Month: January 2020

Shattering the Glass Ceiling of Mental Health Concerns 0 (0)


Mind Over Matter


Shattering the Glass Ceiling of Mental Health Concerns

For many, discussing mental health concerns can be compared to talking about a deep, dark family secret—the one everyone wants to keep hidden. While some believe that if they speak about it, a matter becomes more real, by that same token, ignoring mental health (or other concerns) doesn’t mean it will simply disappear.

Studies show that suppressing something is not only quite difficult to do, but it manifests the very thing one is trying to suppress. The more someone tries to suppress sadness, anxiety, depression, frustration or anger, the more those things manifest in their lives. Below are three primary reasons why we shouldn’t allow the stigma regarding mental health to make us hide or bury mental health concerns.

Viewing mental health as a dirty little secret can be harmful to your health. There was a study conducted on the effects stress has on the body. For years, doctors have been telling their patients that stress kills. However, this study proved that it’s actually your perception of stress that kills. Psychology researchers examined two groups of people. In one group, the interviewers told participants that stress can have damaging effects on the body, including up to death. To the other group, they explained that stress has the same effect on your body that excitement does, and is actually not harmful. It turns out that the group that was told that stress can be harmful to their health actually had less stress, but experienced physical complications as a result. The group that was told that stress was no more harmful than the adrenaline one gets when he or she is excited actually had the most stress, but no detrimental physical symptoms. So, as it turns out, stress can be harmful—but only if you view it as such.

We must normalize it to neutralize it because it truly is normal. If you have a functional brain, it will experience a variety of emotions, and they all won’t be happy. Viewing anxiety and depression as something that is abnormal is the very thing that gives it the most power. Normalizing it allows people to be more transparent about what is hurting them so they can seek help as early as possible.

Ignoring our needs decreases our opportunities for our support systems to offer support. It is human nature for people to want their emotional needs met. We want to be in environments that foster love, acceptance, security, empathy and self-disclosure. This means that we want to be able to feel secure enough to talk about our pain, knowing that it will be met with love, empathy and acceptance. If we ignore these uncomfortable feelings, we decrease the chances of giving our support systems a chance to support us.

Whether it is through anger, substance abuse, an addiction to food or isolation, people develop defense mechanisms to help cope with mental health symptoms. Normalizing the conversation about mental health enables us to be less reactive and more proactive about our mental health.

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How a ‘cultural shift’ is making way for a therapy tool promoted by Michael Phelps 3 (1)


How a ‘cultural shift’ is making way for a therapy tool promoted by Michael Phelps

One in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), yet accessibility and affordability may prevent people from seeking help. Talkspace, an online and mobile therapy startup promoted by world champion swimmer Michael Phelps, hopes to fill that void.

“Two out of three people cannot access mental health care,” Roni Frank, Talkspace co-founder and Head of Clinical Services, told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move last week. “In the last few years, there is a cultural shift in our society. Millennials are more open about their mental health struggles…the stigma has decreased, and demand has increased, and millions of people were left without treatment.”

Therapy generally ranges from $65 to $250 or more, according to the online therapist directory Good Therapy. However, the cost of therapy can vary widely, with some therapists offering sliding fees depending on financial need and psychiatrists in larger cities like New York charging upwards of $350 for a 45-minute session (though sometimes insurance covers at least part of this cost).

Talkspace costs approximately $65 per a week, depending on the plan and is covered by a limited number of employers and health plans.

“The most popular plan is messaging therapy, where you’re messaging your therapist five days a week, and the therapist is going to respond to up to three times a day based on your needs,” Frank said.

‘Best used as complementary to in-person psychotherapy’

As suicide rates continue to rise, up 31% since 2001 and now the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, according to NAMI, Talkspace seems to be filling a need for those who would not otherwise seek therapy. Since its inception in 2012, the digital platform has served more than 1.5 million people.

Still, the American Psychological Association (APA) cautions that online therapy might not be the best option for everybody. “There are cases in which web-conferencing or therapy via telephone does seem to be a viable option on its own for some people,” the APA notes. “But for now, with the current research and with the current technology, mobile apps and text messaging are best used as complementary to in-person psychotherapy.”

Teenagers are perhaps one group that might be most amenable to therapy via text. A year ago, Talkspace introduced Talkspace for Teens, which lets people seek help directly from their phone. Frank notes that “social media use is correlated with mental health issues.”

“We have a lot of clients that come to the platform because they suffer from anxiety and depression due to social media,” Frank said. “The therapists are helping them to moderate their social media use, and to use it in a way that is healthier for them.”

Brooke DiPalma is a producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @ BrookeDiPalma.

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How Can I Best Parent a Child Who Is at Risk for a Mental Health Disorder? 0 (0)

How Can I Best Parent a Child Who Is at Risk for a Mental Health Disorder?

One of the topics readers most often ask me to write about is anxiety and mental health—both our own and that of our kids. This week’s Parental Advisory question mirrors a common “what if” concern among parents:

My son is only two, but I worry so much. Both sides of our family have mental illness (and I have depression and anxiety), so I worry that either A) he’ll be diagnosed with something—and then how do I help him through that or B) he’ll be “normal” but my anxieties and depression will be behavior he mimics or adopts.

