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Book Review: Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Hidden Valley Road inside the mind of an American Family book cover, by Rolbert KolkerTo be able to understand the possible genetics that could result in schizophrenia and psychosis; to pinpoint the gene or genes that are damaged or missing, alone or in concert – that is what the Galvin family can offer.

In biographical form, Kolker narrates the history of the Galvins beginning with the childhoods of Mimi and Don Galvin, their meeting, romance, marriage, and family that resulted in twelve children over the course of twenty years. In a post war society of competition, the Galvins were successful in the number of children they were able to produce, but why or how did six of their sons end up with a schizophrenic diagnosis? Kolker weaves the Galvin’s history with the nineteenth and twentieth century’s progression of mental health diagnosis and treatment, and how the Galvin family crossed paths with the National Institutes of Mental Health. The nature versus nurture argument looms large – was the extremely high number of schizophrenic children (6 of 12) a result of flawed genetics or a result of a strict mother yet violent “boys will be boys,” outbursts and shocking abuse? Hats off to the Galvin family for their candid story – it could not have been an easy journey.

With most of the Galvin family members donating samples of their DNA to the study of mental illness, they have joined other families with multiple members exhibiting symptoms of mental psychosis to help detect abnormal or predeterminate genes. These genetic studies have gone on for decades – these families’ genetic contributions have been an invaluable tool in understanding the evolution of mental illness.

I read this book because it landed at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List for nonfiction; it sounded interesting. It read like a novel; I was able to finish it over a weekend. It was engaging and, on some level, horrific. At times it was like a train wreck, I was unable to look away, and on the way, I learned a lot.

I will be adding Kolker’s 2013 book, Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery to my reading list.

~DD

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month with green ribbon
Word cloud of emotions that impact mental health such as anxiety, grief, etc.
Word cloud of emotions that impact mental health such as anxiety, grief, etc.

May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States since 1949 to reach people through various media, local events, and available resources and screenings. Mental health is something we all should care about. While 1 in 5 will be directly affected by mental illness during their lifetime, we all face challenges, especially now, that impacts our mental health. Mental Health America provides tools for all segments of our society to help care for ourselves and each other.#breakthestigma allows us to share our stories and connect with others

https://mhanational.org/staying-mentally-healthy

NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Alliance on Mental Illness

During May the National Alliance of Mental Health joins the medical community to raise mental health awareness – fighting stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for policies to assist those with mental illness and their families.

Using the #NotAlone hashtag, personal stories can be shared, increasing awareness and building connections with digital tools – especially during this climate of physical distancing.

There is ALWAYS a community, you are not alone!

National Suicide Prevention LifeLine 1-800-273-TALK
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
National Suicide Prevention LifeLine 1-800-273-TALK
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Never forget the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) is ALWAYS available to ANYONE. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Find Hope Franklin
Find Hope Franklin

Locally, Find Hope Franklin, offers a starting point for finding multiple resources easily anytime. Find Hope Franklin is a byproduct of City of Franklin’s Mayor Ken Moore’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. It was formed in 2019 to address mental health and substance use issues in Franklin and Williamson County.

On the website, there is a link at the top of the home page to “find help now” for those in immediate crisis. This provides multiple 24/7 crisis phone and text lines.

Source: https://www.franklintn.gov/Home/Components/News/News/9709/1354

~DD

Williamson County and Local Municipalities launch Crisis Text Helpline

Crisis Text Line 741-741 During this time of quarantine, if you are feeling anxious, stressed, depre

It’s okay to reach out for help when you need it. Through the partnership of our municipalities and partners ,we wanted to provide residents with a resource to receive virtual mental health assistance. Simply text “Williamson” to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor.

How to Take a Mental Health Day

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Are you unusually overwhelmed at work? Do you fear that – contrary to your character – you are one careless comment away from smacking a coworker in the face, or bursting into tears in the break room? Can you no longer distinguish your personal life from your work life? If you’re otherwise healthy, but feeling out of sorts and out of control, maybe it’s time to take a mental health day.

