Brett.Ullman

Tag - mental health

Oxford High School students begin project called ‘13 Reasons Why Not’

Last week I posted a blog on 13 Reasons Why. TOns of amazing conversation happening online and offline with students, parents and leaders. It was great to see this news story on social media today. Whether we want to have this conversation or not it seems we are starting to have it. Love what these students did.

Beginning this week and continuing for 13 days, a recording of a different student will play during the morning announcements. In the recording, played for the entire student body, the teens reveal a problem they’re struggling with. At the end of the recording, instead of blaming someone, the students thank a classmate who has helped them.

Click here for the entire article.

13 Reasons Why… Some thoughts

13 Reasons Why.

The New York Times best seller by young adult novel writer Jay Asher that came out way back in 2007 has sold over 3 million copies to date.

I read this book a few years ago and found it … I find it hard to find the correct word: riveting, eye opening, scary, sad, hopeless and yet necessary in bringing out a conversation we seem to refuse to want to talk about as a culture.

Since reading the book I have heard very little on this topic. No conversation on social media about it. No growth in conversations on the problems of suicide in our culture today. Then suddenly 13 Reasons Why is released on Netflix and presently I have had over 500 messages, emails and conversations from parents all over asking the simple question: “Should I let me kid watch this?” or “Should I watch this with my teenager?”

As a 45 year old I have watched thousands of hours of TV in my life. This would rank as the most powerful show I have ever watched. I have watched countless hours of mindless entertainment in those 45 years and this show WAS different.

It was different because it touched on so many topics: sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, peer pressure, divorce, bullying, self-harm, isolation, loneliness, disconnection from adults, lack of supports and of course suicide.

If I had to give you a very quick review of this series I would say:


Everything Affects Everything

You are responsible for yourself

You are responsible for your actions

You are responsible when you do nothing

We need to start talking about all the stuff no-one wants to talk about

This show starts us talking….


“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

In almost every review I have read comments that this show is triggering. It shows too much for students, glamorizes suicide, over sexualized, too much language, and deals with too many issues. I would say that the show is a great conversation starter for people of all ages. It is raw and tough to watch.  The suicide scene was brutal and one of the hardest things I have ever watched on TV. Maybe the fact is that suicide is brutal for everyone and this scene is meant to bring that home.

I do find it hypocritical that people are upset at some of these topics in this show. I don’t see most people talking about triggering when there is self harm (including suicide) in music videos, TV shows, movies and much of todays music is laced with sex. Yet the scenes in this show are too much? Are teens not triggered daily by just being a teen in our modern day culture?

If we are going to say this is too much for students I don’t seem to see many people offering any better way to talk about these tough issues.

I wonder when is the right time?

What is the right way?

I find that this is one of the first things I have seen that has people (especially teens) talking about suicide amongst other issues. We cannot just go back to ignoring this conversation especially the conversation around suicide.

There is no place that is immune to this.

So here is the tough question.

How do you talk about a tough conversation without triggering people and increasing the risk of a suicide contagion and copycat behaviour?

I think we need to be honest where we presently sit as a society with this conversation. I think people are already triggered by this topic with or without this TV show. Do a quick google search:

Canadian Stats:

  • 22% of teens thought of suicide this year  (Click here for the article)

Myth: Young people rarely think about suicide.
Reality: Teens and suicide are more closely linked than adults might expect. In a survey of 15,000 grade 7 to 12 students in British Columbia, 34% knew of someone who had attempted or died by suicide; 16% had seriously considered suicide; 14% had made a suicide plan; 7% had made an attempt and 2% had required medical attention due to an attempt.
Canadian Mental Health Association (Click here for the article)

U.S. Stats

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
  • http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/

Parents are asking if we should watch this show with our kids but I cannot answer this for you. Will I be watching this with my Grade 9 daughter or my Grade 8 son? If they are interested – Yes. I will also NOT be showing either of them the suicide scene in the last episode. With that being said is this the first conversation I will have had with my children on conversations on these topics … no. These are conversations we have been having for years in our home. If the first time you talk about suicide, mental health issues, sex, drugs, bullying etc is this TV show then I would not suggest watching this show before you have conversations in your home about these tough topics.

You might need to check as a parent and see if they have already watched the show. Many parents who have emailed me have said my kid already watched the show what do I do now. If this is you then I would sit down and talk to them about the show. Ask their thoughts and feelings.

