Why I’m Involved: An Interview with Crystal Lancaster

Why I’m Involved: An Interview with Crystal Lancaster

1. Why are you volunteering at Breaking Taboo?

I am volunteering at Breaking Taboo because I am extremely passionate about the cause of mental health and working towards ending the suicide epidemic currently facing this country. I myself live with Bipolar 1 Disorder. I had my first mental breakdown when I was 16 and was committed to a psychiatric hospital at age 17. I know how hard it is to live life when you are afflicted with such a condition as Bipolar 1 Disorder. I simply want to spread the message that there is hope for everyone who is struggling with some sort of mental ailment and that there is happiness in the days ahead. No matter how many relapses I have or how many breakdowns I endure, I will keep fighting. This disease can be aggressive, but I believe I am stronger, and it will not keep me down. I wish for others to feel this way as well in their own journey to recovery.

2. Why is breaking taboo important?

Breaking Taboo is important because it is creating awareness about mental health and is helping to break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. You can never have too many organizations fighting for the same cause. Most specifically, Breaking Taboo aims to end the vicious cycle of suicide and to educate people about suicide prevention. Over the past decade, the number of suicides nationwide has only increased. We, as a nation, need to find a way to end this cycle. Breaking Taboo, I feel, can be extremely instrumental in that process.

3. What is your favorite thing about volunteering?

My favorite thing would have to be knowing I am helping another person or group of persons out there, and knowing I am part of a greater cause. As an individual, you can only do so much and reach so many people, but when you combine your efforts with like-minded people, it can start a real movement.

4. What is her background in mental health?

My background in mental health stems from almost 19 years of lived experience of having a mental illness. I don’t believe there is a greater way of understanding a mental health condition than having actually lived it. Also, since 2017, I have worked as a volunteer for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), acting as a public speaker, visiting college and high school campuses, as well as psychiatric wards and speaking to young adults about mental health as well as my own personal struggles with it. I am currently pursuing my M.A. in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University, and am learning a great deal about mental health in general.

5. Why is she a mental health advocate?

I am a mental health advocate because I feel mental illness is something many people go through but don’t understand. They feel alienated and alone in their struggles. If I could help only one person today by being a mental health advocate, it would all be worth it. As I said before, I wish for all people struggling with a mental illness to know, they can lead happy, full lives. Recovery is possible and we mustn’t give up hope.

6. How do we go about nationalizing mental health education in schools?

I feel we would have to lobby people in congress or a member of city council to put the ball in motion. Perhaps we could even start a petition, or write letters to congress, requesting mental health education become integrated into school curriculum. Both New York and Virginia last July established laws doing just that. They brought mental health education into their school districts and into their classrooms. Finding ways to get the cause of mental health recognized and emphasize the urgency in educating our youth about illnesses that affect millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people worldwide is key. Illnesses like depression that take the lives of too many people. If we can get the government to listen and to empathize, maybe we have a chance. Presently, mental health education is not a priority of the U.S. government and there is something profoundly wrong with that.

7. What do you do on a daily basis to take care of your mental health and how can others learn from you?

I try to be very mindful of my thoughts, making sure to stop myself when my mind starts going to negative places and reinforcing positive thoughts. I’m always reminding myself to take deep breaths when I start to feel stressed or do positive affirmations. I try my best to eat healthy and take care of my health because my physical health does impact my mental health. I think what others could learn from me in regards to taking care of mental health is to try to refrain from doing things you know will harm your well-being or affect your self-esteem. Avoid situations that might cause you a lot of distress. It is okay to miss a party or dinner with friends if you aren’t feeling up to it. Listen to your body and your needs. It is OK to put yourself first if it means giving you peace of mind.

8. of mind. How can people get involved in destigmatizing mental health?

People can be more mindful of words they use in everyday dialogue. Avoid using stigmatizing words such as “bipolar” or “crazy”. Recognizing people living with a mental health condition are people first. They live with the condition, but it doesn’t define them. Refrain from criminalizing mental illnesses and those that live with them. But most of all, becoming more educated about the mental illnesses that exist and be more empathetic towards those that live with it. The more you learn, the more understanding you will become, and empathy is evolved out of that understanding. Empathy is the key and a main step on the road to finding a solution to ending the mental health crisis.

