Archives for January, 2012
In truth, the fight against the stigma attached to mental illness has been global for awhile, but in many places, serious stigma remains. Here in the U.S. we have NAMI's Stigma Busters, NKM2 (No Kidding, Me Too), and numerous other organizations, grass-root and otherwise, educating the public about mental illness in order to fight stigma. Although I could find no major studies showing that there was a high level of effectiveness of these campaigns, there is evidence some impact has been made. (If you have links to studies showing that stigma-fighting protocols have a major impact, please send them to us)! In some non-Western countries, religious and cultural beliefs might reinforce stigma (and discrimination, maltreatment, and even violence against those with mental illness). Here are some stories that inspire hope:
Are you creative and different from most others? Take these fun video tests. (We're not claiming these tests are scientifically accurate, or psychologically useful, or represent the opinions of anyone except the video makers). My score is next to the links below—what are yours?
C.R. writes: Lisa's long journey from cult-member to authentic, autonomous self wasn't easy. She explains that leaving the cult (she knew she had no other choice for the survival of her psyche), felt like a painful divorce. "There was tons of real stuff I had to deal with. The cult wasn't only my social and spiritual life, but my job and home too. My roommates were cult members so I was for all intents and purposes, homeless. But in order to get to this point where I was ready to make the external changes I needed to do, I had to accept that [the leader's] behavior towards me was abusive. That took a while. "During one special event a celebrity member, one of our most visible ones, who gave tons of money to the cult and promoted it wherever she went, was visiting the headquarters with her kids and her nanny. She had visited many times before. "For some reason this time I watched the way she treated the nanny, ordering her around, giving her tight, quick smiles when she thought people were looking and glaring at her when she thought no one could see. It really bothered me. She was so entitled and arrogant and abusive. She treated the nanny like a slave or robot, not a person. I don't know why it really got to me that day since I had actually seen her do this before. "That evening when I was walking home, something went off in my head. I realized that [the leader] treated me the same as [the celebrity] treated her nanny. I actually remember asking myself a question out loud, something like: Am I a robot? My answer was: I feel like a robot who has no feelings. What I mean is, I felt like I was being treated like a robot and expected to have no feelings.
C.R. writes: I caught up with *Lisa again recently. She told me some of the ways in which she moved deeper and deeper into the cult's "spell" and how she felt when her relationship with the cult began to crumble. "Basically I gave up my identity little by little which is how cults brainwash you. Of course because my core identity wasn't so strong to begin with I was an easier target. I think cults often attract people with [flawed] self-images. For example [some] celebrities only come "alive" in the presence of others. They feel empty when alone or even with their spouses and kids because unless they are being adored they cannot function right. "I came alive in [the cult]. I became important and adored and the holder of valuable secrets. I was so special, they changed my name and gave me one that is part of the cult's culture. That further cut me off from the outside world. Because my parents weren't so interested in me, at least my mom wasn't, they stepped in to fill the vacuum.
C.R. writes: As a girl, Deborah Jiang Stein (soon-to-be heroin addict, bank robber, and self-destructive, gun-toting rebel), couldn't understand why she felt so alienated from her professorial Jewish family. Sure, she knew she was adopted; she understood that her features and skin color marked her as different on the outside. But why did she feel so different on the inside? At the age of twelve, Deborah found a letter, buried in her mother's sachet-scented lingerie drawer. In her newly released book, Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison, she tells us what she read: "Can you please alter Deborah's birth certificate," my mother asks in the letter to the family attorney, "from the Federal Women's Prison in Alderson, West Virginia, to Seattle? Nothing good will come from her knowing she lived in the prison before foster care, or that her birth mother was a heroin addict."
In a new study published in the journal Tobacco Control, researchers from Harvard University's Center for Global Tobacco Control, say that unfortunately, the nicotine patch and gum, don't work. In contrast to positive medical studies, this study surveyed over 1000 participants who used over-the-counter tobacco control products in real-life settings and the results were dismal. Even when smokers used the patch or gum with support groups or quit-smoking programs, they still smoked!
Recently, I completed an eye-opening program. I'd like to share with you some of the information from the New York Council On Problem Gambling, especially since there is discussion about increasing the number of casinos in NY State in order to raise revenues which supporters hope will refresh our rotten economy. I've heard that other states are also considering legalizing or expanding various forms of gambling. While I agree the economy in general stinks, I disagree that casinos actually increase revenues for states during a nationwide depression (okay, recession). I'm not alone in believing this, some economists and politicians agree.
More or Less? Here's our take on a few mental health professional trends we'd like to see in 2012: 1. MORE mental health and addiction treatment programs will incorporate nutrition education and other nutritional programs in their treatment of mental illness and addiction. It's really frustrating. Very few mental health programs, in-patient or out-patient, allocate resources to nutrition education (or improved food/diet programs). Every few months scientists tell us that diet isn't only relevant to physical health but to mental health as well. In our old newsletter C.R. and I wrote a column called Mood and Food. In it, we discussed the benefits of getting the proper nutrition and offered information on supplements as well as dietary suggestions. We got only positive feedback on that column, leading us to belief that mental health consumers and their families, therapists, and others are hungry for nutrition news. We've written several posts on diet and mental health in Therapy Soup and plan to write many more in 2012. (For example 7 rules of mindful eating for health and weight loss, autism and nutrition, food, mood and weight loss, etc.).
C.R. writes: The building where the cult was housed became a second (and much nicer) home for Lisa. She told me that "the inside of the building was much nicer than my home or school. I was told that the founders had their own, cult-related feng shui which was why the building was so embracing and comfortable. I can't emphasize enough the importance of the design and decor. "When you walked into the entrance you immediately felt embraced. The walls were padded with some kind of sound-absorbing coating, like in a sound studio, but it looked like expensive leather. The lighting was low and glowing. Everyone, including the aging musicians and movie stars looked pretty good in that light. "The novice classrooms were for the most part also gorgeous. The seating was designed not to be too comfortable, though. They looked like private movie theaters. The lecture hall [was] the same.