What did they like about the show?
Do they think that the show fairly represented current teen culture in High School?
What did they dislike about the show? If they have watched it I would highly suggest watching the 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons which is on Netflix as well. It is the cast & creators with conversation on all aspects of the movie and why they did the certain scenes like they did.

Be very direct with your kids and let them know that there is nothing in the world that could change how you love them. You want them to know that if they are ever struggling with these topics in this show that you hope they could come and talk to you. And then together you would look at getting supports in place for them (doctors, counselling etc).

I would also suggest you be really careful if your son/daughter is struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, bullying etc. This show could act (I am not saying will) as something that might make suicide look like a good way out for their struggles they are having. If you were going to watch it I would suggest watching it with them.

If as a parents you are thinking “I have failed in these conversations” you can start having them now. Just to mention some of the main themes in the show again:

  1. Sex
  2. Multiple rape scenes
  3. Drug & Alcohol use and abuse
  4. Dating relationships
  5. Peer pressure
  6. Divorce
  7. Bullying
  8. Self-harm
  9. Isolation
  10. Loneliness
  11. Disconnection from adults
  12. Lack of supports
  13. and of course suicide

These are conversations that you need to be having in your home, school, and church environments.

Are there some things I wish this show had done better. Yes, for sure:

  1. I wish there was more shown on how to help people if they are struggling. What do you actually do if you are struggling (Talk to an adult you trust, medical doctor, counsellor etc) We need to talk about where we can turn for help. In my mental health talk called The Walking Wounded I talk about addressing tough issues like this from 3 fronts: Body (Doctor), Mind(Counsellor), and Soul. Each of these areas can be pursued simultaneously.
  2. They showed such a disconnected youth culture from parents, teachers and other adults. This is not always the case.

    In tone and style, it resembles a more serious, grimmer cousin of Freeform (formerly ABC Family) series like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Twisted.” Like them, it literalizes the idea that teenage life is a mystery, one that adults can’t hope to solve. (New York Times article)

  3. I did not like that they showed the physical scars from people struggling with Self Harm. As someone who speaks on this we do know that this is triggering for people who struggle.
  4. I don’t like the fact that with this story it seems that you can sort of reach out from the grave after suicide and take revenge on people. It did a good job of showing the destruction that suicide leaves with the friends and family who are left after a suicide.
  5. I wish that with all the pain they also showed that there is hope. There is always hope. You might not see it, but that also does not mean it is not there.
  6. I wish they had not been so graphic with the suicide. I think it is unnecessary and is the one major scene that might make people NOT watch a show that could have been for a larger audience if not for the graphic scene. I also realize that the brutality of the suicide was done for a reason to show … to show how brutal suicide is.

In my talks a line I use when speaking about suicide is:


Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.


If you are having suicidal thoughts I beg you to do a few things

  1. Go tell an adult immediately. If that adult does not listen then tell another. Get parents and teachers and doctors and counsellors and any other people you trust surrounding you as you walk through these tough times
  2. Hold on.
    Dr. Dan Siegel says “We need to help children understand that the clouds 
of their emotions can (and will) roll on by.”
    What you are going through is a season … and seasons change.
    Please hold on.

In the last episode Clay Jensen (one of the main characters) says “We can all do better.” I agree.
So how can you do better?

I end with the simple summary I gave at the beginning

Everything Affects Everything

You are responsible for yourself

You are responsible for your actions

You are responsible when you do nothing

We need to start talking about all the stuff no-one wants to talk about.

This show starts us talking….

Love to hear what you thought of the TV show if you watched it? Did it help? Did it hurt?
Love to hear your thoughts on this.
Love to hear any great resources for people who are struggling.


13 Reasons Why Official Website
http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

Other articles on 13 Reasons Why:

  1. http://www.altpress.com/news/entry/twlohas_founder_pens_blog_in_response_to_13_reasons_why
  2. https://cpyu.org/2017/04/17/13-reasons-why-looking-for-true-north/
  3. https://cpyu.org/resource/episode-36-13-reasons-why-a-discussion-with-amy-flavin-and-kara-twining/
  4. https://themighty.com/2017/04/should-i-watch-13-reasons-why-review-suicide/
  5. http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/18/15275846/13-reasons-why-male-gaze-voyeurism-rape-suicide-contagion
  6. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/25/health/13-reasons-why-teen-suicide-debate-explainer/index.html
  7. https://www.nasponline.org/
  8. http://www.cmha.ca/news/cmha-national-statement-responding-netflix-series-13-reasons/#.WQPswUFE2Ef
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/arts/television/netflix-13-reasons-why-tv-review.html
  10. http://www.pluggedin.ca/tv-reviews/13-reasons-why
  11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/13-reasons-why-criticism-1.4091960
  12. http://www.averageyouthministry.com/average-youth-ministry/13-reasons-why-youth-workers-must-be-at-the-top-of-their-game
  13. https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Differences-Between-13-Reasons-Why-Book-TV-Show-43404725

Prince William And Lady Gaga FaceTime To Talk About Mental Health

Great article and video. Check it out!