9. How did you become aware you have bipolar disorder?

I was 15 when my dad passed. A year and a half later, September 11th happened, and for reasons beyond my comprehension, it triggered a trauma inside of me that I didn’t even realize existed. I became heavily depressed, on edge, and paranoid. My mom pulled me out of school. I saw a psychiatrist who had diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When I returned to school, I had become someone else entirely. I was bold and brazen and did things completely out of character for me. I used to be a 4.5 GPA student but when I returned, I was pulling D’s and F’s. I barely graduated high school. That summer things only got worse, and right before I was supposed to start college at UCI, I was committed to a psychiatric hospital instead where they diagnosed me with Bipolar 1 Disorder, however, it wasn’t until about six months to a year later that it really sunk in that I had this monster of a disease.

10. What are things you struggle with because of this disorder?

The medication I take for my disorder helps stabilize my moods, controls my anxiety, and keeps me from hearing voices. My medication is however only one factor of a number of factors that keeps me on the road to recovery. (Other factors would be: strong support system from my mom, boyfriend, other family and friends, seeing my psychiatrist, etc.) Being off my medication in the past has proven highly consequential. I would hear voices again as I did during my first breakdown in high school, become delusional, and have extreme levels of anxiety. My mood might waver from highly euphoric to devastatingly depressed. My last breakdown, I couldn’t get out of bed for five months straight. Every time I tried to leave the house, I felt my anxiety shove me back in. I couldn’t tell delusion from reality. I trusted no one, except for my boyfriend and I thought everyone was conspiring against me. When I experience anxiety, it often surges up inside of me and I am unable to repress it. My brain feels like it’s on fire and I am suffocating. My mind runs a mile a minute and I start to feel like I’m drowning and will sink into the floor. I can’t control my thoughts. I begin to panic and more anxiety grows only causing the current anxiety to increase tenfold. The worst part about my illness is that I never really know when it will strike again. I might notice some signs, but it is unrelenting and brutal. Before I had my second breakdown, I never thought it could happen again, but it did. It caught me completely off guard. You can be as mindful and careful as you like, but sometimes, it trips you up.

How to Juggle Mental Health With Life: An Interview With Danni Blackman

How to Juggle Mental Health With Life: An Interview With Danni Blackman

1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, i.e. where are you from, what are you doing now?

I was born and raised in Orange County, still currently live in Tustin. Aside from taking care of my mental health at an outpatient facility, I work with my family as an administrative assistant at their law firm and I go to school for Gender Studies and Psychology. I am looking to become a therapist once I graduate. During my free time, I enjoy painting, rollerskating, playing music with friends, going to music shows, writing poetry, and reading.

2. What is your diagnosis and when were you diagnosed? When you were diagnosed, how did it make you feel? Panicked? Relieved? Indifferent? Was it hard to accept your diagnosis initially?

I am currently diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder with psychotic features which happened in 2018. 2016 was when I had my first diagnosis of Schizoaffective disorder which eventually deemed to be inaccurate. I was absolutely terrified, in a state of grief, confusion, and anger. It took me about 2 years out of 2.5 years to fully accept my diagnosis.

3. What do you do to cope with your illness? Being an artist and actor, would you say these both play a large role in helping you cope? Would you say a community of people who are more creative are more accepting of someone with a mental illness? If so, why do you think that is?

Painting is my go-to when dealing with my mental illness. It allows me to escape to my safe place where everything and anything is accepted. Acting is no longer a big part of my life anymore but I would agree to that with painting and drawing. From my experience, people who are more open-minded have a better time accepting someone with a mental illness more than anything. Though creativity is helpful with this aspect, I don’t find it’s a dominant feature to one’s ability to empathize and accept those of us who are different.

4. It is entirely understandable for people living with mental illnesses to feel uncomfortable sharing their illness with others for fear of judgment, rejection, or just being treated differently. How comfortable are you about sharing with people about your mental disorder? If there was less stigma surrounding mental illness nowadays, would you be more inclined to talk about your disorder with other people?

