News for the ‘Mental Health Awareness’ Category

Effects of the Government Shutdown on Mental Health

Before I start the article, I want to go over a few things. First, I have my opinions on where the blame lies for the shutdown. Second, I will not go into such things in this article. Finally, I will not approve any comments that talk about the politics of the situation.

Over the past few weeks, those of you living the United States have undoubtedly seen and heard many stories about the affect the shutdown of the federal government has on the economy, at all levels, and the affect it has on many social programs around the nation. While these are all true and serious concerns, there is one thing I have not heard anything about at all, the impact that the shutdown is having on the mental well-being of the furloughed employees and their families.

As one of the 800,000 furloughed employees and the only source of income for my wife and I, I can provide a little insight into this aspect of the shutdown.

The shutdown has greatly increased my stress level, kept me up at nights worrying about how I would put food on the table and pay my bills. These symptoms did not start on October 1st when the government shutdown, rather they started  about a week before the shutdown as it became apparent that the shutdown was inevitable. Each day the stress and anxiety around the office increased, each day there was less productivity because all we could think about was what are we going to do if they do not pull a miracle out of their ass and fund the government? How were we going to pay our bills? How were we going to feed our families?

It is more than just stress and sleepless nights, those two combined have left me feeling physically ill.

I have on more than one occasion felt like a failure and useless because I could not guarantee that I could provide for my wife and I. It has left me increasingly frustrated and angry; especially, since I am hard working and for the last eight years have earned excellent performance reviews from my managers, performance awards and other forms of recognition. It has left me feeling helpless and powerless, to be put in this situation without having done anything wrong and not being able to do anything but sit at home and twiddle my thumbs waiting for Congress to get their heads out of their proverbial asses.

With every day that passes without a resolution, my emotional state deteriorates and I become more stressed. Everyday, I have to fight even harder to keep myself as emotionally regulated as possible. Each day it becomes more difficult.

Sadly, in some cases I am one of the luckier ones. It is just my wife and I. I know a number of people that are married with children, where both parents work for the government. Good hardworking, responsible people who are in the same situation I am in, but even worse off because they have kids. Some of them have some savings while others have had to use up all or most of their savings for medical bills.

How many other workers face mental health challenges? How many of them will suffer severe set backs to their health? How many of them will end up losing their lives if this situation drags on much longer?

These politicians forget, or maybe they do not care, that they are screwing with the lives of human beings. People that are hard working dedicated employees with families, people who just want to do their jobs. People who work for the government, for less money than they could in the private sector, because they love their country.

Edited: October 12th, 2013

Different Thinking

I personally hate the term ‘mental illness’. The term itself promotes stigma by implying there is something ‘wrong’ with the person. Instead, I will use the terms ‘different thinking’ and ‘different thinker’ instead. I am not even sure I like the term ‘different thinking’ because it still sets people apart from one other. Since I need some term, and I find different thinking to be much less objectionable than mental illness, I will use that from now on, on this blog.

Conditions like borderline personality disorder (bpd) and bipolar disorder (bp) involve thinking differently than others. It is not the different thinking itself that causes the problems, it is when the different thinking manifests itself in harmful and destructive ways that trouble arise.

Our ability to think differently is itself an advantage. It allows us to see things in ways that others do not. It allows us to create new things and solve problems in unique ways. It also lends itself to enhanced creativity. If everyone thought the same way, where would the world be today? It is when people think in unique and different ways that new inventions and new discoveries are made. It is people who think differently than everyone else that advance society, not the people who think like everyone else.

For example, people such as Marilyn Monroe and Princess Di are both suspected as having had bpd. While others such as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ludwig von Beethoven and Winston Churchill are all confirmed or suspected of having bp. These are just a few historic people that were different thinkers.

A study conducted by Duke University found that as many as 49% of United States presidents, between 1776 and 1974 were different thinkers. There is a long list of famous contemporary different thinkers as well. Included in this list is Dr. Marsha Linehan who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to treat patients with bpd and National Football League (NFL) Wide-receiver Brandon Marshall, both of whom are diagnosed with bpd.

