Archive for January, 2009

Weekend Psychings: The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation Launches

Saturday, January 31st, 2009
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This week wasn’t a very busy one for mental health in the media and on the red carpet, but the things that did make it into my bookmarks are definitely worth checking out.

Related to movies, The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, launched by Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (subject of The Soloist) and his sister, Jennifer Ayers-Moore, received a grant from the California Endowment this week to help support the Foundation’s mission of keeping up public awareness of mental illness and the benefits of creativity in treatments. The press release suggests the Foundation just launched, but the Foundation’s Web site claims it launched back during the spring of 2008. Either way, it’s a good cause.

In celebrity news, the special screening of “No Kidding, Me Too!,” Joe Pantoliano’s documentary about mental illness, took place in Boston last night, and one Celebrity Psychings reader who attended says it was “amazing and inspiring.” Pants talked with FOX25’s Gene Lavanchy yesterday about the documentary.

Television shows are raising some questions across the board. Musing on Showtime’s new United States of Tara, Newsweek‘s Dina Fine Maron asks whether or not Hollywood can get the portrayal of mental illness “right” ( On the flip side, Jerilyn Dufresne over at the Chicago Mental Health Examiner kind of seems to like what television characters are doing with mental health awareness.

And finally, in theater news, it’s going to be a big week for the Elmira Theatre Company. ETC is launching its production of Caroline Russell-King’s From Here to Insanity on February 5, and director Ken Harkes describes the play as one that “doesn’t dwell on the psychiatry” but shows us “what it’s like to be those people.”

That’s all for this week’s Weekend Psychings. If you run across anything over the coming week you feel worthy for next Saturday’s edition, feel free to send it my way!

Ashlee Simpson: Win. Fox News: Epic Fail.

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Pete Wentz Celebrates His 29th Birthday At Angels & Kings Chicago

Kudos to Ashlee Simpson-Wentz for defending her big sister’s good name reputation for having a smokin’ hot bod against recent media scrutiny.

Apparently Jessica Simpson has put on a few pounds during her venture into country music stardom, but rather than completely fail to notice a little weight gain by a celeb who’s not even that in our faces anymore and dedicate more time to, I don’t know, economic bailouts or something that matters for the survival of our country, Fox News found plenty of room for this brilliant piece of journalism: Jessica Simpson Shocks Fans With Noticeably Fuller Figure.

Sure, it was in their entertainment section. But really, who cares? (And while we’re on it, who were these fans that were actually “shocked”? Aware, fine – but shocked?)

I guess Fox News felt they wouldn’t truly be living up to their whole “we feature the most fair and accurate reporting on the entire planet” facade if they didn’t notify us each time someone traded up a size in jeans.

So many people are plagued with poor self-esteem, low self-confidence, depression, and a whole host of other mental health issues when it comes to their weight and body images. Ashlee isn’t ignorant to this fact, and she even kicks it up a notch by asking reporters and fans if these are the kinds of things they’d want the women in their lives to deal with:

Is this something you would say to your wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, or even a friend?

I seriously doubt it.

How can we expect teenage girls to love and respect themselves in an environment where we criticize a size 2 figure?

Questions, perhaps, we should all ask ourselves.

Of course, Fox did do a few more pieces after Ashlee lashed out, but they were mostly videos that either laughed about the situation or laughed it off – nothing worth posting. I could have overlooked something, though.

Fortunately, Jessica’s doesn’t seem to be one who sits around bemoaning the scales new results. …

Enter To Win The Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
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Want a chance to win some serious scholarship cash and maybe even appear on mtvU? If you’re a college student who’s kicking tail to bust stigma and educate your campus about mental health, you might just get it.

Michael Corbin (Executive Director at, amazing mental health advocate, and someone I’m proud to say I know) recently told me about the Jed Foundation’s current Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award designed to honor one student who is working to make a difference in the world of mental health awareness.

To show the Jed Foundation just how much you rock, create a video (no longer than five minutes) highlighting your good deeds and submit it online or via snail mail. The judges will be looking for how much effort and creativity you put into the video, so don’t slack if you want a real shot at winning. (Don’t slack, anyway, because you want to really give your work a chance to shine, right?)

And, if you do win, here’s what you get:

  • $2,000 cash scholarship
  • Recognition through The Jed Foundation’s website and events
  • Trip to New York to attend The Jed Foundation’s annual gala in June 2009
  • An opportunity to appear on MTVU**

**The mtvU appearance is dependent on the focus and content of the winner’s submission. This appearance is not guaranteed to the scholarship winner.

I have no idea who’s attending this year’s gala, but I do know Duncan Sheik performed last year (and that “Barely Breathing” is probably going to be in my head for the rest of the day).

The Jed Foundation provides all the details about entering and the deadline is February 13, 2009, so hop to it peeps. Finals aren’t for a while now and this is a fantastic opportunity.

