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Language matters: helping kids by the way we speak – guest blog post

Posted by Guest Blogger on Mar 27, 2015 2:52:00 PM

Growing up, I saw firsthand what labeling a child can do. In elementary school, my brother was having trouble staying focused both at home and at school, took 3 times as long to do his homework than his classmates, and struggled to keep anything organized. Not surprisingly, he was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication.

Even before the meds started, there was a noticeable difference in him as soon as he was informed that “he was ADHD.” He wasn’t the little brother I knew anymore. He became much more negative when talking about himself and he stopped fighting against some of the behaviors associated with ADHD. It seemed like he had given up. He lost hope. All of a sudden he would say that he “couldn’t” do things because he was ADHD. It defined him. I noticed that not only did my brother expect the “typical” ADHD behaviors and characteristics from himself, but my parents began expecting them from him too. If he had a better day, the credit was given to the medication. But bad days were the expectation, and accepted as if it was the new “normal.” 

As a Masters student in Individual, Couple and Family Therapy, I am learning about a lot of theories and ideas, but one that has changed my entire way of thinking comes from Narrative Therapy. 

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Topics: Children's Mental Health, Language Matters, Stigma, ADHD

The scary truth

Posted by One in Five Minds on Oct 24, 2014 10:42:00 AM

What’s the scariest part about Halloween? It continues to stigmatize people struggling with mental illness. Yes, there will always be the person with a questionable costume choice, but too often, people use mental illness as their costume "theme". Or worse, the local haunted house uses “mentally ill” characters to scare its guests.

Unfortunately, the scary truth is that after the fear fades away, the stigma remains. A “mentally ill” character chasing visitors through the halls of a haunted house does not reflect the reality. People suffering with mental illness are not scary - they’re struggling with an illness. How would we react if someone dressed up like a cancer patient? To many people, this may be viewed as a “So what?” moment. It’s done in fun, and only once a year. What’s the harm in that?

It’s possible that even to a person struggling with a mental illness it may not be a big deal, but what about the others who don’t come forward for care because of the fear they’ll be labeled as someone scary? The “So what” is that kids and families may not seek treatment because of what others will think about them.

Isn't it time to respect the reality of mental illness? When do we start to see mental illness for what it is? An illness that strikes one in four adults and one in five children. It's an illness that is often treatable, if individuals and families can overcome the stigma and seek help.

What will you do this Halloween? Will you have a conversation with the friend thinking about this costume choice? Or make a call to the haunted house using these characters? If it’s done in an open informative manner, they may choose to change to something less stigmatizing and a little more "Up-lifting."

We would like to hear your thoughts. Comment on the One in Five Minds Facebook page here.

There have been some excellent posts written in the past year about mental illness and Halloween. We’ve included links below.

http://blog.nami.org/2013/10/are-you-haunted-by-halloween-stigma.html

http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/halloween-and-mental-illness/

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/10/halloween-more-trick-than-treat-for-those-with-mental-illness/

http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2011-10-25-taking-halloween-by-the-horns

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Topics: Children's Mental Health, Language Matters, Stigma

On movies, mental health and Roger Ebert

Posted by One in Five Minds on May 9, 2013 2:23:00 PM

Popular film critic Roger Ebert died in April after a long struggle with cancer. He was 70 years old. Ebert was an intelligent, entertaining, and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, with a passion for his craft. Over the course of his career, Ebert presented thousands of movie reviews. He published over 300 in 2012 alone. One of the films he reviewed in 2012 was the Academy Award-winning film, Silver Linings Playbook.

Many people connected with mental health are fans of this movie, and multiple mental health organizations have written about the impact of the film on mental health and people with mental health conditions. Ebert wrote from a different perspective.

Ebert had been quoted earlier saying, “No good film is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” He had good things to say about this film. In his review of Silver Linings Playbook Ebert notes:

“One of the ingenious and sort of brave accomplishments of Russell’s screenplay (inspired by a novel by Matthew Quick) is the way it requires both father and son to face and deal with their mental problems and against all odds finds a way to do that through both an Eagles game and a dance contest. We’re fully aware of the plot conventions at work here, the wheels and gears churning within the machinery, but with these actors, this velocity and the oblique economy of the dialogue, we realize we don’t often see it done this well. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is so good, it could almost be a terrific old classic.”

Some of the words he uses may not be the way we would describe mental health matters, but what Roger Ebert, and many others have done, is endorse the impact of the film. People not connected with mental health got, and continue to get, a glimpse into the real impact of mental health on families. And whether or not you agree with how this is presented in the film, it does provide people with an opportunity to discuss the real effects. This kind of talk is a good thing. And certainly worthy of a “Thumbs up.”

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Topics: Children's Mental Health, Language Matters