Mental Health Education For Family Members and Friends of Loved Ones with Mental Illness

lifelonglearning

Yesterday I learned that Amy Bleuel, the Founder of Project Semicolon, a global nonprofit founded in 2013 that is dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury had passed away at the young age of 31. I was deeply saddened by this news. For one, I knew the impact she had made via Project Semicolon, and the thousands of lives she had touched through a cause that started out as a way to honor her late father who had died by suicide years earlier. But also, I felt a bit numb because Amy and I had spoken one-on-one on several occasions. Besides being a speaker for the Love Yourself Love Your Business virtual conference, we had very vulnerable conversations with each other about mental health and the things going on in our work lives that were stressing us out and frustrating us. You don’t get to have that kind of intimacy often in this entrepreneurial dog eat dog world, so I felt awful that I didn’t even realize I no longer saw her posts which used to come very frequently through my Facebook newsfeed. But I think she would be proud to know that I’ve gotten a whole heck of a lot better with my coping skills. #Counseling #GetYouSome

Feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, heart brokenness, worry, fear, and angst because it hits a little too close to home are all feelings that I learned were very normal, and I have to thank my most recent mental health education for that. One major reason why it’s been extremely hard for me to keep up with everyone, (besides the fact that it’s just hard to do that with thousands of social media connections) is that my own family had crisis. My immediate family and most closest friends know more details about my own history with years of struggling with depression and anxiety, which was chronic and mild. So, when a family member has a major episode of psychosis we were unfortunately ill prepared. My ideas of calm meditation, eating healthy, yoga, and mindfulness kinda went out the window because telling someone who wields a sword and declares that they will protect the people of earth as a chosen warrior of God, to add some zen to their life doesn’t really cut it…at least not at that time.

And so determined to understand psychosis, which was new to me on a personal level, be a better knowledge base for my family and anyone else who came my way wondering how the heck do you deal with the sudden loss of a loved one either by physical death, or death of a personality you had grown to love, I took up the Mental Health First Aid training which is free and accessible, so I can be more aware and appropriately responsive.

I also enrolled in the NAMI Family-to-Family classes with my mother. NAMI Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session educational program for family, significant others and friends of people living with mental illness. It is a designated evidenced-based program. Research shows that the program significantly improves the coping and problem-solving abilities of the people closest to an individual living with a mental health condition.

I joined NAMI back in 2015 and even went to the annual conference in my state. I had been on the fence about being involved this year because I had gotten lost in their system via no responses to my correspondence and attempts to get more involved, which isn’t unusual for nonprofits at all. This is why I’ve a love/hate/grudgingly respect and appreciate relationship with large nonprofits and prefer to partner with smaller grassroots organizations. But I am very glad that NAMI has this program and I highly recommend checking it out even if you yourself have a mental health issue.

As someone who has been in mental health recovery for about 8 years it was completely new to hear from family members who associated themselves as “not mentally ill” and yet had the heart and determination to empathize and “come out” as die hard advocates.  I say new because I am used to hearing from people with lived experience rather than the outside looking in when they aren’t paid to be looking from the outside in. It gave me perspective, to say the least. I think perspective in and of itself can save a life.

Dr. Kelly Brogan (who I find quite controversial and wonderfully fascinating) wrote that “people require basic tools, simple truths, and community.” I agree with that. And I know that education is one of those basic tools.

The truth is, there is stigma within the mental health community itself.  Psychologists and Psychiatrists go at it, and so do people who have “severe” mental illness vs. those who have “high functioning” mental health disorders. I know for a fact that Amy had people questioning a lot of what she was doing, some of her ideas and thought leadership, and some of those people also had mental health issues.  This is why I believe that education isn’t just for the professionals who treat mental health disorders, but for the people who call themselves advocates and allies as well.

I’m going to end with this, if you felt triggered by the death of Amy do not feel ashamed, or guilty because you feel you are making it about you and not them…those feelings are normal and you are not alone. Reach out. The legacy continues as we continue to share our stories, as we continue to increase awareness and fight injustice and medical practices that do more harm than good. Let’s continue to share our hopes, our dreams for a society that has no stigma and a world that believes in mental wellness for all.

If you or a loved one need support right now, you can reach National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling: 1-800-273-8255. 

The Necessity of Self-Care for Black Women Making History Everyday with Dr. Kesha Moore

To celebrate Black History Month while cultivating my commitment to mental wellness and self-love on this blog, I invited one of my mentors, Dr. Kesha Moore to help me share some tips on practicing self-care as we work towards elevating our lives beyond just merely surviving but thriving.

