Active Minds Blog » treatment Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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This PostSecret Submission Shocked Frank Warren Thu, 29 Oct 2015 08:46:18 +0000 Want to bring Frank to your campus to talk about PostSecret and mental health? Learn more here.


This PostSecret submission arrived at my home yesterday and shocked me.

It shocks me because it reveals how this generation is courageously changing how we understand our mental wellness.

When I was younger, I struggled with depression and anxiety, like many of us, but I kept it a secret and in the darkness it got worse.  I suffered longer, needlessly, because I was afraid that if others knew my struggles they would judge me. The old stigmas handed down from earlier generations kept me from asking for the help that was waiting for me.

I am so hopeful that this generation will continue to take ownership of mental wellness issues so that never again will we be ashamed to tell our stories and get the help we deserve.

Submit your own secret to PostSecret today.

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Suicide Prevention Month: My Experience at the Emergency Room Thu, 24 Sep 2015 12:06:29 +0000 This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here. Please note: This piece talks about a specific experience regarding suicidal thoughts and hospitalizations. Not all experiences will be or are the same.


When someone is actively suicidal, we often tell them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to the local Emergency Room. These are all correct responses, but they are also scary, big steps for someone in a mental health crisis to take. I am going to try to demystify what happens at the emergency room when you go there for suicidal thoughts and planning by sharing my own experiences.

After telling the ER staff the reason why I was there, I was evaluated.
Whenever you go into the ER, for whatever reason, you tell the staff why you are there. You can word this however you want: I am feeling suicidal, I have a suicide plan, I’m having suicidal thoughts, I’m feeling really depressed, etc. I went with my parents, so they talked to the staff for me because I was unable to. (If you feel as though you need support, it’s a good idea to go with your parents or guardians or someone you trust.)

In my visits to the ER, they have had a mental health crisis professional come to evaluate me. The evaluation is assessing your suicide risk to determine what level of care you need. This means that you should be extremely honest with the person- they are just trying to get you the help that you need and that fits your situation. I was asked if I have a plan, if I’ve had previous attempts/thoughts/hospitalizations, what medications I am on (if any), any issues going on in my life, and other questions to determine my mental state.

This is often the steps that the ER and evaluator will be following to determine your safety.

My level of care needed was determined and they found me a place in that level of care.
In mental health treatment, there are different levels of care, meaning how much supervision and treatment you need.

  • Inpatient hospitalization (IP) is 24/7, acute care and support. You spend both days and nights there. Depending on your area, it may be a floor of a regular hospital or a freestanding psychiatric hospital. This treatment is also at behavioral health hospitals or clinics. Inpatient hospitalization is used when the person is at risk for harming themselves or someone else. The average length of stay is 5-7 days, but varies greatly. Since this is usually the outcome for an actively suicidal person, I will explain more about this treatment below.
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP) is an outpatient day treatment where you are there for 6+ hours either everyday or every week day. Outpatient means you sleep at home. This can be at the hospital, at a behavioral health clinic, or at a mental health care center. Partial hospitalization treatment usually consists of 1:1 therapy, psychiatry, group therapy, psycho-educational groups, and recreational/expression therapy.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is about 3-4 hours, usually at night or in the afternoon, and is 3-4 times a week, Like partial treatment, you sleep at home. This option is used a lot in situations where the person is safe enough to be unsupervised but is struggling enough to need more intensive care than weekly therapy. This can also be done fairly easily in conjunction with school and/or work.
  • Outpatient Treatment is your typical weekly therapy/psychiatry/group meetings. Sometimes if a person is safe but is experiencing suicidal thoughts and they don’t do Intensive Outpatient, they will do regular outpatient 2 or 3 times a week with their therapist or do weekly sessions with their therapist and supplement with a weekly group therapy session.

Inpatient hospitalization is there to keep you safe and stabilize you.
Each time I have been to the ER for suicidal thoughts, the evaluator decided inpatient was needed for me. Following this decision, they talked to my parents and I about the different hospitals in the area but explained that they might not all have beds. I was in the ER for several hours while they found a bed, I get blood taken, and they ran some tests. My inpatient program was not at the hospital the ER was in, it was in a freestanding behavioral health hospital, so I was transferred by ambulance. (Though one time they did let my parents take me since we had been waiting for over 6 hours and would have to wait longer for the ambulance.)

My room looked similar to this. The rooms are usually plain looking and empty, but not scary like old photos of “psychiatric wards” you see online! I had one roommate and decorated with quotes and pictures.

