Active Minds Blog » family Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Suicide and Families: What Should We Talk About? Tue, 15 Mar 2016 14:32:01 +0000 Quintin is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Quintin and his fellow scholars here.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what I do for school/work. I work with a lot of depressed folk and talk about suicide. I’m also studying the suicide experiences of trans-youth. It doesn’t make for great topics for parties. Usually people nod and don’t say much; then they slowly drift away. Despite the poor fit for party topics, I still talk about it—because it’s important to me; almost invariably I have one tear-filled bonding experience with someone who’s been depressed and desperate for someone to talk to.

Dr. Brene Brown, talks about the power of this connection in her TEDTalk, The Power of Vulnerability. She says, “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” After spending hours upon hours listening to trans youth talk about their experiences with depression and suicidality, that quote sticks in my head. These kids are not deviants—they are people desperate to survive. They are desperate to hear someone accept them and struggle with them.

brene brown quote


For this reason, I am very glad to have Dr. Guy Diamond as my national mentor for this Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Dr. Diamond is one of the creators of Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) for depressed and suicidal adolescents (see more here).  My one sentence summation of ABFT is, teens have a right to turn to their parents for support and parents have a responsibility to support their kids. Check out this article if you’d like to learn more about it and how it specifically fits for LGBT families.

quintin mentorDr. Diamond is the director of the Ph.D. program of Couple and Family Therapy and the Family Intervention Science programs at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Dr. Diamond is helping me to find better ways to inform my research and directly put it into practice; he’s also given me many ideas for future projects and some future collaborations!

MooseKleenex perfectly explains the far-too-common experience of depression and suicidality as a teenager:

moose kleenex comic

This scenario—called a double-bind, and meaning that the person is given two contradictory rules—is one I see repeatedly in my own clinical work with suicidal and depressed teenagers. It is also one of the major patterns displayed in the interviews with transgender youth I have been analyzing.

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Worried About a Friend? Here’s How to Support Them Fri, 26 Feb 2016 13:23:48 +0000 For most of my life, I’ve wished that I had some sort of a handbook for being a friend. I think I do a pretty decent job (although, I suppose you’d have to check with my friends on that one), but there’s no way to be there for someone perfectly all the time.

I mean, how many times have I told a friend I knew how they felt without really having any idea whatsoever?

How many times have I just jumped to giving advice and solving the problem when all they needed was a sounding board?

How many times did I know someone was struggling, but I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all?

The truth is that there’s no perfect way to be a friend, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to help a friend admit they need help, seek that help, get the help, and manage their recovery. There are way too many variables in play.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little guide for that journey?

That’s why we created the Be A Friend resources.

If you have questions about whether the warning signs you’re seeing in your friend’s behavior might be a sign of distress, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to react when a friend who is in need of help stops going to therapy, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to take care of yourself while you do an incredible job of being an amazing support person, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve also added personal stories from members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau–they’ll tell you what their journey was like, how friends and family helped them through it all, and their advice for being there for a struggling friend.

It’s not the end all, be all of resources. But we look forward to hearing what you think, adding your stories, and continuing to expand the content to include more specialized resources on identity development and the impacts of trauma and discrimination.

You’re a great friend. We’re just here to help you show it.

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Happier Holidays: Tips to De-stress and Enjoy Your Break Wed, 02 Dec 2015 13:00:03 +0000 This time of year can be the best: heading back home, family-time, food everywhere, gift-giving!

But the holidays can also be the worst: heading back home, family-time, food everywhere, gift-giving.

The way you view the holiday season can depend on a lot of different factors. Does traveling back to your home town make you excited or anxious? Does your family make you feel comfortable or alienated? For many of us, it’s complicated.

The holidays can be particularly hard for those struggling with mental health. There are a lot of changes in the routine you’ve set up for yourself at school, some of the coping mechanisms or support networks you’ve built may not be available, forced family meals can be triggering and uncomfortable, and financial stress of holiday shopping can compile to make your relaxing break anything but relaxing.

Luckily, we have some tips for you to kick this holiday break’s butt! If you’re feeling down, upset, confused, or in a funk over the next month or so, try some of these tips:

  1. Make some “you” time.

Put on your comfiest clothes, shut your door, load up the Netflix, and do what you want to do. Sometimes stepping away from everyone and everything can really help you relax. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing most, do it as much as you need.

2. Get out of the house.

In addition to spending some time by yourself, having a change of scenery can be a huge help. Go to a movie, take a walk or run, go for a drive, or take a book to a local coffee shop. The fresh air will do you good!

3. Plan in advance.

Think ahead to what days over your break might be more high-stress than others or when you’ll be seeing that relative you’re not over-the-moon about and then think through what you can do to get through those times. Think about meditating those mornings or giving yourself a reward to look forward to at the end of the day.

4. Be patient with yourself.

With all of the expectations and hustle of the holidays, it can be a lot to take on and think about. Don’t try to do too much yourself whether it’s with gifts, family, or friends. Ask for help when you need it and be realistic about what you can and want to get done in a day.

5. Make yourself a priority.

There’s no shame in looking out for #1 (that’s you!). If your routine is what keeps you going at school, try not to lose sight of that at home. Sleep, eat, exercise, socialize, rest and relax as normally as you can–and don’t be afraid to let your family know that it’s what you need.

6. Keep in touch with your support network from school.

You all have heard about texting and the internet, right? Get in there! Text, call, FaceTime, Skype, GChat, send carrier pigeons–just because you’re taking a break from classes doesn’t mean you need to take a break from your friends. It’s possible they need a helping hand to get through the holidays too. You can even play games, watch a movie, or debrief your days over the phone.

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