Stigma Takes Lives!

Often the worst part of a mental illness is not the illness itself but the societal shunning that results from it. Mental illness hits 20% of Americans every year, but because of shame and stigma, many never seek the help they need.
There’s no shame in mental illness. Most highly intelligent, creative people have one or another form of it. The damage is done by keeping it hidden, where it festers, warps, grows, and takes over the soul. Open up to the world. Never worry alone.

Stigma and the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are some of the topics Dr. Hallowell discusses in his video on Stigma Takes Lives.

Let’s start a grassroots movement to eliminate the stigma and shame associated with mental illness.
Learn more in my podcast on “End the Stigma of Mental Health.

RESOURCES 

What To Do When You’re Having A “Not Very Okay” Day

When you’re worried, stressed or having a “Not Very Okay At All” day, Dr. Hallowell recommends you “Never Worry Alone.” On those days when you’re not feeling quite right, remember his advice and find your “Piglet” (read passage below) to share how you’re feeling.
“Piglet?” said Pooh.
“Yes Pooh?” said Piglet.
“Do you ever have days when everything feels… Not Very Okay At All? And sometimes you don’t even know why you feel Not Very Okay At All, you just know that you do.”
Piglet nodded his head sagely. “Oh yes,” said Piglet. “I definitely have those days.”
“Really?” said Pooh in surprise. “I would never have thought that. You always seem so happy and like you have got everything in life all sorted out.”
“Ah,” said Piglet. “Well here’s the thing. There are two things that you need to know, Pooh. The first thing is that even those pigs, and bears, and people, who seem to have got everything in life all sorted out… they probably haven’t. Actually, everyone has days when they feel Not Very Okay At All. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.
“And the second thing you need to know… is that it’s okay to feel Not Very Okay At All. It can be quite normal, in fact. And all you need to do, on those days when you feel Not Very Okay At All, is come and find me, and tell me. Don’t ever feel like you have to hide the fact you’re feeling Not Very Okay At All. Always come and tell me. Because I will always be there.”
So whenever you’re having a “Not Very Okay At All” day, remember Piglet’s message and Dr. Hallowell’s advice – “Never Worry Alone.” Connect. Reach out. Commiserate. Brainstorm. Hug. Eat together. Do whatever you want; just don’t let yourself get cut off from others. Depression, stress or toxic worry cause their greatest damage to people who feel isolated.
The human connection is like an essential vitamin. I call it the other vitamin C; this is vitamin connect. It fortifies us and gives us courage. Sometimes people don’t reach out because they think no one can help, or no one knows the problem well enough to offer suggestions that the worrier hasn’t already thought of. But the point of reaching out is not just to get solutions. Even more important, it is to get a feeling, the feeling of support. So reach out even when you know the person you are reaching out to will have no idea of how to solve your problem.
Watch Dr. Hallowell’s YouTube video to learn more about The Power of Vitamin Connect.
If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or stress and need help, The Hallowell Centers employ a “strength-based” approach to treating ADHD and other cognitive and emotional conditions. Whether you’re dealing with bi-polar disorder, ADHD, depression or another condition, Dr. Hallowell’s strength-based model emphasizes first and foremost the search for what is good and strong and healthy in a person, then secondarily what is in need of remediation.

Today marks the release of my new book, Because I Come from a Crazy Family: The Making of a Psychiatrist.  

Unlike any book I’ve written before, this one only tells stories, true stories from my childhood and my early training in psychiatry.  I introduce you to the great array of eccentric, wonderful, colorful and yes, sometimes crazy people who populated my life.

Growing up I didn’t know we were any different from other families.  I thought the zaniness that surrounded me was just the way life was.  Everyone was very loving, often very funny, usually unpredictable, and most of the time a lot of fun.  This memoir is a celebration of craziness, my way of expressing my pride in my family in all our differences, craziness included.

It’s time to blast away the stigma that has plagued mental illness for thousands of years.  The fact is, many, if not most people of exceptional talent struggle with one or another of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses–depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder, reading disorders, or various personality disorders–yet they don’t seek help because they fear the shame and stigma that comes with the diagnosis.

I see these conditions as markers of talent.  When I diagnose someone, I tell them we are embarking on a process of unwrapping their gifts.  The mental illness can completely bury the talent so that it cannot emerge, or it can conceal it so that it can only partially emerge.  My job as a psychiatrist is not just to treat the illness but just as important to develop the talent, to encourage the growth of the healthy part of the person.

One reason I wrote my new book was to show personally, through characters in my own family, how talent and mental illness can appear in the same person; how lack of treatment can bring a person down, but also how proper treatment can save a person altogether; and how wonderfully freeing it can be to live true to oneself with others who appreciate who you are for who you are without shame or recrimination.

The great gift my family gave me was just that: permission, indeed, insistence to be real.  Our only real rule was don’t be a phony. And so in this new book I share with you all the true and wonderful characters I grew up with, and then the true and wonderful people who taught me psychiatry at the old Mass. Mental Health Center.  The best teachers I ever had were the patients who let me take care of them.  Like the people in my family, they could never be phony.  Sometimes I couldn’t understand them, but I always new they were real and true.

It gives me enormous pleasure to share with you all the gifts they gave to me through this memoir.

Please read more and order here