Be Reminded of Our True Essence

I’ve battled depression for most of my adult life. I don’t discuss it much but when I do, like now, it’s to encourage someone suffering from depression. The response is usually one of surprise, like “You seem so energetic and positive!”

“That’s my nature,” I respond. “And I have to fight for it everyday.”

My most debilitating bout with depression was in my 20s, but I’ve been managing the aftershocks of depression for 20 years. Intrusive thoughts, mental dullness, self-directed anger and days of sadness still pass through like unwanted freight trains at a crossing when you have somewhere to go.

The big “D” doesn’t rule my life anymore, but it sits right under the surface like vermin watching the action above ground from a sewer drain. It lurks at street level in line with the lowest vantage point as I walk above, seeing the sun and breathing cleaner air, being very careful not to fall into a hole and meet up with it. Oddly, it has brought tremendous meaning to my life as I have learned how to be very conscious of my thoughts and choose them differently, if need be. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that just because I think it, doesn’t mean I have to believe it. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that captured my motto: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

The Buddha said that all suffering is due to attachment. It is the mind that causes attachment. It is the mind that concocts an ironclad argument about how we are right or how we’ve been wronged or about how the world operates and it is such that creates the cell that isolates us. We have made up our mind or it has been made up for us. The good news is that we can change it. We can be re-minded. And to heal our perception is to give birth to freedom and meaning.

by Laura Berman

Thank You, Conference Volunteers!

VOLUNTEERS: THANK YOU for making “Minds on the Edge” possible! Special thanks to:

  • Carleen and George Andrews and John Cone have been great contributors
  • Carmen Hedley has been extraordinary in administrative work, coordinating the volunteers and workshop trainers.
  • Joseph Shemenski is the sound and light sponsor and engineer.
  • Russell Whitaker is the sponsor for MediaTech to create training videos for Schizophrenics Anonymous peer support groups
  • John Paul Stevenson, has volunteered to emcee. He is the Houston Rockets announcer and Country Playhouse President
  • Krishna Giri has volunteered his professional photography skills
  • Stephanie Southall created the centerpieces

Can Counseling Complicate Your Security Clearance?

Jennifer Norris was a devoted member of the Maine National Guard.

“I was ecstatic. I absolutely loved serving in the military,” she says.

Norris still wanted a career in the Guard even after she was sexually assaulted by other members of the military. After she was raped, she says she got psychological counseling.

But then it came time to renew the security clearance she needed for her job as a satellite communications technician. One question on the form — Question 21 — asked whether she’d sought help from a mental health professional over the past seven years.

“I just could not bear sharing that information with all those people when my husband didn’t even know,” she says.

Norris says the prospect of divulging that information was too much. Instead, she decided to leave the National Guard.

An essential element for many jobs in the military or other areas of government is receiving security clearance. In addition to undergoing a background check, applicants must answer questions about their personal life, including whether they’ve had psychological counseling.

But that requirement, experts say, is discouraging some people from applying for the jobs or from seeking help.


Guide Created to Promote Mental Health and Safety on College Campuses

NEW YORK, Sept. 11, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ — In recent years, events like the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University spurred the creation of campus teams that can both anticipate and respond to different types of campus problems or threats. More recently, the tragic shootings in Colorado brought attention to the role of campus teams. As students begin a new school year, a comprehensive guide for establishing new teams and managing existing ones is being made available to colleges and universities across the country. “Balancing Safety and Support on Campus: A Guide for Campus Teams” is a free online resource and project of the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA). The initiative is being led by The Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among America’s college students.

“We are incredibly proud to have been able to lead such an important project on behalf of HEMHA,” says John MacPhee, Executive Director of The Jed Foundation. “College is a critical time for mental health, and effective campus teams are essential for identifying struggling students before problems worsen. The new guide is a comprehensive tool for schools to help with their efforts to promote emotional health and protect the safety of all students.”

The reality is that, while violent events may generate headlines, college students are far more likely to pose a risk to themselves than to others: suicides are between 75 and 100 times more commonthan homicide on college campuses. Campus teams can play a crucial role in early identification of problems, early intervention and suicide prevention on college campuses. This new guide covers the full range of each team’s responsibilities, from worries about a struggling student to campus safety concerns. Created with input from a group of national experts who have served on and advised teams throughout the country, the guide helps campus professionals understand all of the factors that should be considered, including team mission and scope, name, membership, functions and procedures, as well as common pitfalls and obstacles they may face.

Campus professionals can access this free, downloadable resource by visiting The Jed Foundation website at


Winter Blues? Be Proactive About Seasonal Affective Disorder

There Is Something You Can Do!

If you have experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder, or if your symptoms related to Major Depression or Bipolar Disorder always seem to worsen in the Fall or early winter, there is absolutely something you can do that can make a difference in your experience. I recommend that you do several things to head off a relapse, or soften one that is in beginning stages. For the full article, click here.

1.  Get Moving!  Preferably Out There!

2. Get A Med Check 3 Weeks Post Time-Change

3.  Let There Be Light!

4.  Get Timers!

5.  Eat More Protein and Veggies

by Sanz Plans

Father Takes On Mental Health, Bureaucracy

Mental illness is a disease of the mind that should be treated by medical professionals rather than relegated to the criminal justice system, author Pete Earley argues.

