Sunday, March 04, 2018

13 Films that Accurately Portray Mental Illness

In honor of the 2018 Oscars, here a list of movies that feature mental illness - and really get the illness, stigma and experience spot-on.  Many of these movies have won Oscars, while others should have, but didn't. 

As we roll out the red carpet and honor this year's best films, keep in mind that there's no shame in having a mental illness.
1. Ordinary People (Depression, PTSD, Suicide)
This is my absolute favorite movie of all time because it portrays the human experience of loss so well and it also features psychotherapy in a realistic way.  This was Robert Redford's directorial debut, which also starred. Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton, who wow in their performances.

2. A Beautiful Mind (Schizophrenia)
The true story of Nobel Prize Winner John Nash is told in this award winning film. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly star. Directed by Ron Howard.

3. The Soloist (Schizophrenia)
This is the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former Julliard Student, who falls into the depths of schizophrenia. When reporter, Steve Lopez, befriends him, both of their worlds change. The ethical issues of treatment of mental illness are realistically portrayed. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx offer great performances.

4. Canvas (Schizophrenia)
A young boy moves through the his mother's psychotic episode with the help of his father and friends. Joe Pantoliano, Marcia Gay Harden and Devon Gearhart are inspiring to watch.

5. Bird (Substance Abuse/Eating Disorder)
The true story of Charlie "Bird" Parker, Jazz legend, and his struggles with mental illness. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Forest Whitaker. Fantastic soundtrack.

6. Rain Man (Autism)
Dustin Hoffman delivers an award winning performance as a man with Autism and Tom Cruise as the brother who doesn't understand him.

7. Fearless (PTSD)
Jeff Bridges is unforgettable in his performance as a survivor of a plane crash as is Rosie Perez in this emotional tale of trauma, loss and recovery.

8. Lars And The Real Girl (Social Anxiety Disorder)
This film knocked me out with its poignant storytelling of a young man living in a rural Minnesota community. Ryan Gosling and Emily Mortimer star.

9. A Lion In Winter (Personality Disorders)
Various personality disorders as well as maladaptive defense mechanisms often seen in family dysfunction are presented in vivid language and breathtaking performances. Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn and a young Anthony Hopkins dazzle in this award winning film. It's an oldie, but a goodie - and based on the life of King Henry II.

10. The Night Listener (Factitious Disorder)
Robin Williams and Toni Collette tell this true-based story from the experiences of author Armistead Maupin, and his connection to a mysterious young boy.

11. Bug (Shared Psychosis)
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon meet and discover a shared experience. This film begins slowly and soon reveals itself - and as the horror unfolds, it infects you as a viewer as well.

12. Clean, Shaven (Schizophrenia)
I don't think I have ever experienced a film that so vividly takes you into the the life, mind and world of a person who lives with Schizophrenia. Actor, Peter Greene, and writer/director Lodge Kerrigan, create a film that is both meaningful and moving to watch.

13. Silver Linings Playbook (Bipolar Disorder)
Bradley Cooper brings a soulful and tormented performance about a man who has to come to terms with his Bipolar Disorder and the effect it has on his friends and family. There are laughs and tears, and real-life moments about how mental illness touches everyone.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

March 1st is International Self Injury Awareness Day

What do these high profile individuals have in common? Singer, Fiona Apple; Comedian, Russell Brand; Actress, Drew Barrymore; Actor, Johnny Depp; Actor, Colin Farrell; Actress, Megan Fox; Actress, Angelina Jolie; Singer, Demi Lovato and Princess Diana....

Before finding emotional health, they struggled with self-injury.

Self-Injury is a deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress. Self-injury has a paradoxical effect in that the pain self-inflicted actually sets off an endorphin rush, relieving the self-harmer from deep distress. It's important to note that self-injury does not involve a conscious intent to commit suicide - and as such, the clinical term for this behavior is called Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI),  NSSI can take many forms from cutting, picking, burning, bruising, puncturing, embedding, scratching or hitting one's self, just to name a few.

In its simplest form, NSSI is a physical solution to an emotional wound. Generally, it is a deliberate, private act that is habitual in occurrence, not attention-seeking behavior, nor meant to be manipulative. Self-injurers are often secretive about their behaviors, rarely letting others know, and often cover up their wounds with clothing, bandages, or jewelry.

Symbolically speaking, deliberately injuring one's self can be viewed as a method to communicate what cannot be spoken. With self-harm, the skin is the canvas and the cut, burn or bruise is the paint that illustrates the picture. Most individuals who self-injure are struggling with emotional expression. This clinical experience is known as Alexithymia - the inability to recognize emotions and their subtleties and to understand or describe thoughts and feelings. Many other self-harmers are struggling with internal conflicts, may have anxiety, depression, may have experienced physical or sexual abuse, or other more serious psychological concerns.

Statistically speaking, approximately 4% of the population in the United States uses NSSI as a way of coping. Individuals who self-injure are represented in all SES brackets in the United States with the behavior usually starting in adolescence. Girls and women tend to self-injure more than boys and men, but this may be represented by the fact that females tend to turn to professional help more than males.

