2019 Florida Book Festival
I am very excited to announce that I was chosen as the over-all winner of the 2019 Florida Book Festival. Please follow the link below and click on 2019 Florida Book Festival Winners to see my book listed as in the top honors.
I was sent this mental health guide and asked if I would post it on my site. It contains a lot of very useful information on mental health. Check it out and pass it on.
"The guide was created to inspire people to get involved––both professionally and as volunteers––in supporting people with mental health concerns and to become powerful advocates for this severely under-resourced area of global concern. It includes information on common mental health issues and how people in local communities can get involved. It also has apps and other resources to help those battling mental health issues."
I am a trained presenter for NAMI's, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, signature program for middle and high school students called "Ending the Silence." This program brings information about mental health and mental illness to students in schools and helps them understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
Since I am passionate about giving information to students I wanted to point out a website with a few specific pages on mental health for students, healthy eating and fitness, and mind and body connection. I think these three things go hand in hand when maintaining good mental health.
Check them out on my resources page under mental health information or follow the links below:
Please follow the link to read 9 Facts I Wish I'd Known When I Discovered My Son Was Self-Harming
I am very excited to have Pushing Back the Shadows as me to guest blog for their site. Please read my article below.
Suicide Prevention Resources
Found this gem on https://themighty.com/
Suicide Prevention Resources
From the Mighty
If you are feeling suicidal, there is hope.
You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
You can reach the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741.
You can call The Trevor Project, an LGBT crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386.
Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
For additional resources go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
You can read the following stories from people who’ve been there:
Words Can Kill
On July 12, 2014 18-year-old Conrad Roy III took his life after struggling for many months with suicidal ideation, depression and social anxiety. He was found alone in his truck, having died from carbon monoxide poisoning, yet he wasn’t alone when he died, his girlfriend was “virtually present” in the truck with him.
New Article on Psych Central
I'm happy to have Psych Central publish another one of my articles.
The awesome David Susman PhD interviewed me for his blog. Please follow the link below to read the interview.
“There are 13 sides to every story,” Hannah Baker, the star of the Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why, says in the first episode. This series, which debuted in March of 2017, portrays Hannah Baker’s point of view, or as one of the characters eloquently puts it, “Her truth.” This is a story of someone broken down by a series of events in her life that compel her to feel hopeless, helpless, and wishing for death.
This was her truth. It was told from her vantage point and while many people may not agree with how she responded to the crises that unfolded in her life, it was her choice…or was it?
Of course, Hannah Baker is just a character in a TV show, but the show makes people question how others handle situations differently. For instance, a specific event, such as an abuse, may bring one person to the brink of suicide, while another person may be able to “shrug it off” and put it behind them. Both reactions can be considered normal, but they are completely different responses to a similar incident.
Hannah tells her story exactly as she saw it, however that doesn’t mean the way she views the world is the way it was. It is her perspective and each and every one of us sees things from a different viewpoint. And Hannah is only 17, she doesn’t have a lot of life experiences to draw from to let her know that the situation she is in right now won’t last forever, that the choices she makes don’t have to define who she is, and that things can get better.
Everyone who viewed this series has their own conflicting opinions on how things were handled.
Were the tapes seen as vindictive or just an explanation?
Is this really how things are at most high schools or did they over exaggerate?
Should they have shown the suicide scene or left it to the imagination?
Did Hannah have a mental illness or not?
Did Hannah make a “choice” to end her life or was it inevitable?
These are questions that can have multiple answers or maybe no answers at all.
The mental health community have raised concerns that mental illness was not discussed in the series. This could have been an opportunity for an open, honest conversation about mental health issues.
However, this was a show based on a young woman who takes her own life. The writers did not give a great deal of opportunity for anyone to help Hannah or talk about mental health, except possibly the incompetent school counselor, because it would have steered the topic away from the tragic ending. And Hannah was portrayed as not being particularly skilled at verbalizing how she felt, mostly because she was only 17 and partly because when she did speak out she was often pushed away or made to feel worse.
In my opinion, there was not enough information given to make an informed decision about the state of Hannah’s mental health. She possibly showed signs of depression. She certainly showed signs of PTSD.
More than 90% of people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness. But we can’t make a diagnosis based on the limited view of Hannah’s emotional state. Did she or didn’t she have a mental illness? We will never know.
