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In the past year, there have allegedly been three suicides in one high school in Newton, Massachusetts. That number is horribly alarming. Granted, when one suicide occurs it is likelier for others around the victim to commit suicide than for the average person, but something needs to be said about THREE PEOPLE. Of course, I am not a professional (though I hope to be in some capacity someday), so my word is not to be taken mindlessly, but here are some suggestions on how to prevent suicide in the future:
1. If one is feeling ANY suicidal ideation, he or she must tell somebody. Seeking help is vital in such a situation, because this way, others are aware of the potential victim’s possibility and they can hopefully pick up signs of serious consideration.
2. If one notices frequent posts on Facebook or other social media outlets by the individual about death or suicide, he or she needs to act immediately. Whether it is informing an adult, or confronting the individual, something must be done. Posting online is often a cry for help. Take it as one.
3. The environment can deeply influence mental health. Hence, when is considering suicide, the environment around him or her must be assessed. Maybe the individual is experiencing bullying or a family conflict. By no means does experiencing such events mean that someone automatically becomes depressed (these are unfortunately events that often happen in life and a normally sad response to them should not be taken as an illness of the mind (i.e. depression)), but one with pre-existing major depressive disorder may experience an exacerbation of depressive symptoms as a result of such situations. Knowledge of the external factors contributing to the depression helps to determine how to best treat it.
4. On a larger scale, suicide prevention programs must be implemented in schools and other community institutions. Such initiatives have the power to show a young adult considering suicide that there is hope.

DISCLAIMER: Luckily I have never encountered a suicide among the people that I know, so I am not sure which of my proposed solutions are more effective than others. It probably depends on the situation.

A Message to my Readers

Hello all! I hope you are enjoying my blog. I have noticed a problem recently in that it seems that it is difficult for many of you to post comments on this blog. Several seem to have gotten through, but I saw over 15 comments in the spam folder that have been mistakenly blocked by the spam-controller on this site. I have checked some of the comments in the spam folder and it looks like they come from well-meaning commenters, so I guess the spam-monitor is being a slight bit too vigilant. I am trying to get this fixed and I apologize for this inconvenience.

Something that I admire about the modern treatment of many psychiatric disorders is the fact that even with all of the psychopharmaceutical advances in antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, drugs used to treat severe mental illnesses, a technique used in the treatment of such conditions that is still often employed is cognitive behavioral therapy. In this form of therapy, the patient’s thoughts are challenged and newer ways of thinking are introduced by the therapist in order to conquer the negative and harmful thoughts that the patient is experiencing. This form of therapy is often used in patients who have conditions like mild depression in which the patient is generally sane and aware and simply needs to challenge his or her pessimistic attitudes. However, using such therapy in a situation in which one’s thinking is severely impaired by a biochemically malfunctioning brain is something that I think is quite impressive.
Take schizophrenia. A schizophrenic patient will often experience hallucinations and delusions regardless, because that is what the biological problem in his or her brain is causing him or her to do. But such therapy can help a patient take control over his or her cognition and perception of the world by questioning the delusions and hallucinations. Whereas many times a patient with schizophrenia will automatically see an image that isn’t there, after he or she successfully undergoes this type of therapy, he or she may still see the images in these hallucinations but will be able to cognitively dismiss these images as unreal. I like this approach because oftentimes, society tends to view individuals with psychotic disorders as completely inept at controlling their thoughts. This form of therapy refutes that principle, showing that many patients with psychosis are potentially capable of guiding their thoughts in the same way that people without such a condition are. I also think that this form of treating psychosis is inspiring, because it allows an individual to overcome some of the debilitating effects of his or her illness through personal effort and hard work, and thus to surpass seemingly unconquerable limitations.

