Tag Archives: mental health

Gun Violence and Mental Health

It’s a depressingly familiar pattern here in the United States. Social media blows up with news about the latest shooting. Whether it’s at a school, a bar, a movie theater, or literally anywhere, it is always the same story. A white man walked into a place and opened fire. Numbers start climbing. 2 dead, then 5, then 10, then 21 until finally the numbers plateau at one that is too high and too depressing. Finally, the shooter is identified, a white man with a deranged look in his eye.

The pattern continues as we discuss the tragedy, and try and make sense of the pain. Lots of people, conservatives and liberals both, start a discussion about mental health. Because only a crazy person would use an AR-15 on an innocent crowd of people, right? Maybe the shooter is a lone wolf, or maybe he was in the boy’s scouts. Maybe he was bullied. But he was certainly mentally unwell, deranged. Mental illness is thrown around as the one true cause for this horrible tragedy.

But here’s the deal. Those shooters aren’t mentally ill. According to the American Psychiatric Association people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly mass shootings. It’s not the crazy people doing this. It’s the angry, privileged, white men who see others as deserving of their violence.

There’s a serious problem with equating mental illness with violence. It produces an awful stigma for people diagnosed with mental illnesses, making getting help and treatment difficult. People with mental illnesses need our support, not the constant stream of news that tells them they are the problem. Mentally ill people cause about 3% of all violent crime annually, and very little of that involves guns.

It makes no sense to have laws that target the mentally ill when it comes to gun control. It won’t change anything. Keeping guns from them won’t stop the real perpetrators. We need comprehensive gun control; laws that will keep everyone to the same high standards for gun ownership. Targeting the mentally ill only increases the stigma around these disorders and lets the problems with gun violence in America continue unchecked. It doesn’t help anyone.

Should Mental Health Days Be A Thing?

“The option to take a mental health day is something that has been occasionally suggested to help alleviate stress.” Photo from: http://tmhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/stressed-students-meditate-03.jpg

Lots of people in high school and in college can get overwhelmed. We tend to have a lot of schoolwork, homework, and projects to do, as well as activities outside of class. People get stressed and this stress can build up quickly. Too much stress can cause a lot of issues for people. We tend to forget to eat, and we forget about other tasks that we need to do; things just start falling apart on us. The option to take a mental health day is something that has been occasionally suggested to help alleviate stress. These are days that students can take off without a penalty to rest and recuperate and just take a breather.

We have all had those times when we got overwhelmed with our work and wished we could just take a break and relax, but we knew we could not do that because we could not afford to get behind, lose points on an assignment, or miss an in-class assignment. The whole point of a mental health day is to take that much-needed break without suffering a penalty and to relax on that day off without worrying about getting behind. However, there are also concerns that these days off could be abused, so we would only get a few of them each semester. These are not meant to be used frivolously but saved until you really need them. You would not use them just because you do not feel like going but because you are reaching a breaking point and likely could not handle class that day. Also, if mental health days are put into place, professors would not excuse you from work but simply postpone it until next class.

This idea is meant to be something that instructors could work with, hence the reason why you would not be excused from the work. Mental health days would be a good way to meet in the middle for students and instructors; it gives students a helping hand when they need it and it does not really throw off an instructor’s teaching plan. This is an idea that could work out well as long as people worked together and did not abuse it.

Stress Levels and Mental Health in College Students

College students usually get stressed when they have major tests in their classes. And it seems that stress levels spike when midterms and finals are approaching. However, most students feel stressed almost all of the time. It is said that one out of five students say they feel stressed most of the time (1). Stress can cause other mental health issues like anxiety disorders and depression. Stress, along with these other mental health disorders, has major effects on students’ day to day lives, and even their future.

It is said that stress is a precursor to anxiety or depression disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness, almost two-thirds of students drop out of school due to mental health reasons (1). Suicidal thoughts may be involved with these disorders. And 95 percent of suicides committed by students are related to anxiety and depression (1).

stressed student
“Stress, along with these other mental health disorders, has major effects on students’ day to day lives, and even their future.” Photo from: http://www.autismafter16.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/article_large/article-images/iStock_000010063963Small_0.jpg

Stress, anxiety and depression levels in students have risen dramatically since the 1980s (2). This means that there is also an increase in those going to their university’s mental health centers, if they are provided. According to Boston University statistics, in the 2014-2015 school year, students seeking psychiatric evaluation went from 120 students to 134, and those coming in because of a crisis increased from 647 students to 906 students (3). It’s happening all over the country. The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors found that 73.1 percent of counseling center directors reported an increase in the severity of student mental health concerns (3).