Could Hannah have reached out to her parents? Absolutely.
Could she have reached out to another adult that she trusted? Absolutely.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this series? Absolutely.
As a parent I think everyone who raises children should watch these thirteen episodes. They should watch the companion piece, “Beyond the Reasons,” which gives insight into why the directors and producers did what they did. It also portrays professionals explaining how to educate youth on sexual consent and offering information on suicide and depression. This controversial series should not be ignored. In this case ignorance is not bliss. These types of situations are going on in our schools on a daily basis. We must educate ourselves and our children, so that they don’t become one of the statistics.
13 Reasons Why has raised awareness. It has spurred people, schools, and communities to discuss bullying, sexual assault, suicide, and mental illness. It has made a difference, because people are talking. They are debating, they are researching, and they are discussing their reasons why not.
Every one of us can strive to be that person that someone reaches out to. That sees, listens, and acknowledges. It’s not a difficult thing to do, it just takes compassion, empathy, and a big heaping of validation.
May 15th, 2017
The Lessons of Time
Today is a significant day in my life. As I have contemplated the passing of the time I am overwhelmed at how life can change so dramatically in such a seemingly quick period. Life seems as if it passes by quickly when you look back on it, but in the moment it seems to move at a snail’s pace.
Five years ago today, my son was in the hospital after an attempted suicide. My daughter went to school as usual. She was a junior in high school and she had exams in a few weeks. Life had to continue on as normal.
Here is an excerpt from my novel:
“It was Tuesday, March 6, 2012. At 1:30 p.m., a text message came through on my phone from my daughter, Jessica. ‘Mom I’m scared, the school is on lock-down, and I have been on the floor in the library for almost an hour. Someone has been shot.’
My hands started to shake, tears blurred my vision, my heart pounded with such great force that it roared in my ears, and an unswallowable lump caught in my throat. What new kind of hell was I being subjected to? ‘Are you okay?’ I texted back, as I ran to the television to see if anything was reported.
Nothing showed up on the news, so I resorted to the Internet. Typing in Jessica’s school name and shooting on the computer revealed the story. The article said two people had allegedly been shot. Authorities didn’t know if the shooter was still at large or if the shooter was immobilized. A scream emanated from the back of my throat as tears spilled down my cheeks. I trembled as my brain tried to interpret the events.
Jessica said she was okay, but frightened. She told me she didn’t have any information.
I asked her if there were adults in the library with her, and she said ‘Yes.’
I texted my husband, Erik, and he immediately called me. I could barely speak; I was on the verge of hysteria. A vacuum of uncontrollable emotions threatened to engulf me. I had been under constant, extreme crisis with Matthew for so long that I didn’t think I could recover from another one. It was out of my control. I told Jessica I was coming to the school.
‘Please don’t, Mom; you could get hurt.’ She begged.
I felt like a caged animal. The waiting was almost too much to bear. I followed the story on the Internet while texting with Jessica, waiting for the moment when I could get her. She was safe for the time being, but nothing calmed my nerves.
By 2:30, the news stated that the police were letting parents in to collect their children. Two people were dead, including the shooter. The threat had come to an end.
I drove too fast, I couldn’t help myself; I wanted to see my daughter. I parked a few streets away from the school, and ran the rest of the way.
Many parents were there already. I found Jessica in the main common area of the campus with her best friend. I hugged them both and said, ‘Let’s go home.’
Rumors circulated, but the truth was that Jessica’s principal had been murdered in her office by a teacher she fired that morning. The shooter, Jessica’s Spanish teacher, then turned the gun on himself.
Once the girls and I were inside the car, the story unfolded. Jessica was sitting in a courtyard by the library with some friends after lunch. They heard a noise and the school security guard came running around the corner of a building yelling at everyone to go inside. Jessica grabbed her backpack and ran into the library. From there she lay on the floor, unaware of what was happening outside. About an hour and a half later, students were allowed to leave the library. Once outside and before I arrived, Jessica heard stories from other classmates.
In the classroom, where Jessica had chemistry earlier that day, students heard a loud banging sound repeated eight times, like someone slamming a locker door. The teacher grew irritated, wondering why someone was making noise. The door to his classroom burst open and the security guard hustled a student from the hallway into the room as a warning bell blared, indicating an emergency. The chemistry teacher locked the door and corralled his students to the floor behind the lab tables.