Unfortunately, society still discriminates, stigmatizes and harasses people that are different. The stigma associated with bpd is so severe that is hard to find a list of famous people with bpd; however, with it affecting about 2% of the population, and the fact that different thinking is prevalent in both genders, all nationalities and economic classes, you can rest assured that they are out there.

The combined contributions these people made to, and in the case of contemporary different thinkers continue to make to the world is remarkable. They have changed the world, where would we be without Sir Isaac Newton’s contributions to mathematics and physics? Where would we be without the contributions of Charles Darwin to evolution or Ludwig von Beethoven to music?

It is not although they were different thinkers that these people made and continue to make such large contributions to society. It is because of the fact that they are different thinkers. If all these different thinkers were able to have the success and make such profound contributions to the world, then any one of us can as well. The trick is learning how to control the more destructive parts of different thinking and learning how to use the positive aspects of it.

Edited: August 3rd, 2012

These are Monsters…

It seems that a great deal of confusion exists amongst the ‘normals’ in the world when it comes to knowing what a monster is, so I have put together this handy little explanation to help you explain out to them. You may want to carry it with you. This is the first of two parts on These are Monsters and We Are Not Monsters.

Here are a few examples of monsters:

Wendigos

Wendigo

The Wendigo is part of the traditional belief systems of various Algonquian-speaking tribes in the northern United States and Canada, most notably the Ojibwe and Saulteaux, the Cree, the Naskapi and the Innu people. Though descriptions varied somewhat, common to all these cultures was the conception of Wendigos as malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural beings (manitous) of great spiritual power. They were strongly associated with the Winter, the North, and coldness, as well as with famine and starvation.

At the same time, Wendigos were embodiments of gluttony, greed, and excess: never satisfied after killing and consuming one person, they were constantly searching for new victims. In some traditions, humans who became overpowered by greed could turn into Wendigos; the Wendigo myth thus served as a method of encouraging cooperation and moderation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendigo

Shtriga

ShtrigaThe Shtriga (ultimately from the Roman strix; compare also Romanian strigã and Slavic strzyga), in Albanian folklore, was a vampiric witch that would suck the blood of infants at night while they slept, and would then turn into a flying insect (traditionally a moth, fly or bee). Only the shtriga herself could cure those she had drained (often by spitting in their mouths), and those who were not cured inevitably sickened and died.

In the beliefs of people of Ancient Rome, these are evil female creatures. They manifest as birds with female faces that would steal small children left unattended. They were a type of vampire and also used as a very evil Nursery bogie to control the behavior of children. This word now denotes a witch in modern Italian folklore.

http://shadowcouncil.tumblr.com/post/7562216528/deitiesanddemons-the-shtriga-ultimately-from

Rakshasa

Rakshasa

A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion. Rakshasas are also called man-eaters (“Nri-chakshas,” “Kravyads”). A female Rakshasa is called a Rakshasi, and a female Rakshasa in human form is a Manushya-Rakshasi. Often Asura and Rakshasa are interchangeably used.
According to the Ramayana, Rakshasas were created from Brahma’s foot; other sources claim they are descended from Pulastya, or from Khasa, or from Nirriti and Nirrita. Hinduism maintains that the Rakshasas were particularly wicked humans in previous incarnations.[citation needed] Rakshasas are notorious for disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, possessing human beings, and so on. Their fingernails are venomous, and they feed on human flesh and spoiled food. They are shapechangers, illusionists, and magicians.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakshasa

Acheri

In Indian mythology, an Acheri is the ghost or spirit of a little girl who comes down from mountains and hilltops at night to bring sickness to humans, particularly children. The only defense against an Acheri was thought to be a red ribbon tied around one’s neck. The Acheri is said to bring death to the elderly or other people with low immune system defences.

http://www.freebase.com/view/en/acheri

And here are a few more examples of monsters:

Edited: June 11th, 2012

Stigma and the Individual

Stigma is many things. It is wrong. It is hurtful. It is cruel. It is unethical. It is amoral. It is counterproductive. It is plain stupid. It is bigoted. And at its worst, it is deadly.