Property of the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1nhanes.shtml)

Use of mental health services and treatment among children.  Mental health service use for children ages 8-15 in terms of percent with disorder

A Society of Dishonor

Something that often affects our mental health before we realize the harm that it causes…

 

I recently read an article titled “Why I am Leaving Guyland”, which discusses the changing image of masculinity today, reflecting the bigger and more disturbing themes of how narcissistic, materialistic and morally disgraceful our society has become. The article speaks about how men today are often out to please themselves and improve their public image, based on popular societal norms, rather than focusing on meaningful self-fulfillment or raising a family. They commonly use harmful and vulgar ways to “feel like men.” These include drinking, smoking, and carousing. . The “Guyland” article also hints that materialism hurts society. It points to “guysploitation” media like Maxim, FHM, and Spike TV, which sends men messages about how important it is to materially conform to the current culture among men in their twenties. Today, we spend more and have more material possessions, but communicate less. Young people are defining themselves more and more by the products that they buy and the name brands of the clothing that they wear. Companies are playing on this trend by advertising these things to their young customers, hinting to them that they will be “cool” if they buy this or that item. As if the only thing that represents who you are is the items that you own. I wonder where all of the self-esteem issues of today come from. (“I’m not as good as everyone else because I don’t own Prada or Ralph Lauren!” Go cry me a river.) For that matter, how would you define “everyone else”? There is a subset of people that actually try to live meaningful lives that are not fully based on materialism. Not every single person tries to be a part of this culture, even though a large number of people do. Sometimes it just seems like completely 100% of all people are part of this money-hugging society. Perhaps the marketers are the ones trying (and succeeding in) making us feel this way. Well they are doing a good job. Anyway, there are truly successful individuals – a lot of society would think I am crazy for calling them truly successful – who focus on being fulfilled and productive members of society, helping others and perhaps having their own families, rather than trying to elevate themselves to a state at which society would view them as successful. But unfortunately, according to “Why I am Leaving Guyland”, men who marry are commonly considered “freakish, fuddy-duddy, and frequently religious.” As a result of the focus on elevating oneself at the expense of trying to respect and help others, our society’s moral fabric has changed. Acts that were once considered out-of-the-question are now acceptable in some circles. For example, this article states that according to a 2005 UCLA study, 20 percent of college guys would rape someone if they knew they wouldn’t be caught. This indicates how much our moral order has decreased. As important as freedom is, people must keep in mind their responsibilities for the common welfare. Even though the First Amendment allows for one to technically say almost anything, society still shouldn’t continue to approve of the fact that children and teenagers today have a nearly unlimited amount of access to violent movies and music with obscene words and ideas and often act upon these messages that they receive. Our society should focus on morality and true fulfillment, rather than self-aggrandizement. Then people will be happier. And hopefully our suicide rates will decrease.

Alfred Adler

Learning about Alfred Adler can shed a lot of light on the ideas behind mental health.

Alfred Adler was one of the most prominent pioneers in psychology. He established several theories that are today seen as pillars of psychological thought. Alfred Adler was an important figure in European history because by putting his theories into practice, he influenced European society and the lives of its citizens.

Alfred Adler was born on February 7, 1870, in Vienna, into a large family. A son of a Jewish grain merchant, Adler was a sickly child. His suffering from rickets and pneumonia as a child led him to aspire to become a doctor in order to help others suffering the way he did. As a teenager, he was popular and well-liked, but had trouble academically for a large amount of time. Failing at math, Alfred was suggested by a teacher to drop out of school and pursue a different professional path, such as an apprentice to a cobbler. Alfred’ father, however, disregarded this teacher’s comments, expressing to Alfred how little he valued them. As Alfred began to excel and thus prove this teacher wrong, he rose to the top of his class in mathematics. In 1895, Alfred received his medical degree from the University of Vienna, where he met his wife Raissa Timofeyewna Epstein. They had four children and both eventually became psychiatrists. Alfred was originally an ophthalmologist before turning to psychiatry.

Alfred believed that one of the main goals that people tend to have is to suppress their inferiority in order to reach a feeling superiority. He opined that feelings of inferiority are motivating forces in a person’s behavior, which becomes guided at restraining that feeling of inferiority. The inferiority complex is thus what people develop when they can not compensate for inferior feelings, and this complex makes it difficult for people to cope with problems in life. Adler believed that the drive for superiority is universal among all cultures of the world, although it is expressed in different ways.

Another idea that Adler held was that people can be divided into four types. The ruling type tries to control others. The getting type is passive and normally goes along with the status quo. The avoiding type tries to isolate oneself to avoid defeat. Lastly, the socially useful type aims to have control over one’s life and strives to do good things for the sake of society.

Adler introduced the term “individual psychology” into the psychology lexicon. He studied the motives and drives of the individual, as well as the individual in relation to his or her larger community. He made a specific emphasis on treating a psychological patient as a “whole person”, because he believed that a person is the sum of his or her experiences as well as the various groups that he or she is a part of. Adler ascribed wellness in large part to one’s level of functioning within his or her larger social group.

