Stigma and Depression

Stigma and Depression

There is good news for those who worry about the stigma associated with mental health.

The amount of stigma surrounding counseling is much less than it used to be.  When I first started counseling in the late 70s, some men would not schedule appointments during daylight hours for fear of being seen going to a counselor’s office.

Although attitudes have improved, many people still view getting help with emotional problems as embarrassing or even shameful. In large part, this discomfort is due to certain lingering myths about mental health. Common myths created misunderstandings about psychological disorders and their treatment. Here are some common notions which are misleading and or false:

Coping with COVID, Depression and the Holidays

Coping with COVID, Depression and the Holidays

Where to begin ?  2020 has been an absolutely horrible year for so many with increased social and racial tensions, violence, economic ruin, sickness and death all under the never ending threat of the COVID virus.  Indeed, these have been depressing times.  Worse, the unexpectedly long duration of this plague has worn down the our resolve and exhausted our energy and dampened the joy of the holiday for many .  This year  depression is not simply a clinical diagnosis. For many it is a daily reality. 

Nonetheless, the end of the year has brought signs of hope.  We have new president who acknowledges the reality of the viral threat and is committed to waging a vigorous and unified attack against the disease. Most importantly, the arrival of effective vaccines will mean that the end of the devastation and death is in the foreseeable future.

Whether you suffer from depression which pre-existed COVID or whether life over the past few months has simply become too much, here are some tips to help you cope with the holidays and make it to the new year:

New Research offers Hope for Resistant Depression

New Research offers Hope for Resistant Depression

A lot of brain research has been in the news lately but this one really is a “big deal” ! For those who have who  suffer from treatment resistant depression and who maybe considering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) this research and, specifically,...
Sneaky Depression Triggers

Sneaky Depression Triggers

Here is a great link from Web M.D. that lists 18 triggers for depression that you might not have recognized and which become more potent as we age. 1. Midlife 2. Overload 3. Low vitamin B 12  4. Low testosterone, lowered libido  5.Thyroid disorders 6. Arthritic pain...
The Depressive “Hole”

The Depressive “Hole”

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel depressed. Indeed, we commonly associate depression with sadness and tears, but there is so much more to this painful condition. DEPRESSION | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

When bad things happen to us, it is normal to feel depressed for a while. With time, most folks adjust and things return to normal. Others, however, get stuck and things don’t improve. Clinical depression is a condition that does not just go away.

Depressed moods don’t improve, in part, because depression is not just about how we feel. It’s also about how we perceive.

Depression distorts the way we see ourselves and our outlook on the world. A restricted view blocks our ability to see resources and options and, thus, the situation can look worse than it is.

Although it’s difficult to approximate what a depressed person experiences, the analogy of being in a deep hole comes close.  Among other things, being in a hole makes it impossible to see anything but the hole.  How depression and anxiety disorders affect our perception of reality (telepsychhealth.com)

Thus, depression prevents us from having a panoramic perspective on our life.  Worse, when we are in it, we don’t realize that our perspective is limited. Fortunately, there are ways to become aware.

If things haven’t felt right for more than a couple of weeks and you just can’t shake that feeling, here are some tips to help you know if you’re in a depressive hole and, if needed, how to get out of it:

Thanksgiving & Stress

Thanksgiving & Stress

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many families are busy with cooking or travel plans.  Although this is a festive time of year, there are those for whom the season is difficult and filled with pain.

Sometimes the contrast between the Norman Rockwell painting and a person’s reality can be depressing. Indeed, having unrealistically high expectations may  create unnecessary disappointment.    https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/housecall-10-tips-for-coping-with-holiday-stress/

Besides the hype there are all kinds of reasons that can cause problems.  Physical or emotional illness, financial or work stress, marital conflicts, recent loss or loneliness are just a few of some of the challenges that can complicate holiday celebrations.

Likewise, when extended family members or friends gather, long standing feuds and political differences may be a source of strife. So, today I want to offer some tips that can reduce your stress and increase your joy for the holiday season, whatever the problem : 

Common Porn Myths

Common Porn Myths

Recently, I have noticed a significant up-tick in the numbers of clients contacting me who erroneously feared that they had a pornography addiction.  After a careful examination, it was clear that, while they had been suffering from misinformation, they did not have an addiction. 

It needs to be understood from the outset that even though “pornography addiction” is a  popularly used term, I do not find it a help way to conceptualize the problem nor is it listed in the DSM5 as a disorder. Religious or moralistic discussions often denounce problematic masturbation and porn viewing as immoral or a lack of self-control without understanding of its psychological origins. 

Although pornography is part of the problem with which these men struggle , it rarely was not  the root.  Prior childhood trama,  religiously induced guilt and shame about sex and marital dischord are common underlying culprits.

The last time I wrote on this subject was four years agao. A Reasonable Approach for Discussing Masturbation and Pornography: Part 1 | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com) .  Given that misunderstanding has not declinced, I wish to debunk some of the most common myths about  pornography.   

A recent article in Slate on-line provides an excellent segue for this discussion. What NoFap does to your brain: Why so many people who abstain from masturbation end up suicidal. (slate.com)  Although it’s focus is on a particular anti-masturbation effort, NoFap, it provides a goosd summary of  the major false notions about pornography.  

Suicide: An Update

Suicide: An Update

A recent article in the Syracuse Post-Standard cited the alarming rise in teen-age suicides and homicides beginning with COVID-19 which has continued to the present.  https://www.syracuse.com/us-news/2023/06/suicides-and-homicides-among-young-americans-jumped-early-in-pandemic-study-says.html
What is even more disturbing is the fact that suicide rates were already increasing before the pandemic. https://wjla.com/news/nation-world/more-than-a-mental-health-concern-nationwide-increase-in-suicides-prompts-newquestions?fbclid=IwAR1qWZbKn3G1ex_bv8XryK22NuohENbDSC2v87crC_YCcUBpyLoMM-BWEgI

Given other reports on our current mental health crisis, it’s probably a good time to update what we know about suicide.

HOW TO TALK ABOUT SUICIDE

To begin, an important change which has taken place in suicide discussions is the words that we use to talk about it.  Instead of saying that someone committed suicide,  a better way to express it is to say that the person died by suicide .

While this might seem like a trivial distinction, the change emphasizes the fact that, in most cases, suicide is not a free choice or conscious act. In addition, the traditional expression of committing suicide denotes needless stigma and shame.