I am pretty comfortable about sharing with others about my mental disorder. It doesn’t define who I am anymore and I think it is part of my civic duty to have casual conversations about it so that the stigma decreases.

5. In regards to mental health, what do you feel is an issue that needs to be more talked about and why?

I feel an issue that needs to be talked about more is recovery because the stigma around it for one, leaves people with a disorder more inclined to ignore their healing options and live more difficult lives than they need to. Secondly, with the topic of recovery more involved in conversations, it could potentially lead to easier access to treatment.

6. What are your plans for the future? Would you see your future looks hopeful or dim?

My plans for the future are to become a therapist of some sort and start my own grassroots organization that provides art therapy to people who don’t have access to proper mental health care. I see myself living an activist and artistic lifestyle. With my own recovery in the mix, the future looks overwhelming but also bright and productive.

7. Do you think the government is doing enough to help the mental health community? If not, what would you like to see the U.S. government due to help the millions of Americans who live with mental illness?

No, I do not. Mental health issues are still a very underrated topic and many people are still not able to afford education, medications, and therapies needed to sustain a healthy living. I would like to see better education in schools starting at the Elementary level about mental illness and more affordable care. Everyone deserves a balanced mind.

8. How do you feel about the portrayal of people living with mental illnesses in movies and in T.V.? Is it accurate? Does it need a definite overhaul? What can the media do to help society better understand someone who lives with a mental illness?

I have seen some movies like “The Edge of Seventeen” that depict living with a mental illness gracefully. I have seen others like “Welcome to Me” that display it overdramatized and inaccurately. It could use an overhaul, especially when it comes to telling stories about people with schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. The media could tell stories that display characters less characterized to better understand someone who lives with a mental illness.

9. Do you feel alienated or misunderstood if and when you share with those close to you that you have this mental illness? What is their reaction when you tell them? Do they act differently towards you?

Not at all, the people who are around me are incredibly supportive and understanding. They usually have or know someone else who suffers from a mental illness as well and it usually is a bonding experience. There have only been a couple of times where people have shown more negative reactions and those people are no longer in my life anymore. Those who are close to me treat me with more compassion, but for the most part, they treat me exactly as they did before.

10. What is the greatest piece of advice you can offer someone who feels like they cannot go on living anymore?

Do something you absolutely love doing for a moment. If you don’t have the energy, spend time with someone who can lay down and do nothing with you. You are loved, don’t be alone! You are not a burden.

Dr. Denise Nguyen Interview:  Advice and Experience from a Marriage and Family Therapist

Dr. Denise Nguyen Interview: Advice and Experience from a Marriage and Family Therapist

Meet Denise Nguyen. 

1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, i.e. where are you from and where did you study? What made you want to become a mental health professional? Was there a defining moment or experience that led you in that direction?

I was born and raised in Southern California all of my life. I’m a 2nd generation Vietnamese American. My undergrad was through UCI and then received my Masters and Doctorate through Argosy University in Counseling Psychology (MA and EDDCP programs at the time allowed me to work full-time and pursue my internships). I’m currently licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). I originally went into the mental health profession because I was so fascinated by the stories I’ve heard about my parents’ and relatives’ experiences as refugees during the Vietnam War. I couldn’t understand how they went through such  horrible ordeals (losing children, rape, leaving family members behind to escape, seeing death/persecution, etc.), but came out with such resiliency. However, the more I dug in, the more I saw how depression can be masked in many ways. I learned the stigma that “mental health” held in Vietnamese culture and wanted to find ways to help fix that with other families. In fact, my dissertation thesis was about “The Effect of Social Stigma on 2nd generation Vietnamese Americans: Influencing Attitudes toward seeking Mental Help”

 

A defining moment for me that solidified being in this profession is when my husband (then boyfriend) when through his own hospitalization and continuing to manage as a couple. Seeing it very close and upfront brings a new type of awareness and empathy that I can always channel from, when I’m working with other families.

2. That phrase you quote by Jimmy Dean, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to reach my direction.” What does this phrase mean to you? Would you say that is reflective of an approach you encourage your patients to use in coping or even just in their everyday lives?

