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History of a Suicide: An Interview with Jill Bialosky

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jill Bialosky, author of the new book History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life, in which she brilliantly weaves together her sister's inner life and brings an awkward but essential topic of discussion out of the shadows.

1. If you could have readers leave with one piece of truth about suicide, what would it be?

Jill: Suicide is a multi-faceted, complex event and though there may be a present catalyst that triggers it, ultimately it is a psychological drama that happens within the mind of a suicidal individual resulting from intense inner pain. This is a theory developed by Dr. Edwin Shneidman, one of the leading figures in the study of suidiology and it is the one theory that makes sense to me.

We must recognize the inner pain of someone who is suicidal as quickly as possible. One of the conundrums is that those who are suffering deeply tend to isolate themselves and disguise their inner pain to protect loved ones. We must look for warning signs and be not afraid to ask.

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Zen Harmonica: Learning Mindfulness in the Key of Life

"I play the harmonica.  The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast and stick it out the window."
~Stephen Wright

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever."
~Mahatma Gandhi

David Harp is the Rosetta Stone of the harmonica.  He has taught over a million people how to play, and holds the world’s record for teaching the most people to play at one time (2,569).  How does he do it?

Mindfulness.  Because that’s what he’s really interested in...

If you’re like me you probably have at least one, if not two cheap harmonicas lying in the bottom of your closet or in the back of a drawer someplace.  When you see them you take them out of the box, lick your lips, wail unskillfully until you’re out of breath, tuck it back in the box, and then forget about it for another four years.

I’ve licked my lips long enough.  Wailed unskillfully long enough. It was time to do something about it.

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Growing Up Bipolar

“Were you bipolar growing up?” a magazine editor asked me the other day.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Do you think you were misdiagnosed back then as depressed?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t rushed. I just really don’t know.

I can clearly say that something was wrong with me, but I’m very careful to throw the “bipolar” word around when it pertains to kids given all the debate today on the topic.

Friends of mine rant on another friend for medicating their daughter for bipolar disorder, who, according to the friends’ eyes, is perfectly fine.

And then I hear the sadness and utter frustration of another friend whose bipolar daughter was just expelled from school.

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Antioxidants and Your Health

Antioxidants are good for your health.

Or at least that is a popular claim.

An antioxidant is any molecule that slows down or prevents oxidation reactions.  Originally, oxidation reactions were defined as chemical reactions with oxygen.  More recently, oxidation reactions have been described as reactions in which an atom or molecule loses an electron.

Oxidation is a natural part of life.  Excessively high antioxidant levels are detrimental to health. Some people have suggested that oxidation reactions contribute to heart disease, declines in cognitive abilities, and cancer.

“Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene have been shown to be antioxidants in a test tube, and it is often claimed that they and many other substances are able to function as antioxidants in the body. However, whether any molecule can act as an antioxidant depends on its environment, and it is not clear which of these can be counted on to work in your body.  Further, even if they act as antioxidants in the body, it is not clear that they will have any effect on heart disease or cancer,” says Gerda Endemann, biochemist and author of Fat is Not the Enemy (Endemann, 2002).

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Introducing Partners in Wellness

I'm pleased to introduce our newest blog, Partners in Wellness by Kate Thieda. This is a blog that is meant to provide information and support to relationship partners and spouses who are in a marriage with someone who has a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

Coping with someone who has a serious mental illness can often times be trying, difficult, and stressful. This blog will deal with topics to help caregivers and partners learn to better communicate and improve...
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Best of Our Blogs: March 29, 2011

As a dental hygienist, my mom not only cleans people's teeth, but listens to do them as she does so every day. And like hair stylists and therapists, she often hears their problems too. One of the most valuable advice she has ever given me is to not judge what other people are going through. "You never know what you would do in that situation unless it happened to you."

Our posts this week makes me think about what she said. You may have lived through difficulty, failure, loss of self-respect. You may, in fact, be going through this right now. If so, remember to find the people in your life who won't judge you, but have compassion for your situation. That person may even be you.

I hope you will enjoy our top posts this week! There are some good ones everything from how to be successful to boosting your self-respect. See you again here on Friday. Have a great week!

Three Lessons Learned From Studying Success

(Neuroscience & Relationships) - What's something everybody wants, but few know how to get? This popular post provides three important lessons to help remove the obstacles in your way towards success.

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Brain and Behavior

Pediatrics Gets it Wrong about ‘Facebook Depression’

You know it's not good when one of the most prestigious pediatric journals, Pediatrics, can't differentiate between correlation and causation.

And yet this is exactly what the authors of a "clinical report" did in reporting on the impact of social media on children and teens. Especially in their discussion of "Facebook depression," a term that the authors simply made up to describe the phenomenon observed when depressed people use social media.

Shoddy research? You bet. That's why Pediatrics calls it a "clinical report" -- because it's at the level of a bad blog post written by people with a clear agenda. In this case, the report was written by Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media (2011).

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Free Webinar on Social Media and Relationships, April 4th

Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, has changed relationships forever. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve changed the way we communicate with others, make friends and find romantic partners. These changes have no doubt produced both positive and negative consequences.

Want to learn more about social media’s impact on relationships?

The PBS series This Emotional Life is hosting a free webinar and interactive discussion on this topic next week.

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Brain and Behavior

8 Survival Tips for the Spouse of a Terminally Ill Person

The other day, I had the honor of interviewing Owen Stanley Surman, M.D., a practicing hospital psychiatrist known internationally for his work on psychiatric and ethical aspects of solid organ transplantation.

Following the death of his wife, Dr. Surman devoted six years to writer a memoir, The Wrong Side of an Illness: A Doctor's Love Story, which includes a deeply personal and unique view of events both tragic and transcendent. He now lives in Boston with his new wife.

Question: What words of wisdom would you give the spouse of a person struggling with chronic illness or terminally ill?

Dr. Surman: Chronic illness and terminal illness have a pervasive impact on how we live our lives and in our sense of identity. Loss of a loved one affects the part of ourselves that has led us to think in terms of "we" vs. "I."

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When Should I Come Off My Antidepressant? 6 Things to Consider

The question of whether or not you should start taking antidepressants is complex and difficult to answer. But even fuzzier is the question of when or if you should stop. Last May, NPR ran a piece called Coming Off Antidepressants Can Be Tricky Business.

Joanne Silberner writes:
Several top psychiatrists say there's just not enough data to say for sure when to try coming off an antidepressant. Drug companies generally test their new products for a few months or up to a year. They don't spend much time looking into how to taper off their products. The dense informational inserts that come with prescription drugs have a lot of information on how to take the product, but no information on how to stop.
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Are Gambling Problems More Common than Drinking Problems? Maybe Not

Research out of the University at Buffalo by John Welte and colleagues suggests that gambling problems -- pathological gambling, to be specific -- are more problematic than alcohol dependence in older adults. Some of the findings are interesting.

But one finding stood out for me as being a bit sensationalistic. That finding was that pathological gambling -- something other studies have consistently pegged in the 0.8% to 2.0% range of adults (see Stucki & Rihs-Middel, 2007) -- is more common than alcohol dependence (which studies put in the 3.8% range, see Keyes et al., 2009). Past research has shown that alcohol dependence (also known as alcoholism) is something that occurs in the adult population at twice the rate of pathological gambling.

In Welte's (2011) study, however, the researchers found something different altogether. They found that from age 22 onwards, pathological gambling is more prevalent than alcoholism. And in the age 31 to 40 group, they found it nearly 3 times as prevalent (at over 5 percent of that age group)!

So what's going on here? What could account for this significant discrepancy between this new study and much of the previous research?

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