A mental health day (MHD) is just like a sick day. Instead of staying home because of a sore throat or a twisted ankle, however, an employee takes this day off work for a legitimate wellness concern that may not present physically. Sometimes the need stems from a clinically diagnosed illness (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder), but not always. Depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and emotional trauma are some possible reasons to take a mental health day.

“That sounds like playing hooky,” you might say, skeptically. Indeed, our culture pressures us to put career first, ahead of family and sanity. You may know someone who missed a child’s birthday party, rescheduled an anniversary dinner, or cancelled a vacation due to being “on call” at a job that has nothing to do with life and death.

Web developer Madalyn Parker made waves in 2017 by publically sharing her experience taking a mental health day. Check out this screenshot of her Tweet. See, it can be done!

And there’s still a cultural stigma against mental illnesses. They often go ignored or misunderstood, and aren’t given the same consideration as a visible sickness or injury. People with depression, for example, are instructed to “buck up.” This places the demand for a cure back on the sick individual, rather than encouraging them to seek help. (Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off!”)

I’m not suggesting we all abandon our jobs and start living like Thoreau in the woods. (Although that is my own personal plan for early retirement.) But I am suggesting we start to value mental health as a vital element of wellness. It’s irresponsible to show up to work if you’ve got a fever. It’s equally unwise to wait until you’re in psychological crisis mode before you take some time off work. When you see your emotional distress flare, consider scheduling a mental health day (people who know you well can help you spot the warning signs, too.)

Be sure the day is productive in some way. You’re not skiving off work; you’re taking care of yourself. Evaluate the reasons you are staying home from work, and decide what you need most. Is it sleep? Quality time with a loved one? An afternoon full of play? If a Netflix marathon usually leaves you sluggish and empty, skip it. This is a day to fill yourself up. Here are some elements you might incorporate into your MHD:

  1. Drink lots of water all day long, and eat healthy food. (Dehydration and poor nutrition amplify the effects of emotional stress.)
  2. Schedule an appointment with your therapist, counselor, or mentor; or catch up with a friend who will listen with compassion.
  3. Attend to personal issues that have been causing stress, such as a long to-do list or a wilting relationship.
  4. Get out in nature.
  5. Sleep in, or take a restorative nap during the day. Go to bed earlier than usual.
  6. Exercise, to get your mind and body back in sync. It should be something you enjoy, not a chore: yoga, swimming, shooting hoops, golfing, climbing rock walls, …
  7. Book a therapeutic massage.
  8. Drive a few towns over for a change of scenery.
  9. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. This will help block out social media, e-mails, and marketing calls. (Most phones let you customize this option, so you can still get important calls from select contacts.)
  10. Do something creative and meditative, such as painting, writing, cooking, or gardening.
  11. Laugh – and cry! Both work wonders for stress relief. Watch a movie, listen to a podcast, or read a book that you know will engage your emotions.

During your mental health day, you may come up against a few lies, so be sure to equip yourself with the truth: Time spent resting is NOT time wasted. It is NOT weak to ask for help or to express your needs. You ARE worth taking care of! And self-care is NOT selfish!

If taking a paid day off isn’t an option at your job, you can still dedicate a day to your mental health. The same goes for those of you who work from home, or stay home as a caregiver to family members. You’ll have to be intentional with your scheduled days off. You may have to ask for more help and be firm with your boundaries. But you CAN do it, and it IS worth it.

None of these activities will cure a mental illness or replace a long-term management plan, of course. You may need to incorporate lifestyle changes, or find a counselor or medical professional whose job is to equip you to navigate life’s challenges. (Check the links at the end of this post for a starting point to that search.) But taking time to care for yourself in meaningful ways can help maintain a sense of balance, self-worth, and perspective. As the rallying cry goes, “Mental health is health!”

When you are ready to go back to work, I hope you notice that you’re feeling refreshed and in control. A healthy person can give more, and joyfully so, to all around them: at home, at work, and everywhere else.

 


A few links to help you search for a mental health care professional:

Sources:

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