Many stories circulated. We heard full details on the local news when we arrived home. Jessica’s Spanish teacher was fired from his job Tuesday morning. His work at the school had become erratic. He was not teaching the curriculum.
Jessica said he wasn’t giving tests, he wasn’t assigning homework, and the previous week, he had taken her class on a ‘field trip’ around the school. In lieu of teaching Spanish, he was lecturing on Marxism and Fascism. Jessica had wondered why he had been acting odd.
After he was dismissed, he had returned at lunchtime with a guitar case. He entered the principal’s office, pulled an AK-47 assault rifle from his guitar case, and shot the principal seven times before turning the gun on himself. Those were the eight loud bangs the chemistry teacher and his students heard from their classroom near the principal’s office.
The shooter carried more than seventy rounds of ammunition in the guitar case. No one will ever know what he had planned to do with those seventy rounds. Obviously he was mentally ill; no one in his right mind would carry out something like that. He may have had plans to kill other people, but after killing one person, he was probably overwhelmed with guilt and killed himself instead. We will never know what went on inside his head.
Here was mental illness thrown in my face like acid and it burned like hell.
Later that day I arrived, in shock, at, my son, Matthew’s counselor for my scheduled appointment. I couldn’t believe what had happened.
How could this much occur at once? Matthew’s suicide attempt, his hospital stay, our decision to send him to his father’s, and then the shooting; it was unreal.
I did not sleep that night. The events of the previous day and of the day to come weighed heavily on my mind. I had not seen Matthew since we admitted him to the psychiatric unit Saturday.
Wednesday, March 7, we arrived at the facility. Matthew was ready to leave. I gave him a hug, handed him his cell phone, his shoes, and a few other belongings, and watched as the transport staff put him on a gurney, strapped him in for safety, and loaded him into an ambulance.
My heart broke. I was sending my child to live with the man I had divorced. I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame, but I could not deal with the strain anymore.
A statement, on a list for people dealing with loved ones with a mental illness, by The National Alliance on Mental Illness said, ‘If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for another.’ I needed to start caring for myself. I had managed adequately for several years, but Matthew had not lived with us the whole time. Maybe a year was all anyone could take. I shouldn’t have beaten myself up for not being able to handle the situation anymore. I had to forgive myself for needing space from my son.
I could hardly crawl out of bed the next day. I swallowed some Xanax to calm my nerves. I was worthless to anyone. Spring break was due to start the following week for Jessica, but school closed early and would remain closed through spring break week.
Friday March 9, a memorial service was held at Jessica’s school for her principal. We attended a beautiful service with 3,000 other people, remembering the principal’s life rather than her tragic death.
I was troubled by how the principal’s death would emotionally affect Jessica. She had been through a great deal of trauma with her brother, and now she faced this nightmare. With Matthew at his father’s, my next assignment was to find a way to help Jessica through the recent struggles.”
As I remember these tragic events I also have to dwell on the now.
My son is thriving. He is in college and working at a veterinary clinic. He is studying science and has dreams and goals for the future. His past is not forgotten, but a reminder of what he lived through. It has made him the person he is today; a strong, gentle, and understanding individual.
My daughter has a bold, generous, and adventurous spirit. She follows her own path and has many aspirations of her own. She too is in college and studying psychology and she has become a stronger person because of the trials and tribulations she faced in her short life. They were difficult times, but they have shaped her to be the amazing person she is today.
Difficult times in our lives, such as tragedy or mental illness, don’t have to determine what will become of us. We can endure many things and through these we can be more than we ever dreamed possible.
Please read this very informative article by Elizabeth Turner on schizophrenia and substance abuse by clicking the link below.
Marital Separation: Why it’s Putting Men at Risk for Suicide and Substance Abuse
Breakup of a marriage can be tough for an entire family. New studies have revealed that men are at increased risk for suicide and substance abuse issues after a marital separation.
When a family experiences a marital breakup, everyone’s first concern is usually the wellbeing of the children. While the health and happiness of the children is a vital consideration, it is also important to ensure the wellbeing of the husband. Recent studies have proven that divorce puts men at risk for a plethora of health issues, both physical and mental, including suicide and substance abuse.