Those Who Self-Injure Are Often Trying To:

* Distract themselves from emotional pain

* End feelings of numbness

* Offset feelings of low self-esteem

* Control helplessness or powerlessness

* Calm overwhelming or unmanageable feelings

* Maintaining control in chaotic situations

* Self-punish, self-shame or self-hate

* Express negative thoughts or feelings that cannot be put into words

* Self-nurture or self-care

10 Tips for Reducing Self-Injury

1) Create an Emergency Kit. Place positive things in your kit like photos of people you love, notes to yourself or from friends or family, a journal for writing, markers or art supplies for artistic expression, an inspirational poem, beloved stuffed animal, upbeat music, favorite scents, things like that.

2) Use positive imagery. Visualize yourself moving through your painful moment without self-harming. Research shows that using positive visualization can keep you in-the-moment which is a key tool for recovery.

3) Hold your ground. Sensory Grounding experiences like holding something soft, listening to soothing music, drawing or writing, for example, can interrupt the trance-like state that often comes with self-harm, shifting you towards more positive behaviors.

4) Reboot your mindReframe your thoughts toward helpful statements, also known as Cognitive Grounding Skills, like "Who am I really mad at?""What is setting me off?" or "I am safe and I am in control." These can re-orient you to the here-and-now.

5) Know your triggers. Become aware of what issues bend or break you. Try to dilute your exposure to them, call upon others to help you move through them and remind yourself that you can emerge from them successfully.

6) Take a detour. Reroute self-harm by using less severe forms of sensations. Holding an ice cube, tearing or shredding paper or a sheet, snapping a rubber band against your skin, sucking a lemon peel are ways to dilute the need to experience pain.

7) Move your body. Consider the adrenaline rush of running, dancing, holding a yoga pose, jumping rope to offset urges to self-harm. The rush of adrenaline has been known to produce the similar chemical surge that comes from self-injury.

8) Forgive yourself. As you try to interrupt your self-harming behaviors, know that it may not come as easily some days as others. Should you find that you've lapsed into self-harming, remind yourself that change is a process. Learn to forgive and be kind to yourself as you start anew.

9) Be supportive.
 If you know someone who may be self-injuring, offer support and try not to shame or criticize the NSSI behavior. Self-injury behaviors can be successfully treated, so help your friend or family member by encouraging them to seek help.

10) Consider calling a therapist. Remember that having an urge to self harm is not the same as actually self harming. If you can distract yourself from self-injury, you are well on your way to recovery. However, if the urges win out, not allowing you to reduce your self-harm behaviors, consider working with a professional.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month

Canada, The United Kingdom and The United States use the month of February to raise awareness about Eating Disorders.

Generally, eating disorders involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about body weight and food, and eating habits that disrupts normal body function, and daily life activities.

What causes eating disorders is not entirely clear, though a combination of psychological, genetic, social and family factors are thought to contribute to the disorder.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa ~ Essentially self-starvation, this disorder involves a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight. In severe cases, anorexia can be life-threatening.

Bulimia Nervosa ~ This involves repeated episodes of binge eating, followed by ways of trying to purge the food from the body or prevent expected weight gain. People can have this condition and be of normal weight.

Binge-eating Disorder ~ This is characterized by frequent episodes of overeating without purging.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) ~ A range of other disordered eating patterns don’t fit into the other types of eating disorders. These eating patterns are still serious, and intervention and attention are necessary.

Left unattended, eating disorders can lead to serious health problems or even death.

While many believe depression has the highest death rate of any mental illness, the truth is that anorexia does, making it the most lethal psychiatric illness. In the US alone, over 30 million people struggle with an eating disorder. Studies estimate 23 people die every day from an eating disorder. That makes the math every 62 minutes a day.

Link here to find a therapist that specializes in eating disorders. Treatment helps and recovery is possible.


The National Eating Disorder Information Centre: Canada

Eating Disorders Association: United Kingdom

The National Eating Disorders Association: United States

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

February 11-17 is Random Acts of Kindness Week

Observed every February, and celebrated this year from February 11-17, 2018, #RAKWeek is an annual opportunity to connect with others through kindness. 

Led by the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation, this seven-day celebration demonstrates how kindness starts with just a simple act. It’s an opportunity for you to do something in this world that will inspire others to do the same.

Acts of kindness needn't be complicated or involved. A simple smile, holding a door open, putting a shopping cart back in its place, leaving a generous tip you can afford, holding an elevator, doing something special for a loved one. It doesn't take much. Just a little effort and a gentle kindness.  

Practicing kindness every day offers tremendous physical and emotional benefits. From lowering blood pressure to increasing the feel good hormone oxytocin and serotonin, kindness is a simple act that benefits those who give it and those who receive it. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January is National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month - where we celebrate mentors. The 2018 campaign reflects on the incredible growth of the mentoring movement, recognizing the real life mentoring relationships that form and thrive each day, and offer opportunities to thank the mentors who inspired us.
There are few relationships in life that are more influential than those between a mentor and a young person. I know this from both sides of the coin. I've had many mentors in my life growing up. A person who took a unique interest in me, fostered my growth and guided me onward.

I've also been a mentor to many. The experience has been so rewarding and meaningful to me. In fact, research shows that mentoring is an extraordinary experience for all involved.

Be mentor.

Change a life.

And transform your own.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Depression in Later Life Paperback Book Give-A-Way

My award winning Gold Medal Book of the Year, "Depression in Later Life" is now available in paperback. To celebrate, I'm offering an autographed copy via Goodreads. Enter to win today!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Depression in Later Life by Deborah Serani

Depression in Later Life

by Deborah Serani

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway