OSMI Blog

Sharing Resources on Campus

Author: Beth Tucker Long
November 29th, 2018

After Conlin Bass lost a friend and an uncle to suicide while he was in high school, he got involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Bass’s work with the organization helped him realize how widespread mental illness is, so when he started school at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, he was determined to find a way to raise awareness about mental health.

Bass got the idea to start The Bandana Project while talking to a friend at another university. Their professor had recently lost a son to suicide, and the class wore white bandanas on their backpacks to show support. The Bandana Project volunteers wear a lime green bandana on their backpacks to signal that they are willing to be a mental health resource and that they are carrying cards containing contact information for campus and local mental health support organizations. The bandanas also help make mental health more prominent on campus, and Bass hopes this will help remove some of the stigma around talking about mental health or seeking assistance for mental health issues.

The Bandana Project has been spreading to other campuses around the United States. To learn more about how Bass started the movement, check out the Verona Press article, “VAHS grad leads mental health awareness movement at UW-Madison” or visit The Bandana Project’s UW-NAMI website.

Sitting Too Long May Hurt Your Brain

Author: Beth Tucker Long
October 31st, 2018

We’ve always known activity is good for us, but a new study published in the journal Plos One shows sitting for extended periods of time can negatively affect your brain. Unfortunately, being active during other times of the day does not counteract these negative effects. Their study, which looked at middle-aged and older adults, associated self-reported hours per day spent sitting and less thickness in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) substructures. Atrophy of the MTL substructures occurs naturally as we get older and impairs memory.

A second study shows you should try to get in at least two hours of movement in every day, so plan some breaks into your next extended sitting session or find some exercises you can do to stay active while sitting at your desk.

Read more in the article: Sitting Too Long Could Put Your Brain Health at Risk.

Being Frank About Mental Health

Author: Beth Tucker Long
October 24th, 2018

Chlöe Swarbrick is a member of New Zealand’s Parliament who is speaking out on the importance of mental health. She states, “...in an environment where mental health concerns permeate near every community across our country, I believe there's a responsibility to be frank and real about the issue.”

Swarbrick is not only encouraging others to be open about mental health, but she has also opened up publicly about her own struggles with mental health. “I see my psychologist regularly. I have a history of anxiety and depression. I'm the one-in-six New Zealand adults who has been diagnosed with a "common mental disorder" at some point in their lives.”

This came just a few days after the New Zealand Chief Coroner released their annual suicide statistics. “They are the highest they've ever been. Each of those figures is the life of an incredible person with whānau and friends who'll be experiencing immense loss. Each of those numbers is a tragedy,” says Swarbrick.

Read more about Swarbrick’s stance on opening up about mental health in the NZ Herald’s article, “Chlöe Swarbrick: There's a responsibility to be frank and real about mental health”.

A Supportive Workplace

Author: Beth Tucker Long
October 17th, 2018

Teri Koski knew she had issues with depression, but she kept them to herself when she moved to a new city and started a new job. When her depression started causing issues at work, though, Koski’s supervisors called her in to find a solution. “We don’t want to fire you,” they said, and at that moment, Koski recognized she was struggling and decided to open up about her depression and mental illness. Koski started seeing a therapist, and not only was she able to save her job, but she was able to get back to a happy place.

“If my supervisors had never sat me down that day, I don’t know if or when I would have started therapy. I don’t think I ever would have brought up my mental illness to them either. Bringing such a personal part of my life into the workplace just seemed unnecessary and unnatural. Mental illness is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with anyone, let alone someone whose respect and trust you’ve worked to earn,” Koski says. Yet because of her bravery in opening up, she now has support at work and is able to get the resources she needs to manage her mental health.

Koski is now an advocate for mental health awareness making presentations at work and even becoming the president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Spokane.

After one of her presentations, a co-worker told her, “You’ve just said what I can’t say yet,” and these kinds of interactions inspire Koski to continue talking to others about leading a full life and improving mental health. “It's been incredibly empowering, and it's reminded me to keep fighting the stigma surrounding mental health.”

Read more about Koski’s experience in the Women’s Health article, 'How I Told My Boss About My Depression'.