Marital Separation and Men’s Health
A recent study published in the Journal of Men’s Health concluded that mortality rate of divorced men (and unmarried men) can be up to 250% higher than that of married men. This inflated death rate is due in part to the increased risk of physical ailments in divorced men, including:
While these physical illnesses are certainly concerning, it is not the only health issue that divorced men experience, many also suffer from mental health problems, as well. In fact, divorced men experience higher rates of depression than married men. Similarly, divorced men are ten times more likely to seek the help of a mental health professional. A divorced man who is suffering with depression might be experiencing:
Unfortunately, mental illnesses, including depression, put a divorced man at higher risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. In fact, divorced men experience suicidal ideations 39% more than their married counterparts. This may be unsurprising, as negative major life events are a well-known predictor of suicide attempts.
The Role of Substance Abuse
Not only are men at higher risk for the above-referenced mental and physical ailments, they also experience an increased rate of substance abuse. The reasoning behind this can be complex, but may include:
Substance abuse and suicide often go hand in hand, no matter what demographic is being studied. Whether the underlying issues were caused by the divorce or present before the divorce, many men use drugs and alcohol to cope with the negative emotions and stressful events.
Because substance abuse can actually change the way a brain functions, it can also be the cause of a depressive state. As such, depression can be the cause of substance abuse or a side effect. Both of which can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Why Men Are At Higher Risk
Divorce disrupts a family unit, whether it is of just two people, or a whole family. The process can cause stress and anxiety, which can develop into a substance abuse disorder or mental/emotional problem. Potential stressors include:
This stress and anxiety can lead some men to develop bad habits, including:
The combination of stress and unhealthy habits can lead to other detrimental factors, including:
The overall impact of these factors typically cause a man’s brain and body to function at a less than optimal level, leading to the above-described physical or mental ailments. Often, as these issues take hold, a man may begin to feel as though suicide is his only option to cope. Fortunately, there is hope. Men who are going through a marital separation often benefit from the support and guidance of:
It is never too late, or too early, to seek help. Men should not let the stigma of masculinity keep them from reaching out. These resources, however, are not your only source of information. If you are looking for help coping with a marital separation, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts, please feel free to contact us today.
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.
Please follow the link to read my latest article on "The Mighty."
5 * Review on Psych Central
Please read the latest 5* review of "Cutting the Soul" from Psych Central by following the link below or by going to the "Awards, Excerpts, Reviews, and Comments" page
I was recently contacted through email and was given the recently published Disability Benefits Guide for 2016.
When my son was having mental health difficulties we often wondered what benefits he might be entitled to, even going to the county office to ask for information.
The person who sent me the email said, "I am helping out the team over at TheSimpleDollar.com as they just wrapped up their research and published a comprehensive resource that helps people not only understand, but access social security disability benefits.
In the course of their research, they found that most people who have become or already living with disabilities are not fully aware of the benefits and resources that are available to them. This guide will not only answer common questions like qualifications, application process, as well as a calculator that can help estimate monthly and annual benefits."
And this is true, most people are not fully aware of benefits and resources available to them.
So if you want to know what they are follow the links below to check them out or see these same links on my resources page:
According to a recent article on CNN by Azadeh Ansari the views of Americans on mental health are changing, and changing for the good.
Azadeha Ansari says:
"Mental health has a long-standing public perception problem, but the stigma appears to be shifting, at least in the United States, a new survey reveals. Results from a national online survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide indicate that 90% of Americans value mental and physical health equally.
'Progress is being made in how American adults view mental health, and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. People see connection between mental health and overall well-being, our ability to function at work and at home and how we view the world around us,' said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The survey also revealed that people ages 18 to 24 are becoming more comfortable with seeking medical help and are more likely to consider it a sign of strength to see a medical health professional, compared with older people."
This is wonderful news. Many advocates for mental health have worked long and hard to change the way people think about an illness of the brain and knowing that progress is being made makes all the hard work worth it.
Please follow the link below and read the full article
Very interesting information for family members calling 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Clay County, FL sheriff's deputies responded to more than 300,000 calls for service last year and many of those calls involved citizens experiencing some kind of mental health issue. It is so important for families to prepare in advance, if possible, for crisis situations that might arise that include a loved one with a known mental health issue. The video linked here provides tips on what information you should be ready to tell Emergency Communications Operators when the time comes for you to call 911.
