Celebrities Articles

Aaron Swartz & A Culture of Denial: Depression & Suicide in Tech

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Aaron Swartz & A Culture of Denial: Depression & Suicide in TechAaron Swartz, 26, an Internet developer and activist, committed suicide last week. The tech world has since been ablaze commenting and speculating on his life… and his death.

While many people point to the cause of his death connected to the overzealous prosecution by U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, it’s unlikely that a single thing led to his decision. If Aaron Swartz was like most of the 100 people every day who take their own lives in this country, the biggest thing that likely led to his death was untreated or under-treated depression.

Which comes as no surprise to people who knew him and have written about him. Nor after reading his own struggles with depression earlier in his life.

His passing is indeed a tragedy. But it’s time to realize that he lived and thrived in a technology sub-culture that mostly doesn’t understand — or care much — about mental illness.

Lincoln: An Oscar-Deserving Story of Hope

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Lincoln: An Oscar-Deserving Story of Hope The 2012 American historical drama film “Lincoln”, directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and twelve Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. The movie was meticulously done and succeeded in capturing Lincoln’s enigmatic, complex, and charming self.

However, it wasn’t the great acting or directing that had me so glued to the screen that I was afraid to reach for popcorn.

Lincoln has been my mental health hero ever since Joshua Wolf Shenk, who has since become a friend of mine, published his acclaimed book, “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.” Shenk took seven years to research and write the masterpiece, and it gained attention right as I had graduated from one psych ward unit and was going into another one.

Kate Middleton & Radio Prank Gone Awry: Who Should We Blame?

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Kate Middleton & Radio Prank Gone Awry: Who Should We Blame?Sadly, the lynch mobs were out in full force on Friday on Twitter and other online media, threatening the radio show hosts after a prank phone call they made to a nurse who took the call later committed suicide.

Lost in the tragic suicide is the likelihood that nobody would even know or care about this incident were it not for the fact that the nurse was on reception duty for Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who put the call through to Kate’s nurse. In the U.S. alone, over 30,000 people commit suicide each and every year. Some of them are nurses.

Also lost in this tragedy is any sense of perspective — as though a single action, incident or behavior could lead someone to end their lives. While I’m sure it could happen in some fictional world, in the real world most people choose a suicidal act only when at the end of a long, desperate rope of depression.

So while haters will hate, anybody hating on the DJs — who had no way of knowing the mental state of the people they were contacting for an otherwise harmless prank — has completely lost it.

Demi Lovato: A New Kind of Hollywood Role Model

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Demi Lovato: A New Kind of Hollywood Role ModelWho inspires you? Who do you admire as a role model? I’m sure a lot of those answers can be found within your close circle of friends and family, but of course, there are also those who can lift you up from afar.

It’s been hard in recent years to ignore young entertainers’ breakdowns, drug habits, and bad behavior. Demi Lovato, a 20-year-old singer/songwriter, actress, and newly appointed judge on the talent show “The X Factor,” has endured much internal struggle.

But she has courageously sought mental health assistance and boldly documented her journey to share with others for inspiration. Along with her “stay strong” motto, she’s demonstrated that obstacles can be overcome, which is what ultimately highlights her as a different type of role model.

Forget Biden. Dr. Keith Ablow May Have…

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Forget Biden. Dr. Keith Ablow May Have...I have to wonder how helpful it truly is to be playing armchair psychiatrist, when you’ve never personally interviewed the person under discussion. Imagine all the things we could just hypothesize about any celebrity, based only upon a snippet of their public behavior (a snippet we carefully choose, of course).

There’s a profession that does something like this. They’re called publishers, and they publish tripe such as “Us Weekly” and “Star” magazine. They take a piece of gossip and write an entire story based upon nothing more than speculation, imagination and hype.

So I found it more than a little disappointing (but perhaps not surprising) to find a representative of the mental health profession, Dr. Keith Ablow, on Fox News Sunday night doing just that. He spoke during a “Medical A-Team” segment where a group of doctors talked about the vice-presidential debate.

Should a psychiatrist be discussing differential diagnoses of the Vice President of the United States — especially if they’ve never even met the man?

You Are Not Alone: Some Survivors of Suicide Loss

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

You Are Not Alone: Some Survivors of Suicide LossSurvivors of suicide often feel completely alone in their sadness, which is quite understandable. Unlike losing a husband or child or parent to heart disease or cancer, loved ones of person who have committed suicide can’t express their grief publicly. As often as suicide happens — over 30,000 times a year in our country alone — the topic is still so taboo.

Awhile back I interviewed Eric Marcus, author of the sobering book, “Why Suicide?” He has now launched a blog with the same title, “Why Suicide?” where he will be posting essays and memories of persons who have taken their own lives. I’m certain it will become a healing forum for many.