Hey Billy Bob: You're Not As Alone As You'd Like To Think

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
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Last week, Billy Bob Thornton told MTV that he was “kind of an agoraphobic” and spent 56 seconds explaining how he copes with the press, promoting movies, and making sure the party comes to him so he doesn’t have to go out.

Very simply put, agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can bring on some pretty heavy symptoms when the afflicted person is presented with certain public situations in which he feels escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or he might not be able to get help if a panic attack sets in.

But, while Billy Bob says agoraphobia keeps him holed up with his television set (in addition to his trusty “Bud Light and American Spirit cigarettes”) Joe Froemming of St. Cloud State University says the rest of the world is pretty much keeping itself isolated with TVs, iPods, cell phones, and computers.

I don’t know who this Froemming character is (regular reporter for the University Chronicle? Random university student who felt like venting in the paper?), but he makes some pretty valid points about how people are using technology “to avoid the world around them, which is a dirty and dying planet indeed.”

We get more upset over dead fictional characters than we do real people dying on the battlefields. We’d rather catch up with friends via Facebook than over a cup of joe. And, on those occasions when we can’t avoid leaving the house, we plug our earbuds in and ignore people.

Froemming explains all this by claiming with the invention of instant and text messaging also came our alarming degree of laziness (banging out “LMFAO” is so much easier than calling someone up and actually laughing, isn’t it?), though he doesn’t seem to think the general public is the only bunch to blame:

These distractions are a multi-billion dollar business. Companies make money on creating things to isolate people, then doctors make money telling these people that they are depressed because they are too distracted all the time and should go out and converse with a real …

Lily Allen Finds Help At The 'Nuthouse'

Monday, January 26th, 2009
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I don’t share her cavalier attitude toward drug use and I definitely don’t like the careless ways she shares that attitude, but it’s kind of difficult to “dislike” Lily Allen for an significant amount of time.

I truly believe the girl just doesn’t think before she speaks.

Case in point: In a recent People article, Allen reveals that she spent three weeks in a “nuthouse” after suffering a miscarriage last year that left her “really depressed.”

Kudos to Allen for being open and honest about her depression and how she handled it (not every celeb is – shoot, not every nonceleb is), but, “nuthouse”? Really, Allen? C’mon girl – it’s 2009.

Of course, Allen wraps up her quote up “Maybe if I had stayed pregnant and had the baby then things would have worked out between me and Ed” (her ex-beau and the father of the baby).

With that, you have to stop and recognize there are some deeper issues going on there than just misguided notions about drug abuse and stunted growth in the whole “let’s not add to stigma with labels like ‘nuthouse'” department. Allen suffered a loss so many women (and men) suffer, and is asking herself the very same questions so many do. The situation is actually quite the exercise in pausing to remember we’re all human and, when you do that, the distinction between disliking the person and disliking her ways becomes much clearer.

Weekend Psychings: No Izzie, But Plenty Of Tara

Saturday, January 24th, 2009
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The most popular post at Celebrity Psychings this week was Optimism And Reality: Lessons From Drew Barrymore, but when I logged in yesterday morning and saw that What’s Going On With Izzie Stevens’s Brain? – a much older post – was quickly on its way to taking the lead, I was not at all surprised.

I mean, did you see Grey’s Anatomy Thursday night? Izzie finally realized she was sick, but she also managed to make dead ex-fiance Denny Duquette disappear, which I’m guess has a lot of viewers wondering if Duquette’s appearance really were just ghostly and not symptoms of some kind of brain problem after all.

Sorry folks, I don’t have any answers. Even Michael Ausiello, who usually knows at least a tiny bit about everything, is going to have to “ask ABC president Steve McPherson and get back to you” regarding anything related to Izzie and Denny and the maybe-but-maybe-not brain illness.

The good news is you can still check out the lasted edition of Weekend Psychings!

On the boob tube, Toni Collette is lovin’ her new role as Tara Gregson, a woman with dissociative identity disorder trying to manage her disorder and being a wife and mom in Steven Spielberg’s United States of Tara (that’s actually a clever little play on words, even if it did take about a week for it to dawn on me). Too bad I don’t have showtime. Across the pond, the first ad for the Time to Change campaign aired earlier this week with support from celebs Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax (and in addition to the Daily Times and Sun, you can expect to see Time to Change ads on Facebook soon, too, I read).

PETA Wants NFL To Turn Their Backs On The "Psychopath"

Friday, January 23rd, 2009
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In addition to a petition the organization is urging us all to sign, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recently faxed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to require fallen NFL star Michael Vick to undergo psychiatric evaluations and brain scans to determine whether or not Vick has antisocial personality disorder and/or irregularly sized brain parts and, based on the results, for Goodell himself to determine whether or not Vick fits the role model persona NFL players should.

(This isn’t the first time PETA has dabbled in the world of brain and mental health. Close to a year ago, the organization sent a letter to Britney Spears regarding dairy’s effect on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and back in July they offered to pay for a brain scan for Sharon Stone.)

