Tag Archives: mental illness


By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains.  I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement.  They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there.  So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”

Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people.  These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative.  Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.

It is one’s creative ability that leads them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.

castawayI saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000.  Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances.  Allow me to explain:

In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs.  He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to provide shelter, food, and to hydrate.  He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive.  Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.

Chuck’s freedom was now very limited.  He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves.  He was held in solitary confinement.  He certainly was not having any fun.  All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.

The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone.  Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds.  He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost.  He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.

From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness.  In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.

But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal.  He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him.  His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane.

He eventually created fire and was so elated that he proclaimed to the sky and the sea of his accomplishment in boisterous pronouncements.  “Look what I have created!  I have made fire!”  His power needs were beginning to be met giving him a better sense of worth and success.

After he had calmed down and successfully created the fire, he began staring at the volley ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face.  Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.


He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.”  So far, you may be saying to yourself,  “So . . .  ?  What’s your point?”

Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting.  And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island. . . . to connect with something or someone when no one else was there to connect with”


If Chuck behaved like that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave?  One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and in dire need of a psychiatrist.

In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable.  But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances.  The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island.  If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.

The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck.  While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.  They have detached from others and can be alone while around others.  Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a volley ball.

Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else.  They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do.  Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging.  And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.

The only difference is the circumstances.  You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation.  Since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all.  You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”

If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world.  His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you.  Since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe Chuck’s behavior is a mental illness.

When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore.  First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued.  When Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect . . . and it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices.  He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him.  After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness:  Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun.  The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss because he had maintained the picture of her in his Quality World all those years.  But even losing Kelly didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.

Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill?  Or would you say they are being really creative?  When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?”  Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative?  If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.

In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy due to unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.


Misconceptions about Mental Illness

Contributed by Denise Daub

Here’s Proof Mental Illness Is Not Someone’s Fault

by Lindsay Holmes – Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post

You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to just “get over” their illness, so why aren’t people with mental health disorders afforded the same courtesy?

A common plague of mental health stigma is the idea that the disorders are a fallacy that’s “all in a person’s head.” In reality, mental illness is far from a person’s control, and only 25 percent of people with a mental illness feel like others are understanding or compassionate about their condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, emerging research is starting to shatter the longtime misconception that mental illness is the sufferer’s own fault. Below are several scientific studies that suggest mental illnesses are a biological, physical condition.

Read more..http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mental-illness-not-your-fault_us_56e83525e4b065e2e3d75afa?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

Stigma? What stigma?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Happiness is the highest form of health. — Dalai Llama

Once upon a time there was a belief that people with mental illness were looked down upon, seen as having character flaws and an willingness to work hard enough to fit in and get along. So the powers that be (who are those people?) decided that there was a big stigma for people suffering with mental illness and that the stigma prevented people from getting the help that they needed. These folks considered what could be done to eliminate this stigma. The hope was that making a change could mean that more people might be more willing to get needed help.

How could this be accomplished?

Change the name of mental illness to mental health!

Yes, that’s right. The depth of the solution was simply to change the words used to describe the “condition.” What happened is that the words mental health are now used to describe mental illness or mental disturbance. AND there is still a very large stigma attached with these words: mental health.

canstockphoto13026221Mental health is now understood to mean mental illness and mental disturbance. People are still seriously slow, reluctant or completely refuse to get the help they so sorely need. Associating the words “mental health problems” with the many mass shootings does not help either.

There are some serious aspects to the complex issues regarding mental illness needing to be addressed not the least of which is stigma. The  entire “science” of mental illness is seriously questionable. (Want to understand this more? Please refer to the extensive research and study  in the books by Terry Lynch and Robert Whitaker.*) The National Institute of Mental Health – please read this as The National Institute of Mental Illness since what is described on their website is a wide range of mental illnesses, and nothing about health – has finally acknowledge that there is no “chemical imbalances in the brain” for those suffering from mental illness. Brain chemical imbalance was a false claim started by drug companies as a marketing ploy — and sadly a very successful campaign.