The video — a partnership with Heads Together — shows the prince and singer FaceTiming with each other — he in his study at Kensington Palace, she in her kitchen in Los Angeles — as they discuss the importance of being able to have conversations about mental health, an issue they are both passionate about.

“There’s a lot of shame attached to mental illness. You feel like something it’s wrong with you,” Lady Gaga said to William.

“I should be so happy, but you can’t help it when in the morning you wake up, you are so tired, you are so sad, you are so full of anxiety and the shakes that you can’t barely think,” she continued.

Prince William replied, “It’s OK to have this conversation. It’s really important to have this conversation. You won’t be judged. It’s so important to break open that fear and that taboo which is only gonna lead to more problems down the line.”

Click here for the entire article.

Another article from the Toronto Star can be found here.

How To Actually Comfort Your Partner During An Anxiety Attack (Because Saying ‘Don’t Worry’ Does Nothing)

We often talk about how someone struggling with anxiety or panic can help themselves but we rarely seem to talk about how loved ones can support people in this tough moment. This is a really good practical article on how to help people going through a panic attack.

Anxiety is difficult on a few levels for the individual that suffers from the disorder, but when it’s your partner, it can be challenging to help them get back to being themselves after having a panic attack. It’s scary, it’s confusing, and to some sufferers it can feel incredibly isolating. Let me iterate here that it is never your responsibility to “fix” what is going on, as it’s something only the sufferer can do, but sometimes it can be useful to know how to help your partner feel better. Here are a few things you can do to help your partner when they are having a panic attack.

For the entire article please click here.

Instagram’s Newest Feature Is Incredibly Important

Social media is getting more and more isolating. Really excited to see this sort of positive engagement by a social media company. (Thanks Jeff Smyth for sending it)

We use Instagram to share photos of the beauty around us, the delicious meals we’ve eaten or created, and our personal highs. But it is a social network, and we also use it to share our feelings when we’re sad, upset, or when we need some moral support. Today, Instagram made some subtle but important changes to its app. Now, if you see a friend post something that feels like a cry for help, you can do something about it — without being confrontational.
Click here to read the entire article.
Another great article on Instagram’s #perfectlyme campaign  – Click here

Guest Blogger | How To Minister To A Person Battling An Anxiety Disorder – by Sarah E. Ball

When you have an anxiety disorder you quickly learn to avoid asking for prayer because there is a huge chance that you are going to be told to cast all your fears upon Him. The trouble with an anxiety disorder is, you don’t even know what you’re afraid of. You tremble, stutter, have heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating and racing thoughts and a million other symptoms for no reason at all. So the idea of casting all of your troubles on Him is an overwhelming ambiguous thought, kind of like if I told you to lose weight by just casting all your carvings upon Him. All good and all, until someone orders a pizza!

An anxiety disorder is not just worrying about your bills, or extreme nervousness. It’s a clinical disorder that causes your brain and your body to continually fire off panic and anxious thoughts against your will. For me, panic attacks happened 5-10 times a day, leading me to complete exhaustion and despair. Living with an anxiety disorder was such a shock to me, my family, my friends and my church because I was your good Christian woman, capable, dependable and strong. You can read my full story here

More often than not I received well intentioned advice from Christians that were trying to help me but sometimes it made my anxiety worse. As I talk and meet with many people who suffer with mental illness, I have heard countless similar stories of mental health advice gone bad. As a survivor of mental illness, I really want to help Christians know how to effectively minster to someone struggling with a panic disorder.

