stop-mental-illness-stigmaPeople with mental illness have traditionally not been treated well. A brief survey of history will reveal that those with mental health problems have been treated differently at best and with dehumanizing brutality at worst. The assumption we tend to make about mental illness is that different is dangerous. We are quick to categorize unconventional or socially inappropriate behavior as mental instability. This perception that all mental illness represents danger, instability or incompetence can easily lead to unintended discrimination and stigmas that are extremely difficult to change.

But, it appears that attitudes toward mental health are changing for the better. A recent national survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide found that 90% of Americans see a connection between a person’s mental health and their ability to function healthily in daily life. Most of those surveyed viewed mental health as important as physical health to overall wellbeing. That’s good new for the estimated 43 million Americans (about 1 in 5 people) that live with a diagnosable mental disorder.

The faces of mental health stigma

Mental health stigmas are perpetuated by many sources. The medical and psychiatric communities like to assign people diagnostic labels such as “bipolar, schizophrenic, depressive” and “neurotic” to name a few. These labels, while helpful for insurance purposes, can easily begin to define the person as an illness instead of a person with a condition. For example, [click to continue…]

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I talk with a lot of worn-out people. Most of these people are overworked and on the verge of burnout. They say they want more work-life balance in their lives but this goal seems to elude them. Most of these folks typically work an average 40-50 hours a week, in addition to their commute. That is manageable for most people. What puts them into the overworked category and primed for burnout is the “second shift.”

This second shift begins when you leave your full-time job and start the endless list of activities that leave you little or no discretionary time to replenish your physical and emotional reserves. These second-shift activities include: running errands, picking up kids at various locations and buying dinner before arriving home. This is followed by a hurried meal, more chauffeuring, a meeting, helping with homework, putting kids to bed, phone calls, dishes and paying bills. There may be even more that you try to squeeze in before you fall into bed exhausted. The overworked or burned out person typically tries to make up for a lack of time by “stealing” from their sleep. They wake up tired the next morning to start another day of the double shift. Do you know anyone who keeps a schedule like that? [click to continue…]

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boundaries in romantic relationshipsYou may not give much thought to the existence of boundaries in your daily life, but they are everywhere. For example, when you are driving on a two lane road, you stay to the right of the center line, especially if there is a car coming from the opposite direction. You are entitled by law to drive in your lane but not on the other side of the road.

If you are a homeowner, you may have a fence that rests on the dividing line between your property and your neighbor’s. The fence acts as a physical reminder of where the different properties start and stop.

At work, you might have cubicle walls or an office that define your work space from that of your colleagues. The computer and desk may not technically belong to you but those are typically seen as your space.

Relationships need boundaries

All healthy relationships have boundaries. In fact, a relationship cannot be healthy if clear boundaries are not in place and respected. Here’s a visual example of how it works: [click to continue…]

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emerging adulthoodSociologists have identified a new trend among young people and refer to it as “emerging adulthood.” Emerging Adulthood is a term that applies to young adults who do not have children, do not live in their own home, or have a substantial income to become fully independent in their early to late 20’s. It is a period where young people delay commitments to vital roles such as career, relationships, and financial obligations until they are more “stable.”

While there may be some benefits in this developmental delay, there are some concerns as well. Let’s look at marriage as one important trend. [click to continue…]

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perfectionWhen I think of someone I would call a perfectionist, I envision a person with impossibly high standards who relentlessly pursues their goals. While it is a positive trait to have high standards and goals, a perfectionist is driven by more than goal achievement. Behind the quest for achievement and success is a fear of failure and a desperate need for affirmation. This person might say: “If I do this project perfectly, then no one will be disappointed or be critical of me.” The problem though is [click to continue…]

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resilienceEvery person faces difficult, sometimes life-altering, events at various points in their life. These events might include the loss of a job, a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a natural disaster or other situations that bring unwanted changes. Some can even be traumatic. Your ability to cope with these stressful life events has much to do with how resilient you are.

What is resilience?

Resilience is your ability to adapt to adversity or unexpected changes that occur in your life. For example, say you have an accident that puts you in a leg cast and keeps you from driving for three months. Some people might respond to this unfortunate event with despair and focus on all the things they won’t be able to do. Others would acknowledge the inconveniences that go along with this situation but put their energy toward finding ways around the obstacles put in their path by the accident. What’s the difference between these two responses? [click to continue…]

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motivating teens

Why does it seem so difficult to motivate your teen to do noble things, such as excel in school, make socially responsible decisions and clean their room? This question of motivation is an ongoing dilemma for many parents. But, it is not as difficult a problem to solve as you might think.

What seems to some parents as irresponsibility and lack of motivation in their teen is really misplaced motivation. Most adolescents want to be successful and responsible in their behavior but get caught in a cycle of confusion that undermines their desire. To understand your teen’s developmental need to succeed and feel good about what they do, let’s first [click to continue…]

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caregiver teamTed watched his father care for his frail mother for over 11 years as the one and only caregiver. Though friends and family members occasionally offered to help, Ted’s father felt that it was his spousal duty to serve her in this way, and do it alone. But when Ted’s father died suddenly of a massive heart attack, it left Ted’s mother with no one to care for her needs. As the oldest adult child, Ted now feels a responsibility to follow his father’s example of sacrificial love and assume the role of sole caregiver for his mother. This entails stopping by her house before and after work each day to check on her and help with unfinished chores. But it doesn’t stop there. On weekends he runs errands for her, does home projects that need attention and transports her to doctor’s appointments. After only a month of this routine Ted has begun to feel burned out. The physical and emotional strain of adding caregiving to his already busy life makes him feel like he is headed for a breakdown if something doesn’t change soon.

It’s obvious to everyone that Ted needs help with his caregiving responsibilities; obvious, that is, to everyone except Ted. He knows he is stressed to capacity, but surprisingly, it never occurs to him to ask other family members or friends for help because he has a fixed belief that he must do this and do it alone. Like his father, he feels no one could care for his mother as well as he can. It is almost like his repayment plan to his mother and father for all they have sacrificed for him these many years. So, he labors on; perhaps to the detriment of everyone involved.

What Ted doesn’t realize is that there is a better caregiving option available that would help preserve his health, give him time and energy to attend to his own family’s needs and still provide quality care for his mother.   [click to continue…]

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substance abuseIt’s not terribly surprising to anyone that when a child is exposed to negative influences that it tends to promote negative behavior in that child. For example, if a young person becomes involved in a gang, that participation is likely to repel them away from their biological family and cause them to spiral deeper into the gang culture and all that entails.

A recent study validated this assumption of negative exposure leading to negative outcomes but measured its effect on a young person’s susceptibility toward substance abuse. The findings showed that the three most potent negative influences on later substance abuse were [click to continue…]

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video-game-2_2362669bThe modern day popularity of video games is undeniable. It is estimated that about 150 million people in American alone regularly play video games. And, if you think the majority of gamers are kids, think again. The average gamer is 31 years of age. Only about a third of gamers are under the age of 18. So, video games are not just for kids. But, regardless of whether it is an adolescent or an adult that is playing, the fun of gaming can easily evolve into an immersion that some might call an addiction. What are the signs? [click to continue…]

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