word “survivor” now applied to my life.

But I slowly started to learn what it meant to be a person, to be alive. I began to journal. “Dear Self,” the first entry started. “You have been pissing me off a lot lately. No, really. I try to coddle you and make you feel comfortable, and you repay me in panic attacks, suicide attempts, and an inability to leave bed. This letter is your final written warning that I will not put up with your bullshit anymore.”

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Suicide Prevention Month: A Life Worth Living

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

you are not a burden active minds suicide prevention monthAccording to the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Van Orden et al., 2010), desires for suicide arise from a combination of perceived burdensomeness (i.e. “the world would be better off without me”) and thwarted belongingness (i.e. “no one will ever truly love or understand me”).

The capability for suicide is a separate, yet crucial factor that interacts with these desires. Where capability is present, there is the most acute, immediate, and serious risk for suicide. However, many people experience persistent desires for suicide without capability for it. That was the case for me for most of my life.

I’ve almost always felt like a burden –which makes sense considering that my father, frustrated that I didn’t have the attributes he had wanted in a child, frequently said I was a burden.

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Suicide Prevention Month: Reasons to Stay

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

IMG_1297I am alive.

Some days, this surprises me. I think of all that has happened in the 20.5 years of my life and am shocked to find myself still standing, still breathing, heart still beating. If you asked me a couple years ago if I would live to see 21, I would have laughed in your face. I would have said that my illnesses would probably take me before I even reached 18.

My illnesses are not physical; they are mental. That does not mean that they are any less serious, life-threatening, or difficult. It means that everyday I was fighting a battle against myself. I was at war with my own being and that was difficult on its own.

At age 17, after spending three years trying to balance my eating disorder, depression, borderline personality, anxiety, and self injury alongside of high school and being a “normal” teenager, I decided it was time to give up. I was tired of trying medication after medication. I was tired of going through so many different therapists. I was tired of fighting. I thought that it was never going to get better and that treatment was failing me. I felt hopeless. Continue Reading

Mental Health News Round-Up: August 21

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Michael Sam Leaves Pro Football, Cites Mental Health Concerns

Openly gay football pioneer Michael Sam is taking a break pro football to take care of his mental health. This is an important step for athletes to break down stigma and realize the importance of taking care of both physical and mental health equally.

Gun Laws Associated With Lower Suicide Rates

Decreasing access to lethal means prevents suicide according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. The four laws specifically investigated were waiting periods, background checks for purchase or licensing, hand gun locks, and restrictions on the open carrying.

If you are struggling, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting “Start” to 741-741.

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Mental Health News Round-Up: August 7

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Coffee Can Help Boost Your Mental Health

Moderate coffee drinkers were found to be less likely to develop mild cognitive imperative. Drink up coffee lovers!

Picky Eating in Children Linked to Anxiety, Depression and A.D.H.D.

New research in Pediatrics shows that extremely picky eating during childhood could be indicative of other behavioral health problems in the future. One scientist explains this connection because these youth are more sensitive to their environment and thus more easily affected by outside factors.

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My Story: Recovering from Adolescent Bullying

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“Make a fist. Now I want you to punch the air!” yelled Dr. Lin.

“Was this what you do in therapy? What is the point of this?” I kept thinking. I sat there reluctantly, refusing to have a fake fight with the wind blowing from the ceiling fan. This was pointless, and I just wanted to leave.

“I don’t feel like it. I’m not angry, and I don’t need to be talking to you.” I cowered back.  This short, impatient man was not going to waste my time. I was in a state of too much denial and self loathing to accept that I needed help. I may not have been externally angry, but there was no question I was angry with myself.

Needless to say, my first therapy appointment was a total disaster. The reason my parents had forced me to talk to a psychologist was because I was deciding whether I was going to transfer high schools in the middle of ninth grade. Before making the investment to send me to private school 20 miles away, they wanted to make sure this was the right decision.

Upon reflection, it was really not that much of a surprise that I had been the target of so much bullying. As far as middle school went, I had failed in pretty much every way possible to be cool. I was overweight, unathletic (and worse didn’t even know things about sports), musically talented, an unbelievable push-over, and worst of all, Jewish. At my middle school in northern NJ being anything but white, athletic and Christian was more or less a death sentence on the middle school social totem-pole.

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Mental Health News Round Up: July 24

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White House Discusses Native American Mental Health With Youth Leaders

On July 9, the White House gathered 875 Native youth in the Tribal Youth Gathering to discuss and make change in key issues facing Native communities. One of the initiatives called the SAMHSA Tribal Youth Leaders focused on mental health and substance use.

Studies Show Your Financial Health Could Be A Good Indicator Of Your Mental Health

Researchers have noted a correlation between debt and mental health problems.  Forbes suggests combatting both at the same time by recognizing the link between the two, and seeking help for both mental health and finances.

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