This is a difficult topic for me to write about without getting worked up. At this point in our evolution as a species there is no room and no excuse for stigma in the world. Even though there is still a lot we need to learn, we know too much these days to excuse stigma.

Recent studies have shown that over half of Americans will show signs of mental health problems within their lifetime, with a third of Americans reporting them within the previous twelve month period. If you ask me, that is a very serious problem and it affects a lot of people.

Mental health problems, including mental illnesses, range in severity and impact. Even in the most severe cases, the person affected is not a bad person. They are just like everyone else, a person who wants to live a happy life, free of pain and suffering.

Stigma prevents these people, people like me, from being able to achieve this goal. It takes this fundamental human right away from us. It drives us to hide our problems. It leaves us suffering in silence and suffering alone.

How does it do these things?

It does these things, and much more, by intimidation. It stops us from saying anything, lest we get shunned. We keep quiet because we do not want to be alienated from everyone else. We do not want people to abandon us because we are not “normal”. We fear getting that look of disgust from people when they find out.

Society, through stigma, teaches us we should be embarrassed because of our challenges. It teaches us that we are weak because we cannot ‘get over it’ or because we are “so dramatic all the  time”. It teaches us we are defective. It teaches us we are “bad people”.

The things that stigma teaches us are all lies. We are good, kind and living people. We want the same things as everyone else. We have as much right to things like happiness and love as anyone else.

To repeat what I said at the start of this article, stigma is many things. It is wrong. It is hurtful. It is cruel. It is unethical. It is amoral. It is counterproductive. It is plain stupid. It is bigoted. And at its worst, it is deadly.

Edited: May 30th, 2012

Stigma and Society – Family and Friends

Stigma is dangerous. It is cruel. It is amoral. It needs to stop. Stigma does not benefit anyone.

In earlier articles I have talked about the impact of stigma on the person and the economic damage it can cause. In this article I will outline the harm it can cause to the family and friends of a person with a mental illness.

People with mental illnesses never suffer alone. When they suffer it affects those around them. I know this first hand. I have seen the impact my suffering has had on those around me, both my family and my friends. I also have family, loved ones and friends with mental illnesses, so I know first hand the impact another person’s mental health problems have on others.

When you stigmatize someone, you drive them to hide their problems. You drive them to ‘cope’ on their own. They try to do this because no one wants to be treated like they are lepers. No one wants to be shunned.

Have you ever been around a family member or a friend that had just lost a loved one? Do you remember what it felt like trying to comfort them, but not being able to take away their pain? Do you remember how much it hurt you not being able to do more for them? Do you remember what it felt like feeling helpless and powerless to ‘make it all better’? Do you remember how the feeling got worse with each day that went by and your hands were still tied? Now, remember the day that the person ‘turned the corner’ and started feeling better and how much it helped how you felt.

Now imagine what that must feel like if that sense of hopelessness never went away. Imagine what it must feel like to have that sense of hopelessness turn into frustration or a sense of failure. Imagine what that does to a person and how much that person suffers along with the person who has the mental health problems.

It tears them apart. It can lead to problems within the family. It can lead to broken homes. It strains relationships. Stigma is dangerous. It is cruel. It is amoral. It needs to stop. Stigma does not benefit anyone.

Friends and families do not get the help they need to learn how to cope with and support their loved ones who are suffering. They are afraid or ashamed to admit that someone close to them has a mental illness because they too are afraid of the stigma. They do not want to be looked down on because someone on their family isn’t “normal”.

These kind of problems could be drastically reduced if we just put an end to stigma. Stigma can tear apart families and communities.

Always,
J.

Edited: May 9th, 2012

Stigma and Society – Economic Impacts

We know that stigma negatively affects those of us with mental illnesses. There is no doubt or question about that at all, and I will talk about that more in a different article. But the effects of stigma have a more far-reaching negative impact, as they also negatively impacts society as a whole.