Mental Health in Duval Schools
I was very excited to see this article in the "Florida Times Union" explaining the new Full Service Schools Plus program in the Duval county schools. “This program embeds a therapist in each of the 12 schools within the Ribault High School feeder pattern in northwest Jacksonville.
The effort aims to increase students’ access to mental-health services by reducing the barriers, such as transportation and demands on parental time, that sometimes prevent them from receiving help.”
Don’t we all need better access to mental-health services? When we accept that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that in order to have overall wellness we need to take care of the overall body, then we as a society will be moving toward more programs like this one.
This is a great start to reducing the stigma of mental illness and I am excited to see this happening in my area. And the goal for students, as Tessa Duvall who wrote the article states, “is healthier, happier children who are less likely to have behavior problems and more able to learn in class.”
Amen to that!
Please follow the link below to read the whole story
I heard about Kevin Hines for the first time in an occupational therapy class at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences where I was involved in a NAMI presentation on mental health and suicide awareness. The woman presenting the suicide awareness part of the program talked about Kevin, his story, and his advocacy work.
“Kevin Hines is an award-winning global speaker, bestselling author, documentary filmmaker, suicide prevention and mental health advocate who reaches audiences with his story of an unlikely survival and his strong will to live. Two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.
He is one of only thirty-four (less than 1%) to survive the fall and he is the only Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor who is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy around the globe.
Kevin’s will to live and stay mentally well has inspired people worldwide. His compelling story has touched diverse, global audiences within colleges and universities, high schools, corporations, clergy, military, clinicians, health and medical communities, law enforcement organizations, and various conferences. Thousands have communicated to Hines that his story helped save their lives.
Kevin believes in the power of the human spirit and in the fact that you can find the ability to live mentally well. His mantra: ‘Life is a gift, that is why they call it the present. Cherish it always.’” --http://www.kevinhinesstory.com/
Recently Kevin spoke at the White House and in his moving speech he emphasized the need for men to start asking for help. He talked about his recovery, his daily fight for mental well-being, and of traveling the world spreading the message of hope, because, as Kevin states, “hope helps people heal.”
Telling our stories of mental health will help break down the stigma surrounding this illness. This is one of the last fights for civil rights and it is our duty to stand up and speak out about mental illness, for now and for future generations. Remember mental illness is just an illness like any other, an illness in need of treatment and compassion.
I encourage everyone to listen to what Kevin has to say. His enthusiasm for mental wellness is inspiring.
Please follow the link below and forward to 1:02:40 to see the White House speech
For more information on Kevin and his projects please check out these links.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WTDxCuYJH0&feature=youtu.be (a dream for mental health equality)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcSUs9iZv-g (Kevin’s suicide prevention awareness story)
Mental Health Legislation 2015
The 2015 report for State Mental Health Legislation is out. This outlines what our government is doing in your state for mental health.
NAMI’s report, State Mental Health Legislation: Trends, Themes and Effective Practices, highlights the good and bad news in states’ approaches to mental health.
The good news is that in 2015, 35 states adopted one or more measures that NAMI applauds with a Gold Star—and five states passed model legislation.
The bad news is that, at a time when public awareness of the need for mental health reform continues to increase, funding for mental health services fell in more states than it grew. This is the third year in a row the number of states willing to increase spending on mental health shrank.
The report also highlights legislation that helps improve mental health systems or services. Five bills stood out:
Please follow the link and check out the report for yourself.
Cutting the Soul Holiday Discount
A 15% discount for "Cutting the Soul" in paperback is active for the rest of the month of December by going to the CreateSpace https://www.createspace.com/5057095 or following the link on the "Awards, Comments, Reviews, and Excerpts" page and entering the code HTUDXN85 in the check out. This is only available for those shipping in the USA, sorry I can't make it available outside of the USA. This is for the paperback only.
If you would like the kindle version I have reduced the Amazon price to $3.99 for a limited time.
I had an amazing night at FSCJ for the opening of "Inside Out," Jacksonville’s largest multi-media art exhibit aimed at minimizing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
If you were not able to go on the opening night, please stop by and check it out until December 4th.
Here are some of the pictures I took at the event. Starting with me and my artwork.
I am so excited to have yahoo publish my article that was on www.themighty.com Thanks to them for pitching it to yahoo.
Click on the RSS Feed link above to follow my blog