About This Blog
The Mental Health Association of Minnesota Blog is to keep our audience informed about current events and developments in Minnesota's health community.
Many people believe that the goal of meditation is to sit still and stop thinking. In fact, trying to turn off thinking is not only pointless, but also very frustrating for beginning meditators, and can ultimately counteract the positive effects of a meditation practice. The human mind thinks, just as the ears hear and the nose smells. Allowing this process to unfold without judgment can help cultivate more calm and emotional resiliency on and off the meditation cushion.
New studies are continuously being published about the health benefits of meditation and its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. In a January Forbes article, contributor Alice G. Walton points out that meditation can be just as effective as medication in treating certain cases of depression. “On a purely biological level, MRI studies have shown that meditation is linked to a reduction in activity in the amygdala, the brain area that governs the stress response, and to reduced activity in the default mode network, the brain network that’s “on” when your mind is wandering from thought to thought, which is often linked to feelings of unhappiness and stress.”
Of course, no one should ever stop taking medication without consulting their doctor, but the beauty of meditation is that it has no side effects and can be used along with medication, therapy, and other treatments that are already in place. It isn’t necessary to meditate for hours at a time to feel the calming benefits of the practice either. In fact, meditating for 10 minutes first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or before you fall asleep at night should feel good immediately. You can even practice walking meditation on your way from the car to the grocery store. Meditation can easily be incorporated into a busy life and the practice can always be lengthened and deepened over time.
Try this simple meditation practice for 10 minutes. Set a timer and find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be distracted or interrupted.
Sit comfortably while keeping your spine erect. You may want to sit up on a few pillows on the floor or on the edge of a chair with your feet touching the ground, but you can even meditate lying down if sitting doesn’t feel comfortable to you.
Take three deep breaths in and out of your nose focusing your attention on the air entering your body and filling up your lungs, and then slowly leaving your body. Pay so much attention to the breath that you can sense the difference in temperature of the in and out breaths.
Now place your palms, face up or down on your thighs and continue to breathe naturally. Try not to control the breath, but simply notice the breath as it enters and leaves your body. If your mind begins to wander (and it most likely will) simply return your attention to the breath as soon as you notice. Remember: thinking is normal. The key here is to notice thoughts when they happen and then gently steer your attention back to the breath.
Once this practice starts to feel comfortable, you can increase your sitting time by a few minutes each day, each week, or each month. Start slowly and be gentle with yourself.
These local meditation centers offer support, community, and education:
Common Ground Meditation Center
2700 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406
Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
3343 East Calhoun Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Mind Roads Meditation Center
2046 St. Clair Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
The Metamorphosis Center
1301 East Cliff Road, Suite 105
Burnsville, MN 55337
In observance of National Men’s Health Week, June 9th through June 15th, we are highlighting some information and resources on men and depression.
More than 6 million men in the U.S. have depression each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. For men, symptoms of depression may include feeling very tired and irritable, and a lose of interest in their work, family, or hobbies. Other symptoms of depression may include:
> Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
> Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
> Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
> Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
> Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
> Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
> Appetite and/or weight changes
> Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
> Persistent physical symptoms
There are different treatment options that can help, which may include medication, therapy, or combination of both. With effective treatment, the symptoms of depression will gradually get better. Like any other health condition, early treatment is important.
For more resources and information, please visit:
Twitter Chat on Men and Depression – June 10, 2014
To learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for depression in men, please join the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for a Twitter chat during National Men’s Health Week on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. CT. NIMH expert Matthew Rudorfer, M.D., chief of the Somatic Treatments Program, will be answering questions related to men and depression during the chat.
General Information on Men and Depression – National Institute of Mental Health
Get information on signs and symptoms of depression as it pertains to men, available treatment, and seeking help for depression.
Online Mental Health Screening
The Mental Health Association of Minnesota has partnered with Screening for Mental Health, Inc. to provide free online screening for mood and anxiety disorders. This anonymous online assessment screens for depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This screening is not a substitute for a diagnosis, but it will help determine whether or not a consultation from a health professional would be helpful. If you want to follow-up with a health provider, but have limited or no health insurance, MHAM can help find a sliding fee clinic or other medical coverage options. To speak with an advocate, call 651-493-6634 or 800-862-1799.
Get Help. Get Well.
Get Help Get Well helps people understand what to expect when seeking mental health care for the first time. Get Help Get Well includes information on…
> The first steps to obtaining care; healthcare providers to see initially; and factors to consider when seeking a healthcare provider.