Radford University has a Student Counseling Services office located in the basement of Tyler Hall. They offer individual, couple and group psychotherapy, medication evaluations and management, professional consultations and other services (4). Their offices are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and their phone number is (540)-831-5226.

Mental health is one of the things that college students should take care of, especially in times of great stress. So, if you or someone you know is going through a rough patch, definitely try to make an appointment with the Counseling services; it could help you before things get too bad.

1 – http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Statistics_on_College_Student_Stress 2 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201402/the-college-student-mental-health-crisis  3 – http://www.bu.edu/today/2016/mental-health-college-students/  4 – http://www.radford.edu/content/student-counseling/home.html

Rousey and the misconceptions of mental health

Ronda Rousey suffered a devastating loss to competitor Holly Holm in November. The once-undefeated Rousey was knocked out in the second round of her fight with Holm, causing her to lose her belt.

The loss came as a shock to sports fans, and many worried Rousey would  never recover. Rousey disappeared from the public eye as she took time to mentally and physically recover.

On February 16th, Rousey made an appearance on Ellen Degeneres’ show. The usually light-hearted talk show took a dark turn when Rousey revealed that following her loss, she had thoughts of suicide. She stated that her boyfriend, Travis Browne, also a UFC fighter, was the one who got her through her suicidal thoughts.

Following her revelation, the internet wasted no time criticizing Rousey. Many were asking why this woman who seemingly had everything would want to harm herself. Despite her loss, Rousey still has fame, fortune and incredible talent, so many felt that it was inappropriate for her to have these feelings.

Rousey discusses mental health. Graphic from MMA Fighting
Rousey discusses mental health. Graphic from MMA Fighting

The criticism that followed Rousey’s admission shows the blatant ignorance surrounding mental health and suicide. If she had actually harmed herself, the same people would be mourning her loss. When Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide this past year, many were heart-broken that someone who brought so much joy to others had suffered in silence. So why aren’t we giving Rousey the same respect?

Athletes are expected to be mentally tough, but the fact that Rousey’s depression has been brushed off by many as “poor sportsmanship” proves that there is a huge misunderstanding of the kind of people who suffer from mental illness or suicidal thoughts.

For Rousey, her title as the Women’s Bantamweight Champion was her entire identity. Some may call it cockiness, but that title was everything that defined Rousey as a fighter. Any time someone suffers a loss that causes their entire identity to come to question, it can be a very tough thing to get over, and athletes are no exception to that.

In my opinion, Rousey’s admission was extremely brave. There are so many people who battle depression and suicidal thoughts. To have someone like Rousey openly admit to experiencing these human emotions can be very empowering for us commoners. Imagine a high school-aged girl who has battled these feelings, hearing someone with such stature admit to feeling those things too. That has to be extremely refreshing to know that you’re not the only person to feel that way, and that no matter how big you get, it’s okay to feel those kinds of things. If someone who suffered such an enormous loss with the whole world watching her can overcome those emotions, who says the average person can’t pull through?

Perhaps it’s true that the bigger you are, the harder you fall. In a time of such devastation and healing, it’s important to lift Rousey up as sports fans, instead of criticizing her for being a normal human being.

Using coloring books is good for you?

Despite the fact that the first commercially effective coloring books for adults were distributed in 2012 and 2013, the once hobby has now developed into a trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal proposing coloring as an distinct replacement to meditation.

The American Art Therapy Association states that art therapy is a mental health profession in which the procedure of creating and making artwork is utilized to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.” Art therapy is not just about learning and improving yourself — it’s a method for individual expression, as well.

Nonetheless, it’s critical to be aware of the fact that using a coloring book for adults is not precisely the exact same as attending an art therapy session.

“Coloring itself cannot be called art therapy because art therapy relies on the relationship between the client and the therapist,” says Marygrace Berberian, Program Coordinator and the Clinical Assistant Professor for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at NYU. Barbarian is also a certified art therapist.

Coloring mandalas. Image from inspirememandalas.com
Coloring with colored pencils, helps you focus more with precise details. Image from inspirememandalas.com

While art therapy began in the 1940s, the primary examination on utilizing coloring as therapy is for the most part accepted to have just started in the mid 90s, as stated by Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.

Despite the fact that art therapy and coloring aren’t exactly the same thing, coloring offers a large number of mental health benefits. Research in 2005 demonstrated that anxiety levels dropped when the subjects of the study colored mandalas. Just doodling, though, had no impact in decreasing stress levels.

Similar to meditation, coloring additionally permits us to turn off our brains from other thoughts and concentrate only on the moment, easing free-floating anxiety. It can be especially effective for individuals who aren’t comfortable with more creatively expressive types of art, says Berberian.

However, if you’re managing critical mental or emotional issues, art therapy is going to be more effective than coloring. Be that as it may, for the individuals who simply need a hobby to alleviate stress and calm down, coloring books might help.

5 things you didn’t know about living with anxiety

Having anxiety can be hell for the person living with it. For those who don’t have it, this article will help you understand what those who do have anxiety go through. There are a lot of ideas behind what anxiety looks like, but there are a lot of things we don’t talk about.

  1. Picking

When many people think of anxiety, they think of nail-biting. Often in television shows, especially cartoons, nervousness is expressed through nail-biting. I’ve been a nail-biter since I can remember. However, there are other ways we cope with anxiety physically.

Trichotillomania is a disorder which causes a person with anxiety to pull out their hair. Dermatillomania is when a person with anxiety picks their skin. For the past year or so, I have picked my legs to shreds. It honestly looks like I walked into a mosquito nest. During a recent doctor’s visit, my doctor noticed my scarred legs. She said, “you definitely have anxiety. I can tell because a lot of my patients with anxiety pick their legs or arms.”

It’s an ugly truth to anxiety that we may cause physical harm to ourselves, whether we know it or not. Skin-picking and hair-pulling is dangerous because if it leaves open wounds, you risk infections such as Staph.

  1. Panic attacks are more than just crying

The image that often comes to mind of a panic attack is usually of that person crying hysterically. Although that may be the case, not all panic attacks are the same.

When I’m having a panic attack, it feels like my body’s on fire. I become irritable and feel this intense sense of urgency. When someone is having a panic attack, often their fight or flight mode gets switched on. For me, this is often more towards the fight side. I become extremely aggressive when I’m having a panic attack. I’ve said things I would never say to someone when I’m my “normal” self.

For others, anxiety attacks can mean extreme confusion. As their sense of urgency is heightened, collecting their thoughts and assessing a situation can become extremely difficult, if not impossible.

  1. Panic attacks don’t just happen in stressful situations

I’ve had panic attacks in high-stress situations such as the last few moments of crunch time during finals week. However, I’ve had even more panic attacks in situations that shouldn’t be stressful at all. For example, I had a panic attack in my sleep once. It manifested as a horrible nightmare that I was being eaten alive by insects. It felt so real, when I woke up I flailed my arms in an attempt to get the imaginary bugs off of me. I was also in a pool of sweat and tears, and I was breathing so hard I thought my heart might explode.

Even in extremely relaxed states, anxiety can attack.

The thoughts are endless with anxiety Photo from psych2go
The thoughts are endless with anxiety
Photo from psych2go     

 4. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate

Mental illness is often thought to be more a women’s health issue. Women are more likely to seek help for anxiety, but that doesn’t mean men aren’t afflicted. Although women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more anxious than men. Due to societal expectations of masculinity, men are less likely to seek help for mental illness. As a result, men are much more likely to commit suicide.

Anxiety doesn’t care if you’re physically fit, either. Although diet and exercise may help curb anxiety symptoms, no amount of either will cure an anxiety disorder.

Age also doesn’t seem to matter in terms of the prevalence of anxiety. Children are just as likely to suffer from anxiety, but less likely to be treated, as many times anxiety in children can be considered a “phase.” Although for many children, anxiety directed towards certain situations may just be phases, it’s important that they are monitored. Children can be prescribed medication for anxiety, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also a very useful tool in allowing children to live normal and healthy childhoods.