We Need to Talk Until the Healing Is Done

Author: Beth Tucker Long
October 10th, 2018

When Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. suffered anxiety or panic attacks, he turned to alcohol. He was fully functional while drunk - never late, never causing problems - so he didn’t recognize he had a problem until his first day in rehab. His wife told him, “You are killing yourself. You are commiting suicide.” and it opened his eyes.

Admitting you have a problem and getting help is not an easy thing to do, and often, it is not a socially acceptable thing to do, but McDaniels has a new outlook. “Therapy is the most gangster thing anybody can do for themselves. Going to therapy is the most powerful move that you can make that will help you heal, solve, or alleviate the stress and struggles of the battles with depression,” he says.

McDaniels is now an advocate for opening up and sharing your feelings. He is has been doing a lot of interviews and spreading awareness that we need to get rid of the stigma around mental health. “Most of all, I want to keep talking about it. When you break your calf, you talk about it until the cast is off and the healing is done. I want people to talk about mental health in the same way,” McDaniels says. He has even come up with a rhyme to help you remember: “if you don’t admit how you feel, whether good or bad, you will never heal.”

Read more about McDaniels in the Men’s Health article, “Darryl 'D.M.C.' McDaniels: Admitting Mental Health Issues Isn't Soft — It's Powerful”.

Summer 2018 Updates!

Author: Joe Ferguson
August 3rd, 2018

2018 Survey

We have been busy! We have spent the spring and summer! Volunteer & speaker Jenna Quindica went to Heartifacts conference, and also spoke at Docker in a partnership with OSMI and went to Dockercon 2018 representing OSMI! Joe Ferguson gave a keynote during WordCamp Dayton, gave his mental health talk at Mid-Atlantic Dev Con and PHP Detroit. Matt Trask spoke at WordCamp Kent. Nara Kasenberg gave a mental health keynote at Mid-Atlantic Dev Con. Volunteer J.D. Flynn also spoke at PHP Detroit about mental health. Arthur Doler spoke at NDC Oslo.

So far in 2018 OSMI has sponsored php[tek], Midwest PHP 2018, PHP Detroit, Mid-Atlantic Developer Conference, Madison PHP, Cascadia PHP, Wave PHP, Southeast Ruby, Southeast PHP as well as covering speaker travel costs to various events!

We'll do all our shopping via Amazon, and now you can support Open Sourcing Mental Illness whenever you purchase anything from Amazon.

Amazon Smile is a program where Amazon donates a small % of every sale to a non-profit of your choice. There is no extra cost to you! Just remember to shop Amazon from our Amazon Smile Link.

Starting a More Positive Conversation Around Mental Health

Author: Keely Carney
July 31st, 2018

It's 11:27 am & I grin as I move a Trello card & close my laptop. 3 minutes to spare. I give my CEO a nod & I'm off.

It's Tuesday, which means I'm heading to my weekly women's recovery group. Here's what makes this scenario interesting: everyone in the office knows it. They don't just know I'll be out for the next two hours. They know that I'll be sitting with a group of women, talking about my sobriety.

How do they know? I told them.

Here's my story: like most people struggling with mental illness, I've spent the majority of my life feeling deeply uncomfortable in my skin & in this world.

At various times in my life, that manifested in different ways. Early on, it was eating disorders & body image issues. Later, it was addiction. Then in recovery, without my self-destructive crutches, it was chronic & persistent depression.

Then, by some stroke of good fortune, I found freedom. From both my conditions (mostly) & the shame around them (90% of the time). Mental well-ish-ness, if you will.

Is it too corny to say I fixed my buggy mental code? Or does it only become too corny when I try to draw a parallel to open sourcing by saying a large community of helpers contributed to fixing my buggy mental code?

Alas, it happened. And with it came another kind of freedom: I got comfortable speaking about what my experiences & what I do to stay well-ish.

Now I do any chance I get. Why? Because I think it is extremely important to change the conversation about mental health.

The change I want to see? More solution-oriented empowerment.

We need to acknowledge that we're all humans. As such, we all have brains & nervous systems. And, due to some combination of nature & nurture, some of us just happen to have a few glitches in our systems.

It doesn't mean our systems are unsalvageable. It just means we have to do a little bit of work to figure out what's going on.

But we can do that work.

