Sunday, January 18, 2015

Amanda Catherine joined me Monday at 9:30am pst to talk about funks, depression, psychology and more!

Thanks to special guest Amanda Catherine for calling in to today's show at 9:30am pst!

If you missed Amanda on today's show, listen to our conversation here!

Amanda Catherine received her BA in Psychology from The University of San Francisco in 2008. After working as a research assistant at The University of California - San Francisco (UCSF) Hospital, Amanda took a break from the field to pursue other interests, working in Product Development at Macy's Merchandising Group and later as a Senior Account Executive at Groupon.
The allure of Southern California's weather eventually brought Amanda back to Los Angeles, where she is currently enrolled in Antioch University's Masters in Clinical Psychology program for Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) licensure. Motivated by both personal and professional experience, Amanda is specializing in Child Studies with a concentration on preventative mental health care for elementary-school aged children and adolescents. 

Here's a very meaningful post Amanda wrote on facebook in Decemeber that inspired many folks to comment on (including myself). NOTE: the data cited is from the 5th edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The full text of their document about the holiday season suicide myth is available at this link should anyone inquire:

Did you know it's actually a myth that most people commit suicide around the holidays? According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, suicide rates are lowest at the beginning of winter and highest in early spring. However I have a theory about this relationship, which I've based on the suicide risk associated with antidepressants. For those who aren't aware, antidepressants actually temporarily increase the risk of suicide because they are most effective at treating the physiological symptoms of depression, but do not address the underlying causes. As such, they can inadvertently provide clinically depressed people with the energy they otherwise lacked to kill themselves. My theory is that April and May are the seasonal equivalent of antidepressants, granting enough symptom relief for potentially lethal action. As such, one would expect early spring to indeed have the highest rates of suicide.

If my idea has any merit, this also means something very important and worth sharing on Facebook: the conversation needs to begin now. The people with the highest risk of suicide in Spring don't spontaneously experience clinical depression when the clouds roll out. They are likely already depressed, sinking deeper, unknowingly protected by physiological symptoms of depression including fatigue, inability to concentrate, psychomotor retardation, hypersomnia, and anhedonia.

The prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder in the US is 7%, with rates much higher amongst 18-29 year olds. Risks for completed suicide include previous attempts, living alone, being male, and having prominent feelings of hopelessness. It is important to remember that most completed suicides are not preceded by unsuccessful attempts. It's also important to know that although most depressed people do not commit suicide, depression should always be taken seriously. It is a medical condition, not a sign of weakness. It does not involve the will to be happy and is very different than feeling depressed. It is lonely, immersive, hugely impairing, all too prevalent, and yet so regularly misunderstood. Disregarding variances by age, if you have 100 friends on Facebook, it's likely that at least 7 meet the qualifications for Major Depressive Disorder. And that's only one form of depression, one diagnosis, in a laundry list of mental health conditions that increase a person's risk of suicide.

So my point is this: as we post on Facebook about gratitude, births, engagements, weddings, promotions, family reunions, and New Years resolutions, it is the silent who most desperately need to be heard. We live in a new age where many friendships don't receive the attention or time they deserve; we still love the people who live far away, who we can't seem to fit into our busy schedules, and who we haven't called in awhile but most certainly haven't forgotten. And in this age of status updates and blogs and tweets and group texts as the easiest forms of communication, there's not a lot of room to ask for help or discuss serious problems. It doesn't foster an environment where "bad" news feels safe to share, even though struggle is as much a part of life as those things we so readily broadcast on social media.

Facebook used to have a feature that prompted you to write on the walls of your Facebook friends who hadn't been active in awhile. For a number of months in the Spring of 2010, Facebook reminded me that I hadn't communicated with my friend, Jessica Liever, in a long time. Maybe I should write on her wall, it casually suggested. I saw it every time I signed in. After staring at that icon on the corner of my homepage for what felt like a bitter eternity, I filed a notice with Facebook, attaching a link to her obituary, to let them know she had passed away. In truth, I hadn't spoken with Jessica long before she committed suicide. But I think about her all the time now she's gone.

It's important to celebrate the best parts of life. I feel real, honest joy at the accomplishments of my friends and the blossoming of their most beautiful lives. I'm immensely thankful that inventions like Facebook spared me the burden of having to choose only a handful of people to keep up with, letting most slip into obscurity. I'm in one of the last generations that remembers what it's like to lose people when their immediate relevance in our lives faded away. I still recognize this as a most precious gift. But like all gifts, it's easy to take for granted. It's easy to forget that many of the people who need me the most right now may not show up on my newsfeed. I don't want any of us to wish we could have helped them once it's too late.

Here's wishing all my friends a most warmly fulfilling holiday season, especially those who will never see this post. Facebook has decided that maybe you don't matter as much to me, but that is so far from the truth. You matter. Your life is worth honoring. I haven't forgotten you. And if a few people who see this are even slightly impacted by my post, perhaps together we can reach everyone who deserves -or (even better) needs- to be reminded at this time of year just how much you are loved. No matter how hard it seems, it is always okay to ask for help. We want to help; that's what friends are for.

Coming up 7/10 at 9:00am PT - Jacqueline Gay Walley calls in to talk about her new book The WAW

LISTEN "In this wonderful new novel by Gay Walley, a woman makes her own mystery in an English village completely unlike her life in Ne...