  1. There isn’t a “one size fits all” treatment for anxiety

When it comes to treating anxiety, there are a million options out there. I’ve been urged to try everything from therapy to gluten-free and organic diets. The option I’ve found that works for me is medication. When I first became “public” about my anxiety, I had a lot of people messaging me recommendations for various therapists, medications, exercise programs, and so much more. Although I’ve found yoga to be a useful tool in calming my anxiety after a long week, I immediately decided to try medication. Anxiety runs in my family, and I know my mother, aunt and sister had positive experiences with medication.

Although medication works for me, I’m in no place to tell you what the “best” option is for someone seeking treatment for anxiety. Honestly, no one is in that place but your doctor. I will say, however, if you know anxiety is in your genes, talk to your family members. Chances are, they’ve found something that works for them, and because you share genes, it may work for you.

Anxiety affects 28.8% of U.S. residents over their lifetime. Although that may seem like a small number since we’re in the minority, that means we’re nowhere near alone. Anxiety can feel very isolating. Although few people experience anxiety the same way you do, there are a lot of people who know how you feel. Now more than ever there is a better understanding of the crippling forms of anxiety, and getting treatment can be scary but it’s much easier than it’s ever been.

Five ways to de-stress

In a couple weeks, yet another semester will have gone — and finals will leave many students tense and anxiously checking D2L for grade postings every ten minutes. Instead of starting out your summer with a tight chest and knots in your back, check out these great stress relief tactics.

1) Drink tea.

One study in London took 75 young men, broke them into groups and had them drink an assigned tea for six weeks. Group one had actual black tea, while group two had a placebo. The men were then exposed to stressful everyday situations, which were followed by an examination of blood pressure, heart rate, etc. Group one was able to de-stress much faster than group two.

2) Eat a sweet treat.

No, it’s not too good to be true. Research coming out of the University of Cincinnati shows that eating something sweet while stressed out actually decreases the body’s production of glucocorticoid, which is the hormone released when stress occurs. You’re welcome.

3) Take a walk- especially if it’s sunny.zen

It’s not a secret that exercise is a good way to de-stress. A peaceful walk, while soaking up some vitamin D, may be all that’s needed to get you feeling 100% in no time.

4) Eat some fish.

Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which work wonders by cutting down another stress hormone called cortisol and increasing the production of DHEA, which fights against stress.

5) Play a video game.

Researchers at East Carolina University have found that playing a videogame is a great way to relieve stress. Carmen Russoniello, a professor at the university, stated, “Getting absorbed in games provides a distraction and relaxes the nervous system.” However, Russoniello warns that non-violent games work better than violent games, since violence actually increases stress levels.

There’s only a few months of summer before fall semester, so don’t waste a second of it stressing about grades.


No “special inferno:” Why I support inclusion

I’m a special education major, and a recent op-ed in The New York Times tried to convince me that some of my students should be prisoners.

Let me explain.

Most of us are familiar, at least in passing, with the concept of the asylum. Maybe you’ve been to St. Albans or another haunted hospital. Maybe you’ve watched movies like “Shutter Island” that leverage the creepy clinical aura of mental institutions for suspense. It’s a well-established trope — but I wonder how many of us know about the historical realities behind institutionalization.

Christmas in Purgatory, I think, is the most compelling single example. Published in 1966, it revolutionized the national conversation about then-current treatment of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The pictures alone will shock you; the report, if you have a heart, will probably break it. Children and adults  spent years — lifetimes, even — abused, naked, uneducated, and unloved in the name of “treatment.”

“Children and adults spent years — lifetimes, even — abused, naked, uneducated, and unloved in the name of “treatment.””

“The staff has to believe that their ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are human beings who can learn,” the authors explained almost 50 years ago, and that’s true. No matter how profound a person’s disability may be, I believe — deeply, personally, professionally, truly — that he or she is capable and deserving of an education. But as the authors go on to emphasize, “even more important is the fundamental belief that each of these residents is a human being.”

This is the key. Humane treatment is not necessarily equivalent treating people as human beings. We can be as thoughtful and ethical as can be — but unless we believe, deep in our bones, that humanity transcends disability, we’re lost. It’s not enough to merely maintain people — and that’s what institutions do.

I don’t intend to tar all mental health facilities with my anti-institutionalization brush. Mental health care is vital; we should absolutely fund and support facilities that serve people with mental illnesses. What I’m against — and what the article in question advocates for — is the functional incarceration of people with disabilities.