For Earley, mental illness is a subject that has not only touched his own family but has become a lifelong topic of advocacy.

On Tuesday afternoon, Earley spoke about his experiences with mental illness and the book he wrote on the subject, “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness,” at Cayuga Community College.

Earley, a former Washington Post journalist and author of 13 books, became involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness when his son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and experienced some severe episodes because of it.

“The truth is that we don’t know what causes these mental illnesses,” he said. “There isn’t a doctor today that can come up here and tell us what causes bipolar, schizophrenia or severe depression. But I can tell you that these illnesses can be treated.”

–Jennifer Hogan

Top Apps for Depression 2012

Top Apps for Depression

According to a recent CDC study, one in 10 U.S. adults reports depression. Depression can have serious implications on every aspect of a person’s life, so it is important to seek treatment if you are suffering from this mental illness. Most treatment plans include talk therapy, medication, or a combination thereof. But for those moments when you can’t rely on a healthcare provider or support system, the following 10 apps can help by offering information or a smile when you need it most.

Written by Tracy Rosecrans

Click here:

Strategies That Improve Treatment Adherence

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in enhancing treatment adherence. CBT doesn’t challenge a patient’s resistance to medication; instead it explores why the person doesn’t want to take medication and helps them reevaluate their negative beliefs toward medication.

Also, CBT helps patients identify their recovery goals, and links them to treatment adherence, according to Velligan. For instance, many people with schizophrenia take their medication because of relationships, whether it’s a relationship with their spouse or family member. For these individuals, one goal may address relationship quality.

CBT incorporates motivational interviewing techniques and helps patients see a clear link between poor adherence and relapse. (Thisfull-text article provides more information on CBT for schizophrenia.)

Visual reminders, such as signs, checklists and pill containers, facilitate adherence. Velligan and her colleagues have even used electronic pill containers to prompt patients and provide a slew of important information: “to tell patients when to take medication, remind the person of the dose and reason for medication, tell the person if they are taking the wrong medication or taking it at the wrong time, and download adherence data to a secure server so that a caregiver or caseworker can keep track of adherence are becoming more widely available.”

Another option is injectable medication. Several studies have shown that long-term injectable antipsychotics increase adherence and decrease relapse risk. (Learn more here and here.) “If a person does not show up for an injection, the treatment team knows there is an issue and can intervene in a timely way,” Velligan said. Otherresearch has suggested that it’s also important to discuss the benefits of adherence with patients receiving injectable medication.


Thank You for Medicating Me

Doctors treated my schizophrenic brain while I raged in protest. Why I’m now grateful.

My schizophrenia, I’ve been told, is just a “chemical imbalance in the brain.” It is not my fault. It is a brain disease. Drugs will stabilize me.

I don’t trust them. Instead, I believe that microscopic rats are eating my brain, a homicidal man is tracking my every move, and the Voices I hear are urging me to commit suicide.

I am terrified. What if the rats and Tracker and Voices win?

Or, what if my brain chemistry tilts further askew, spilling me slowly, surely further into my paranoid schizophrenia?

Which is it?

Terrifying treatment

The experience of schizophrenia can be terrifying, but sometimes its treatment is just as distressing. Personally, I believed that the medication I was supposed in take in pill form had those tiny rats in it. When in hospital, I often received the medicine by forced injection and was tied up in five-point restraints. The injected anti-psychotic was usually given in conjunction with a needle of a sedative.

Both, I delusionally thought, contained more rats. I was again terrified, believing that those new medication rats would join the others in the consummation of my brain. That is, they would change the structure and thus the chemical balance of my brain.

Having my Master’s degree in neuroscience meant that I believed the doctors when they said my schizophrenia was a chemical imbalance; we were just at odds with the mechanism. Was it rats eating or dopamine, among other neurotransmitters, levels being off-kilter? We both had means of treatment: I would bleed the rats out, while the psychiatrist’s pills were designed to restore that oft-quoted “chemical balance.”

By Erin L. Hawkes

Guilt, Blame Linger in Many Families of Those With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental disorders and is often associated with high levels of guilt, self-blame, and shame within families.

Experts have been hopeful that recent genetic and brain-based models of schizophrenia would help get rid of old theories that portrayed the family (particularly the mother) as a strong factor in  developing schizophrenia.

For the first time, researchers in this study analyzed how relatives of people with schizophrenia talk about genes to explain the presence of schizophrenia in the family. The researchers wanted to see whether “gene talk” helped alleviate parents’ self-blame, especially that of mothers.

“The study is the first piece of research to explore the complex ways in which ‘gene talk’ is used by family members of someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It challenges the commonly expressed view that genetic accounts of mental illness will absolve family members’ sense of guilt and blame in relation to their relative’s diagnosis,” said Felicity Callard, Ph.D., visiting researcher at the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre.

“We should be far less optimistic that genetic accounts of schizophrenia will reduce family members’ guilt. It is also not clear whether family members want to embrace straightforwardly biological models of schizophrenia. All too often, the potential role of difficult family events is assumed to be taboo when discussing the causes of schizophrenia, but we found that family members are ready to have these challenging conversations,” she added.

By Traci Pedersen