How should I navigate this?

To start with, I want to say that you are not alone and your concerns are understandable. There are plenty of people out there right now who are reading your question and nodding emphatically along with you. And that is a sentiment that was immediately echoed by Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents, when I reached out for her opinion on your question. The first thing she said in response was, “Let’s applaud this [parent] who is being proactive; that’s a really lovely thing [they are] doing and I’d just like to validate [their] concerns.”

You’re right; mental illness often does have a genetic component and having a history of mental illness on both sides of his family is likely to increase your son’s risk for developing a mental health disorder himself. So, let’s address your “A” question first: If he is diagnosed with a disorder, how will you help him through it?

Of course you hope to never see your child suffer with a mental health disorder, but if he does, you will help him through it the same way you would help him through a chronic physical illness or a learning disability or any other fundamentally challenging, on-going hurdle he may encounter in his life. That is, with love, support and all the best doctors, specialists and resources you can find. If he is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you will educate yourself about it and you—along with the professionals in your corner—will be a support and a guide for him.

To start with, Greenberg recommends focusing on doing your best to provide as supportive and calm an atmosphere as possible in the home: “The operative word is ‘calm,’” she says, “because any type of mental health problem gets worse when a child is in a volatile … family situation.”

One vital—and challenging—component of what you’re facing, though, is to try not to give in to an assumption that he will have a mental illness. It would be easy (and understandable) to start to look at many of his behaviors through that mental health lens and reach conclusions that aren’t necessarily accurate. To avoid this, Greenberg suggests learning what is developmentally appropriate for each age as your son grows.

How to Help Your Kid Manage Their Anxiety at Every Age

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“[They] can check in with [their] pediatrician if [they] think something is a problem or is not developmentally appropriate,” she says. “Most little kids do have problems regulating their emotions, so [they] need to know at what point there should be an intervention.”

Now for the “B” part of your question: What if your child doesn’t have a mental health disorder but “mimics or adopts” the anxiety and symptoms of depression he witnesses from you in the home? Greenberg and I agreed that the best way you can avoid him adopting any negative behaviors is by modeling what self-care can and should look like. In other words, make taking care of yourself a top priority. Caring for your son’s parent is also a form of caring for him.

And one last thing to be cognizant of is the language you use about mental health, particularly while your son is young and still figuring out who he is and how he fits into the world. Humans tend to be “labelers,” collecting labels that define ourselves and others, and those labels can impact what we believe to be true about ourselves. That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk to our kids about mental health and mental illness in age-appropriate ways, but we can focus on doing so in a way that empowers, Greenberg says.

“Kids need a vocabulary that is empowering,” she tells me. “Instead of saying something like, ‘I’m anxious about the situation,’ you can say something like, ‘I’m going to be brave here.’”

It’s a subtle change but one that focuses less on the negative feeling and more on the coping skills or strategies you have at your disposal.

Have a parenting dilemma you’re grappling with? Email your questions to with “Parental Advisory” in the subject line, and I’ll try to answer them here.

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I’m Not Sad, I’m Depressed — And There’s A Difference 0 (0)

I’m Not Sad, I’m Depressed — And There’s A Difference

Most people think that being depressed is just “having the blues,” something you can get over. But it isn’t a mood that will go away.

I was chatting with an old friend from high school online the other day. We were discussing our upcoming 20-year class reunion, a fact that honestly broke my heart to realize that yes, indeed, it had been 20 years. We were catching up on our lives, our children, the normal stuff. Then she asked a question I had a difficult time answering. “Are you happy?”

And you know what? This should be an easy answer, right? It should be a simple “yes” or “no,” and I’ll be honest, I wish it were. I wish it were something that could be summed up in a binary response. But when you are living with something as complicated as depression, the question of happiness is much more complicated than you’d think.

That really is one of the biggest misconceptions about depression. Most people see it as a case of the blues. They see it as a temporary sadness, something someone might experience after letdown, or a death in the family, or being passed up for a promotion. It is commonly viewed as something that can simply be overcome with a nice vacation or maybe a spa day. But I’m sorry, that not how it works.

In fact, one thing that really bothers me as someone who suffers from depression is how people use the term so casually, saying things like “Well that’s depressing,” when describing bad news online or when something doesn’t go their way. I mean, honestly, when your sugar is low you wouldn’t say, “My diabetes is acting up,” unless you actually had diabetes.

I think what people who don’t suffer from depression need to understand is that it’s not a passing thing. It’s not something that you can just get over. Being sad, on the other hand … that has an exit strategy. Sadness is a mood, and can be turned to happiness with time and a little self-care, but depression is a life-long ailment.

What happens with depression is that your emotional state gets flipped upside down. Sorrow, feelings of failure, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety become your default. Without consistent effort, medication, and therapy, your mind slides into those thoughts.

That’s how it works.

