The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis

syrian refugees mother child

Even when refugees remove themselves from the imminent physical dangers of war zones, their problems are far from over. If refugees relocate to camps within their own country, they often face issues like poverty, and physical and sexual abuse. If they flee abroad, racial and religious discrimination, along with cultural isolation, are often added to their list of woes.

Less talked about than physical and social issues, mental health problems are extremely prevalent in refugee populations, whether they are located in their home country or abroad. Civilian experiences in a war zone can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and physical manifestations of stress like the loss of the ability to move parts of the body. According to a report by the German Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, more than half the number of refugees from war zones suffer from some kind of mental illness.

The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011 and has so far displaced over 12 million people, with 4 million seeking refuge abroad in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, has brought about a greater awareness of the mental issues experienced by refugees, especially children. Around half of Syrian refugees are under 18 years old, and around 40 percent are under 12. Three major reports — Save The Children’s March 2017 report, “Invisible Wounds,” the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) 2015 report,  and a 2015 UNHCR report focus on the mental health issues of Syrian refugees. Continue reading The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis

A Quick Guide to Social Media and Smartphone Addiction [Infographic]

unplugging turning off smartphone illustration

Spending too much time on a smartphone or social media can have negative effects on mental health, according to a wealth of research. If you want to protect your mind from your smartphone, start by getting educated. Check out the infographic below for some quick tips and insights on managing smartphone and social media use. Continue reading A Quick Guide to Social Media and Smartphone Addiction [Infographic]

Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Brandon Marshall

brandon marshall quote headshot
Source: Chicago Splash

Throughout Mental Health Month, we are focusing on ways to empower individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this celebration, we are profiling “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. Today we caught up with famed NFL wide receiver, mental health advocate, and founder of Project 375, Brandon Marshall.

Talkspace: You have been open about sharing your experience with having Borderline Personality Disorder. Thinking back, at what point did you realize you had an issue?

Brandon Marshall: It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized something was off. I had made it to the NFL, but my life had become a living hell. After living in my own hell for six years, I finally sought help and ended up at McLean Hospital in their outpatient program. I spent three months there and that’s where I received the diagnosis of BPD. Once I got the diagnosis, I started doing Dialectal Behavioral Therapy as well as some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It was the most phenomenal experience and it changed my life. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Brandon Marshall

The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

vibrator ad cosmopolitan magazine

The female body has long been misunderstood. Women are often misdiagnosed by doctors, either due to the belief that they are over-dramatizing symptoms or because of a lack of adequate research on illnesses predominantly faced by women. As frustrating as this is, it’s no new phenomenon.

Dating back to 1900 BC Egypt, an ancient medical document known as the Eber Papyrus contained references to hysterical disorders thought to be caused by abnormal movements of the uterus. In the 5th Century BC, Hippocrates was the first to coin the term “hysteria” and agreed with his predecessors that this so-called condition — attributable only to women — was due to a “wandering womb,” believed to be caused by sexual inactivity. Recommended cures were, naturally, that women should increase sexual activity within the bounds of marriage. This diagnosis was not founded in science or medical research (though that may seem obvious now), but in gender bias against women and their experience of emotions and the perceived lack of sexual interest.

As currently defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hysteria is, “behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess.” An alternate, psychiatric definition is, “a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychogenic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions.” While the definition of hysteria might seem broad, it has also altered over time. While medicine and mental health have changed a great deal over the centuries, hysteria is a historically gendered diagnosis that often served as a catch-all when doctors couldn’t identify another illness. It was extremely common to find women labelled as “hysterical” defined more by their stature as women than by their symptoms. Continue reading The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

woman lying down face covered pavement

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we’re sharing stories that raise awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Every morning before work was exactly the same. Prior to getting out from under the covers, I spent time dreading the day that was ahead of me. I’d look out my window at the downtown Manhattan skyline — it no longer brought me joy. Then, I’d cook scrambled eggs and toast, only to take one tiny bite of each before dumping it all in the trash. This was my life as a 21-year-old who had everything going for her. But, with crippling depression and anxiety, it didn’t matter.

Each day in the summer of 2015, when my mental health was at its shakiest, I got weaker and my clothes got baggier. I had no desire to eat, which is how I knew something was seriously wrong. One morning in August, I woke up weaker than usual. What did I expect? I’d barely eaten in days. How could I when I felt so horrible? I could barely get out of bed, and when I did, I thought I was going to topple over. My mind raced, I was petrified.

