Mental Health and Wellness

America Needs Talent

Need a talent?

Try doing nothing.


In our hyperkinetic society, we scan our inbox, check our cell phones, and -- for good measure -- refresh our inbox. The average Americans checks his email 46 times per day.

Was the latest GroupOn coupon that crucial?

Riding the bus to work this morning, I observe my sleep-deprived busmates fidgeting in their seats. As the bus rumbles downtown, my busmates are Twittering, Snapchatting, and Facebooking away. Some are feverishly working -- engrossed in the latest project. Me? I am hunched over my iPhone, scanning my mind’s recesses for a catchy intro. We are all busy, running on life’s treadmill. But is the ceaseless need for productivity sapping our mental equanimity? Averting our eyes from our overflowing inbox, we both know the answer.
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Why Are We Still Labeling Children as ‘Emotionally Disturbed’?

I'm not perfect at my job, but I know my presence makes a world of difference

I proudly landed my first school counseling job at a public school in New York City. I had been warned by fellow counselors we can never be fully prepared to take on the enormity of our role.

I admit to feeling intimidated upon hearing the label given to children of whom I would be working. The term, "emotionally disturbed (ED)" also intrigued me, but painted a picture before I even met a single child on my caseload. Not learning specific special education classifications in graduate school, I read up as much as I could about this identification. The image my mind had created included children appearing older than their natural age, possessing negativity and a toughness about them; similarly, to the many Hollywood movies about inner city kids, and contrary to the children whom I grew up with in suburban schools. And then I arrived to work on my first day, wide-eyed and with a tough exterior of my own that I anticipated I would need.
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Finding Empathy Across the Political Divide

No one can figure it out. It is a mind-boggling mystery.

"Who ARE these people who support Trump?" "Who ARE these people who like Hilary?" "Who ARE these people who are planning to vote for a third party candidate?"

Well, "these people" are our neighbors. Our dentists. Our airplane pilots. Our children. Our old friends from high school.

These people are us. We are all members of the community of the United States of America. Yet so many of us feel like we are living in a totally different reality from ‘these people.’ We cannot grasp how anyone can think about things SO differently from how we think about them.
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Brain and Behavior

Pillow Talk: You Need More Sleep

“You can sleep when you are dead,” a friend chides.

Offering an awkward chuckle, I was too tired to supply a witty response. In America, we stifle our collective yawn to meet the next pressing deadline. But there is a more important deadline than the latest accounting project: our (sleep) health. For a painful few, sleep is an elusive dream.

In American society, we sacrifice sleep for employment or academic obligations. In competitive academic programs, we brag about the number of all-nighters we pull. Time has chronicled the sleep fatigue of first-year residents and its damning effect on patients.
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Children and Teens

A Degree in Life: Your Real College Major

Welcome back, college students.

Before you have even memorized old glory’s fight song, you are greeted with a question more dreadful than any Business Calculus exam.

“What do you want to do with your life?” family, friends, and career counselors prod. The implication: Your major determines your career prospects. And if you select the incorrect field, you are doomed to an unsatisfying career and life.
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There Is a Place for Antidepressants

When I was six months pregnant, I attended a birthing preparation class with my husband and about 12 other expectant parents. During the fifth session, the instructor asked the mothers whether or not they were going to use medication to get through the pain of childbirth labor.

“Everyone who wants to try for a natural birth, stand over here,” she said. “And everyone who plans on having an epidural or taking other pain medication, stand over here.”

I looked at the two groups, which held about the same number of people. My head went from one to the other, much like a puppet with a tic. Like most decisions in my life (including which dressing I want on my salad), I had analyzed the hell out of this one -- done all the research on both sides -- and still couldn’t commit.
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Grief and Loss

Using Social Media to Deal with Personal Tragedy

From May-September 2016, I battled cancer. The cancer had formed from prior radiation therapy for a previous bout of breast cancer in 2012. The 2016 cancer was called angiosarcoma. Treatment for this angiosarcoma was drastic surgery to cut the cancer out of my right breast. Luckily, I would not need chemo or more radiation.

One of the ways I endured the stress and the strain of the cancer was to use Facebook to communicate my...
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Marriage Meetings: Not for Everyone?

“I’ve been married 38 years. Are you saying my husband and I need to hold a formal meeting when we’re doing fine?” a radio talk show host challenged me.

Up until this point her tone had been contentious while I focused on practicing active listening (1) and on staying composed. I couldn’t blame her for being contentious. Her job is to inform and entertain listeners. Who doesn’t enjoy hearing a little skirmish now and then along with some good sound bites?

“Are you saying there’s no room for growth in your relationship?” I asked, in a puzzled tone.
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Helping Children Cope When a Loved One Suffers from Mental Illness

I have a loved one that suffers with severe mental illness. He's a brilliant, beautiful, creative person who told spellbinding, captivating stories of far away places and taught me to not be afraid of the dark. But just as quick and easy as flicking a light switch on and off, our lives changed from moment to moment.

As a child I didn't understand. I remember thinking everyone's home was just like mine... a place where the stairs turned into an escalator only for the person who knew the magic word and where the cupboards were locked at night to keep out the mischief-making fairies.
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A Box Full of Darkness: Growing Up in the Shadow of BPD

Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver

I can’t remember now how I ran across this poem by Mary Oliver. I saved it, because the box-full-of-darkness metaphor seemed genius. As time went by, its relevance to my experience became clearer. The poem eventually served as an epigraph for my book Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother.

First, here’s what I won’t be saying about these lines. I won’t say that all dark boxes become gifts. The loss of a child or debilitating pain or one’s own mental illness? Starvation? Violence? Are these gifts, or can they become gifts? It feels presumptuous to say so. I can speak only to my own experience, and a largely blessed and lucky experience it has been.
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Why I Admire Psychopaths… Some of Their Traits Anyway

Sometimes, when I wake up on Monday mornings and feel a little stressed about my upcoming week, afraid I won’t be convincing during a presentation, or not sure about taking on some project that is a little out of my comfort zone, I wish I had a little more psychopathic traits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wish I was an emotionless serial killer, just that it would be nice to have a little more of some of the traits they share that are actually coveted in today's society.
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Children and Teens

Your Children Keep You Sane

We’ve all heard the old saying “My kids make me crazy.” But isn’t it also true that kids keep us mentally sound?

I’ve been a parent for 12 years, and this is the most important thing I’ve learned: A parent simply can’t shut down, lose it, and ignore her kids. She must hold it together for them.

It was a cold day last January when Kathy, my neighbor, and her daughter were moving out of their house. Kathy had asked her friends to help her because she couldn't afford the cost of a moving company. So I arrived at 8:00 A.M. to load boxes onto a rented truck.
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