Dr. Kesha delves deep into why is self-care so important for black women and how it has played a major role in the resilience of black women throughout history. We also discuss why self-care is even considered an “act political warfare” especially for black women. And finally we talk about how black women can practically apply self-care when faced with daily micro-aggressions.

You can listen to the recording by clicking here

About Dr. Kesha Mooredrkeshamoore

Kesha Moore, PhD is an educator, author, speaker, and executive coach who helps professional women maximize their productivity while creating lives of balance. Dr. Moore is the CEO of Life In Focus Coaching. She is also the author of the book Your Life as a Celebration: Accomplishing your goals with less stress and more joy.

Through her writing, teaching, and coaching activities, Dr. Moore provides female professionals with the most effective, research backed strategies for their personal and career development. She presents this information in a manner that is easy to understand and apply. Dr. Moore’s recognizes and has compassion for the significant challenges professional women face in fulfilling the competing demands of career and family. She discusses her challenges in this area and openly admits that “I was my first client.”

Key Highlights from interview

Self-care is a lot like cherishing a newborn. It is loving ourselves, nurturing ourselves, protecting ourselves, and not because we’ve accomplished anything. It’s because this is who we are. We are already people of tremendous value, unique and irreplaceable. So it’s not that we deserve self-care because we’ve achieved this goal, or hit this income or level of education, we deserve it because of who we are. And if we can love ourselves in those ways, then we do want to eat healthy, give ourselves the pleasure of taking a nice warm bath, or reading a good book.

• You can begin a practice of self-care by ritualizing the way you start and end your day.
Examples are: Journaling, Meditation, Reading a daily Devotion, Exercising, and Prayer

• We talk about who truly reaped the benefit of creating the stereotypical “Strong Black Woman” referencing the speech that originated with orator, Sojourner Truth and later called “Ain’t I a Woman?” or “Ar’nt I a Woman?”

When dealing with micro-aggressions we can look at self-care like an immune system. There are germs all around us and sometimes we can get sick and sometimes people are in that environment and don’t get sick. The difference is the quality of their immune system. Your immune system is able to take the things in your body that mean to harm you and process them and expel them from your body without doing so much damage.

Given the fact that we live in a racist and sexist society it’s a given that there will be daily assaults on our dignity, and on our humanity and so it’s essential we practice self-care regularly because that is our immune system. Self-care is how we are able to keep ourselves healthy, and to keep ourselves functioning in a dysfunctional context. So when we are practicing self-care, we are reminding ourselves of our own inherent dignity and value.

• We can accomplish this by connecting with other people who are like us and have experienced similar pain. We get a chance to finally say, ‘ok I’m not crazy, this just happened right?’ and someone is there to say like ‘yeah! That happened!’ This is self-care because we are exposed to these things {micro-aggressions} in such a pervasive way it can make you feel like ‘I deserve this’. So having communities of people that remind you that you’re valuable, you’re not what they say you are, that you deserve more, helps to heal us, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. There is a lot of research around the physical benefits that come with being in supportive communities.

The point is to get the thoughts that are running around outside in the society that says we aren’t valuable, that we don’t deserve 5 minute breaks that we don’t deserve to make more money, that we don’t deserve to be treated with dignity…all of those ideas that exist out there expelled from our body without them becoming parts of us and taking root in our minds. So we are able to preserve our minds through our immune system of self-care.

We explore the concept of flourishing to reach our optimal potential. In her book, Your Life As A Celebration: Accomplishing your goals with less stress and more joy Dr. Kesha discusses how we can transform our lives into a celebration of us. We can create a life that affirms our core values and engages in our life purpose.

• We also open up some fun dialogue about Art as both a reminder of our value and way to visualize ourselves thriving and not just getting by. (The quote I was trying to reference was “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” by Oscar Wilde.) We even nerd out about afrofuturism for good measure.

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

No More Martyrs and Clack Associates Unite for Mental Wellness

I mentioned in an older post that while I believe technology is the way of the future for mental health, I am a strong advocate for talk therapy and support groups. So when both are leveraged, I’m super excited about the possibilities…

Technology, namely social media platforms, have created digital bridges to connect advocates, activists, and professionals from around the world. I love that we can take what starts as a conversation online, through a simple Tweet, LinkedIn message, Snap, or Facebook message, and turn it into in-person endeavors while still being able to transcend the limitations of personal one to one touch.

One of those connections came about between Nadia M. Richardson, PhD the founder of the mental health awareness movement called No More Martyrs and Angela Clack, PsyD of Clack Associates.

Both Dr. Clack and Dr. Richardson were committed to building a community of support for black women with mental health concerns and decided to unite their unique super powers together to bring to life Dr. Clack’s desire to see more tailored mental health support for women of color in southern New Jersey coupled with Dr. Richardson’s vision of organized and structured Meetups beyond the confides of her region.

dr.clacksistersupportmeetup

One reason I like the concept of a meet up is because I understand that support groups sometimes turn people off, therefore meet ups are more accessible.  For example, while well-known support groups like AA garner the participation of many people, a new wave of contemporaries are exploring and developing alternative approaches for ongoing wellness outside the philosophy that one is always in a recovery cycle.

But what I like most about this concept is that this meet up isn’t entirely a peer-run group nor is it exactly group counseling. The meet up is more a FREE resource and an opportunity to break bread, enjoy engaging activities, and connect with women who may wish to share their unique experiences to encourage their fellow sisters. The meet up would have both a mental health peer specialist and licensed mental health professional present to make sure valuable resources and information are available.

I was most honored when Dr. Clack invited me to come on-board this outreach as the co-facilitating peer specialist for the NJ branch of the Meetup.  I am currently pursuing my certification so that I can bring my best to the role in our unified efforts to make mental wellness more accessible and fun for women of color.

Our first monthly meet up is this Thursday, January 19th. And being that I am an introvert, it’s going to be introvert friendly 😉 Hope to see you there if you’re in the area!

*Update* We meet every 3rd Thursday of the month please email clackassociates2005@gmail.com to RSVP*

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Live Love Out Loud: A 2016 Year in Review Post

This last post of the year is a quick review of the ups and downs and “meh” moments from 2016. It’s a personal reflection, a public display of vulnerability, and most definitely not a “how to review your year and plan for the next” type of post. My hope is that through my personal experiences you gain some new insight and perspective.

glasess and hearts

As I’ve shared before in previous reviews, I center most of my intentions for the year around 6 areas or slices of life: Spiritual, Personal, Social, Physical, Professional, and Financial. Though I have come to believe that spirituality is the foundation of the pie and personal religion is the slice. It’s easier to keep it as is for now.

I also usually have a word and/or theme for the year that gives me a focal point for all the desires, intentions, commitments and goals I set for the year.

My word for 2016 was…actually I had 2 words this year Produce and Manifest

“Manifesting is practically translating your purpose, (purpose being loosely defined as your unique expression of love in the world) into an actionable blueprint for the next phase of life’s work which you are uniquely designed for”.

( I honestly cannot remember how I came up with that definition but I know it’s not my original wording; it simply coincided with my thinking, so I put quotes around it. )

My personal theme was: Live Love Out Loud

At the start of the year I identified that my theme was about my personal experience with love,  and the “out loud” part was about getting my thoughts on paper so to speak.

Throughout the year and by the end of the year I had documented out several guidelines and principles (instead of a “How-to” manual or set agenda)  to express what I was recollecting about love, and living with love as my foundation and personal religious practice.  The guidelines became clear to me as I looked to my intentions for each slice of life.

For instance, in my Social Slice (and as I reflect it touches into personal and spiritual as well)  I focused on relationships with men. One way I addressed this focus was through romantic type relationships. I had set out to get back into the dating scene after a much needed hiatus. I thought I’d find myself in a loving committed relationship, but instead I found great disappointment and yet another learning experience.

While I wanted to blame that disappointment on something (someone) outside of myself, I can only reflect on where shadow resided within myself that still needed to heal.  A major shadow area I had  to take a deeper look at was how I wanted to show up to relationships and most importantly, my perception of who was loveable and by whom.  My ACA/ACOA background planted a lot of negative messages in my head that I hadn’t realized still played on repeat. Choosing to be alone; to avoid relationships would not, and did not address those tapes.  Continuing to devour media that I know is purposely meant to make you feel “not enough” so you can buy something to “fix it” also did not help the situation. While I said I was looking to date, I realized later I was looking to confirm my perception of the dating landscape and how men perceived me as a black woman in an era of “black girl magic” coupled with protests about racial and social injustice.  *hint* It wasn’t a very positive outlook.

Let’s just say the whole dating experience triggered the mess out of me.

However, when I wanted to give up completely on the notion of being loved and shutting down that piece of my heart forever, I found that I couldn’t, because I wasn’t bitter and I also didn’t fully believe my negative perception anymore. The love I’d been researching, practicing, and blogging about actually became graspable by how fast I was able to bounce back from let down after let down.  I began to understand that love was always there for me and all I needed to do was reach within so I could perceive it better when I looked out.