Then, once we do, we can share the solutions we've found. We can say things like "Hey, going to support groups really helps me. The one I like best is on Tuesdays at noon. Can we figure out a way that I can be offline for a couple of hours midday Tuesday?"

By doing so, we give other people permission to pursue their own solutions.

And here's something that's really magical: we all get to honor where we are on our journeys. Some of us haven't found the solutions that work for our unique circumstances yet. That's not just okay, that's exactly where all of us start.

That's when we get to say things like, "I saw that OSMI has a booth at the conference I'm going to. I'm going to stop by & talk to them to get some resources."

Pretty cool, eh?

About the author: once upon a time, Keely worked in digital marketing, where she discovered a love for open dialogues about mental health. She then worked as a Recovery Coach before merging both worlds & founding Mental Health Mugs. If you’re on board with starting a more positive conversation about mental health, you can get a mug at www.mentalhealthmugs.com. If you use discount code OSMI, you’ll get 10% off your order + 10% of the purchase price will be donated to OSMI!

Study Finds No Link Between Birth Control and Depression

Author: Beth Tucker Long
July 19th, 2018

A new meta-analysis study has taken the research from 26 different studies and analyzed them for quality, bias, and results. Published in the reproductive health journal, Contraception, researchers Brett L. Worly, Tamar L. Gur, and Jonathan Schaffir concluded that there is no increase in clinical depression when patients begin using the progestin contraceptives included in these studies. However, it is important to note that every patient is affected differently, so if you begin taking birth control and feel differently or depressed, you should talk to your health care provider immediately. Additionally, one of the studies analyzed, which they categorized as good-quality and medium-bias, did show an association between progestin-only pills, the intrauterine device, and depression, so further study of more types and combinations of birth control are necessary. One of the researchers, Brett L. Worly, noted that their study only looked at clinically-recognized signs of depression, which are different from mood changes and a sense of depressed mood, so the widespread perception that starting or switching birth control increases depression could still be true for non-clinical depression symptoms. Read more in this article in Women’s Health or view the published study in Contraception.

Disrupted Circadian Rhythms Could Hurt Your Mental Health

Author: Beth Tucker Long
July 17th, 2018

A new study published in The Lancet found an association between disrupted circadian rhythms and mental health issues like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. The study looked at 91,000 people and whether they had a standard circadian rhythm (active in the day, resting at night) or a disrupted one (resting in the day, active at night). Those with a disrupted circadian rhythm were 6 to 10 percent more likely to have a mental health issue diagnosis. "The study tells us the body clock is really important for mood disorders and should be given greater priority in research and in [the] way we organize societies," Daniel Smith, co-author of the study and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow, told the BBC. You can read more about the study on BBC News or view the published study on The Lancet.

The Doorway to Better Stuff

Author: Beth Tucker Long
July 12th, 2018

Clark Gregg easily shines on the screen as Agent Phil Coulson in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but off screen, relaxing did not come as easily. “During the really stressful periods of work — whether it was a movie with big action, or an emotional scene where you have to deliver, or the nine-month, 22-episode relentlessness of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — I was really okay. But when I would try to relax, I found that I would go into a different space that didn’t feel right. I felt anxious, but kind of disassociated, and I didn’t understand what was going on”, Gregg recalls.

After seeing a variety of Eastern and Western doctors, Gregg had no answers, but was still struggling to relax. After suffering for 5 years, Gregg spent some time investigating his symptoms online and discovered a book that changed his outlook on his symptoms and gave him a way to positively address them. Barry McDonagh’s book, Dare, introduced Gregg to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which centers around developing personal coping strategies to change unhelpful patterns around the anxiety rather than stopping the anxiety.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy was a game-changer for me, and remains a game-changer. I find it calming to know that wherever I am, I don’t have to wonder if I have a pill nearby; I just know I can do these exercises, and it's going to become manageable”, Gregg says. “CBT is really a miracle. I've seen it help a lot of people, and one of the reasons I’m speaking out is that I don’t feel like enough people know it.“

Gregg is working on becoming more open about his mental health strategies and hopes to help others learn about CBT. “…mental health issues don’t always feel good. But they don't have to ruin your life, either — they can really be the doorway to better stuff.” Read Jordyn Taylor’s interview with Clark Gregg on Men’s Health.