PETA Founder and President Ingrid Newkirk penned the two-page plea herself, and while I used to hold this woman in high regard, my admiration has waned.

Newkirk’s letter to Goodell begins by addressing all the cooperation Vick has shown over the last year and a half (i.e. he’s done everything they – they being PETA – have suggested), but it takes a serious nose dive after that. Upon learning about even more cruel behaviors of Vick’s (courtesy of your neighborhood USDA report), PETA basically pulled the reigns on their support of his ability to change once they decided he fit the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. Newkirk dusted off her copy of the ol’ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and explained to Goodell that Vick’s behavior as reported by the USDA fits that of someone with antisocial personality disorder according to the DSM.

And, just in case Goodell is completely illiterate, Newkirk decided to dumb it down for him and tell him that people with antisocial personality disorder are often referred to as “psychopaths.” (Translation: “Let’s use this seriously nasty word that conjures really horrible and foul images in hopes that it will scare Goodell into making sure Vick never …

Joe Pantoliano: "You Cannot Be Anonymous With Mental Illness"

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

“You cannot be anonymous with mental illness. You really have to talk, loudly, and say ‘Hey, I’ve got it, I’m functioning, my life is better for it.'” – Joe Pantoliano to Brian Williams.

Joe Pantoliano – or Pants – has a new documentary out with the same title as the nonprofit organization he runs with the help of Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, fellow Soprano stars Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli, and a whole string of other celebs – and he wants us all to attend.

On January 30, 2009, there will be a special screening of “No Kidding, Me Too!”, which is aimed at fighting the shame and stigma attached to brain disease and mental illness. Attending means purchasing a ticket ($50 for general admission and $100 for VIP treatment, which includes access to a “meet and greet” session before the show) and making travel arrangements to Boston. You can find details about the special screening and purchasing tickets at the NKM2 Web site.

While you ponder, be sure to take a look at the five-minute sneak peek, as well as this NBC new video in which Pants discusses his depression, the effect Canvas had on him, and the stigma that surrounds mental illness with Brian Williams.

And really, I highly recommend watching the interview, if for nothing more than hearing the above quote, as well as this gem: “The brain does not have the same equal rights as the liver or the kidney or the gallbladder.”

Image Source: sagindie per these Creative Commons License Attributions

Sounds From The Kitten Casino: Meet The Shrink Who's Rocking Out

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

The media shines a spotlight on the world of mental health pretty often; however, it’s not every day that someone from the world of mental health steps onto the red carpet.

Not every day, but not never. (You like that double negative, don’t you?)

Case in point: Dr. Sarah Kennedy – or Dr. Blonde, as the media is affectionately calling her – is a senior psychiatrist with the Borders Mental Health Service.

She’s also the front woman for Modus, the funky retro Edinburgh band with a debut album – Sounds from the Kitten Casino – out right now with the US record label Hammondbeat and to pretty good reviews.

From what I gather, Kennedy has been dabbling in music for quite some time and Modus has actually been around for a few years; however, it’s recently been singled out as one of the names to watch for 2009.

I’m certainly watching now.

I checked out the band’s MySpace page, and while the members of Modus may have missed big opportunities with the Austin Powers films, I think they have potential. I’m really digging “Club Soul Magic.” Go on, check it out.

And head over to Mark McLaughlin’s interview with Kennedy and the rest of Modus to learn more.

Image source: Amazon

Optimism And Reality: Lessons From Drew Barrymore

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
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Whether they’re trying to or not, celebrities are always teaching us something, aren’t they? Not so much because they’re celebrities, but because they’re always in our faces so it’s pretty easy to learn from their failures and successes.

A recent Mirror article about Drew Barrymore highlights such failures and successes, stacking up Barrymore’s current career highs (how much she enjoyed doing Beverly Hills Chihuahua, how much she’s rolling in with each film, etc.) against her extensive resume of personal life lows (her troubled childhood and relationships with her parents, past substance abuse problems, failed marriages, etc.)

The upbeat optimism Barrymore maintains throughout the entire article, though, is something to not only be admired, but also maybe even mirrored.

Barrymore discusses the shift in priorities her latest trip into Singleville has brought as well as the importance of getting to know herself without the assistance of a siggie other, but perhaps the most poignant message comes in the last three paragraphs:

Looking back, Drew is philosophical about her unusual childhood and unconventional upbringing.

“You can’t live your life blaming your failures on your parents and what they did or didn’t do for you,” she says. “You’re dealt the cards that you’re dealt. I realised it was a waste of time to be angry at my parents.

“The best thing I can do is use all the things I’ve learned from them, good and bad, have my own family someday and just keep on going.”

Too right you are, Barrymore. Troubled childhoods, drug problems, relationship woes – none of these things have to be the end of our own personal worlds. The best thing we can all do is take what we learn from the various people and situations in our lives and apply those lessons as we carry on.


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