This sounds so much like one of my favorite quotes by Charles Swindoll: “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” This is something as a Supervisor, I try to impart onto my staff. Additionally, this is something I try to help all of the clients and families we work with to learn and find some acceptance with situations that arise in their lives as well. There are so many things in life that will be out of our control, but the one thing we do have control over is how we can approach the situation; whether it be in our attitudes towards it, or how we choose to cope with the situation. I’ve worked with children, teenagers, young adults, adults, older adults. I’m blessed to be back in a program (Wraparound) that works to “wrap” the entire family system, so no one person is singled out as “the problem”. Everyone in the family (that agrees to participate) has their own goals that are collaboratively working towards their family vision. So we are able to bring this philosophy to everyone in the child’s “team” essentially!

3. Do you still work as the Wraparound Supervisor at South Coast Community Services and Children’s Society. How did you come to be in that position, and what would you say is the most rewarding aspect about your job?

I might be repeating myself in the previous answer, but I worked in many programs either as a County employee, non-profits, or County contracted mental health programs. Each prior program I’ve worked in, I would just interact with the client themselves or with client and a family member through conjoint therapy. With Wraparound, I love being able to work with the entire family system as our goal is to strengthen the youth & families’ bonds with their surrounding community, in addition to supporting them with their individual goals. We understand that it’s impossible to have the energy to care about your own mental health needs when you might not even know if you’ll be able to pay for your rent for the next month. Our program is able to receive funding to assist with basic needs/safety needs first in order to stabilize the family, and additionally work on acknowledging their mental health needs as well. Pretty much going into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and working to build a solid foundation before delving deeper into other interpersonal goals. Our program is all about celebrating the small milestones, so every time anyone in the family is able to meet a goal: we celebrate as a team! We work mainly with low SES families but we also work with very well-to-do families, as we help normalize their situations and build familial bonds to work towards their success.

4. What is the typical age range that you work with? Are most of your patients open to sharing with you their struggles and issues, or do you find many of them are reluctant to open up? And if the case is the latter, is there a common thread amongst them that you feel might be the reason why?

I’ve worked with children as young as 1.5 years old and up to 21 years old. It really varies with each family that comes into the program, but the nice thing is that the referral has to come through their Therapist, Social Worker or Probation Officer. With that being said, the referral usually comes with a good amount of background information (depending on how long they’ve been opened with one of the 3 referral sources). We have a “no secrets” policy (while also still being mandated reporters) in that we’re open about what the referral say, but we also want to hear in the family’s words about their story…and why they are in the situation they are currently in to be accepting of our services.

In Wraparound, we develop a Plan of Care within the first 30 days, where we ask each family member about Needs that they want to work on. Need statements are the “hole-in-the-heart” needs and when the team is able to build trust and rapport with the families, they usually are able to share their Need…which in turn comes with the families’ story. We don’t have set timelines (we’re open as long as their case with the referral source is open), we don’t have a policy of missing appointments that causes them to be dismissed from the program… it’s really a “whatever it takes” model. We’re a neutral party as well, so we don’t make recommendations to the Psychiatrist, we don’t make recommendations for their court cases, etc. Once the family begins to see that our program is different from a traditional mental health program, they start to open up a lot. Our meetings can be held at parks, in their homes, at a bowling alley, in their therapist’s office, etc. I also think because each team comes with a 1) Case Manager, 2) Parent Partner (aka mentor), and 3) Youth Partner (mentor), that everyone in the family feels there is a representative for their voice.

 

5. Working as a therapist, have you discovered a commonality amongst youth in general, in regards to problems they are having or similar emotions or feelings they are experiencing? Do you encounter many youth who are contemplating suicide or have suicide ideation?

Unfortunately, so many of the youth we work with have contemplated suicide, have expressed suicidal ideations and/or have attempted suicide. There is a pattern of feeling lonely, not accepted/loved, and not understood (by their peers, parents, people in their lives). With every Plan of Care developed, there is a Safety Plan component built in as well. As a Supervisor, I have to assess each referred youth and the youngest case I have is an 8 year old that started cutting (which was only discovered because she posted it on social media).