One of the impacts of stigma is that people who suffer do not get the help they need because of how society might treat them. So these people suffer silently, hiding their challenges, pretending that nothing is wrong, and all too often not even getting diagnosed.

So how does this affect society as a whole?

When people are untreated, they have to try to deal with things on their own. Often times these people tend to “deal” and “cope” with things in destructive manners because they do not know what is going on or how to cope in a safe and productive way. These destructive ways can take a lot of forms, ranging from substance abuse (both liquor and drugs), violent outbursts and actions, self-harm, and reckless actions to name just a few.

All of these behaviors limit a person’s ability to take part in society in a productive way. They reduce the person’s productivity at work. They lead to an increase in days missed from work. This in turn can lead to increased stress on the members of the team. This in turn leads to increased risk of illnesses of the body. Around and around she goes.

All this can lead to missed deadlines, delayed projects, and cost overrun. This means that companies either need to raise prices or risk lower revenue. Lower revenue leads to reductions in the work force, which means more people struggling to make ends meet. This leads to an increase in the number of people who will suffer from depression. Once again, around and around she goes.

This of course is an over simplification of things, but I think it illustrates a very real concern. Stigma is not only damaging to the people it targets, but it is damaging to society as a whole

Edited: May 9th, 2012

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon Tattoo

Mental Health Awareness TattooA few weeks ago, I went and got myself a new tattoo. I had wanted to get a new one for the last few years, but I either did not have the money, the time or could not settle on what I wanted. As each of my tattoo’s has a very special and important meaning to me, trying to decide what to get is sometimes a very difficult and lengthy process.

Then the other day it came to me. I knew I had to get something for mental health. Mental health awareness and ending stigma is very important to me. Mental health problems have touched my life directly and indirectly for many years and as you can imagine caused me much difficulty at times.

I have seen the havoc it has caused so many people. I have seen the lack of understanding, about mental illness, from others around me. It is a frustrating thing to see so many people who do not understand mental illnesses and how they affect people’s lives. The people I am talking about are good and intelligent people, they just do not understand.

The information that is out there is not always the best information and the good information is hard to find.

A perfect example of the kind of bad and harmful information that is out there is the eBook by Joe Navarro, ‘How to Spot a Borderline Personality.’ This book by this so-called ‘expert’ is offensive and does nothing but promote stigma. At one point in the book he goes so far as to suggest that when possible people should avoid people with borderline personalities. When I first read that I almost went through the roof.

The entertainment industry do not help either. They often portray people who have mental illnesses as ‘bad people’, often times as criminals or as mean, hurtful people. A lot of people unfortunately see this and think that we are all like that.

WE AREN’T.

Most of us are law-abiding, good, kind people. We just have challenges that others don’t. We have feelings, at times just more intense than other people.

I realize it is hard to understand this for a person who has never been around someone with a mental health issue or who does not have one themselves. Even the people closest to us, our families, lovers and best friends do not always understand.

Another common misunderstanding is that a lot of people do not understand that not everyone with mental health problems needs to be institutionalized or even shows visible signs. Just like with any other health problem, our problems cover a range of severity from mild to moderate to extreme. We can be ‘highly functional’, which I am most of the time, to almost ‘non-functional’ and any where in between.

I have had a number of people over the years not believe me when I told them about being diagnosed with mental illnesses, but they only really see the ‘public’ me. The part the gets up in the morning, puts on his game face and goes out to face the world, even if I spent the night hurting myself, screaming, crying and feeling like the world would be better off without me. They do not see or feel the turmoil, rage and pain that consumes me during those times. They just the public me.

Why don’t they see it?

They don’t want to see it. The world does not want to hear about our problems. It wants to go on believing that everything is rosy and that we are just being dramatic. It is easier for people to believe that we are being dramatic then to admit that there are problems.

I have had friends that when we were walking and talking, I would sometimes talk about my problems and my diagnoses and they would ask me not to talk about it. I told them I did not care who heard me because I wasn’t ashamed of my challenges. They however, did not want other people to hear what I was saying because of how THEY might be perceived.