> What may occur in the initial appointment; questions that may be asked by the health professional; and questions the patient may want to ask their health provider
by MHAM Volunteer Stefanie Motta
As anyone who has experienced anxiety or depression knows, support from friends, family, a therapist, or an advocate is crucial. Yet, learning skills to support ourselves through difficult times can empower us to heal throughout an entire lifetime. One of the most effective self-care practices that I have found is yoga. This ancient Indian practice has been embraced around the globe as a system for achieving physical, mental, and emotional health, and research is now showing that regular yogic practice can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
After healing from her own depression using yoga and meditation techniques, yoga teacher and author Amy Weintraub, has dedicated her career to helping others feel better. In an interview for the May 2013 issue of Yoga Journal, Weintraub explains why yoga can be an effective component of any mental health treatment plan, “It lowers cortisol, the stress hormone; it activates the parasympathetic system, which is calming; and it deactivates the limbic brain, which is overactive in people who are very anxious or have a history of trauma.”
One of the most noticeable effects of my yoga practice is the sense of calm and peace that come from deep breathing along with the physical postures. When we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, our breathing often becomes shallow and constricted, which can trigger more stress in turn. In addition to the regular deep breathing of a yoga practice, there are many additional yogic breathing techniques that can help us relax when we feel triggered by a stressor or a depressing thought.
“Bee breath” which is named after the buzzing sound that bees make, is one of my favorite yogic breathing techniques. It is instantly calming, and you can try it any time you feel anxious or your mind is spinning. Because of the sound you’ll make, you may want to find a quiet, private place to practice this technique. Sit, or stand comfortably and take a slow, deep breath in and out, allowing your shoulders to relax away from your ears. Now with your eyes closed (if that feels comfortable) take another deep breath in through your nostrils, seal your lips, and breathe out through your nose while making the sound of the letter M until you need to inhale once more. You will make a buzzing sound in the back of your throat each time you exhale through your nose. Repeat this for a few minutes or as long as it feels good.
According to Weinbrub, “The message of yoga is that deep within you, you are whole and healed, no matter what is going on in your life.” Tapping into that mindset and empowering ourselves with tools like yoga can help each of us to find healing on our own path.
By Derrick Keith, Band Member, The Last Gold Leaf
When I was sixteen my parents bought be my first guitar as an Easter present. I never thought of myself as a musician. I was the kind of kid that spent endless hours locked away in my room, pencil in hand, drawing feverishly, seeking desperately to express the fanciful worlds in my head into images on a page. In fact, even as I began writing songs I never imagined I would seek to make a career out of music.
Picking up that guitar unlocked an urgency in me. I found that others could identify with the loneliness and depression that informed my music. And that made us all a little less lonely, the days seem just a little bit brighter. I was hooked and there was no looking back. I set out to find that connection on a larger and larger scale.
If I were to try to sum up my goal as a songwriter in one word I think it would be “fearless.” I believe my role as an artist is to bring light to those dark places in our psyche that we become afraid to talk about. The unpretty things: addiction, poverty, hunger, betrayal. It seems as if our culture is almost engineered to isolate ourselves from one another. But it’s in recognizing our griefs, our failures, in forgiving that we can tear down the walls we built originally to protect us. The walls we found cut us off from our lifelines.
I have seen friends, family members, lovers, strangers in deep hurt. In need of help. Become helpless. But I believe in the power of music to heal. To foster community. To open up wounds to draw the infection out. I seek to bring to the surface the ugliness so we can accept one another.
That’s why I reached out to the Mental Health Association of Minnesota (MHAM). Music can raise the questions, but MHAM has the resources to help heal the wounds. None of us can do it alone. According to the National Institute on Mental Health’s website, In 2012 18.6 percent of adults ages 18 and above were diagnosed with mental illnesses. That’s almost 2 out of every 10 people. And that’s just the people seeking help.
If you or a loved one you know have questions, seek help.
The Mental Health Association of Minnesota is proud to support the band The Last Gold Leaf in their upcoming EP release party for their new album Opaque. Through this release party for the EP Opaque, The Last Gold Leaf hopes to generate awareness of mental health and point people in the right direction to find treatment and services for mental illnesses. Staff from MHAM will be at the party to share information about mental health and our services. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the Mental Health Association of Minnesota.
Guests include: Parachute Empire, The Lost Wheels, and Kara Doten
Featuring photography by Haythem Lafaj
77 13th Ave NE
Seeing a health professional for any type of health condition can be daunting. Being prepared before an appointment can alleviate some of that pre-appointment angst and can create better outcomes after the visit. Below are a few possible questions that may be asked from your health professional and questions that you may want to ask during that appointment. Having some of these written down before your appointment may be helpful.
