How Mental Health Activists Are Fighting Racism

black woman asian man coordinating activism efforts on table

During the Civil Rights Movement, white psychologists invented a so-called mental illness. Dubbing it “protest psychosis,” these psychologists used the racially-motivated “syndrome” to explain away the reasonable rage of black Americans demanding an end to segregation.

Sixty years later, racial disparities in the mental health care system remain, including lack of access to mental health services for communities of color, inadequate addressal of the real psychological trauma caused by racism, and racially-motivated diagnoses like the now-scrapped “protest psychosis.”

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Increasingly, anti-racist advocates in the mental health community are encouraging us all to recognize mental health as a racial justice issue. Continue reading How Mental Health Activists Are Fighting Racism

Talkspace 2017 Mental Health Year in Review

women march 2017 signs crowd

2017 was a big year — in politics, pop culture, and yes, in mental health. It was the inaugural year of Donald Trump’s presidency, which turned the political landscape of the United States upside down, and caused a wave of anxiety to ripple through the nation.

On the brighter side, 2017 has been a year of raising awareness — especially related to sexual harassment, gun violence, and the language we use to talk about mental illness.

In pop culture, we tragically lost mental health warrior Chester Bennington, but also watched as a new guard of celebrity spokespeople began to speak up about their mental health journeys. A tide may be turning.

Natural disasters like Hurricanes like Harvey, Maria, and Irma, and the fires in Southern California, were all national tragedies that, for many, became urgent fights for survival. These events were environmental crises, and forced us to examine how we respond to and treat trauma as a culture.

After sifting through the happenings of 2017, we present you with the Talkspace 2017 Mental Health Year in Review — spanning the good, the bad, and the ugly. Continue reading Talkspace 2017 Mental Health Year in Review

Is Talking About Your Mental Health Trendy?

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How did talking about mental health go from being incredibly taboo to being — dare I say — trendy? It seems like everyday, another celebrity is coming forward about his or her struggle with mental illness. While the phenomenon of celebrities struggling with their mental health is really nothing new (remember Britney Spears’ 2007 breakdown?) the candidness with which they speak about it and the praise they receive for doing so today is almost revolutionary. If Spears’ breakdown happened this year, a whole decade later, I believe the whole scenario would be handled way differently. Maybe, instead of being mocked, she would have been met with compassion and understanding.

In this past year alone, there’s been a noticeable increase in mental health mentions in pop culture. For example, 13 Reasons Why, a show in which the main character dies by suicide, became one of the most streamed Netflix original series in March and actually broke a record for “being tweeted about more than any other Netflix show in its first week of streaming.” Despite all the controversy surrounding the show, there’s no denying that the series opened up an important dialogue about depression and suicide. Continue reading Is Talking About Your Mental Health Trendy?

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)

cut out of family heart stethoscope

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

white snowflakes blue background

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

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