You have to understand that we’re really talking about two distinct (but sometimes overlapping) populations here: people with mental illness, and people with disabilities.  While many of the same historical  trends apply, we can’t automatically assume that what we know about institutionalization involves both groups. When someone with a mental health concern enters some sort of care facility, the goal (in most cases) is to reach the point where the person can manage their mental health in the real world. Conversely, the point of institutionalization for people with disabilities has more often focused on indefinite containment and maintenance outside of the community.

This is a distinction that Christine Montross, the author of the op-ed, doesn’t make. Based on her own psychiatric practice, she suggests that reintroducing institutionalization would fill current gaps in “care” for people with disabilities. She wants to provide sensory stimulation rooms and vocational skills training. She thinks that’s enough.

It’s not.

What if I told you that a solution to the concerns Montross raises already exists? What if I also told you a peculiarly excellent example exists here at Radford University?

I refer to the idea of inclusion, which essentially asserts that people with disabilities have a right to participate as fully and meaningfully as possible in their communities. This concept has gained particular traction in schools, because of federal mandates to place students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible to receive special education services. The goal of inclusion is to integrate all students — those with disabilities, those without, students who are gifted — into classrooms that both challenge and support everyone.

This is a good and necessary thing — but what’s the point of promoting inclusion in schools if it doesn’t exist in the community?

This is where the On-Campus Transitions Program comes in. A partnership between Montgomery County Public Schools and Radford University (there’s also a program at Virginia Tech), OCTP puts students with disabilities who have graduated from high school where many of their peers are: on a college campus. Students take classes, work on-campus jobs, and spend academic and recreational time with both paid peer mentors and student volunteers from a wide variety of majors. It’s inclusive. It’s beneficial to students and mentors. Speaking from my personal experiences volunteering junior year, it’s excellent fun.

Johnna Elliott, the current director of RU’s OCTP, wrote her own response to Montross’ article. She advocates, naturally, for inclusive community-based models of support. “It takes money…for sure,” she explains. “But it takes MUCH MORE money to fund the dark, isolated hallways of an institution.” People can be supported “adequately, even fabulously, in their home communities” when we focus our energies and resources on including them in those communities.

“There is a hell on earth, and in America there is a special inferno,” the authors of Christmas in Purgatory asserted. This is a fire we have started to put out. Why bring back the torches?


Going through daily life, we all see and experience things that get under our skin. Perhaps you get a little flustered when someone doesn’t hold the door for you, or maybe you sigh when someone walks into class with their music blasting so loud in their headphones that the whole class can hear it. But have you ever felt you blood pressure rise when you hear someone making common, even natural sounds?

Misophonia is a relatively new term that was coined in 2000 to describe the hatred of sounds. Those who suffer from this condition, which has not yet been officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, have certain sets of trigger stimuli which can cause a variety of reactions. These reactions range from slight discomfort to physical aggression. Misophonia Online lays out the different levels of the disorder here in their “self-test.” Dutch psychiatrists have also put together a very detailed list of criteria for Misophonia, which they deem a legitimate psychiatric disorder.

Because Misophonia is such a newly-used term, it is often widely misunderstood. Those with this condition are not only affected by audible stimuli, but may be triggered by visual stimuli such as foot-tapping, leg-shaking and general fidgeting. Suffers may also, in turn, react to trigger sounds with fidgeting and other physical reactions such as flinching.

In my own personal experience, I believe Misophonia is a very real condition. I often find myself feeling anxious or agitated when I hear heavy breathing, chewing, lip smacking, excessive sniffling and coughing. Even though I’m a hardcore fidgeter, I often get nervous if I sit close to someone who fidgets or taps their feet. In situations where I’ve gotten so irritated I’ve had to voice my agitation, I’m usually met with laughs and comments about how I need to “get over it.” I’ve also observed behaviors within my group of friends that could be Misophonia-related.  One of my close friends hates any mouth-related noises including eating and even the sound of teeth being brushed. This friend also often gets agitated if someone’s nose “whistles.”

It can be hard to understand why someone would get irritated with natural human noise, but that’s why Misophonia needs to be classified as a real disorder. The agitation that comes with it causes a real physiological response which is similar to the response of physical discomforts such as sitting in an uncomfortable chair or wearing an itchy sweater.