Adler also did substantial work in the area of personality development. He studied the effects of pampering and neglect on children’s future well-being, as well as birth order. He proposed that children create fictional beliefs about themselves when they are young that are a result of their early experiences. These beliefs then guide the person through life unless they consciously make an effort to teach themselves a different belief about themselves. According to him, children who were born second were better adjusted than those who were born first or last. Children who were the only children in the family had the hardest time adjusting to the outside world.

Adler was arguably the most influential psychologist of his time on European society as a whole. This is because a large part of his studies stressed the importance of communal life and the human need and ability to contribute to the social good. He strongly believed in civil rights, equality, and democracy. He was therefore one of the first practitioners to provide group and family counseling and to use public education to enhance community health. Adler’s experiences serving as a physician in World War I led him to think more about war and social conflict from a psychological perspective. He viewed fascists and other cruel leaders in the wars as misguided individuals with personality dysfunction. These experiences inspired him to open clinics for children in Vienna in 1918 since he believed that such personality problems could best be addressed in childhood. Adler promoted the idea of “social interest”, which refers to belonging and contribution to society, with the belief that such belonging and equality with one’s neighbors could prevent hostility and antagonism largely present in his European world.

A revolutionary in the field of psychology in Europe, Adler split from Freud in order to form an independent school of psychotherapy and personality theory. This was largely because he decided to focus on practical behavior and daily life in order to interpret human character, rather than on the subconscious mind. He influenced notable figures in psychology through this, like Viktor Frankl, Abraham Maslow and Rollo May. His writings influenced future thinkers in psychology as well. Adler was therefore powerful in European society in that his theories were relevant to many sociological aspects of the culture in which he lived.

One area on which Alfred Adler had influence was feminism. He suggested that women and men are inherently equal, and a major reason that males are often held in higher regard than females is because of the “inferiority complex” that he often discussed. Men are driven, he believed, to assert themselves over women through their aggressive and competitive natures. In his view, women similarly felt a drive to eliminate their feelings of inferiority in a male-dominated society, which the feminist movement was beginning to aid them in doing.

Adler made key contributions to the professional and industrial side of society as well. In 1898, he published the Health Book for the Tailoring Trade, in which he described a psychological approach to problems in the work place. He pushed the medical community to examine how illness among workers in the “cottage industry” could be traced back to working conditions. Understandably, he suggested that treatment should incorporate social factors and changes in working conditions. A result of this book was the passage of several new laws based on his suggestions.

Adler’s opinion on homosexuality provided strong support for the societal view. He viewed homosexuals as in control of their sexuality, having developed an inferiority complex toward their own gender. As did many of his contemporaries, he believed that homosexuality was a flaw and that one could “recover” from it with proper therapy. As such, he voluntarily provided extensive therapy to homosexuals with the goal of “curing” them from this condition.

He also contributed to European society by proposing supposedly successful methods of child-rearing. Since he believed that one of the best ways to ward off potential psychological problems was to provide a nurturing home environment for a child, he held that parents should make their children feel that they are loved and cared for. By the same token, parents were to communicate with their children respectfully and on equal terms, ruling out the harsh punishments and fear of parents that were only beginning to fall out of favor at the time. Lack of such an accepting environment, Adler believed, could lead to rebellion and, in the worst situations, criminal behavior in the child.

Adler made a difference in European society because the ideas that he proposed affected people of all sorts in society. Women, children, workers, and others were helped through the ideas that Adler introduced. As an academic researcher and theorizer, Adler’s contributions to society were essentially indirect. Rather than founding institutions, per say, he brought concepts to the European public that were in some way translated into action either during his time or afterwards. In this way, Adler was able to influence Europe in a distinctive way that not many others could follow.

Stand Up To Stigma

 

from http://leveragehq.org/

I published this article here: freshinkforteens.com/articles/healthy-body-and-healthy-soul

I am reposting my article here:

“Several weeks ago, I attended a bar mitzvah at Temple Beth El in Springfield, Mass. I listened to the recitation of the Misheberach prayer, when the congregation asks God for healing of the community’s sick. As a frequent attendee of services, I normally rush through this prayer without thinking much about its meaning. But at Beth El I heard an interpretation of it that would challenge me to think from a Jewish perspective about an issue I never associated with religion.

Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz, standing before a 200-person congregation on a windy Saturday morning, mentioned that the need for healing reflected in this prayer applies to “illnesses to which a stigma is attached.” The rabbi went on to discuss the need for Jewish communities to respect and support their members who struggle with mental health issues.

People often ask me why I am so committed to raising awareness and decreasing stigma surrounding mental health disorders when, thank God, I have absolutely zero personal experience with such issues. Of the many answers I give, I say that as a Jewish young adult I feel a sense of obligation to make a difference in the world, and mental health awareness is a cause I feel compelled to pursue.

During my research internship in a psychiatric hospital this past summer, I often thought about the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and the beauty of the idea that I could link my Jewish faith with making a difference in the lives of others. The same thought runs through my mind whenever I write articles on mental health; post on my blog, “Squash the Stigma”; or donate money to research funds directed at finding new treatments for severe mental disorders. Why then, with all our talk about tikkun olam, has the Jewish community been blind — relative to other problems, at least — to issues related to mental health? Is mental health not legitimate enough of a cause to include in our definition of tikkun olam?

The Misheberach prayer includes the words “refuat hanefesh v’refuat haguf,” which translate to “healing of the spirit and healing of the body.” The fact that Judaism juxtaposes physical with mental health shows that the two are considered equal in importance. One who struggles with mental health may find it difficult to be a productive member of his or her community, just as one afflicted with a physical illness might.

Unfortunately, many people with mental illnesses will not reach out to their communities for support because of a fear of stigma. It is ironic that Jewish communities, which are the lifeline of support for many people, often fail to provide unconditional love and support for those suffering from mental disorders. As a modern Orthodox Jew I’ve always been taught that Jewish tradition must acknowledge and incorporate the realities of modern society. Mental illness is an unfortunate reality that should not be neglected by any denomination.

Jewish tradition bears a sympathetic and non-stigmatizing view of mental illnesses. The word “shoteh” is given to a person gripped by insanity, who does not have a sense of reality; he or she is not held accountable for his or her actions. Similarly, there are instances of mental breakdown in the Tanach (Old Testament). For example, King Saul becomes terrified by an evil spirit and needs to be comforted by David (Samuel I 16:14-23). From this incident we learn that altered consciousness or emotional anguish can strike anybody, and that we should aid in quelling our fellow Jews’ mental distress.

We must welcome and help members of the Jewish community struggling with mental illnesses, whether, when appropriate, we encourage them to seek professional help, or provide them with nonjudgemental outlets where they can be reminded that they are more than their illness. Mental illness should not be viewed in the Jewish community as taboo since mental illness can affect anyone regardless of religion, culture, or socioeconomic background.

Kindness towards one’s neighbor is an important Jewish value. It is logical to extend kindness to those around us suffering in silence. Judaism has also been a proponent of not judging or shaming a fellow Jew. That said, how can a community neglect the feelings of shame felt by Jews who are uncomfortable and stigmatized due to their illnesses?

The Jewish community has always prided itself on acceptance and compassion for society’s least fortunate and most marginalized. There is an unspoken rule that converts need to be treated no differently from people who were Jewish since birth. Likewise, widows and orphans are pitied almost automatically. It is time for those suffering from mental health issues to be given the same respect and understanding from their Jewish neighbors.”

Finally, today health insurance coverage was extended to cover treatment for mental health issues. It has several benefits. For one, it ensures equal treatment of inpatients and outpatients. People with disorders requiring only occasional appointments now are to be treated with as much quality care as those who reside in hospitals for a period of time. It is also important that now, many policies that apply to treatment for physical medical disorders apply to treatment for psychiatric illness as well. For example, limits on visits to providers and health plans’ co-payments now match those of regular medical care.

This will hopefully lead to better access to care for many suffering from mental illness. We already have a tough barrier of stigma to break down in order to ensure that more people get access to healthcare. The issue of cost would only make it more difficult.

This increased access due to the new insurance policy will also prevent severe disorders from escalating, because it will be easier for people to seek treatment sooner. This way, they would be able to target the disorder before it progresses and becomes debilitating.

Squashing Stigma (Literally)

Courtesy of blogs.psychcentral.com

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