Both of us have published a comprehensive list of celebrities and notable leaders or artists from the past who are suicide survivors. Dan Fields of the Grief Support Services program of Samaritans, Inc., has compiled the comprehensive list.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to compile this list, so that other suicide survivors feel less alone.

When the Kardashians Go to Therapy: What Can We Learn?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

When the Kardashians Go to Therapy: What Can We Learn?This guest article from YourTango was written by Larissa Rzemienski.

On a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the Kardashian clan decided to visit a family therapist. The family’s innermost emotions and struggles came to light as they met with Dr. Nicki J. Monti.

Dr. Monti utilized the systems approach of family therapy to understand how each individual family member is impacted by the larger family system.

Rob, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and Kris participated in their first family therapy session. So what happened and what can we learn from it?

Helping to End Eating- and Weight-Related Disorders

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Helping to End Eating- and Weight-Related DisordersOur current culture presents a confusing array of messages about eating and body image. We see media images which promote unrealistic (and generally unreal) bodies paired with headlines about obesity prevention programs; news stories about eating disorders alongside multiple supersize food options; push for perfection alongside marketing for indulgence.

It’s no wonder we have both increasing incidents of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as increasing prevalence of binge eating disorder and rates of obesity.

Navigating this confusing world without falling into an eating- or weight-related disorder does require a return to some basic facts.

Lance Armstrong: Cognitive Dissonance as a Hero’s Journey Ends

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Lance Armstrong: Cognitive Dissonance as a Hero's Journey Ends“I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.”
~Lance Armstrong

The stun of learning that Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven titles for doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was the first time in more than a decade I can remember crying after hearing a news broadcast.  The last time was on the morning of 9/11.

Without a doubt Lance Armstrong was my hero.  A genuine, certified hero. 

No one in the history of the sport of cycling has won seven titles at the Tour de France, beat cancer, and became a beacon of hope for patients.  His legacy was a source of inspiration for millions. 

But in spite of his fundraising and being a cancer survivor-turned-spokesperson, he is no longer my hero. 

Bruce Springsteen’s Depression

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Bruce Springsteen DepressionBruce Springsteen suffered from depression, according to a new, lengthy article in the latest edition of The New Yorker. While previously he’s disclosed his on-again, off-again battle with depression to biographer and friend, Dave Marsh, this is the first time it’s been discussed at some length.

Writer David Remnick interviews many Bruce Springsteen confidantes for the article, including his wife Patti Scialfa. In the article, we learn more about Springsteen’s battle with depression — even to the point of having some suicidal thoughts 30 years ago.

It’s an interesting interview, but you need a good 30 or 40 minutes to read the entire thing. Not being a particular Springsteen fan, I learned a lot about him. It turned him from being “Oh, he’s just one of those rock superstars” to “Oh, he’s a guy who really had to fight, scratch and battle his way up not only in his career, but in his life too.”

I have a lot more respect for him now — and am glad he was successful in battling his depression.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Entitled to His Privacy for Treatment of Mental Illness

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Entitled to His Privacy for Treatment of Mental IllnessShould politicians and celebrities see it as their responsibility to share the specific details of their mental illness or mental disorder diagnosis in order to help reduce the prejudice surrounding these conditions?

That’s the question Torrie Bosch asks over at Slate and arrives at this conclusion — yes, it is a politician’s duty and responsibility to offer full disclosure about their mental health concerns.

But I think Bosch is missing a key component here. When in the throes of a full-blown episode (whether it’s bipolar disorder, depression, or something else), one shouldn’t be making any life-changing decisions or decisions that could forever alter one’s future career.

While it’s easy to believe that politicians and celebrities are something special, underneath their public persona beats the heart of an ordinary person — someone who is entitled to his or her privacy. Especially for health or family concerns.

Q&A with Joe Pantoliano, Author of ‘Asylum’

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Q&A with Joe Pantoliano, Author of AsylumThis month I had the pleasure of talking to Joe Pantoliano about his recently published book Asylum: Hollywood Tales from My Great Depression: Brain Dis-Ease, Recovery, and Being My Mother’s Son. Below, he discusses everything from stigma toward “brain dis-ease” to his personal struggles with and recovery from the “seven deadlies.”

Pantoliano is also the founder of No Kidding, Me Too! (www.nkm2.org), a nonprofit organization “whose purpose is to remove the stigma attached to ‘brain dis-ease’ through education and the breaking down of societal barriers.” He produced and directed the documentary No Kidding! Me 2!!, an intimate look at the experiences of Americans living with mental illness.

Pantoliano has more than 100 movie, TV, and stage credits, and won an Emmy Award for his work on “The Sopranos.” His first book, the memoir Who’s Sorry Now? The True Story of a Stand-up Guy, was a New York Times bestseller. He was born in Hoboken, N.J., and today lives in Connecticut.

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