Leaving my building, my hands trembled. Every step seemed to be a step closer to passing out. Before even getting to the street corner, I decided going to work wasn’t physically possible. Quickly but cautiously, I walked back to the entrance, one hand gripping onto the building’s exterior, and told the security guard I needed an ambulance. I was mortified. Continue reading A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

mental health counselor client couch

The basic definition of a mental health counselor is simple. Understanding all of what the term can mean, however, is more complicated.

Mental health counselors are licensed professionals who help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They communicate with clients to understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Depending on the context, “mental health counselor” can refer to a specific license rather than the actual work. Mental health professionals can earn the proper mental health counselor license, but their daily work might not involve counseling. Before or after their clinical work, many become administrators, educators, or consultants. Nonetheless, most professionals who advertise themselves as mental health counselors provide mental health support as their primary source of income. Continue reading What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

The Imperfection of Perfectionism

pyramid red blue berries

Many people strive for some form of perfection. Whether in their work, in their appearance, in their relationships, in their expectations of others. There are a number of problems with perfectionism not the least of which is that it is simply not possible. Perfection is an ideal, which, almost by definition, is unattainable. Like trying to stand in the middle of a rainbow; as it’s approached, it recedes.

The other problem is that the criteria used to gauge perfection are suspect. How did we arrive at the criteria? Is the criteria valid? And, even if we were to judge the criteria as valid, will it remain so through time? If our expectations change, then how perfect could the criteria have been in the first place? Perfection suggests no room for improvement. It’s the ultimate, the top of the line, can’t get any better. It’s perfect! The irony of perfectionism is that to hold such a high standard, as an ideal, is an imperfection; it is an irrational and illogical standard by which to gauge and determine success or happiness. Continue reading The Imperfection of Perfectionism

Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

young daughter kissing mother's cheek

When I was a single mom, I started a tradition of buying myself a pair of sandals on Mother’s Day. My kids were too young to take me out to brunch. Instead we went looking for sandals for Mommy.

I began this ritual because the thought of Mother’s Day brought up a storm of negative emotions: Regret that I’d decided to end my marriage, guilt that my kids didn’t have happily married parents, and self-pity that I didn’t have a spouse to make my day special. Sandals represented the optimism that accompanies the warmer, longer days and joys of summer. My new shoes were a reminder to stay positive on a day that, for single mothers, can be fraught with a myriad of negative emotions.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that all single moms should run out and buy sandals on Mother’s Day. I’m sharing my story to encourage single moms to create their own strategies for optimism and joy, especially on days when it’s common to experience negative emotions.

The buildup and hype surrounding Mother’s Day can be emotionally challenging for moms parenting on their own. As someone who works with and on behalf of single mothers, here are some insights I’ve learned along the way about regret, guilt, and self-pity. Continue reading Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

borderline woman faces masks table

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we’re sharing stories that raise awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Am I a good person? It’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, but for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it carries special significance.

As someone living with BPD, I’ve heard all sorts of negative comments about those dealing with the condition: we’re manipulative, angry, selfish, unable to empathize, incapable of maintaining long-term commitments — the list goes on. While it’s true that many people with BPD do exhibit some of these qualities at various times, they don’t describe all of us, at all times.

I’d love to say that I’ve never exhibited any of these qualities, but BPD, like most mental health disorders, exists on a sliding scale of severity. It’s a spectrum, one that changes depending on the amount of pressure being applied.

I’ve never been under as much pressure as I was in 2014. My second marriage fell apart in February (seemingly overnight, but was actually the result of many years of neglect and denial). In the weeks that followed, I enjoyed a tryst that ended horrendously (another story for another time). Then, on a rainy April afternoon, I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child (I’d spent the two years leading up to that moment on a waiting list to get my tubes tied). Continue reading Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy

hand smartphone data app

The verdict is in: Therapy is becoming more data-driven. Because of advancements in psychology metrics and the gradual spread of feedback-informed treatment [FIT], an increasing number of therapists are relying on data to improve their performance and clinical outcomes. There is already evidence that using data can decrease the number of clients who leave therapy or see a deterioration in their mental health.

But with some advances in a field comes resistance, criticism, anxiety, skepticism, division, and debate. The majority of in-person therapists do not use FIT or any formal system of data in their work. Some believe data has no place in something as artful, personal, and private as therapy. Every client and therapeutic relationship is different, so therapists are often not confident in the ability of data to account for this variance.

At Talkspace we are at the forefront of data-driven and online therapy. We frequently survey clients and use the anonymous feedback to work with their therapists to improve the quality of treatment. Nonetheless, we understand the perspectives of therapists who are weary of big data’s role in therapy.

To start a positive and productive dialogue about the role of data in therapy, we sent our therapists this article about data-driven therapy. We asked them to read and respond with comments and constructive criticisms regarding the use of data and FIT in therapy. Continue reading Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy