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    t3 Threads: Changing the Conversation

    5 Things to do Today to Fend off SADness

    I am affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. Ironic as it may seem, SAD tends to make me sad.  It affects my mood, my motivation, and my ability to focus.

    What is the cause of this yearly disturbance? It’s related to the change in seasons.  As autumn progresses, the sun shines more directly over the Southern Hemisphere, until it reaches December 25, when it begins to make its way slowly back toward the equator and the Northern Hemisphere. This scientific phenomenon is the reason why the sun does not rise quite as high in the fall and winter as it does throughout the rest of the year. Lasting darkness causes my seasonal depression and lethargy. 

    When I was a kid, my parents would trick me into an earlier bedtime by reminding me that when it was dark outside, I should be asleep. Now at 26 years old, I just feel depressed during the darkest months of the year. It’s hard to wake up because it’s still dark outside. My office doesn’t get much natural light, so I’m sleepy all day. And, the sun begins to set before or during my commute home. Thus, I’m sluggish, mildly depressed, and my diet shifts radically toward fatty, salty, comfort foods.

    3 Tips for Bringing Mindfulness to Everyday Experiences

    As more of us explore ways to manage and respond to the stresses of everyday living, it can be helpful to look at approaches others have taken. One approach I have found helpful is mindfulness. Mindfulness can improve one’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health and well-being.

    What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the act of purposefully paying attention to what is happening in the present moment without judgment. I have read many articles about self-care and mindfulness and very few offer examples of how to incorporate mindfulness-oriented activities into everyday living, besides doing yoga – which isn’t something I, personally, enjoy. After thinking about how I try to be more mindful in my daily life, I have come up with three personal tips I find helpful:

    Providing Quality Minority Mental Health Care

    Research on “health care disparities,” the euphemism for unnecessary deaths and adverse outcomes among people from low socioeconomic groups and from communities of color, often attribute them to individual characteristics and structural barriers within mental health systems. Most often an individual’s use of services as well as the way services are arranged and delivered are cited as causes.

    I want to begin by commenting on what is going wrong and then discuss what is hopeful in the provider-client relationship. Although research is taking place, there is little agreement about best practices and ethical standards in minority mental health care. The issues of staff bias, racism, institutional racism, prevailing practices, and methods of prioritizing who gets time and attention are omitted from the discussion. Also, questions of discrimination that stem from preconceived notions and racial profiling of African American people and/or questions of how stigma influences medical decisions are absent, if not actively avoided, in discussions of healthcare disparities.

    Trauma Therapies Support Enduring Sense of Safety

    Trigger Warning: Trauma re-enactment

    I am 65 years old and a trauma survivor. When I entered therapy, I was labeled as having an adolescent adjustment reaction. Years later, the mental health label was changed repeatedly—from schizoaffective disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression and then later to dissociative identity disorder, paranoia, and bipolar disorder. It was clear to me that my trauma symptoms determined the diagnosis. I wanted a cure and a reduction of my symptoms, instead of a variety of methods to merely manage them.

    My commitment to making therapy work was matched by the efforts of my therapist. She is a learner spirit and as tenacious as I am. Even so, it has taken a lifetime to arrive at an enduring sense of safety and freedom from the daily derailing of my consciousness by the intrusion of trauma memory content. Therapy changed as new knowledge of the impact of trauma emerged. I wondered if there was a way to combine therapies to improve the quality of my life and speed recovery.

    Paying Attention to Mental Health while Living on the Streets

    Trigger Warning: Violence, Trauma

    Being on the streets poses many challenges. Finding food, water, and shelter from the elements is always the top priority. But, the one thing that we (even street folks) forget about is mental health.

    While I was on the streets, thinking about my mental health always felt like a tsunami. About seven years ago, I was living on Haight Street in San Francisco. I hung around Golden Gate Park, often sleeping somewhere in the thick of the park. I had been in San Francisco for about three months, had made some great friends, and was in the midst of living the California dream. I spent most of the day hanging out with friends, panhandling, and making music, arts, and crafts - just trying to have a good time. I had gotten in the habit of sleeping with my friends, but one night I didn’t have the energy to make it up yet another hill; if you don’t like hills don’t go to San Francisco without a car. I decided to sleep in Panhandle Park instead of walking all the way back to Golden Gate where my friends gathered. I woke up at 6:30 am, packed up my stuff, and took a quick inventory of my things. I had $20, so I raced to the local coffee place, grabbed breakfast for everyone, and went to Golden Gate.

    Supporting Families with New Babies: We All Have a Role to Play

    May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Nearly 44 million American adults and an estimated 13 –20 percent of children living in the United States (up to 1 out of 5 children) experience a mental disorder in a given year. According to Postpartum Progress, one in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression or a related illness and the rate for women of low socioeconomic status increases to one in four.

    May is also a significant month in my family. This year, I turned 40, and my oldest daughter turned 5. I have been thinking about Mental Health Awareness Month and these milestones, reflecting on how my life changed when I became a mom and who supported our family along the way…

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