I. The Basics
First things first: If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts, or need immediate mental health support in a crisis, please call 800-273-TALK (8255), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or 800-SUICIDE (784-2433), the National Hopeline Network. Both are available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are unable, or unwilling, to speak with someone on the phone, please read this. In the U.K. or the Republic of Ireland, The Samaritans are available at all hours. The Befrienders Worldwide offer support in 15 languages, and promise: “We listen to people who are in distress. We don’t judge them or tell them what to do — we listen.”
NIMH offers this primer on depression and these resources to learn more. If you recognize yourself, and need help, look at SAMSHA’s Mental Health Services Locater or call them at 800-789-2647 (M-F 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST).
Good sites for professional advice include Internet Mental Health, from psychiatrist Phillip W. Long; psychologist Mark Dombeck’s Mental Help Net; Dr. Ivan Goldberg’s Depression Central; and Dr. John Grohol’s Psych Central. Grohol offers a large number of support forums. Undoing Depression, run by psychotherapist Richard O’Connor, focuses on growth-oriented self-help. Metanoia offers resources for getting help on-line.
For help with medication, you might begin with Wikipedia’s primer or About.com’s Chemistry of Depression; for details on specific meds, check out these Medication Fact Sheets (from the Carlat Report) or psychiatricdrugs.org. Wikipedia also offers a nice introduction to psychotherapy, ECT (electro-shock), light therapy, and exercise.
The depressed beware: The web offers endless opportunities for isolation; consider making contact with live people through one of the great support and advocacy organizations: The National Alliance on Mental Illness has offices in 50 states, plus 1,200 local affiliates.The National Mental Health Association has 340 affiliates across the United States. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance coordinates more than 1,000 peer-run support groups. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the nation’s premier anti-suicide group, and has resources for survivors of suicide, and people struggling with suicidal thoughts. For those of struggling with alcoholism or addiction, please consider the resources offered by Alcoholics Anonymous (find a local meeting here), or Narcotics Anonymous.
Other major groups include the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association, the the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and Families for Depression Awareness.
Serendip “is a gathering place for people who suspect that life’s instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete.” The Surgeon General’s report on Mental Health lays out the major issues and questions on this contentious topic.
NOTABLE ART PROJECTS
The Rita Project is a global movement to stop suicide and celebrate life.
www.hownottokillyourself.com A collaborative film by Julie Talen.
PostSecret “An ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.“
The spiritual dimension of depression is elegantly considered in this episode of American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith, “The Soul of Depression,” featuring Andrew Solomon, Anita Barrows, and Parker Palmer, and hosted by Krista Tippett.
III. Further Reading
FROM MY BOOKSHELF
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron. A modern classic
The Essential Guide to Psychiatric Drugs, by Jack M. Gorman. Spend $6.99 for this book instead of wasting $6-a-minute with a psychopharmacologist hearing things you could have read in this book. (Use your time with docs to talk about you.)
Imagining Robert, by Jay Neugeboren. A wrenching, exquisitely sensitive portrait of living with mental illness.
The Noonday Demon, by Andrew Solomon. A comprehensive, searching, and tender work that won the National Book Award in 2001.
Prozac Diary, by Lauren Slater. The smartest book I know about letting go of lifelong illness — and the struggles that ensue.
Self-Help Inc., by Micki McGee. A sharp new work of sociology, dissecting the modern business cult of self.
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, edited by Nell Casey. An unbeatable collection of literary meditations on humanity’s most mysterious affliction.
If I had a personal psychiatrist hall of fame, George Vaillant would be the first inductee. Here’s a short piece on Vaillant from the Harvard Gazette, entitled “How to be happy and well rather than sad and sick” My other favorite docs (and advisors to my book) include Nassir Ghaemi and Kay Redfield Jamison.
If you are a journalist working on mental health issues, consider applying for a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship in Mental Health Journalism.