Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

sexual violence survivor with stop written on hand

She was asking for it.

Boys will be boys.

What was she expecting dressed like that?

I’d bet you already guessed the topic these often-repeated phrases refer to — sexual violence.

Story after story on sexual assault, incest, rape, and abuse are written by survivors, explaining their situation ad nauseam to men and not letting them off the hook with “boys will be boys.” That, no, an unconscious drunk woman was not “asking for it,” and she was certainly not capable of giving consent to a sexual encounter. That wearing a revealing outfit also does not mean a woman was “looking for attention.” That “20 minutes of action” indeed merits steep criminal charges because a survivor’s life is invariably and monumentally altered by sexual violence — often for a lifetime.

Continue reading Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

Tuesday in September: The Lingering Effects of 9/11

911 memorial freedom tower skyline in background

Tuesday in September. I remember what a beautiful day it was. It made everything else that happened seem all the more surreal. I had woken up to go to my first day of grad school at NYU’s uptown Institute of Fine Arts. On my way out the door I turned on Howard Stern, talk radio being my low-tech burglar deterrent after a recent break in of my Bronx apartment. Someone had called in about the first plane crash. Howard didn’t know if it was a joke and neither did I. I turned on CNN and saw the second plane crash. And then I headed out the door to the subway. It was terrible, but the towers were still standing and I didn’t want to be late on my first day. After all, the city kept working when the Trade Center had been bombed years earlier.

I got as far as 86 St. on the 5 train, everyone talking about what was happening. But, from there, the MTA was sending all the trains back uptown, so I got out and walked south, the sky a clear and perfect blue, marred only by black clouds of smoke to the south. As I walk I heard the radios of parked cars, the 1010WINS news station dopplering as I passed each car. The first tower was down. Continue reading Tuesday in September: The Lingering Effects of 9/11

Why Mental Health Is A Feminist Issue

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When I told several people in my life I would be writing about feminism and mental health, they didn’t understand. “Why is mental health a feminist issue?” they asked. So let’s talk about that F-word, feminism.

To review, per bell hooks, an acclaimed feminist theorist, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” — for everyone.

The feminist movement has worked to earn women the right to vote, the ability to seek careers, and to make decisions about their reproductive rights, for example. Feminism endures, however, because it’s much more than that. The feminist movement also works to incorporate an intersectional understanding of identity by including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, class, and age into its politics.

So where does mental health fit into the picture? Continue reading Why Mental Health Is A Feminist Issue

The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

NHS England homepage

When I was a child growing up in the UK, much of my knowledge of the US came from reading comic strips like Peanuts, which were published in the Sunday newspapers. I remember reading the series in which Lucy, the female nemesis of the insecure Charlie Brown, set up a makeshift shack offering psychiatric counseling for five cents a session (no insurance accepted, presumably). Having no clue what a psychiatrist was, I asked a friend’s elder brother, who often knew about adult things, for an explanation.

“I think that’s the person they send you to see if you’ve gone completely nuts,” he said.

Although the UK’s awareness of mental health care has improved radically since back then, there is still an associated stigma that would surprise most Americans. For instance, a visit to a psychologist in the US is perceived as somewhat routine, but that’s not so in Britain, where seeking therapy is a big step – it’s an admission of an illness that is considered shameful, so therapy sessions would probably be kept secret. Continue reading The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

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

The Mental Health Impact of the AHCA (Trumpcare)

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With the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives, we may be approaching a mental health care crisis unlike anything seen before. Included in the bill is a provision to allow states to strike key provisions protecting Essential Health Benefits.

Whereas the percentage of uninsured once hovered around 16% of the nonelderly population, the ACA brought that figure down to 10.9% in 2015 — a record low. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose coverage by 2026 under the first replacement plan, 14 million in just the next year. Without giving the Budget Office time to score the new bill, the House passed the measure by a slim majority.

The bill will dramatically affect mental health parity — the historical divide between coverage requirements for mental and physical health — by allowing states to define Essential Health Benefits. Prior to the ACA, the lack of parity meant insurers could limit or deny coverage for mental health services, letting insurers limit the number of therapy sessions per year as well as treatment for substance abuse. The Essential Health Benefits of the ACA helped correct this discrepancy. Continue reading The Mental Health Impact of the AHCA (Trumpcare)

‘Snowflake’ – A New Insult for People Who Go to Therapy

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Since the end of the 2016 election and the beginning of Trump’s presidency, there is one insult that has become increasingly frequent: “snowflake,” a slang term for an overly sensitive, politically correct, stereotypically liberal person (more often millennials than people of all ages). These days there are many conservative Internet-goers and Trump supporters who use it to put down or provoke anyone they disagree with.

We’re not involved in politics, yet people often throw this word our way. If you’re familiar with Talkspace, it might be because you saw one of our ads on Facebook. These ads are great for reminding people they have the opportunity to work with a therapist in a way that might be more affordable and convenient for them.

The only problem with the ads is they reach some mean-spirited people across the Internet. Some of these people leave rude comments. They insult those who are considering trying Talkspace. We frequently see the declaration that anyone who uses Talkspace or goes to therapy is a snowflake. Continue reading ‘Snowflake’ – A New Insult for People Who Go to Therapy

What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

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As a therapist, I experienced a variety of client reactions following the election results on November 8. Some clients were happy with the results. Others were fraught with intense anxiety and fear over what the next four years would be like for the United States.

Some of the country experienced shock at the election results. A theme I keep hearing from clients is the realization of such stark differences in viewpoints across the country.

For many those viewpoints are different than those in their immediate surroundings. These viewpoints are different than those people have seen in their social media feeds.

Everyone is in shock. The impact, however, is revealing itself in different ways. Continue reading What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

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Before the 2016 election, writer Michael Noker was “incredibly close” with his mother. He saw her as a role model because of her strength, feminism and history of overcoming abuse. Before he came out as gay, his mother was already teaching him the importance of respecting members of the LGBT community.

Then he learned she was voting for Donald Trump. Because of Hillary Clinton’s persecution of her husband’s accusers during his sex scandal, his mother didn’t perceive Clinton as a more feminist choice than Trump. She was also disappointed with Obamacare and seemed to want a new leader who would change it.

When Noker told her about Trump’s comments on the infamous tape with Billy Bush, she dismissed them as “probably taken out of context.” He also informed her of the many sexual assault allegations Trump faced. She dismissed them as well, saying it was suspicious that women were coming forward so many years after the purported incidents. Continue reading How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

When Your Family Brings Up Post-Election Politics During Thanksgiving

thanksgiving family turkey politics

It’s going to happen. You’re praying it doesn’t, but it’s inevitable.

During Thanksgiving, one of your relatives is going to bring up post-election politics. If your family members have opposing political views, this could be the beginning of a terrible evening. Your annoying uncle might say Trump isn’t so bad, which spurs your equally annoying aunt into going on a rant about how your uncle hates women.

A few minutes later everyone is shouting and arguing about issues and people you are sick of hearing about: Trump, his cabinet, Hillary, her emails, the electoral college, Bernie Sanders, Obamacare, 2020 and much more. There’s a chance someone will rope you in and pressure you to take a stance in front of the whole family.

What do you do? How do you handle the situation and the stress? Continue reading When Your Family Brings Up Post-Election Politics During Thanksgiving