The following are some questions that may be asked by the health professional you are seeing:
You may want to ask your health provider about the recommended course of treatment and what options are available to treat your health condition, along with expectations of each.
If you are prescribed a medication, you may want to ask:
For more information on seeking help, visit Get Help, Get Well on the MHAM website.
When symptoms of a mental health condition emerge, knowing whom to contact can be somewhat confusing. Below provides some information on who to contact first, type of professionals one might see, and tips on seeking a provider.
If you have health insurance, you can either contact your health care provider or contact your insurance provider for covered health providers. If you do not have insurance or you have limited coverage, you may want to call your county to see if you qualify for services for mental health treatment.
Depending on the type of coverage you have and what your health provider recommends, the type of health professional you see initially may vary.
Primary care providers or general practitioners can provide the initial assessment to see if you are experiencing a mental health condition. If necessary, they can provide medications for certain types of mental health conditions and can also provide a referral to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. They may also utilize labs or medical tests to rule out any contributing health issue that may be causing your symptoms.
There are many different types of mental health professionals and many types of therapies. The type of therapy will often depend on each individual and the condition(s) that need to be addressed. Certain mental health professionals can also prescribe medications if needed.
Things to consider or to ask when seeking a provider:
* * * * * * * * * * *
If you are in crisis or thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, tell someone who can help immediately.
In any given year, about 7% of the U.S. adult population experiences a major depressive episode (MDE). In a recent issue of The NSDUH Report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration looked at combined data from the 2008 to 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that showed that more than one third of adults with past year MDE (38.3%) did not talk to a health professional or alternative service professional during the past 12 months. Of those who did seek help, 48% consulted with a health professional, 10.7% percent talked to both a health professional and an alternative service professional, and 2.9% talked to alternative service professional. The report suggests that primary care providers should consider using screening tools to identify patients that may be experiencing depression.
To view the The NSDUH Report: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/spot133-major-depressive-episode-2014.pdf
For information on resources and the latest news and research on depression, please visit the MHAM website at http://www.mentalhealthmn.org/be-informed/mental-health-resources/depression
By Jennifer Ilse, Co-Artistic Director, Off-Leash Area
I have sweet memories of my brother Craig, 11 years my elder. Accompanying him to Boy Scout meetings, camping, swimming, pine cone fights, building snowmen… Though at times he staked out his rightful place as older tormenting brother, he clearly adored me, loved to teach me and show me the world and the things he loved in it. At age 19 he developed acute paranoid schizophrenia, and that was the end of that chapter of our lives together. I was confused, terribly embarrassed by his behavior in front of my friends, and I missed my old Craig dearly.
I watched our parents’ frustration and grief as they struggled with understanding what to say, what to do, what to feel. And I kept my own emotions well constructed in front of them and everyone else.
As the director of a dance and theater company, art is my most comfortable form of expression of the deepest places in my soul. And hence was born Maggie’s Brain from my memories of this period of intense struggle. This was in a small town in the mid-70’s – a time and place where most people didn’t know what schizophrenia was; it was still believed that “cold” mothers were the cause, and nobody ever talked about mental illness except in hushed and generally misinformed whispers. Thankfully my parents were able to find significant emotional and practical support through the local chapter of NAMI, and as a result Craig was able to get into a network of support that enabled him to have a safe and fruitful life.
Though Maggie’s Brain is not a replica of my family’s story with mental illness, it is born from those intense memories of confusion, guilt, anxiety, love, and grief. I researched and talked with many people who have experienced mental illness personally and professionally, and from all of our experiences created a version of this journey. The social and political environment for mental illness has also improved significantly since that period of time. But the struggle, the frighteningly intense emotions, the desire for communication and understanding, are part of everyone’s journey whose lives are touched by mental illness. Maggie’s Brain is my artistic expression of that journey.
You can see Maggie’s Brain at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis, January 24-26, 2014. I hope you can come.
At the Cowles Center for Performing Arts
January 24/25/26, Fri/Sat 8pm & Sun 7pm
FULL DETAILS at www.thecowlescenter.org
Tickets: Adults $25, Students/Seniors $23/ Under 21 $19
Group rates available
Reservations: Reserve online at www.thecowlescenter.org or call the box office at 612-206-3600.
There will be a discussion with the artists, mental health professionals, and those directly affected by mental illness after the show on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25 as part of The Cowles Center’s Meet the Company Talk-Back Series.