I knew I had a right to be mad, (thanks for the reminder Solange) but still, I found compassion, and forgiveness. I sought to heal specific areas of my psyche that I hadn’t thought to analyze and build up coping skills for. And when I wanted to embrace my deepest fears and stay stuck, I chose love that extended beyond myself for true growth; love that sets healthy boundaries and not because a professional told me to have them but because I believed I was worthy of someone who would respect them and that having healthy boundaries would position me for joyful living. I chose love with standards that were no longer based on learned survival mechanisms from the helplessness of childhood, but the kind you discover when you’re realize the hidden power inside.

And when you are no longer concerned with the uncomfortable you feel about putting yourself and your needs 1st you understand that there is no one on this planet that is worth sacrificing your self-esteem over. I re-learned that people who honored their own boundaries, could honor mines. That people who are loving could act loving because they had it to give in the 1st place. And as I remembered what it felt like to be genuinely loved, and cared for (not simply tolerated, or grudgingly accepted) I began to encounter more and more people who showed me love, care, and respect for my boundaries.

I saw how these concepts translated into my professional slice. And knew I needed to let some things go this year that I could no longer carry with me into the new. One of those things was A & D Media. After “A” left the business to me, I hadn’t felt right about continuing it the way I did. Still I pressed on and did the best I could do to stick to the original plan and mission. We had set out to be a social media marketing firm, but as time went by I felt that a firm or even a small agency was not what I really wanted to run, especially when I had to do it without my business partner. After subcontracting with both an agency and a firm, that feeling was confirmed. So I felt a bit stuck for awhile and stopped actively marketing my business.I hid behind client work, I focused on side projects and ignored what helped make those side projects even possible and in turn I made me miserable.

I could not preach out loving yourself loving your business if I was not loving my own. I knew I’d be making changes and I knew I needed help doing so. I began working with the amazing Anastacia Brice of AssistU. I had met quite a few virtual service providers who had worked with her and I admired their confidence, realness, skills, and fire so I was excited to work with an industry pioneer but most importantly someone who claimed that, “Loving is my calling, my honor, my absolute joy, and at the center of everything I do professionally and personally.”

Throughout the year we worked together on a lot of my mindset issues and began developing and documenting business standards and modes of operating that represented how I could make love visible through my work; through a business that represented my strengths, my personality, my aptitude to learn and grow, and my ready and willingness to embrace and embody my authentic self, it would reflect more in how I showed up in my work practices for my clients.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve learned a lot of important foundational things along the way. For one, even though I can and do delegate and even partner up from time to time on special projects, (like mental wellness web series, and mental health healing circles) I’m a solopreneurial type of “preneur” and will be rebranding my business to reflect that in 2017.

Between working with my coach and helping one of my clients set up her amazing free make money your honey makeover challenge,(starting January 9th) I had the courage to take a good hard look at my numbers, not estimates, but the true costs of running a business that is sustainable and profitable. It was a wakeup call that if I wanted to remain in business, a mutually beneficial business, I had to stop allowing others to define the worth of my profession and my role in it.

As I look back over the last 12 months, all of this year felt like a set up and preparation for what was to come next. And there was a lot of learning about how I wanted to show up to my personal practice of love along the way. I encountered many circumstances that called for me to step out of my comfort zone, from traveling for work conferences and retreats, to saving a friendship even if that meant sacrificing income, to figuring out how to be an empathetic big sis towards my younger siblings who lost a great deal this year, to learning what it takes to build true community by learning what NOT to do. And I documented as much as possible to reference along the way. Some of these documentations were gathered for the book I’ve been working on about mental health and entrepreneurship which I’m planning to publish in 2017 (This is more concrete now that I have finished my 1st draft) while some of these documentations were meant just for my eyes… for now.

At the start of this post you might have noticed that I underlined actionable blueprint and work. I did this because I noticed one led to the other, so while this year it was about producing this actionable blueprint, next year is most definitely about the work and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Behind The Mental Health Technology: Interview with Write Mynd founder, Lizzie Barclay

writemynd

Mental health and technology has been a hot topic as of late. Though I am a strong advocate for talk therapy and support groups, I believe technology, when used properly can be quite useful.  And well, it is the way of the future for mental health treatment.

With that being said, there are plenty of app reviews out there, but tech writing isn’t really my thing so I thought it would be more interesting (and authentic) to hear directly from the founders of these new technological advances.

I came across Lizzie via the Women who Tech Facebook group, who then told me about her app Write Mynd.

Write Mynd is a new app for iOS to help busy people take better care of their minds by empowering them to be honest with themselves and others about how they feel. But unlike an ordinary diary, Write Mynd relays a user’s musings back to them in different ways to help people spot patterns in their feelings and behaviour. It also also offers the cathartic effect of off-loading anonymously to others, and empathising with what others are going through too. The social network element is unique: there’s no commenting, making it a troll-free space.