The irony is that present times insist on evidence based practices. And yet the preponderance of research, done by the psychiatric community and drug companies themselves point to the evidence that medication has temporary, short term positive results ending with long term disasters for people’s lives. (Again please refer to the books cited at the end of this article. Rick Hansen made note of this during his recent interview on Mental Health & Happiness 2015 Summit).

Changing attitudes, beliefs, and stigma about anything is not an easy process. Making these kinds of changes for mental illness is no exception. Much more needs to be done rather than the simple solution of changing a name. (The recent upgrade for mental health is the change to call it behavioral health.) Changes that include honest representation of what is known and not known about mental illness would help. Sharing honest information about the short term and long term effects of medication would also help.

And there is one more action that each one of us can take. Stop using mental health or behavioral health when what you mean is mental illness and mental disturbance. Making the term mental health interchangeable with mental illness has done nothing to eliminate stigma. But if we all start using the term Mental Health & Happiness to mean just that perhaps people suffering with mental illness and mental disturbance will have a goal to aim for.

As the Dalai Llama tells us Happiness is the highest from of health.

*Depression Delusion, Volume one: The myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance, Terry Lynch

Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker

Mad in America, Robert Whitaker


By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Kindness is a language which the dumb can speak, the deaf can understand C.N. Bone

Today Im feeling overwhelmed. The news tells us of an angry man who states he was not raised by racists, but independently found answers on the Internet that led him to believe killing people because of the color of their skin was the answer to the worlds troubles. Perhaps it is reasonable to surmise that he believed this would be the answer to his own personal troubles.

Almost immediately the news tells us that family members of the slain nine who prayed with this young man before he shot them in cold blood have forgiven this man. This is such an extraordinary act of love and kindness that it is beyond my imagining.

What follows this act are the same arguments in todays news headlines, just are they have been so often:

People cry out for gun control!

We need more focus on mental health issues! (Please read this as mental illness, not mental health.)

If the people had carried guns in church this never would have happened.

What do you mean we have race relations troubles? This was an isolated case!

Amazingly there has also been swift action in many southern states. The confederate flag is being removed from public and government office buildings and spaces. Even Walmart is removing the sale of products that display this flag.

One small step. Years and years and years for this action to become a reality.

Could it be that this is an act of kindness? Is it possible that some are changing their opinions and points of view?

My own personal solution, the strategy I turn to for help with my personal Mental Health & Happiness right now is to search for and discover all the many acts of love and kindness committed by many people. My search includes the citizens of South Carolina as well as in my own city. There are people I meet and greet daily who are loving and kind toward me and others.

My challenge is to regularly commit acts of love and kindness. When others are looking to see where there are people committing acts of love and kindness, not acts of hate and terror, I want to be one of the people they discover. I want to help spread more love and kindness in the world.

For me, love and kindness are the answers to the worlds troubles. For me, love and kindness are the answers to my own troubles. For me, love and kindness are the direct path to Mental Health & Happiness.

Toward an understanding of mental health

by Dr. Ken Larsen

Years ago I came to the realization that what might be considered “normal” within a social culture is not necessarily healthy.  Smoking was a “normal” behavior, but it was and is killing people.  This is not healthy.

Then I looked at how many people really wanted to change the seeming inevitability of dental disease.  Even though most of these folks did what was recommended, which was to brush their teeth regularly, the problem continued.  What was needed was an understanding of the cause of dental disease which could then lead to steps to remove the cause and prevent the disease.  As a result of this learning, more and more people are living a lifetime with their own teeth.

Now I want to look at mental health and happiness through the lens of these insights.   With understanding comes the power to change.

One thing common to both the issue with smoking and uncontrolled dental disease was that significant progress was made when they were treated as public health issues, rather than individual problems.

I believe we have begun to see mental health and happiness in this light.  The rise in violence in our culture, most dramatically seen in the incidents of school shootings, have gotten our attention. This along with the alarming trend in suicide among our troops, and the quiet desperation experienced by much of our population are certainly indications of a problem.

We are experiencing a growing awareness that there is a significant portion of our population who are being “treated for a disease they don’t have with a drug they don’t need”, quoting Dr. Wm. Glasser.  The high incidence of depression and anxiety conditions has provided a lucrative market for drug companies.  Unless there is a diagnosed organic disorder, most of these brain drugs simply treat the symptoms without treating the underlying cause.    Is the underlying cause of these conditions a lifelong “mental illness” or an unsuccessful effort to cope with the challenging circumstances of life?

ken-piecesI have not found a simple “one size fits all” answer to the question of mental health and happiness.  I do believe strongly that we need to think about the mental health of the individual in the context of relationships as well as in the context of the social and physical environment.

I see health, (mental health, physical health and spiritual health) as more than the absence of disease.  There is no absolute state of health.  It is best to think of health as a process, a journey if you will.  This process is primarily about integration.  The coming together of the components of life into a functioning whole.  Our words for “health”, “whole”, “holy” all derive from the same root word in old anglo saxon “hal”, which means “whole”.  This move toward health and wholeness is the process of linking the parts of our self with our connections with others and our social and physical environment.  This coming together of parts, this “integration”, is what I call “health.”


Teenagers and Depression

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Are you checking your teenage girl for depression? Do you know what to do to help instead?

Recently I saw an article that was published on Parenting magazine sharing the symptoms of teenage depression in girls. I’m glad to read it, glad to see it.


What I find disturbing is the lack of articles about what we can to with and for our teenagers to keep them from getting depressed in the first place. Do you know how to develop, improve and maintain good Mental Health & Happiness? I fear too many of us have bought into the notion that mental health is somehow a mysterious brain disturbance or disorder. In fact too often what is natural and normal upset and unhappiness is now understood as mental illness.

There was a time not so many years ago when sadness, upset and unhappiness were the words used to described feelings not depression. Now it is not uncommon to hear someone say I was so depressed that the football game I wanted to watch was blacked out in my area. Feeling disappointed or angry because of such an event is understandable, not depressed.

Choice Theory psychology explains that all emotions are the result of either the match or the mismatch between what a person wants the world to be like and what the world is actually like. When you hope for sunny day and you awaken to a sunny day you feel happy, satisfied and glad. What you want and what you are experiencing is a match. When you hope for an A on your chemistry test and receive an F you feel upset, disappointed or perhaps sad and angry. What you wanted and what you are experiencing are two very different things.

Unfortunately there are too many people believing and being told that the reason for depression has to do with a broken brain or chemical imbalance in the brain. Amazingly there is no evidence to support this claim, despite what the pharmaceutical companies claim. There are plenty of companies making the claim and selling the drugs to correct this imbalance. No one seems to question the next drug put on the market when the first antidepressant is no longer working alone and needs a second drug to boost the first. What happened to the magical drug correction from the first? Isn’t this suspicious? There are also many, many studies conducted by psychiatrists (some independent doctors, some paid by the pharmaceutical company!) resulting in worse outcomes longterm for patients taking these antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.

No one says that being a teenager is easy. It is probably the most challenging developmental period of childhood, and for some of their entire lifetime. There are plenty of times, experiences and life events for an adolescent that are different from what she wanted or he imagined. These differences result in powerful disappointing and overwhelming emotions, sometimes even depression. But the answer is not to take a drug to try and correct broken brains or brain chemical imbalances that do not exist. In fact, taking these medications too often keeps a young person from being able to learn and practice new behaviors and strategies to deal with these life events and disappointments.

The answer is to help our young people learn how to meet their genetic psychological
instructions responsibly and respectfully. We need to help our teens and young adults learn the successful and effective strategies to develop and maintain good, strong connections with the important people in their lives. This is much more effective in helping to eliminate sadness, loneliness and depression. These are the answers for teenage depression in girls and boys that lead to Mental Health & Happiness.