7 posts tagged “mental health community”

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2012: Dismantling the Stigma

Posted October 11th, 2012 by

Did you know that one in four adults – or approximately 57.7 million Americans – experiences a mental health problem in any given year?  Or that one in 17 lives with a serious, chronic mental illness?

It's Mental Illness Awareness Week

Since 1990, National Mental Illness Awareness Week has been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a time for mental health advocates and patients to join together for various awareness-raising activities. Sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the goal of this week is to transform the way we think about mental illness, which is defined by NAMI as “a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.”

Important Phone Numbers to Have on Hand in the Event of Mental Health Crisis

Like any other medical condition affecting a particular organ, mental illness is not caused by personal weakness or character defects, and it can affect individuals of any age, race, religion or income.  As an example, some famous people who are known to have lived with mental illness include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Tennessee Williams and Mike Wallace (who was eulogized by one of our members last June).  Below is a new PSA ad for National Mental Illness Awareness Week 2012 that focuses on some of these legendary icons, stressing that “you are not alone in this fight.”

But what about feeling like no one understands what you’re going through?  That’s where finding others like you – such as those with the same diagnosis (or diagnoses), symptoms or treatment side effects – comes in.  At PatientsLikeMe, we have tens of thousands of patients sharing their experiences with more than 60 mental health conditions, including:

In addition to exchanging in-depth treatment evaluations about the effectiveness and side effects of commonly prescribed medications such as Cymbalta, Klonopin or Wellbutrin, our members are connecting and supporting each other daily in our Mental Health and Behavior Forum.  Currently, there are more than 39,000 participants and more than 333,000 posts in this highly active forum, where you can find answers, empathy, humor and thought-provoking conversations day or night.

Get to know our mental health community – including what depression feels like to them or how PatientsLikeMe has helped them be more open about their condition – today.  Also, stay tuned for some tips from our community about what to do and not do when interacting with someone who is living with a mental health condition.


It’s the Season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted November 15th, 2011 by

Now that daylight savings time has ended, the days are shorter, and before you know it, it’s nightfall.  Has this affected your mood?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a condition marked by a period of depression that occurs during the same season year after year.  In most cases, that season would be fall through winter (when there is less sunlight), but for some people, SAD can occur during spring or summer.

An Example of a Light Therapy Box Used to Treat SAD

One of the best ways to learn “what’s normal and not normal?” with SAD is to compare your experiences with other patients. There are 446 patients with SAD at PatientsLikeMe, with 85% of them female and 15% male.  A commonly reported treatment is light therapy, or the use of a special light box that exposes you to bright light.  This mimics the effect of natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals that positively affects your mood.  (Does it really work?  Check out the 27 treatment evaluations for light therapy that our patients have submitted.)

What’s it like to live with SAD?  Here are some first-hand reports from members of our mental health community, who answered the question “What are your SAD symptoms?

  • “My symptoms tend to be worsening depression and anxiety.  There are no ‘indicator’ symptoms for me – meaning I don’t realize necessarily ‘Oh I’m starting to feel SAD, crap!’  But all of my Major Depressive Episodes (five so far since I was 20) have occurred in November and December.  And looking back, I can see a downward trend in especially depressive symptoms getting worse starting in mid October – such as depressed mood, more frequent crying spells, fatigue, worse insomnia, headaches worsen, weight and appetite changes, and urges to self-injure.  Three of my Major Depressive Episodes led to suicidal thoughts and short hospitalizations.  The other two, I had frequent suicidal thoughts but did not feel in danger of acting upon them.” – Member with panic disorder
  • “[Symptoms are] mild now, but they ran the spectrum from comatose to the walking functional. Kids don’t understand, and our school bus arrived at 6:00 a.m. Needless to say they weren’t hungry, food on the bus = school contraband, so I’d whip up scrambled eggs with cheese and wrap them in a taco shell and tell them to sneak a bite when they got hungry. They just threw them in the bushes for the local dogs to eat. Then I’d watch TV and answer the ever increasing phone calls all day long. If I felt OK, I’d start to prepare for the tornado that was spring.  Nowadays since I don’t have so much responsibility, my symptoms seem mild, but that could change depending on the winds of life events.” – Member with bipolar II disorder
  • “I think it varies year to year in terms of severity.  The March/April period is characterized by an increase in my anxiety levels together with restlessness and restrictive eating. The September/October period is characterized by an increase in my feelings of sadness along with intense carbohydrate cravings and a need to sleep more.  Both periods are marked by problems concentrating.  I notice that the light box really helps with the carbohydrate cravings. I think it might even make me less hungry overall.  It’s not that the cravings go away entirely, but instead they are dampened to the level where I *don’t* find myself eating cookies without realizing how I got them.” – Member with major depressive disorder

Wondering what else they patients have to say about SAD?  Or think you might experience the condition yourself?  Join PatientsLikeMe and take part in this ongoing SAD forum discussion.