I’ll be honest, inpatient hospitalization is not a vacation. You lose a lot of freedoms in inpatient treatment. In my experience, they took away anything that I could possibly hurt myself (or others) with- shoelaces, strings in clothes, belts- anything sharp and anything long. But, I had to understand that it is for my safety. Being inpatient meant that I was a danger to myself and determined not safe unless under 24/7 care- I was monitored closely to make sure I was safe. During my time inpatient, I received 1:1 therapy, psychiatry, checks every 15 minutes or so, safety planning, recreational therapy, skills building, discharge planning, and expressive therapy.

Inpatient hospitalizations are not meant to make you better, they are meant to get you stable and get you out so that you can get the true treatment you need. Care doesn’t end after an inpatient hospitalization and you are not cured because of it- you are simply deemed safe enough to transfer to a lower level, less intense version of care.

Don’t be scared of getting the help you need
While inpatient hospitalization can be scary, it’s also life-saving. I have been in this type of treatment several times after going to the ER and being evaluated. Each time has been different, but each time I learned something valuable. I first experienced the healing powers of art therapy while inpatient. I played piano and basketball while inpatient. I made a good friend while inpatient. I had conversations that helped me see more clearly while inpatient. Leaving everything you know and love and having very scarce contact with the outside world sounds terrifying, but sometimes it’s exactly what we need at that time.

If you get evaluated and are placed in a lower level of care, try to not take that as “you’re not sick enough.” I know that those feelings can come up sometimes in those with mental illness. Inpatient treatment is not a gold star you get that proves you are ill. Your illness is valid, no matter the treatment. The evaluation is just to get you in the correct treatment you need at that moment. Try not to let it get to the point where you need inpatient- reach out and get help before you hit that crisis point.

When in a mental health crisis, it can be so hard to see clearly. Research hospitals around you beforehand and find out what they do for behavioral health cases. Some hospitals near you may be more equipped for mental health crisis situations better than others. Here are some questions you or someone you trust who is with you should ask during these times. If you are someone who lives with suicidal thoughts, knowing what to expect can help ease some of the burden of getting help. Don’t hesitate- you can do this!

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AUCCCD Infographic: A Closer Look at College Counseling Centers Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:03:28 +0000 Each year, the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) releases a report on college counseling center trends. I took some stand-out data from their recently released 2014 survey and put together this new infographic. Want to share the infographic on social media? Read the full post to get social media-sized images.

Thanks to AUCCCD for putting together this very important survey! Read the full report here.
Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors 2015 Active Minds Infographic College Mental Health Services

Here are individual images for you to share on social media!

aucccd-separates_block_1 aucccd-separates_block_2 aucccd-separates_block_3 aucccd-separates_block_4

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Mental Health News Round-up: July 17 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 12:54:34 +0000 Inside The Mental Health Stigma In The Latino Community

Activist Dior Vargas discusses the stigma within the Latino community and encourages each person to become their own advocate when in comes to getting the best treatment possible.

This Is What It’s Like To Recover From An Eating Disorder During Ramadan

As Ramadan ends, Buzzfeed highlights the experiences of people in recovery from eating disorders during this month when the relationship with food, family, and Allah all intersect.

Patrick Kennedy On Moving Mental Health Policy Out Of ‘The Dark Ages’

Patrick Kennedy has already done amazing work for mental health policy by getting the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 passed. The former representative is now lobbying for a new bill called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, which promises to revolutionize the way the nation treats mental health.

Jared Padalecki Responds to Incredible Fan Surprise Supporting His Battle With Depression: “It Took Everything Not to Cry”

Supernatural star, Jared Padalecki, recently disclosed that he has depression and started the Always Keep Fighting foundation. At Comic Con, fans held up candles to remind Padalecki and others they are not alone and to always keep fighting.  

Living With Mental Illness

A French photographer takes everyday objects from people with mental health disorders and their family members to tell their stories of serious mental illness.

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Mental Health News Round Up: July 3 Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:38:34 +0000 imagesWhy Gay Marriage is Good for a Person’s Mental Health

A study from 2010 showed that people who identified as gay residing in states where same-sex marriage was banned experienced higher rates of mental health disorders. Since gay marriage is now legal in all states thanks to the Supreme Court, this reporter hopes that mental health outcomes for LGBT people will improve.