The 4 Worst Things You can do when ministering to someone with severe anxiety…

  1. Over Spiritualizing a Mental Health Issue – There are spiritual causes to some mental issues, to deny that, is to deny all the scriptures that teach us how to guard our minds. However, when you take a mental health issue, like anxiety, and mentor the sufferer through generational curses or demonic deliverances, you can add to the terror and confusion that happens when you are going through a breakdown. God did lead out of crippling anxiety through addressing some spiritual issues in my life, but not until I was mentally and physically taken care of.
    When a person feels like they are one breath away from sanity, which is a major symptom of battling an anxiety disorder (the fear of going crazy) you run a huge risk of confirming their unfounded phobias.Be gentle with you words and your spiritual rationalizations, or you can run the risk of severely harming a person with mental illness.
  2. Blaming them for their mental health – Maybe you’re not reading your bible enough, or if you only spent more time in prayer, or worse, perhaps there is sin in your life. Listen, when I went through my breakdown it was so severe that it escalated to OCD and suicidal despair. I was very ill. However, at the time that I had my breakdown I had NEVER been so close to God. I prayed continuously, worship music always played in my home, I did bible studies, and was the Sunday School Coordinator and Worship singer. I was a mom of 5 kids, and had a great marriage. I spiritually did not deserve to break down, but I did, because sometimes, just like our kidneys fail, and our hearts fail, so do our minds.When you blame a person, or ask them what part they have to play in their breakdown you bring shame. Shame, in my opinion, is one of the most destructive mindsets a person can own and when you add that to a mental illness diagnosis you have just possibly opened a door to despair. Would you punish your child for their sins by inflicting torment, terror and panic? I don’t think our Heavenly Father would either.
  3. Don’t give too much spiritual home work – In my healing, it took a lot of work on my part. It was my persistence to get out of the house, exercise, create healthier boundaries, rest and spend time with God that led me to freedom. So I absolutely believe that it takes work to get better. However, when you are exhausted fighting endless fear all day long, and often into the evenings, you need rest. Added pressure to be more, or do more can really rob a mentally ill person of the rest they need to recover.
  4. Give Pat Answers & Scriptures – Jesus rarely threw scripture at the sick and mentally tortured, but he threw a lot at the Pharisees. If you don’t have anything realistic to say, don’t say anything at all. Meaning, if you cannot explain to a person battling fear how to tangibly take their thoughts captive, or how to let God’s love cast out fear, then just don’t. God personally took me on a powerful journey through the bible. They weren’t effective until I had a deeper understanding into the well-known fear scriptures. Before you pass on an encouraging scripture to a trembling sufferer, make sure you pass it on with full knowledge of how it applies.

The 4 Amazing Things You can do when ministering to someone with severe anxiety…

  1. Offer rest and help them guard it – REST. The first thing God led me to when I was in the midst of a raging mental assault was rest. Did you know that A type personalities, those ‘getter done’ people, the reliable ones, the ‘how do they do it all’ people are the most susceptible to a breakdown? Why? Because rest is for weaklings, in their opinion. I quote often on my blog, “lack of rest got me into this mess, so rest is what will get me out.” I was and still am a very driven woman. Rest is now my first defense against relapsing. Any moment I begin to feel any anxiety creeping in or negative thoughts, I make sure to pull back and find some time to rest. In churches we often preach about doing more, being more for Christ. Many church pastors display a culture of exhaustion for the work of Christ, leading to embarrassing amounts of Christians spiritually dying from burnout. Jesus did all of his ministry from a place of stillness, rest and time with God.
  2. Encourage them to seek a medical doctor – I won’t argue this point for long with facts, and stories and pleading, but an anxiety disorder, is a mental and PHYSICAL issue that needs the guidance of a doctor. There are many physical reasons for panic. Something as simple as an elevated thyroid issue can cause severe anxiety. When counselling a person with mental illness encourage them to seek a doctor first before any other treatment, and if they are prescribed medication- good! It will give them enough stability to work on the other causes.
  3. Ask them what you can pray for specifically – The prayers that helped me the most were specific prayers. Like my sleep. I slept sitting up for 4 months, I suffered panic attacks in the middle of the night. Sleep was torment for me. Specific prayers for me to be able to sleep was huge. Ask the person suffering with panic for specific prayers. They may need enough courage to go to a public event they have been avoiding, or to help with a specific fear. Giving them grace to share specific prayers will also help the sufferer speak out their concerns, and that leads to my last point.
  4. Let them share their experiences and don’t over react to crazy thoughts – I couldn’t even use a knife to prepare dinner for my family of 7. I loved to cook and now the thought of holding a knife brought me to tears as I ran to my room in terror. I was afraid of hurting myself or someone else. Would I have? Looking back now, of course not, but I was plagued with awful harm thoughts, also known as intrusive thoughts or the onset of Harm OCD. I was hesitant to tell my husband how bad I was, how insane my thoughts were, and how irrational my fears had become. When I finally shared with him, I felt such a weight lift off my shoulder, and my husband was able to truly understand why I was so tormented. Giving a person who has a raging battle going on in their mind a safe, non-reactive, and non- judgmental place to share can be life saving for them.