There is still little known about this condition or how to treat it. Often, those who suffer from Misophonia must settle for engaging in avoidance behaviors such as leaving the room or listening to music to mask the sounds which trigger a negative response. Hopefully as more research is done, it will earn a DSM classification and more treatment and therapeutic options will become available.


[PODCAST] From Our Perspective: Mental Health on Campus

In this installment, the Whim staff talks about mental healthcare on RU’s campus. We voice our concerns about lack of availability or priority placed on some of the most common health concerns for college students today.

Leave a comment with your feedback on this topic or your ideas for future topics and we’ll give you a shout-out in our next From Our Perspective.

Body-shaming has to stop

In many forms of media, it seems like there is a war against skinny girls. In Nicki Minaj’s song “Anaconda,” she talks down to “skinny bitches.” The same goes for one of my favorite songs of the moment, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. Although I get annoyed with how most modeling companies use anorexic-looking models exclusively, isn’t there a more productive way to promote a healthy body image?

I’ve always been rather slender. It’s just how I’m built. I don’t try to look this way with diet or exercise; I’m actually quite lazy. I always appreciated my fast metabolism even when it slowed down a bit. Although I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my body, I’ve never thought that being thin was superior to having more meat on my bones. There seems to be this movement going on that, on one side, is fighting against the “ideal” image of being thin. The downside of this movement is that it seems like many people feel that they have to choose a side. There’s one side that seems to support that cookie cutter image of being thin and then there’s another side that is so extremely against the other side that, in the process, they’ve started bashing skinny girls. But there’s a perfectly sound middle ground that we can all come to, if we try.

Happy woman on scale
“It seems to me that we’ve lost sight of what’s most important: promoting a healthy body image.”

It seems to me that we’ve lost sight of what’s most important: promoting a healthy body image. When I say “healthy body image,” I don’t mean you need to be a gym rat and be ultra-fit. A healthy body image, to me, is accepting your natural build. Although I wouldn’t encourage anyone to gorge themselves on Oreo’s, I think if you eat a well-balanced diet and are healthy, that’s the best you can ask for. Of course, you can strive to be ultra-fit if that’s what you want, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need to accept that there are many different body types, and there is no “perfect” body type. Whether you’re thin or whether you have a little more meat on your bones, as long as you’re healthy, keep being yourself and don’t let anyone convince you that you need to be fixed.

What I’m getting at here is that we should all support each other’s no matter who we are or the healthy decisions we make towards what we want to be. If a girl wants to lift and be muscular, more power to her! There’s no need to body-shame each other. We’ve all been tricked into competing with each other to try to be whatever it is that guys like. At the moment, girls seem to be obsessing over their, well, assets. I’m guilty of looking in the mirror to see how good my booty looks in my jeans before I leave the house. But we shouldn’t point fingers or discourage each other.

A healthy body image is important to a healthy life, so let’s all support each other and just strive to be ourselves. It’s hard enough to be a girl in today’s world, on top of the insecurities we make up for ourselves. Let’s not make it more difficult on each other, and let’s stop body-shaming.

Mental health is just as important as physical health

We’ve all had to call in sick before, or bring a note to a professor as physical evidence that you were ill. But sometimes being mentally ill or just worn out is legitimate excuse, and needs to be treated as such. I know recently, I’ve really needed a mental break. But where’s the sympathy for those whose illnesses aren’t visible to the naked eye?

I recently visited a psychiatrist to discuss the fact that I’ve had panic attacks rather frequently over the summer. He nodded and agreed that you never forget panic attacks, because although they aren’t nearly as dangerous, it’s a lot like having a heart attack. They leave you physically and mentally exhausted. If you have a panic attack early in the day, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recover and continue your day as if nothing happened, a lot like a heart attack.

Stress can really affect students. Graphic by Danielle Glumsic
Stress can really affect students. Graphic by Danielle Glumsic

Unfortunately though, most of the time a panic attack isn’t going to be a valid excuse for work as a heart attack would be. I recently had a very severe panic attack while I was at work. My boss had to take me to the side and bring me cold water as I slowly calmed down. He even asked if I needed to call someone or if I wanted to go home. Somehow, I fought through it and finished the work I needed to do, but he quickly sent me home. Almost as soon as I got home, I was passed out in my bed from being so exhausted.

