It’s Been a While

It’s been a while since I posted here and want to make this a more regular occurrence. So I will begin again, posting the things my research is grounded in or things I want to share with my students and the world.

I came across this ted.ed talk about reframing and understanding mental health issues. It’s about early intervention. We have so much remediation and reparative treatment, but not really enough to help intervene early. this could help clients and families understand the issues and treatment much earlier in the process.

Toward a new understanding of mental illness

It Gets Better

I don’t know how many of you follow the news, but I do and one story meant so much that I needed to say something about it.  Months ago, Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, started a youtube revolution. They knew that they couldn’t speak directly to LGBT teens, but that teens will go to youtube or Facebook or Twitter so they began a project called It Gets Better. The couple wanted to share that once you graduate high school, life can and does get better. The concept is to record a video that encourages LGBT youth by telling them “it gets better,” then upload that video to youtube. Thousands of videos have been uploaded to date.

The news story I saw shared the story of a gay teen who had uploaded a video to the site to encourage his peers to persevere and that “it gets better.” Unfortunately, for this boy it did not get better and he ended his life.  It is heart wrenching to think that despite his outer courage, he was clearly experiencing a great deal of pain.  I think the online campaign is a positive one.  In fact I encourage you all to view the site, take the pledge, and watch some videos. But I also encourage you to do more. Talk to people, listen, and encourage someone to get help if they are struggling. We know that if we can instill some hope, we might be able to prevent a suicide. Sometimes we just need to listen to others and sometimes we need to do more. It takes a trained person to counsel someone, but it does not take a trained person to just listen and to care.  So please, look at this site and think of the people that need us.

In addition, I would encourage you to visit this site as well The Trevor Project is an organization that was developed specifically to prevent suicide in LGBT youth.


A lesson in core strength

Upon leaving Ghana, I wanted to take time to reflect on what I had experienced. As a faculty member, I knew it would be important to reflect and process on multiple levels.  The experience affected me as a person, as a faculty member on the trip, and as a faculty member with my own students.  Now that I have returned I can say more about my personal and professional experiences abroad.

I was struck by the immense core strength of the Ghanaian people.  What do I mean? Well for one, they have the physical strength to carry a lot of weight on their heads. This feat takes a great amount of core strength. I never saw any Ghanaian slouching, which also calls for core strength. I know this to be incredibly important for a number of reasons. Core strength typically means slimmer bellies and that means less weight related health issues. After working in the clinics, weight related concerns were not typically the primary presenting problems. Core strength contributed to the practice of carrying newborns and toddlers on the back. Young girls are given this task and are in “training” for later in life. Realistically, the girls are strengthening their back muscles as well as abdominal muscles so that they can support their babies later in life.

In addition, core strength can also refer to strength within.  My experience in Ghana left me with the impression that the people have a core strength that I have been lacking.  The people are patient, proud, grateful, and humble. These characteristics contribute to a sense of inner strength. On many occasions I witnessed this strength shining through. A overall lack of complaints and rudeness throughout our visit may be one of the prime examples of what I mean.  I know that I personally get agitated if I wait at a health clinic for more than an hour; the Ghanaian people, however, waited for multiple hours without complaint. In fact, they saw this as an opportunity to socialize and make the time spent waiting meaningful.  I also feel anxious if I am late to a meeting or to catch a plane. I did not experience this as an expressed emotion in Ghana.  I personally see this as a characteristic I would like to attain. As a mental health counselor, I found myself wondering what types of things I would discover working with clients in Ghana.   When people learned I was a counselor, they would all say, “I need to talk to you” or “I need advice.” While I did not engage in a counseling relationship with anyone, I did often wonder what types of things the individual might want to talk about.  I could tell that the economy, jobs, and opportunity were all on the minds of the Ghanaians, much like these issues are on all of our minds. My instinct tells me that many of the mental health issues (or ones seen by counselors or psychiatric nurses) are organic in nature (i.e., schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, etc) and that many of the things that we experience here in the U.S. are not experienced in the same way.

I am left to evaluate my own sense of being after this trip. I am left with a desire to strengthen my core and I know that I can take a lesson from the Ghanaian people and that I will share that lesson with others.

Are guys really that different?

Yes. I just watched this TED talk by Phillip Zimbardo (of prison study fame) about what he calls the demise of guys. For a counselor or even an educator, this is fascinating. We might know there are differences in gender, but with studies of the brain supporting this, now we know. How can we use this in working with male clients? What might this mean for young males versus older males? High school student versus college students? How might the knowledge that brain development does not truly end until age 25? I think this warrants a view and it’s under 5 minutes in length. Great talking point. The demise of guys?

Learning lessons in unexpected places

I was at the gym yesterday, as I am on many days, doing cardio. Loving life and feeling generally pretty good. I happened to look up to the televisions and saw a show on ESPN called “Unbreakable.” It was about young athletes all of the world overcoming hardships. There was a story about young children in India playing cricket on a field that has been contaminated by a pesticide ultimately causing paralysis in the children. There was also a story about an amputee football (soccer here in the US) league for former child soldiers from Liberia. Then there was a story about a high school athlete here in the US who attempted suicide and survived. He spoke in detail about his depression and his overwhelming pressure to accomplish unachievable goals.  He was 16 when he locked his door and jumped out of his 9th story building to the ground below. He says he doesn’t remember the fall or hitting the ground, but he does remember waking up in the hospital with his family surrounding him. Suicide is a topic that faces a great stigma. Only “crazy” people do that. Well no. That’s just not true. A young person (between 15 and 24) attempts suicide every two hours. Quite staggering if you think about it. people who are considering suicide are in great pain, psychache if you will, and may believe that suicide is the only option to stop the pain. They may not want to die, but they don’t want to live with the pain they are feeling. I encourage you to watch this clip on Jordan Burnham. He now speaks to high schools and colleges to educate our youth on depression and suicide. So watch, listen, and learn and every now and again pay attention to things that are playing in the background of your life. You never know where your next lesson will come from.

ESPN E:60 The Jordan Burnham Story

NIMH Rss feed

I have added the Rss feed from the NIMH to this blog. I think it’s relevant and will keep us all informed of the work that the National Institute of Mental Health is doing. It is a good source of information for research, funding, and interesting information. Currently, there is a Brain Basics video on the homepage as well as statistics on suicide.  When you have time, check it out. You can use the rss feed on the right hand side of the blog or go directly to

Happy hunting!

Adding 3 new R’s to education

Dr. Dan Seigel advises us that we should add three new R’s to education. No longer is reading, writing, and arithmetic enough, but education should include reflection, relationships, and resilience. While he says these “new” R’s can affect eduction, I go one step further and believe this is crucial information for working with clients. He suggests that relationships and connections help fully develop our brains.  We strive for connection and knowing that connectedness begins in the womb is key. I urge you to watch this and consider how this information fits for you, for your understanding of the world, for your understanding of clients and how they change, and for working with clients. Dan Siegel introduces MindSight

Informative, interesting, and courageous

Breaking the silence on suicide

As someone who has worked with those who contemplate suicide and studies reasons to live (protective factors), this struck me as terribly courageous. I think that as Mental Health Counselors, preparing to work with people who have attempted suicide is crucial. Take this gentleman’s words seriously.

Here I go…

And so it begins. My foray into the world of blogging. I hope to share fun, interesting, important, and maybe quirky aspects about mental health and mental health counseling.

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