She and her team developed Write Mynd on the premise that Self-Reflection Can Be Powerful.
They believed that when you practice self-reflection regularly, you can start to identify patterns and behaviors that affect your mental health. Sometimes seeing your thoughts written out can take the power away from them, and give you space to think, and decide what to do with them.

I happen to agree with that sentiment. So I emailed a few questions over to get the 411 about her app and tap more into her ‘Why’ and this is what came back…

Q1 Lynn: So my 1st question would be: When will this app be available for download to Android users such as myself?

A1 Lizzie: Unfortunately, Write Mynd is available on iOS only at the moment. We’re following the lean start up principles and wanted to validate our concept and product on one platform first before investing in developing for both. Our decision to focus on iOS was based on market research about iPhone users responding more positively to apps about mental well-being. But, as soon as the time is right, we will develop for Android. It’s such an important platform and it’s not been forgotten!

Q2 Lynn: How confidential is what one records on the app? (for instance what if someone wrote a suicide note)

A2 Lizzie: The app is totally confidential. Users can choose to make an account if they wish, but it’s not essential and we offer this feature so that users can sign into the app on multiple devices, or log out if they want to. In the next update of the app, we are going to introduce signposting to the Samaritans charity (where I used to volunteer) so that people who need or want more support can find it easily straight from the app. Users can also block content that they don’t want to see if they find it distressing. Ultimately though, for now, it’s totally confidential. I am in conversations with various charities about how to make this app as safe as possible for users in all situations.

Q3 Lynn: Speaking of Suicide does the app do anything special if suicide or death threat is mentioned in a recording?

A3 Lizzie: Not at the moment, but these are considerations that we are working through in our beta phase, working with as many third parties as possible to seek advice.

Q4 Lynn: Is there a way to collect all of the reporting to the app for printing to take to a professional (with cloud syncing capabilities to mac or pc).

A4 Lizzie: This is a great idea, and one that is on our list for future development. Many people have suggested the app would be a great tool to use to accompany therapy or counselling, and it would be helpful to be able to print / cloud sync your entries. Ideally, I’d like people to use their phone and the app directly in all situations, but if users are asking for the ability to print / sync their information then I’d like to accommodate that request of course.

Q5 Lynn: Finally, could you explain what’s unique about your app that separates it from similar apps?

A5 Lizzie: What’s unique about Write Mynd…

1) It’s the easiest and fastest way to record your emotions on the go. Our “swiping” feature means that if you can’t put your feelings into words yourself, or if you’re rushing to articulate how you feel, you can swipe through different emotions to specify whether you agree or disagree with them. The app then immediately plays this information back to you telling you whether, based on what words you just swiped through, you’re feeling overall more positive or negative. The Dashboard shows you a graph of your positive and negative sentiment changing over time.

2) It’s a diary that actually gives you meaningful feedback. Lots of people want to keep a diary, but are put off because they don’t know where to start. This app suggests different emotions to you to get you thinking, and to reduce the intimidation of a blank page. It then plays back your posts in different ways so you can draw your own conclusions about the things that make you happy / sad / angry etc. For example, if you consistently see that you’re angry when you’re writing about work, maybe you should consider finding a new job. If you’re consistently happy when you write about being outdoors, great – do more of that! It’s sometimes hard to see what’s good and what’s not good for us until we’re staring at it in black and white.

3) It’s been run entirely by volunteers working their socks off on top of busy day jobs! It’s a team of people who believe in the product and what it’s trying to achieve: promoting and supporting better mental wellbeing for all!

4) The design. A lot of mood tracking apps I’ve come across are very medical / not necessarily something you’d want on your phone at work. The language wasn’t accessible. I don’t want to think about my “cognitive state”. I don’t want to feel like a patient. I want something fun, friendly and accessible. Unfortunately there’s still so much stigma around looking after your mental health that many people want something cool, fun and mainstream to use – not something that has “I struggle with anxiety” written all over it.

 

Keep in Touch

lizziebarclay

 

 

Lizzie Barclay, Founder
Email: lizzie@writemynd.com
Tweet: @LizzieBarclay or @WriteMyndApp

 

 

 

Sharing is Caring

Copy and Paste to spread the word on your social media networks

  1. Want better mental clarity? Check out the latest mood tracking app @WriteMyndApp
  2. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Start keeping a diary on the go. Check out @WriteMyndApp
  3. Came across a diary app that gives you useful insight on your diary entries. Download @WriteMyndApp

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.