UC Davis Psychiatrist Discusses Mental Health Stigma among Immigrant

Cultural stigma in immigrant communities prevent many from getting treatment. Dr. Russell Lim, a leading psychiatrist who focuses on the stigma in refugee populations, discusses how language determines how one describe mental health disorders, the importance of linkages to the communities, and the benefits of seeking treatment. This is an especially important read during Minority Mental Health Month (#MMHM).

Long-acting Antipsychotic Medication May Improve Treatment for Schizophrenia

Due to issues with non-compliance (not taking medication as prescribed once symptoms are alleviated), people living with schizophrenia often face a reemergence of symptoms. However, a UCLA study found that  an injectable antipsychotic administered at a doctor’s office allows better control of symptoms and a greater adherence to treatment.

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Some researchers are investigating gut bacteria’s use of neurochemicals. Current research shows that certain strains of bacteria allowed mice to avoid “behavioral despair” in a forced swim test meaning that they swam longer and were more optimistic than mice not given the gut bacteria.

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Mental Health News Round Up: June 12 Fri, 12 Jun 2015 01:55:19 +0000 Black Girls Smile Creator Fighting to Dispel the Misconceptions of Mental Health In the Community

Stigma in the black community makes it difficult for those struggling to seek the help they need.  A new organization works to help black girls with mental health disorders by talking and educating people about mental health.

We Need More Mental Illness Literacy

Early intervention, especially in the treatment of schizophrenia is crucial. To increase the number of help seeking behaviors that people utilize, the National Institute of Mental Health is seeking to dispel the misconceptions and educate treatment providers about severe mental illness.

Pregnant Women With Depression Face Tough Choices, No Easy Answers

With the lack of research on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, mothers have to decide whether or not to stay on medication to manage the depression and reduce stress hormones despite possible harm to the baby from the medication.

Michelle Obama Shines a Spotlight on Mental Illness

The First Lady is joining the fight on the stigma surrounding mental health in the Campaign to Change Direction. This article compliments her for taking “the hardest issues” including obesity and now mental health.

Strides in Suicide Prevention

Although countless efforts and intiativies about suicide prevention have been occuring, it is often difficult to measure their individual success.  This article encouragingly notes some of the different ways groups are trying to prevent suicide.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Drum Roll Please… Wed, 27 May 2015 08:08:41 +0000 9186213I don’t know if you’ve all noticed, but it seems like the transgender community has been gaining more and more visibility in the last few months…

It’s been amazing to see, and I feel honored to be doing this research at a time when society seems to be becoming more open to the experiences and needs of transgender and non-binary individuals.

On that note, I think it’s time to share some of the findings that have come from my time as an Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellow.

As a quick refresher, the purpose of my study was to explore the treatment experiences of transgender and gender-diverse individuals diagnosed with eating disorders, something I accomplished through analyzing answers to a series of open-ended questions. My final results were a number of themes categorizing participants’ experiences, which I separated into “experiences in treatment” and “recommendations for treatment providers”.

Here are the major themes with a few representative examples from actual responses to the questionnaire:

Treatment Experiences:

  1. Gender Ignored

“Every primary care provider that I have interacted with simply sidesteps or ignores my articulation of a trans identity. It’s as if the gesture never happened.”

“Since coming out my identity has been erased in treatment because clinicians and therapists aren’t comfortable with a transgender individual who does not identify as male or female.”

  1. Assumptions

“My therapist asked me questions about my body, such as if I’d taken hormones or had “the surgery” yet. She twice asked me if I was “really a boy or a girl”, despite my birth name and sex being on my records”

“Despite telling and often reminding my therapist of my identity, it was obvious she didn’t truly see me as the gender I was.”

  1. Lack of Specialization

“It’s difficult in general for me to find therapy and help that understands me being trans, being a rape survivor, and having an eating disorder.  I tend to find any help I seek for one, or any combination of those, fails in at least one of those areas.  After a while, I’ve just given up rather than risk spending the time and energy to seek help that ultimately makes me feel worse about myself.”

Recommendations for Treatment Providers:

  1. Ask Questions

“There needs to be better understanding that people develop disorders for different reasons. Many of my doctors told me I was trying to cover for my eating disorder by claiming that I was transgender, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  I have an eating disorder in addition to being a trans person, they are not necessarily related, though there are parts of them that interact.”

“Always ask for pronouns. Use the name they ask you to use – I can’t stress this enough.”

  1. Facilitate Access to Care

“It would be reassuring to see programs which include some sort of reference to their inclusivity of transgender / gender-diverse people. It is nerve-wracking to look for treatment options and wonder whether a program which works with women means that it works with all women, or only with cis women.”