So, when we go out, we try our best to hide our pain and our hurt and try to blend in and ‘fit in’ with everyone else.

Edited: April 1st, 2012

NAMI Walk – October 8, 2011 (Richmond, VA)

I am writing you today to tell you about an upcoming event that I am participating in that is both very important and very exciting to me. NAMIWalks, the signature walkathon event of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is being held in Richmond, VA at Innsbrook on October 8, 2011.

I am taking part in this walk for several reason. The first reason is the direct impact mental illnesses have had on my life. The second reason is that not only do I personally suffer from mental illnesses myself, but I have had family and friend diagnosed with mental illnesses. Last, but definitely not least helping overcome the stigma associated with mental illnesses and helping others, both those diagnosed with mental illnesses as well as those that love them, is one of things I am the most passionate about in life.

I would like to ask you to donate to support my participation in this great event. Visit my personal walker page ( http://www.nami.org/namiwalks11/VIR/punkoj)to donate directly to me online. Donating online is fast and secure, and I’ll get immediate notification via e-mail of your donation.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the largest education, support and advocacy organization that serves the needs of all whose lives are touched by these illnesses. This includes persons with mental illness, their families, friends, employers, the law enforcement community and policy makers. The NAMI organization is composed of approximately 1100 local affiliates, 50 state offices and a national office.

The goals of the NAMIWalks program are: to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness, to build awareness of the fact that the mental health system in this country needs to be improved and to raise funds for NAMI so that they can continue their mission.

NAMI is a 501(c)3 charity and any donation you make to support my participation in this event is tax deductible. NAMI has been rated by Worth magazine as among the top 100 charities “most likely to save the world” and has been given an “A+” rating by The American Institute of Philanthropy for efficient and effective use of charitable dollars. NAMI has also been given 4 out of 4 stars by The Charity Navigator for short-term spending practices and long-term sustainability.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Edited: October 2nd, 2011

Stigma

Let me start by saying: I really dislike the phrase ‘mental illness’. It automatically paints a negative image of the person diagnosed. It feeds a stigma that society desperately needs to put behind us.

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.”

A stigma is a mark of disgrace or infamy, a stain or reproach.

Take a minute to let that sink in; a stigma is a mark of disgrace. Therefore, to stigmatize a group or a person is to disgrace them. In most cases the only ‘crime’ these people have committed is being ‘different.’

Why do stigmas exist now, especially, with all the knowledge at our fingertips? Unfortunately, how society treats those that are different has not changed much since the earliest days of humanity.

Despite all the intellectual advances, we have made as a group; we have not overcome the fear of things and people that are not like us. Currently we still seem to find it easier to see and hate what is different from to see and embrace what is the same in each other.

References:

“Stigma.” Random House Dictionary. 2011,. Dictionary.com. Web 25 July 2011. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/stigma)

Edited: July 25th, 2011

Mental Illnesses and the Young

Recently I received an email from a friend from school. This was someone that I had not talked to in over fifteen years. In the email, they told me about their young child who was diagnosed as bipolar last year. The conversation has made me think about children who are diagnosed with one form of mental illness or another.

While mental illnesses are difficult on anyone, they are especially difficult on children.

Kids with mental illnesses are seen as very different because their behavior pattern does not fall within the ‘norms’ that society has arbitrarily set. Often time’s children tend to be mean to other kids that are different from them in some way. This is often not out of malice, but more often, it is a result of not understanding why the other kid is not like them.

Another challenge for children understands their mental illness. Understanding mental illnesses is difficult at any age largely in part because of the stigma attached to them as well as the complexity of the human mind.

Further complicating matters is the fact that often times children; as many adults, are afraid of things they do not know. This fear can cause the child to hide from or deny the problems they are facing.

If fully educated adults, who have studied the brain for decades still, do not fully understand mental illnesses, how do you explain it to a young child? You have to explain it to them in a way they understand, which entails simplifying a complex item. However, before you can do that, you MUST understand it yourself.

Edited: July 15th, 2011

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