 

6. Do you work with any adult patients? If so, what is your experience working with adults versus with younger patients?

I’ve worked with adults before and right now in my program, we work with the youths’ parents as well. Working with adults in my past programs on an individual basis, I found it harder to gather information (as they have to give me consent about who I can talk to) to develop a better sense of the client. It also really depended on their developmental age and emotional development, as some adults can very well present like a teenager or younger in how they perceive the world. With trauma, people can get stuck in the developmental age when their trauma occurred, so I find myself using similar techniques I’ve used with the adults I’ve worked with and have shared those same techniques to my current staff when working with their youths (e.g., relaxation techniques, grounding strategies, coping skills/tools). Adults respond well to positive praise and incentives as much as the younger ones too!

 

7. I know as a patient myself, I sometimes feel reluctant to open up to my therapist in fear it will open up old wounds and re-trigger past traumas. Would you say some of your patients have expressed or have seemed to feel similarly? If so, what do you do to make them feel at ease or comfortable in opening up?

I’ve always let clients know that they don’t have to share anything that they’re not ready to share, typically when I’m doing the initial Intake assessment…as it does ask delve into questions about trauma, family history, etc. I’ve certainly had youths tell me very little at times and I let them know that it’s okay. Since my role as a Supervisor doesn’t allow me to be part of the main team that sees the family on a weekly basis, I really try to go out to as many meetings as a I can during the initial phase so the youths and families know my face and can get a sense of my personality. I think that really helps with inserting myself in the very beginning and doing fun activities with the family before I go into “assessing mode”.

 

 

8. see you worked as a Social Worker for more than a year back in May of 2010. Would you say a lot of the issues you encountered as a Social Worker were are relative to a person’s psychology? Did working in the field of social work compel you to want to work even more in the field of psychology as a therapist, and if so, why?

Since I dealt mainly with the elderly population when I was a Social Worker, a lot of the issues I encountered were both related to their psychology but it went hand-in-hand with dealing with aging, health issues, lack of independence, seeing their peers die and losing their social networks, and feeling either helpless or useless within their own family networks…all of which influenced the levels of depression, anxiety, etc. that could have been existing many prior years before. I’ve always seen that social work and psychology should go hand-in-hand, because we do not exist independently in our own bubbles. Our families, friends, community, and world events play a part in our lives (for good or bad) and understanding that social connectedness sometimes puts the pressure off the feeling of, “How come I can’t get better?”

9. How do you feel about the portrayal of people living with mental illnesses in movies and in T.V.? Is it accurate? Does it need a definite overhaul? What can the media do to help society better understand someone who lives with a mental illness?

I’m starting to see more portrayals in movies and TV about mental illness but as someone very invested working with not only the Asian Pacific Islander populations (e.g., seeing more people of color and their families deal with mental illnesses), but the underserved populations as a whole…there is so much more to what’s shown on TV that doesn’t accurately capture what these families go through each day.

10. What is your favorite part about your job?

 

It is a mix of mentoring staff that are working with the youths and families, and still having the ability to interact with the youths and families myself. I’ve been in this field for 10+ years now and am able to be like an “anchor” for my teams in times of high crisis, or to be on the sidelines to hear about all of the successes they’ve been able to celebrate together with their youths & families. I always tell my staff that it can be a thankless job at times, so you have to be able to really find meaning in the daily work that you do…to bring that passion forward each day. But I still get to be a part of those family meetings, I can jump in and fill any role for my teams when needed, and be a part of those celebrations as well.

11. What is the greatest piece of advice you can offer someone who feels that they cannot go on living anymore?

Although you might feel like you cannot go on living anymore, you’ve somehow either searched or reach out to find these words right now… that life is hard, but you are not alone. If you don’t have anyone that you can share this feeling with, do not lose hope because there is someone out there that wants to help you. Search for a therapist and tell them what you’re feeling, and you will have someone to help you bring back hope in your life.

A Breakdown of Eating Disorders

A Breakdown of Eating Disorders

Did you know at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S? Worldwide, 70 million people are considered to have an eating disorder. Commonly, if someone has an eating disorder, it is likely that person may also have another mental illness such as depression or anxiety. This is termed as comorbidity or the co-existence of two or more disorders.