Panic attacks can be very severe. I realize that heart attacks are very severe and I’m not downplaying them at all; however, I feel the need to emphasize that panic attacks should be taken more seriously. Most of the time it’s not so simple as “you need to calm down.” My most severe panic attack lasted about an hour and I was completely inconsolable. All you can really do is breathe, drink water and wait for it to go away.

In my experience, when I’m mentally off or an having a panic attack, being productive is pretty much impossible. Much like when you have the flu, all you want to do is lay in bed and wait until you feel better. A lot of times it’s better to make yourself get up and be productive to get your mind off of things, but it can be extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible.

So why do so many employers or teachers not accept “mental health days” as viable excuses? I suppose many people don’t believe what they can’t see. It’s a lot easier to see a runny nose or sore throat. Also, mental episodes aren’t really contagious, even though attitudes sometimes are. Working in a restaurant, you can’t contaminate a dish with anxiety like you can with germs.

It’s hard being one of these people who truly has a hard time getting out of my mental “funks”. It’s upsetting that mental health days aren’t viable excuses, all because you can’t go to MedExpress and get a note confirming you’re simply having an off day. Mental health needs to be treated sensitively. In my opinion, mental health can be even more important than physical health because a lot of times, your mental health affects how you feel physically and vice versa.

Sexual assault and survivors

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; it’s only appropriate to explore the effects of sexual assault on that victim’s mental health. Individuals who have experienced sexual assault are three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder. These disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Continue reading Sexual assault and survivors

One-stop shopping for your health

Ever heard of integrated healthcare? Probably not. It’s a revolutionary way of getting all of your health care needs in one place. Many integrated health care clinics in the nation feature primary care, OBGYN care, dentistry, optometry, pharmacies and mental health services (counseling and psychiatric services). Basically, it’s a one-stop shop for all of your health care needs. Continue reading One-stop shopping for your health

Alternative healing therapies you may not have heard of

Therapy is good for the heart and soul. While talk therapy is nice, additional therapies are also beneficial. I had the pleasure of recently going to a conference on alternative healing practices. I was able to learn about the mind, body and soul. A lot of these alternative healing ideologies come from eastern practices and may be foreign concepts.

The first practice to address is Yoga Nidra. When you think of yoga today, you probably get the mental picture of people doing all sorts of bending poses. While these poses are an aspect of a yoga, Yoga Nidra is much more in-depth. The basis of Yoga Nidra is all about focusing on your breathing and putting yourself in a deep state of meditation and relaxation while remaining conscious. The healing value of this type of practice is simple: it allows the individual to enter a state of deep rest and relaxation. Those with mental illness can find peace within themselves by just being and breathing. Dr. Swami Shankardev Sarawati helps his clients find peace with Yoga Nidra. You can read his account of how Yoga Nidra is useful as part of the therapy process here.

The next healing practice is homeopathic remedies, particularly Bach Flower Remedies. These Flower Remedies are extreme dilutions of the healing parts of various flowers in nature. There are 38 different flower remedies that are tailored to specific issues. For example, the Crab Apple Flower Remedy is often used for an individual who may feel emotionally dirty, or unclean, and isn’t satisfied with their appearance. This particular remedy is often used by individuals who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped. The healing value of this practice helps the individual feel better from whatever is ailing them emotionally. If you’re interested in the explanation of how these flower remedies work, you can read Heal Thyself by Edward Bach.

The last alternative healing practice is the power of pet-assisted therapy. When you walk into a room to find a friendly dog or cat, often you will notice a smile on your face. Pet-assisted therapy is a type of therapy that aims to help an individual improve their emotional, cognitive and social impairments. In the mental health community, animal assisted therapy decreases anxiety and improves symptoms of depression. Pet assisted therapy is also used to help children with ADHD and autism.  If you’re interested in learning more about pet therapy or how to become a certified pet therapy handler, you can visit Pet Partners.

Healing comes in many different forms. In the mental health community it often comes from within. Being open minded about what’s out there to help promote inner healing is a good idea. Whether it’s acupuncture or yoga, a lot of these eastern healing practices are based on the idea of negative energies being let out and positive energies being let in. Healing is healing no matter what form it takes, so be open about taking in those positive energies.

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