“Gender mixed groups…I wouldn’t want to go to a group for men, since my eating disorder began when I was living as female, but I would hate to go to a women’s group that was supposed to be closed to men.”

  1. Educate Yourself

“In spite of my identification, ‘professionals’ tend to fall back on essentialist notions: ‘you are a man.’ I am simply not interested in educating professionals about my gender or identity; it’s the one space where I do not have the energy left to do so.”

“I can’t help but …wonder how my life might have been different…if anyone who saw me in the course of my treatment had been able to recognize my gender dysphoria and inform me that there were ways of addressing my extreme discomfort with my post-pubertal body other than starving myself.”

Right now, I’m in the process of disseminating my findings to various organizations related to eating disorders, LGBTQ populations, mental health, etc. This topic is really important, I can’t say it enough, and it is something I plan to continue working on.

A big thank you to Active Minds, The Scattergood Foundation, Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders, the University of Saint Joseph, and the many other individuals and organizations who have supported me during this project. Most of all, I would like to thank each of the 84 individuals who responded to my questionnaire – I couldn’t have done this without you.

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Chapter of the Month: Occidental College Fri, 22 May 2015 18:29:11 +0000 1425555_253282681496020_167931192_nOccidental College has been named Chapter of the Month for May! Their stigma-fighting techniques have caught our eye and we want every chapter to know about them, too.

Active Minds at Occidental College did not rest for a minute this spring semester, working continuously to break the barriers to mental health services on campus.

In addition to leading a diverse panel of 10 students who spoke openly about their mental health issues to a large classroom of peers, the chapter was also recently recognized for their on-campus advocacy for the addition of a peer mentoring program in the counseling center.

Featured in the Occidental Weekly, a student-run paper at Occidental College, the chapter hosted a successful mental health panel of diverse students on Thursday, April 17th, and they were also recently recognized for their successful advocacy for the establishment of a new peer mentoring program—all in one year!

Students who attended the panel noted how eye-opening it was to listen to peers share their personal struggles with mental health, because it is a topic that is not normally discussed in regular conversation. The chapter also conducted considerable outreach to include more diverse voices in the conversation, including those of males and students of color, and noted the importance of breaking down gender and racial barriers through story-sharing.

Active Minds at Oxy were also instrumental in gathering signatures for a petition in support of the establishment of a peer mentoring program in the health center, a mental health presentation during new student orientation, and the installment of a case manager at Emmons Student Wellness Center. After two weeks of working, Active Minds at Oxy received 550 signatures.

This past year, Matt Calkins, Director of the Counseling Center, approached Active Minds to tell them he was going to create the peer mentoring program. Incorporating this program into the health center allows students to work directly with Emmons Wellness Center, which provides students the opportunity to have their voices heard on matters that directly impact them.

The students selected will undergo intensive training on topics such as active listening, motivational interviewing skills and special topics like drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and medical health advocacy.

Congrats to Active Minds at Oxy for all of their successful stigmafighting efforts! Implementing a program this large is a major programming success for a chapter and the national office could not be more proud!


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Mental Health News Round-Up: May 22 Fri, 22 May 2015 08:16:10 +0000

Colleges Relieve Pressure Post Suicides

In a Huffington Post Live interview, Active Minds at MIT, Active Minds national office, and the Jed Foundation discussed the multi-faceted pressures college students face, administrative policies about leaves, and help seeking behaviors.  The video is well worth a watch for all StigmaFighters working to change the conversation about mental health.

A Commencement Speech For The Already Graduated: Be Courageous

In honor of commencement speeches, one Forbes author has advice for graduates and non-graduates alike: be courageous because anxiety is inevitable. Finding healthy ways to cope with anxiety should be our goal.

Sebastian Junger on PTSD: ‘It’s coming home that’s actually the trauma’

One journalist contends that the trauma from PTSD is the process of reintegrating into society where those around the soldier do not understand what the soldier has gone through.  Veterans themselves offering varying opinions on this assertion. Discussions like these are important as PTSD diagnoses have increased to the highest point since the Iraq war.

How Rappers Are Destigmatizing Mental Illness

By having lyrics about mental health disorders, rappers are both personalizing and starting the conversation about depression.

A Mental-Health Epidemic In The Newsroom

With an economically unstable career and increased exposure to trauma while reporting, more journalists experience PTSD and depression. However, in the culture of being “an observer,” many are reluctant to seek help. Instead, some turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the extreme pressures of the job.

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