The three main types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder. Let’s discuss the differences between these three:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa is described as persistent restriction of food intake resulting in significantly low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, persistent dissatisfaction with the way one’s body weight and shape are, and a lack of seriousness of underweight body consequences. Anorexia often leads to osteoporosis (deterioration of bones), bone fractures, interruption on menstrual cycle, and brain tissue loss, irregular or slow heartbeat, dry skin and lips, muscle loss, fatigue.
  2. Bulimia is described as the recurring episodes of consuming large quantities of food and followed by self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives. The main difference between Anorexia and Bulimia is that in Bulimia, there is a purging factor whereas Anorexia doesn’t have that. Bulimia can be categorized as a sense of lack of control over what and how much one is eating,  recurrent episodes of binge eating, recurrent purging practices such as misuse of laxatives, vomiting, fasting, or excessive exercise. The binge eating and purging behaviors occur at least once a week for three months. Bulimia can result in cardiac arrhythmia(improper beating of the heart), metabolic deficiencies, and digestive disorders.
  3. Binge-Eating Disorder key factors are recurrent and continuous binge eating episodes which are associated with eating large amounts of food yet not being hungry, eating until uncomfortably full, and feeling disgusted with oneself or guilty for overeating. Some other factors are distress when binge eating and an absence of purging behaviors.

The most common eating disorder in the United States is  Binge-Eating Disorder, and it affects 3.5% of adult women, 2% of adult men, and 1.6% of adolescents. The risk factors of Binge-Eating Disorder are weight gain, fatigue, low self-esteem, depression, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, kidney problems or failure, and osteoarthritis. People with this disorder will usually eat alone because they are embarrassed by how much they eat in a short amount of time.

Family dynamics can be a possible reason for developing an eating disorder. Families who are disengaged, unfriendly, and hostile have been linked to eating disorders. Also parents who are competitive and controlling are more likely to have children who have an eating disorder. Some treatments commonly used for Eating Disorders are Family Therapies and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Family Therapies are when individuals within a family learn healthier ways to interact with each other and resolve conflicts while usually consulting a therapist. Likewise, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist and patient work to try and dissolve the thought process behind the negative self image eating disorders are associated with and alter unwanted behavior patterns. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is also used to treat mood disorders such as depression, and it has been the optimal treatment choice for people with Bulimia and Binge-Eating Disorder.

If you know someone who you think might have an eating disorder, tell them about your concerns in a caring way, and educate yourself on eating disorders to help prepare you for the conversation. The person might feel embarrassed or ashamed, so don’t talk in a negative way about their disorder. Being in a comfortable environment where the person feels safe might also be beneficial. The environment needs to have a calm and open presence to it. Having an eating disorder is a serious mental illness, and if you think you or someone you love may have one, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. There are seriously damaging consequences to having an eating disorder such as bone loss, irregular heart rhythm, kidney failure, and extreme weight loss or gain depending on which eating disorder behaviors you exhibit. 

So remember, people come in all shapes and sizes, and being skinny does not define who you are. It is important to have a healthy mindset of what bodies should look like and spread that on to future generations.

Hotlines:

Crisis Textline: Text CONNECT to 741741

Available 24/7, 365 days a year, this organization helps people with eating disorders and other mental health issues by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who will provide confidential advice, support, and referrals if needed.

Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (formerly the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association): 1-617-558-1881

This organization offers education, information, referrals to clinicians who specialize in eating disorders, support groups, and additional services for people with eating disorders in the New England area. It also offers information about nationwide treatment centers and is available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, Monday–Friday

Overeaters Anonymous: 1-505-891-2664

This hotline is available to people worldwide who need a referral to an Overeaters Anonymous support meeting in their area. Contrary to popular belief, Overeaters Anonymous is not just for people who are concerned about eating too much; it is also intended for those who have anorexia, bulimia, food addiction, or any other type of eating disorder. If you are reluctant to attend an in-person meeting or are not geographically near one, its website offers you the option to participate in an online- or telephone-based support group.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-630-577-1330

Currently serving people in the United States, the hotline operates Monday–Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. CST, with plans for a 24/7 hotline coming soon. Trained hotline volunteers offer encouragement to those having problems around eating or binging, support for those who “need help getting through a meal,” and assistance to family members who have concerns that their loved one might have an eating disorder.

Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673

This is a hotline dedicated to serving anyone in crisis. Sometimes, people with eating disorders might feel so full of shame or self-hatred that they contemplate hurting themselves. If this is true for you, this hotline offers nationwide assistance and support from volunteers specifically trained in crisis intervention. You can talk to someone day or night about anything that’s troubling you, even if it’s not related to an eating disorder. You can also call if you need referrals to eating disorder treatment centers.

~Brook Bennett

How to Meditate Mindfully and its Impact on Mental Health

How to Meditate Mindfully and its Impact on Mental Health

“To meditate is to live simply and honestly in the world as it is,” Jonathan C. Smith.

With increased awareness about the importance of meditation and mindfulness there have been multiple online applications that have been launched. The following are just a few examples of the Best Meditation Apps of 2018 according to, healthline.com, The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Calm, and MINDBODY. The best part about these apps is that they are a finger’s touch away.

If you do not prefer to use technology to mediate you can borrow meditation books from the library or attend yoga or other workout events that are hosted at local libraries, community centers or gyms. These options are usually free of charge. But the main take away is to try and find time for yourself to meditate and focus on your overall wellbeing. 

Pause. You are already here, why not try some mindfulness? 

Here is a basic meditation for beginners guide from mindful.org:

  1. Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this you are going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling. 
  2. Focus on your breath. Find where you breath the most.
  3. Follow your breath for two minutes. Inhale and exhale …

Hopefully that short exercise was able to help you focus on your breathing and practice mindfulness. 

Now that you have been provided with a small introduction on what tools you need to start meditation here is some literature on the effectiveness of meditation and what progress has been made:

The World Health Organization has a comprehensive mental health plan. 

“The action plan calls for changes. It calls for a change in the attitudes that perpetuate stigma and discrimination that have isolated people since ancient times, and it calls for an expansion of services in order to promote greater efficiency in the use of resources.”

Breaking Taboo has taken that step for change. Breaking Taboo is a nonprofit organization that aims to break the stereotype, or taboo, surrounding Mental Health and Suicide. Our intention is to educate, share, and encourage open conversations about this topic. We believe that in order to solve a problem, we must focus on the root cause. In order to save lives, we must kill the silence. In order to kill the silence we must break the taboo

Breaking Taboo is one of multiple organizations that have started taking an initiative to create change. Aside from taking initiative the next step is conducting research on what the effectiveness of meditation is on health. 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has research that shows the effectiveness of meditation on health conditions such as high blood pressure, certain psychological disorders and pain. For anxiety, depression and insomnia, there was a 2014 literature review that suggested that mindfulness meditation programs show moderate evidence of improving anxiety and depression

Meditation and Psychiatry is being studied after millions of people are coming to the conclusion based on their personal experiences that meditation may enhance mental health. In order to understand how meditation might be therapeutic, investigators have to examine its effect on a variety of complex psychophysiological functions and behaviors. How does decreased stress and hypertension relate to decreased autonomic arousal or reactivity? The results of imaging studies show increased gray matter in areas associated with attention suggested neural plasticity (“the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life”) with meditation.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) “is a test that detects abnormalities in your brain waves, or in the electrical activity of your brain.” EEGs and other imaging studies have shown changes in EEG patterns and regional cerebral blood flow with meditation. McGee has conducted extensive research and his take away message is, “Despite the substantial literature suggesting meditation’s benefits for a variety of psychiatric and medical conditions and for enhancing wellbeing and functioning, questions remain regarding the nature of meditation’s efficacy due in part to methodological problems, limitations in study designs, and the need for further research.”

The beauty of meditation is that there are no safety concerns or side effects. The only limitation is if you have a physical limitation which is a discussion point with your primary care provider.  

~Jasneelam Kaur

Jasneelam Kaur, recently relocated to Los Angeles. Health educator, foodie and traveler, currently spending time enjoying the simple things in life.