Hyperbole and a Half Tackles Depression (Again)

Allie Brosh, creator and author of the blog Hyperbole and a Half, has recently returned after an extended absence from the blogosphere. Before her unplanned hiatus, she published a post about her experience with depression; and now, upon her return, she has published a follow-up on her continuing struggle with the mental illness. Brosh’s posts are as insightful as they are entertaining. I cannot recommend them enough. For those who are suffering, or have suffered, from depression, you will find much in common with Brosh’s experiences. And, for those who haven’t been touched by depression, you will find it very eye-opening; Brosh does an amazing job of describing this often frustratingly ineffable experience. Follow the links below to Brosh’s blog, and prepare for a take on mental health like you’ve not seen before.

(WARNING: Both posts contain coarse language.)

“Adventures in Depression”

“Depression Part Two”

Follow all the links


Brain Illness – What a Difference!

In this short, interesting article, Depression’s Collateral Damage considers the benefits of shift from the language of “mental” illness, to “brain” illness.

I must confess, as someone with a mental illness, I have my reservations about the shift toward thinking of mental illness as a strictly physiological affliction. I worry that it will lead to an overly pharmaceutical approach to its treatment. I fully acknowledge the role that medication has to play in wellness (indeed, it plays a significant role in my own), but I think that talk-therapies are essential to wellness too. If, however, we start to think of mental illnesses as a strictly physiological condition, I worry that sufferers will neglect the importance of therapy. If mental illness is nothing more than a flaw in chemistry, talking would no more solve the problem than it would cure diabetes.

Admittedly, treatment schemes are, and should be, as individual as the people who suffer from these illnesses. But, when coupled with increasing pressures on public health systems to cut back on spending, I worry that a strictly biological conception of mental health will lead to a severe underemphasis of the value of talk-therapies.

Apologies to my subscribers for the brief hiatus. I will return with an article on perfectionism in the coming days.

Depression's Collateral Damage

Brain (1)I have become aware of something very extraordinary these past few days. It has completely altered how I look at particular things. And that’s the gift of new language.

When I started using brain illness instead of mental illness, I thought it was perhaps just an exercise in semantics. I didn’t think it would make any difference, but it has.

Now, when I look at my husband and think brain illness, something has subtly shifted. I am processing what is happening in terms of something wrong with him physically, not that his mind is haywire. Sure, the illness can affect his thinking, causing him to obsess, but I know that there is something physically wrong with him and that makes all the difference.

When I think of others suffering other forms of brain illness, I find myself with more hope than when I approached it from the point of view…

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Good article from the blog Depression’s Collateral Damage on the persistence of stigma and the value of openness.

“People are hurting.  They’re looking for a chance to talk about how mental illness is affecting their lives.  Too often the stigma prevents them from discovering that others are living in similar situations. Loneliness, isolation, abandonment abound.  One simple act of sharing can change all that.”

Find complete post at “Exposing the Stigma of Living With Depression”.

Dr. Nadine Muller, Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University, writes about her personal experience with anxiety and academic life.

…Of course some, or even many, of you may say that all this is (easily) controllable, or that I dramatise perfectly normal periods of academic stress. However, it’s exactly the thought that this is ‘part of the job’, or even the idea that the ‘really capable’ ones do not encounter these issues, which I find frightening, and which, I suppose, I ask you reconsider.

Find complete post at Nadine Muller » An Anxious Mind.

The Lowdown

I’ll preface this by saying that I won’t often use this as a platform for (what is essentially) solicitation; however, I feel this is a terribly important cause.

To those of you in the UK, there is a charitable organisation based in Northampton called The Lowdown. The Lowdown offers counselling to young people aged 12-25; a demographic profoundly affected by mental illness. Indeed, according to a 2005 study (Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., et al. (2005)) over 1 in 10 children 11-15 have some kind of mental illness–and that’s to say nothing of those 16-25, for whom suicide is a leading cause of death (accounting for 30% of all deaths for those 15-24 (Evans, et al (2005))) (NB: All stats for the UK).

Of course, most people in this demographic are students and, depending on their family circumstances, counselling can sometimes be nigh on inaccessible. What’s more, it can be terribly difficult for youth to speak to their families about their troubles. In Canada, I benefitted greatly from a service similar to The Lowdown; I think these organisation are absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, The Lowdown is facing shut-down. To support them, I’ve made a modest donation, and if you can, I encourage you to do the same. If you’d like to, you can do so here.

Thanks all.
Until next time!

Resources on Mental Health and Academia

Well, a student is as a student does, and that couldn’t be truer where I’m concerned. While engaging in a bit of what I affectionately call “productive procrastination” I happened upon a terrific list of resources on the very topic of this blog. Earlier this year, Dr. Karen Kelsky of the aptly-titled blog The Professor Is In. posted an expansive list of websites, blogs, talks, and papers, all broadly on the topic of mental illness in academia. I’m eager to follow these up, and will post reviews of any content I find particularly interesting as I work my way through.

Needless to say, my procrastination habit will be well-fed for the foreseeable future…

Do you have any recommendations that don’t appear on this list? Are there any topics you feel are missing? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

(P.S. I will continue with more substantial content next week in a post on the culture of shame in academia.)