We may never know, in each case, what is spiritual, what is mental or what is physical. I believe that we cannot have one without the other, because that is how God designed us, body, mind and spirit. So I believe when it comes to treating the mind we should treat the whole self. If you have someone in your life that is struggling, I hope these suggestions help you to navigate your response to their captivity, they really need you. If you yourself are battling mental illness, know that you are not alone and there is a lot of help for you, find the courage to seek it out.

Sarah E Ball is a blogger, speaker and author of The Shame Project and the online series and book, Fearless in 21 Days- A Survivors Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (coming in 2017). Sarah lives in a small town in Southern Alberta with her bearded hubby and five children. Sarah is a passionate advocate for those bound in mental torment and is passionate to help them find hope, and freedom, because she is a survivor. You can follow her blog here and help her figure out where to put all those commas, because she still has no clue!

sarah

New Book: The Forgotten – looking for 100 stories from caregivers

As most of you know my life changed back in March 2012 when I had a breakdown. 4 1/2 years later I have had 15 medical specialists, 3 Psychologists, 1 Psychiatrist, 2 Naturopaths. On top of this I have had churches and individuals around the world praying for my health and the support of numerous friends and family.

Something I have heard a few hundred times in the past few years is people asking me how my wife and children are coping with my struggles. These people are asking because it is not them who is struggling but their loved one. I hear terms like these people are floundering or drowning and they don’t know what to do. For the most part the people who have been forgotten in my journey are my wife and children. They have to deal with the ramifications of my anxiety, sleep struggles etc but they don’t have the support around them that I do. I have felt a growing desire to help these forgotten people. My problem with this is that I am not a caregiver to my spouse, child or parent, I am the one struggling. What I have decided to do is to collect stories from caregivers so that their stories can help others.

I am looking for stories if your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, child, parents or a close friend is struggling with any of the following mental health issues:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • bi poloar
  • schizophrenia
  • OCD
  • other emotional issues

I would also love to hear from caregivers whose loved ones are struggling with:

  • cancer or other disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic pain
  • death of loved ones
  • loss of job
  • or anything else that you think might help others

I would love to hear how you are surviving. This is not how you are helping someone dealing with their struggle. It is you letting people know the boundaries, strategies, thoughts, supports that you have in place for you and/or your family to survive in these tough seasons of your life.

I will then collect these stories. package them up in a book (physical and digital) and we can then get a resource out for people who are caregivers.

FAQ (Frequently asked questions)

  1. When do I have to have the stories in by? Dec 1st, 2016
  2. Do I have to use my or my loved ones real name? No. Feel free to use a fake name but if you (and the person you are writing about) are willing to share your story you can also use your real names.
  3. How much should I write? I am not looking for a large chapter from each person. Maybe 500 words or less on what you are doing. I am flexible here.
  4. When will this book be out? As soon as I get the stories out and put the book together. Hopefully Spring/Summer 2017
  5. Will all stories be published? Once all the stories come in I will be able to see how many we have in each category (ie anxiety, cancer etc) I will pick (with the help of some caregiver friends) the stories that have the best strategies for other caregivers for each section.

All stories can be sent to my email at brett@brettullman.com

If you are thinking of writing a story if you could send me your name and email that would be great. That way I can keep track of how many people are involved.

If you know of someone who might be able to help in this project please forward them this blog.

Thanks

Brett

Doing These Two Simple Activities Together Can Reduce Depression by 40% in Two Months

I am always scared when any article says you can fix/reduce depression or anxiety by doing certain things. I began reading this article being sceptical. I ended up really liking this article. If you have seen my talk on mental health I talk about a body, mind and soul approach. We need to look at all of these areas. This article looks at meditation (breathing exercises) and exercise. Cannot go wrong with these 2 things.

The connection between our minds and our bodies is profound. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the way to strong mental health involves bringing our physical selves on board. Recent research has made this strikingly clear, showing how the symptoms of depression can be reduced by 40% with an easy mind/body activity combination.

Click here for entire article.