You can find out more about Off-Leash Area’s work at their website.
At MHAM, we depend on individual donors to support our mission to enhance mental health, promote individual empowerment, and increase access to treatment and services for people living with mental illnesses. You can help us by contributing to MHAM through Give to the Max Day tomorrow, November 14. What’s more, your donation will be matched by our Board of Directors up to $10,000. Simply visit our page at GiveMN.org, enter the donation amount you’d like to make, and follow the prompts to complete the transaction. You will help people like Henry.
The sun shone brightly and the temperature was perfect as Henry made his way to visit family and friends in a nearby community. The world looked good, and Henry drove toward his destination with anticipation boosted by an elevated level of mania. With his history of bipolar, Henry suspected he was feeling so good because was he was becoming manic. He knew that mania often resulted in problems in his life, but he also knew that it felt a whole lot better than those days when he was caught in the grip of depression.
Henry’s good day went downhill fast. Suddenly, he saw flashing red lights behind him. He had stopped quickly at a stop sign and then made a right turn without signaling. A police officer approached Henry’s car. The flashing lights and the uniform caused Henry’s stress level and mania to increase. He started to talk fast and loud. Instead of staying in the car, he tried to exit to explain to the officer. The officer thought Henry had been drinking.
Henry was taken to a detox center where he was tested for alcohol and other drugs. They found he had a very low level of alcohol–well below the legal limit for driving. However, once he was admitted to the detox center, he was stuck there for the next couple of days. Henry had neither his medication for bipolar disorder, nor medication for a separate physical condition. He did not need to be in detox. Henry should have gone to the hospital where he could get treatment for his bipolar disorder.
Henry eventually called MHAM because he was billed by the detox center for his time there. Henry is on Social Security Disability and cannot afford a large medical bill. Moreover, the detox center should be covered under Medicare. Henry and his advocate contacted a Medicare representative, who told them that a bill was not submitted to Medicare for the detox center. The advocate then helped Henry set up some conference calls with the county and the detox center in an attempt to figure out what happened. As it turns out, a police transport brought Henry to a detox center from a neighboring county. The detox center did not bill Medicare, but instead billed the county that transported Henry to the center. The transporting county then billed Henry. After talking to staff in both areas, it was clear that the detox center needed to send the bill to Medicare and not to the transporting county. Henry was pleased that the issue of the bill was resolved. However, a larger issue still stands. This problem would not have come up if Henry had been treated for his bipolar disorder at a hospital or clinic rather than held in a detox center when no detoxification was needed.
The Great Minnesota Give Together is a week away! On Thursday, November 14, MHAM will participate in its fifth Give to the Max Day through GiveMN.org. And, we are pleased to announce that the MHAM Board of Directors has offered a very generous matching grant to help MHAM reach its year-end fundraising goal of $25,000. The Board will match all donations made to MHAM from November 1 through the end of the year up to $10,000. Give to the Max Day also provides many other opportunities for MHAM to raise additional funds.
Each year generous supporters like you join us for the exciting 24-hour annual Give to the Max Day. Every gift made on November 14 increases our chances of winning at least one $1,000 Golden Ticket! By partnering with GiveMN, an online giving website for Minnesota nonprofits, MHAM will have 25 chances to be selected for a $1,000 Golden Ticket. Here’s the really exciting part: At the end of Give to the Max Day, one donation from across Minnesota will be randomly selected for a $10,000 Super-sized Golden Ticket! What’s more, if we reach the top of our leaderboard, we are also eligible for a $10,000 grant.
In addition to Golden Tickets and Leaderboard awards, GiveMN is also introducing Power Hours. During five different hours, agencies that reach the top of their leaderboard at the end of the hour will receive an additional $1,000 donation. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, there are times you may want to consider donating. Power Hours are:
Participating is easy. On Thursday, November 14, go to the Mental Health Association of Minnesota page on www.GiveMN.org. From our donation page you can enter the amount of your donation. Follow the prompts to complete the transaction. You can also schedule your donation early if you don’t want to worry about it on the 14th. Just visit the MHAM page on GiveMN.org, enter the amount of your donation in the space provided, and then check “Make my donation count for Give to the Max Day 2013 (11/14/2013).”
Funds raised through Give to the Max Day will be used to support MHAM’s mental health advocacy and outreach programs. MHAM improves the lives of thousands of people each year by making sure they have access to mental health services and that the community has the correct information about mental illnesses. As a result, people across the state are better able to manage their overall health, remain independent, and lead a more engaged life.
Thank you for your support!