The big news this month is the decision by the National Indie
Excellence Awards to name Medicines
for Mental Health
a finalist for 2008! I am very excited
by this news. Read more about the details below!
This week's featured article is by Elaine Klonicki, a freelance writer
and former columnist for The
News and Observer
in Raleigh, North Carolina. Elaine's
interests span the range from military history to psychotherapy. She
has written three books, one of which is a guidebook to therapy. I
invite you to visit her Web site and blog at www.klonicki.com
and read more about her books, her background, and her interests.
Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.
P.S. As always, if you do not wish to receive email from me, please let
know, and I will remove your name from my list.
Do you have experiences you would like to share about how you have
coped with mental illness? Uplifting stories? Educational stories?
Email me with your idea, and if it makes sense, I will be happy to
include it in a future issue.
Funny stuff from around the Internet.
Three Trips, one Death
A noted psychiatrist was a guest at a gathering, and his hostess
naturally broached the subject in which he was most at ease.
"Would you mind telling me, Doctor," she
asked, "how you detect a mental deficiency in somebody who appears
"Nothing is easier," he replied. "You
ask him a simple question which everyone should answer with no trouble.
If he hesitates, that puts you on the track."
"What sort of question?"
"Well, you might ask him, 'Captain Cook
made three trips around the world and died during one of them. Which
The hostess thought a moment, then said
with a nervous laugh, "You wouldn't happen to have another example
would you? I must confess I don't know much about history."
What's Wrong Doc?
also from Joke
An elderly woman called the hospital
to inquire about the health of a patient.
"Hospital Operator? Hello, Darling. I'd like to talk with
who gives the information about the patients. But I don't want to know
if the patient is better or doing like expected, or worse. I want all
the information from top to bottom, from A to Z."
The voice on the other line said, "Would
you hold the line please,
that's a very unusual request." Then a very authoritative voice came on
and said, "Are you the lady who is calling about one of the patients?"
She said, "Yes, darling! I'd like to
know the information about Sarah Finkel in Room 302."
said, "Finkel. Finkel. Let me see. Farber, Feinberg... Finkel. Oh yes,
Mrs. Finkel is doing very well. In fact, she's had two full meals, and
her doctor says if she continues improving as she is he is going to
send her home today at twelve o'clock."
The woman said, "Thank God! That's
wonderful! She's going home at
twelve o'clock! I'm so happy to hear that. That's wonderful news."
"From your enthusiasm," the man on the
other end said, "I take it you must be a close family member."
She said, "What close family? I'm Sarah
Finkel! My doctor doesn't tell me anything."
The Doctor will See You Now
, which is really on a roll this week.
A patient went into the
doctor's office feeling
in a great hurry to talk with the doctor. When the receptionist asked
about the problem the patient said he thought he was invisible.
The receptionist told the patient she
would have to check with the doctor to see if they would be able to
squeeze him in or not.
When the receptionist told the doctor
about the strange condition of
the patient, the doctor took a look at his watch, thought for a couple
of seconds, and said, "Tell him I can't see him."
Send me your
favorite joke, funny story, or amusing picture, as long as
it is related to mental illness. Keep it upbeat, please! Jokes
involving mental illness are welcome, but jokes that demean mental
illness are not. If it's appropriate, I'll put it up on the humor page.
News: The National Indie Excellence Awards
I am pleased to announce
that Medicines for Mental Health
has been declared a finalist in the Medical category of the National
Indie Excellence Awards
for the year 2008. The NIEA holds an annual competition designed to
independent publishers and authors. Authors and publishers submit books
for review in numerous fiction and non-fiction categories. Books
selected for finalist or winner status this year were announced to the
national media at Book Expo America, on May 30.
Recognition as an "Indie winner" is a big deal in the independent
publishing industry, so the selection of Medicines for Mental Health
as one of three finalists in the Medical category is big news!
I frankly did not expect this development. Medicines
layman's reference guide to psychiatric medication. It is a useful
book, bit it does not pack the drama of personal
narratives more commonly published for a popular audience.
(Indeed, my scan of the 2008 results page shows that it is the only
reference book listed.) So the fact that the reviewers nominated Medicines
finalist is all the more remarkable, and I am very pleased to announce
the news here.
Therapy for Me?
by Elaine Luddy Klonicki
Research shows that psychotherapy works well for emotional problems,
and it can improve your overall health status, but many people are held
back from utilizing it by a fear of the unknown. How do you know if you
need to go? What will be expected of you? For most people, just
thinking about going for professional help can be both
anxiety-provoking and intimidating.
Only you can decide if therapy is the best way to deal with your
problems. There are other options. Should you take medication, read
self-help books, take classes, or try an exercise program to reduce
your stress level? Should you instead turn to a close family member or
friend or an esteemed clergy person? There are many factors to consider
such as how much you are suffering, how long you've had the problem,
and how much time, energy, and money you have to invest in yourself.
Some people seek therapy to "nip it in the bud" and others wait until
they've exhausted every other avenue and turn to it "as a last resort."
You will want to consider your decision carefully; your own well-being
is at stake.
do I know if I need to go to a therapist?
Most psychological sources agree on the symptoms which indicate
possible mental illness and the need for immediate treatment. The
American Psychiatric Association
Web site lists the
warning signs of mental illness, the difference between the types of
mental health providers, and suggestions for choosing therapists. But
what about the vast majority of us who are not mentally ill, but are
suffering nonetheless? Does everyone who is depressed, anxious,
overwhelmed with relationship problems, or in a current crisis need
therapy? In these cases, the guidelines are not as clear-cut. It may be
helpful to think of therapists as being similar to other consultants,
such as financial analysts, who provide professional services.