I feel like I’m failing when I’m succeeding. I feel anxiety when there is nothing to fear. I feel sorrow when things are going well. I feel insecurity when my life is stable. Depression means sitting down regularly and thinking about life logically. It means looking at what is going well, and constantly reminding yourself that you have nothing to fear. It means finding the right mix of medication, and learning how to meditate so you can separate your brain from your body. It means taking up exercise so you are too tired to be anxious.

Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t good times and bad times when it comes to depression. There are. My obsessive compulsive disorder really started when I was 19. That same year, my father died. This was probably the darkest time in my life. I got really depressed and my OCD took over everything, and I came very close to taking my own life.

Now I’m 37 and educated, with a career, a super sexy amazing wife, and a family of maddeningly-adorable kiddos. I take pills each day and I meet with a therapist. And even with all that, I still occasionally think about suicide.

But I also know that if I’d gone for it back when I was 19 and things were really bad, I’d never have meet my kids or my wife. I’d never have gone to school and gotten a good job. I’d have lost so much of my life up until now that was worth living.

Last month, my mental health was pretty bad. I was having those thoughts again, so I thought back to what I would’ve missed if I’d taken my life all those years ago. It didn’t remove the depression and it didn’t stop the anxiety, but it made me just optimistic enough to keep fighting. Ultimately, this is what the cycle of depression looks like, and if you are living with it, then you know finding something that keeps you fighting is a big deal.

So back to that chat with my high school friend. I considered the question for some time: “Are you happy?” In so many ways I wanted to just say “yes” because it’s easier. So much of living with depression means giving people the simple answer they want because it’s easier than explaining everything I’ve said above.

But instead, I told her that I have clinical depression. It told her that I have obsessive compulsive disorder, and that there are good times and bad times. But on the whole, I am managing it. I have good life, with a good marriage, and happy kids. “But am I happy?” I wrote. “Am I sad? Well… it’s not that simple.”

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Marie Louise Von Franz and “The Realization of the Shadow.” – Carl Jung Depth Psychology 0 (0)

Marie Louise Von Franz and “The Realization of the Shadow.” The Shadow is not the whole of the unconscious personality. It represents unknown or little known attributes and qualities of the ego—aspects that mostly belong to the personal sphere and that could just as well be conscious. In some aspects, the shadow can also consist…
— Read on

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Why self-control actually has little to do with willpower 0 (0)

Why self-control actually has little to do with willpower

According to psychologists, the practice of self-control involves much more than a bit of willpower.

Part of being an adult means practising self-control at various points throughout each day. You might want to curl up under your desk and have a nap at 3pm, but you don’t, because you know it wouldn’t go down well with your boss. You might desperately want to eat a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, but you don’t, because you’re trying to be vegan. You might want to waste your evening scrolling through Instagram and watching Netflix, but you don’t, because you’re trying to spend less time in front of a screen.

But there are occasions when our self-discipline fails, and we end up giving in to whatever compulsion we’re trying to control. And that’s usually fine. For the most part, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of impulsivity and self-indulgence, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. Humans aren’t robots, and it’s important to allow yourself some flexibility.

However, if you are trying to be self-controlled in a specific area – for example, if you want to cut down on your phone use, or drink less alcohol – then there are strategies you can deploy to increase your chances of success. These techniques are outlined in a 2019 study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the US Association for Psychological Science. And they show that effective self-control involves much more than sheer willpower. 

Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the report, explains that we’re unlikely to be successful if we rely on our willpower alone to help us resist temptation.

“Temptations are arguably more readily available, more creatively engineered, and cheaper than any time in history,” she says.

“Junk food gets tastier and cheaper every year. And then there’s video games, social media, the list goes on.”

Instead of gritting our teeth and simply hoping we’ll be able to abstain from unhealthy or unproductive habits, Duckworth and her study co-authors outline four key self-control strategies, drawn from insights in psychological science and economics. 


In some cases, researchers say the best self-control strategy involves modifying our environment. If you’re trying to spend less time on your phone, for example, this might mean buying an alarm clock for your bedroom, or using an app that restricts your usage.


If you can’t adapt your surroundings to make a bad habit easier to break, you can try to change how you think about the situation. This might mean making an ‘if-then’ plan, where you consider how you’ll react if you’re put in a position of temptation.

If you’re trying to cut down on your alcohol consumption, what will you do when your colleagues suggest after-work drinks? Thinking about this ahead of time could make exercising self-control feel more appealing or easier to accomplish. 


There are also self-control strategies that are easier when someone else implements them for us. One of these is when outside forces encourage us to ascribe to new social norms: the researchers give the example of an electricity company showing its customers how their energy usage compares to their neighbours’, which might prompt them to be more eco-conscious.


The final self-control strategy also relies on external forces. Policymakers will often use situational constraints to change people’s behaviour – from incentives (such as offering tax rebates for eco-friendly building materials) to penalties (e.g. raising taxes on cigarettes and alcohol).

George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University says that this research is important, because it underscores the fact that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we can’t break a habit – or make a new one – on willpower alone.

One of the reasons people often fail in their New Year’s resolutions is “naivety about the limitations of the brute-force approach and ignorance of the far more effective strategies enumerated in the review,” he observes.

This article was originally published on 19 Feb 2019, and has been updated throughout.

Images: Getty/Pexels 

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