“Depression, the Secret we Share” by Andrew Solomon; a TedTalk

“The opposite of depression is not happiness; it’s vitality”- Andrew Solomon

This is an amazing video about depression, both the humanistic experiences of depressive symptoms and the medical/psychiatric realms that interact with the mental illness.

While you watch this, please keep in mind that Solomon’s descriptions of depression are his subjective experiences of living with the illness. However, the stories he shares about what other people have experienced and the research he mentions can be generalized as a way to provide hope and to remind ourselves about the courage that exists in all of us.


Comics that Highlight Frustration of Depression


I came across this BuzzFeed page, from Sept 2013, earlier today. This webpage provides a collection of comics that highlights the multiple frustrations that people experience with depression. For myself that knows someone who is living with depression and battles its ugly darkness every day, I feel a bit of relief that these comics exist. The relief I experience as I read through these comics comes from the idea that my relative can also read these comics and understand they are not alone. You are not alone in the depths of sadness that you feel. You are not alone in the excruciating pain you experience while you attempt to find any reason to get out of bed or to tackle the overwhelming pile of laundry that waits to be washed. You are not alone. 

These comics are also tools in the continuous efforts to create and enhance awareness for mental illnesses, like depression. Lastly, the use of expressive therapies, such as art therapy, is a wonderful way to express one’s experiences and struggles (as clearly displayed above). 

The four comics provided below are my favorite:

Comic #1: The persistent, engulfing darkness (art by Sylvie Reuter)

Image Image

Comic #2: Carrying the darkness with you where ever you go (art by Kristian Nygård)



Comic #3: The inability to communicate how you actually feel (art by Elysian-Dreams).


Comic #4: The difficulty in trying to get your friends to understand (art by B. Patrick)



To check out more comics, visit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/comics-that-capture-the-frustrations-of-depression.

Elyn Saks: A Tale of Mental Illness–From Inside

An amazing video worth sharing. A look of Elyn’s experience of living with Schizophrenia. She makes three great claims at the end of this video. Please watch & notice the strength-based language that supports the empowerment of individuals’ recovery.

Check out Elyn’s novel: “The Center Will Not Hold” for additional insight into her experiences.

Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan Relief: Collective Effort

Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Relief: Collective Effort

Last year had its experience of natural disasters. The Philippines Typhoon remains to be a natural disaster is one that took me by storm (no pun intended). As I have shared in my June blog entries, I traveled to the Philippines with USC’s Global Immersion Program focusing on Human Trafficking. We traveled to Manila, Subic Bay, and Querzon City, to name a few locations. The women I spoke to and the experiences I gained while walking through the slums will forever be part of my memory. When I first found out about the typhoon that hit Tacloban and surrounding areas in November 2013, I was surprised to hear the amount of devastation the disaster caused. People lost loved ones, homes, and a sense of safety in their neighborhoods.

Casey Neistat, a guy who received $25,000 from 20th Century Fox to originally create a trailer for the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, decided to use the funds to provide food and supplies to the victims of the typhoon. With the funds, Casey and his volunteers provided over 10,000 meals, tools to 35 villages, and basic medical supplies to local organizations. Although the average person may not have access to this large amount of money at any given time, we can work together and assist one another in times of need. The key word here is together.

[Click on this link to watch Casey’s video]

The natural disaster relief efforts for the Philippine Typhoon that I am happy to have participated in was a clothing & supplies drive with the Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus (APISWC) of USC’s School of Social Work. Donations were collected from students, faculty, and staff over a two-week period. After packaging the donations, APISWC produced 20 large box donations that were delivered to Goldilocks, a Filipino bakery, where the donations were then shipped to the Philippines. API SWC also collected approximately $1,500 in monetary donations as of today, which will be provided to WeGovern Institute, a resource and advocacy institute that “seeks to advance new politics that empowers the people” of the Philippines (wegoverninstitute.org).

Everyone has a mission to assist those in need, regardless of your political beliefs socioeconomic status or education level. We are all equally vulnerable to some level of devastation and pain, like the Filipino people experienced in November. Together, we can continue to assist the Philippines rebuild again.

Mental Illnesses as the Monsters inside our heads?


Above is one of 8 monsters, drawn by Toby Allen, to depict a mental illness. The monsters include Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia, Social Anxiety, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, & Dissociative Identity Disorder. Each monster includes a description of the monster in question.

Below is the description for the monster of Anxiety: “The anxiety monster is small enough to sit on its victim’s shoulder and whisper things into their unconscious, eliciting fearful thoughts and irrational worries [This can be associated with an individual’s development of self-soothing behaviors or extreme compulsions in order to ward off one’s irrational fears]. The anxiety monster is often seen  as weak in comparison to others but it is one of the most common and is very hard to get rid of [This pertains to anxiety as a common comorbid disorder with depression and social anxiety disorder, to name a few]. They often carry a small objects linked to their victim’s anxieties, which represent a common but irrational fear of things that may never happen [Hence the clock that the  Anxiety monster, is carrying in the picture]. No one has ever seen the face of the anxiety monster for it always wears a skull as a mask.”

enhanced-buzz-wide-8829-1381124278-7 The Depression monster’s description states: “The Depression monster floats around endlessly, always covering his eyes to hide itself from the outside world. Because of this, it always bumps into people or into other monsters causing more stress to itself each time [This is pointing to depression’s comorbidity with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide]. Its only relief is to wrap its fluid tail around a victim and share its depression with them [This can be associated with the impact that depression has on interpersonal relationships]. The victim is unaware of the monster but will register a heaviness and will develop a state of deep depression. Meanwhile, the monster absorbs any positive emotion from its host until it has had its fill and moves onto another host.

In my opinion, the artist’s visual and linguistic depictions of the mental illness are on point with how the illnesses are manifested and internalized in those that experience the cognitive or affect disorder. The descriptions of the monsters also contain aspects of the diagnostic criteria of the illness, which can assist in providing psycho-education to those unfamiliar with the disorder.

What does your mental illness or greatest fear look like?

Click on this link, Mental Illness Monsters to view the additional seven monsters.