Obviously some people really need their help and others seem to have no
need. Everyone else falls somewhere between on that continuum. Most of
us, at one time or another, could live more effectively if we adjusted
our thinking and behaviors, and therapists are trained to help us learn
to do that.
Some common reasons that people seek help:
- Relationship problems (with parents, kids, siblings, or
- Separation and divorce
- Prolonged illness or death of a loved one
- Unplanned pregnancy, loss of a job, or other major life
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Eating disorders, substance abuse, and other addictive
- Post-traumatic stress
According to the December
1999 Surgeon General's report on mental
, a total of
fifteen percent of the U.S. population use mental health services in
any given year. If you are thinking about therapy, you are probably
experiencing one of three things: 1) stress due to a particular
situation in your life, 2) on-going difficulties related to your
personality or behavior, or 3) emotional or physical symptoms.
With Situational Stress (Crisis)
Sometimes when a crisis occurs, it can overwhelm you and throw you so
far out of sync that you have a hard time coming to grips with it. The
death of a loved one, the loss of a significant relationship, severe
health problems, or a job layoff can hit you so hard that you can't
seem to bounce back. Transitions can trigger emotional responses in you
that have been long buried, and feelings of anger or abandonment can
quickly rise to the surface. You may find yourself crying all the time
or unable to eat. Therapy can provide a safe place in which you can
explore these feelings and try to make sense of them in order to move
on with your life.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychologist who specializes in issues related
to death and dying, explains that there are five stages of grief:
denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It takes time
and support from others in order to move from one stage to the next
until you finally reach acceptance of the event. The goal of grief
therapy is to promote acceptance of your loss and a positive outlook
for the future.
Ineffective Behaviors (Personality Difficulties)
While some events arise suddenly and unexpectedly, other situations
evolve more slowly. You may have one bad relationship after another or
be unable to figure out why you can't reach your goals. You may begin
to exercise to excess or use alcohol or food to distract yourself from
the pain. Eventually the frustration level builds until you
decide to seek some help. In this case, therapy may help you to realize
that your own choices and behaviors may be contributing to the
difficulties you are encountering. As you realize how your past has
affected your present situation, you begin to understand that you can
choose your future.
This is the reason that people often stay in therapy long after the
original problem has been solved, and why they can sometimes even enjoy
therapy. It is heady stuff, this knowledge that you can control at
least some of the outcomes in your life. Of course you know from
experience that changing your own behavior is easier said than done.
Although early in your therapy you may be convinced about taking charge
of your life, the rest of therapy involves learning the tools and
techniques to help you do that.
Depression or Anxiety (Symptoms)
Sometimes you don't have a specific problem in your life; you just
don't feel happy, and you're not sure why. You feel unmotivated,
disconnected from other people, and unsure of the meaning of your life.
You don't know how to begin to figure out who you are and what you need
to do in order to feel better. It may even be difficult to begin
therapy because you don't have a specific crisis or problem to point to
for your dissatisfaction. In this situation therapy might provide you
with structured time for introspection. You might discover that talking
about-or even thinking about-feelings is especially difficult for you
and may need medication either at the start of therapy or in
conjunction with therapy.
Many of us were taught that we're supposed to be tough, to handle
whatever comes along, and to ignore how we really feel. Maybe you were
taught that all you needed to rely on was yourself and your logic;
feelings were for the weak or just got in the way. Therapy might help
you to question some of your assumptions. Your therapist might explain
that feelings give us information about our environment. You might
learn that fear helps to keep you safe; anger helps to motivate you to
change a frustrating situation; and guilt alerts you about a behavior
you shouldn't repeat. Your therapist might help you to learn to deal
with your feelings, no matter what they are. In therapy, as you come to
believe in the purpose of feelings, you might gradually learn to stop
suppressing them, and begin to feel "alive" and joyful again.
Your decision to seek therapy must be a personal one based on the
intensity and duration of your emotional pain and what you've already
tried in order to find relief. If you are tired of trying to solve your
problems alone and have run out of ideas, or if others are beginning to
suggest that you get some help, you should probably take it as a sign
that you're in over your head. If you are considering therapy, I
suggest that you see a therapist for an assessment, the sooner, the
better. You may have to interview several therapists to find one with
whom you can connect, but the investment will be worth it.
You don't have to be in severe distress before you seek help, and you
don't have to commit to long-term therapy. Just go check it out.
Qualified therapists are very honest about the type of help they
provide and the degree to which you may benefit from their services.
Your mental and emotional health are just as important as your physical
health, and there is no need to suffer when effective treatment is
available. Most people begin to feel more hopeful in just a few
sessions, and significant results can be achieved in six months to one
year. So take a deep breath, and make that first call today!
10 Tips for Success in Therapy
- Expect therapy to work!
- Educate yourself about the process.
- Follow a good plan for therapy.
- Interview therapists and trust your intuition about whether
they are right for you.
- Attend sessions regularly and allow yourself time for
- Be open minded. You are seeking therapy because you
couldn't solve the problem yourself, so it might be time to consider
another point of view. Accept the help which is being offered.
- Be patient. Therapy takes time to work. Some changes will
come slowly, and some realizations will happen overnight.
- Be good to yourself. Therapy is hard work.
- Be an assertive consumer-speak up if you have a concern.
- Above all, be honest with yourself. If you are not ready to
change, don't waste the therapist's time.
Elaine Luddy Klonicki is the author of All on Account of
You: A True WWII Love Story
, Normandy to the
, A Taste of Taffy
Words: A Sentimental Journey
, and Thinking
. Visit her Web site and blog at www.klonicki.com
You Looking for Writers?
If you are looking for articles on mental-health and medication issues,
for an online or printed publication, send me a note. I write for
various publications, and may be able to help.
MentalMeds News --
Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Thompson
May be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided material is
attributed to Kevin Thompson, Ph.D. at www.MentalMeds.org