Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Michael Brown

Michael Brown Talkspace headshot quote

As part of our commitment to help individuals continue their journey to mental health, happiness, and improved well-being, we are continuing to profile “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. This week, we caught up with Mental Health Coordinator for the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council, Seconded Police Inspector from the West Midlands Police, and “Mental Health Cop,” Michael Brown.

Talkspace: Mental health cop. Did you choose this path or did this path choose you?

Michael Brown: A bit of both! I got interested in why I had been given very little training on a topic that was so much a part of my work and after asking some difficult questions that didn’t have easy answers I was given a job to “sort it out.” Since then, I’ve repeatedly kept chipping away at issues around policing and mental health, including on social media (@mentalhealthcop on Twitter and my blog www.mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com).

Three years ago, the UK College of Policing and the National Police Chief’s Council came knocking on my door to ask if I’d work on it full-time as a national coordinator for UK policing on mental health. I think the US and the UK have a lot to learn from each other. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Michael Brown

Parents, Your Mental Health Is Everything. Don’t Neglect It.

mom stressed baby crying desk

In my 20’s, I diligently tended to my mental health. I went to therapy weekly, exercised daily, and journaled all my thoughts and feelings. This all did wonders to help me manage my anxiety and panic disorder.

Then, at 28, I had a baby, and to say that things began to slide in terms of my mental health care routine would be a huge understatement.

I think it’s natural and necessary for parents to push their needs aside when they have children. At first, I found motherhood all consuming, the power of the love for my child like nothing I had ever experienced before. That feeling that you would literally lay your life down for your child is real and not an exaggeration for most of us parents.

And beyond those primal feelings of love and protection, parenthood is a 24 hour job, the needs of our children — especially when they are young — endless and unrelenting. And with parents stretched so thin in terms of finances, childcare, and general support, it is understandable that so many of us end up putting our needs at the very bottom of the list. Continue reading Parents, Your Mental Health Is Everything. Don’t Neglect It.

The History of Online Therapy

rotary phone smartphone

Online therapy has many definitions. Depending on which one you use, its history has a different beginning.

Most of the people who have catalogued the history of online therapy use broader definitions. Some historians believe it began during the 1972 International Conference on Computers when Stanford and UCLA staff used linked computers to demonstrate a psychotherapy session. This wasn’t a real psychotherapy session with a licensed therapist and — unlike the modern internet — was limited to that small network of computers. It did, however, at least demonstrate the idea of online therapy.

If you include therapy via the phone as part of online therapy, the history starts even earlier. Records of the first private call between a psychotherapist and client are lost in confidentiality. Nonetheless, it is clear people were using the phone to provide mental health support as early as the 1960s. Continue reading The History of Online Therapy

A Millennial’s Guide to Mental Illness in the Workplace

millennials meeting open office

I was 21 the first time I had a nervous breakdown at work. It was my first job out of college, working retail at a flagship shoe store in Manhattan. One task was to stand in the doorway, smile, and greet customers. Sounds easy enough, right? Usually it was, but other times, when I was going through depressive phases or masking an anxiety attack, forcing a smile felt like having teeth pulled.

I’d stand fidgeting with my name tag, quietly saying hello to customers, giving my best close-lipped smile, trying my best to look charming without breaking down. A new manager-in-training approached me, and I knew some criticism was coming. They rarely approached employees to say, “Good work.” I was right. He told me to speak louder and smile.

Tears started welling and I speed-walked downstairs to the bathroom. Slumping down to the floor, I sobbed. I cried so hard I thought I was going to vomit. Faking happiness for eight hours a day was nearly impossible, and I didn’t have the energy to pretend I was OK for a second longer. Once I’d gotten rid of most most of the tears, I went back upstairs and asked an older manager if we could talk in his office. Continue reading A Millennial’s Guide to Mental Illness in the Workplace

Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

woman in bed anxiety light on

Despite advances in neuroscience during the past several decades, sleep continues to remain mostly a mystery. We know we need it as much as water, food and air. We can go weeks without eating food, but what would happen if you went weeks without sleep? Maybe you have. Various degrees of insomnia, and official sleep disorders, are serious conditions. But, what about periodic anxieties that are significant enough to disrupt our sleep. Missing one night of sleep can disrupt our normal biorhythms enough to disrupt the next night’s, and the next!

Anxiety, for the most part, originates in the mind. The body sensations and feelings we have surrounding anxiety occur because of the psychosomatic nature of our mind-body system. In other words, when we think about situations, even if subconsciously, that appear to be in some way a threat or potential danger, hormones and chemicals are secreted from glands which then give rise to the physiological experiences of tension, tightness, constriction.

These are useful in fight or flight situations, which we believe, at a subconscious level, exist — even if they don’t. The perceived threat or danger is mostly psychological and consists of “what if” statements and pictures in the mind, that are at best unpleasant, and at most, lifestyle threatening. Most all, anxiety is about a future that is, factually, unknown. Anxiety is based on a lot of conjecture.

If you’re too anxious to sleep, there are things you can do to help set up an environment, both internal and external, more conducive to sleep. Consider these tips: Continue reading Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

Transgender Mental Health Issues: The Challenges of a Binary World

trans rights sign male activist rally

Adam was assigned a female gender at birth, but from an early age he did not feel comfortable identifying as female. Like many transgender people who struggle with mental health issues, the pressure of society’s gender norms caused stress and confusion.

Coming out as transgender is a challenge for anyone, but it was especially difficult for Adam. He grew up in a small, close knit town with one high school. His uncle was also his landlord, an example of how his environment could be suffocating at times.

At the age of 15, Adam came out as transgender and began identifying as a man. With the exception of his father, no one in his family or community supported him. Peers mercilessly bullied and ridiculed him until he dropped out of high school. Then the final blow hit: Because of his decision, his uncle, the landlord, refused to provide him a residence. Continue reading Transgender Mental Health Issues: The Challenges of a Binary World

How Narcissists Act in Bed Might Surprise You

woman in bra looking in mirror illustration

In recent years, there has been a huge uptick in awareness about narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Many people notice flagrant examples of narcissism, like a coworker who talks endlessly about herself or a date who says most women tell him he’s the most attractive guy they’ve met on Tinder. But sometimes narcissism can be less obvious, and its signs may be counterintuitive.

This is the case particularly in the bedroom. Here’s a list of some sexual characteristics of narcissists. Some might not surprise you, but others could challenge your preconceived notions of narcissism.

Unexpected Generosity

Narcissists may actually be very “generous.” You may envision a narcissist as a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am type of lover who is only out to have his or her own orgasm and then rolls over and goes to sleep. Some people fit this description.

Others are much the opposite, though. Many narcissists pride themselves on being expert lovers who can give a partner multiple orgasms and the best experience of their lives. The only downside to this is that narcissists might expect their partners to rhapsodize over their lovemaking skill, and may even prompt partners to discuss this in awkward detail. Even providing oral sex for a partner is still all about the narcissist’s own ego. Continue reading How Narcissists Act in Bed Might Surprise You

I Am A Psychopath

woman standing on stairs in crowd looking up at camera

Psychopath. It’s a loaded word that immediately brings to mind many associated images. Serial killers and violent criminals tend to be the heart of people’s assumptions. Psychopaths dominate the villain role in media across all forms of entertainment and often take center stage in news broadcasts. Nothing about the word, or the psychopathic person, is good. They are fundamentally evil and should be treated as such.

In many people’s minds this is a belief carved in stone. This is unfortunate because it is mythology at its worst. Psychopathy, a terrible word on its face, is a widely misunderstood and demonized condition due to many factors. The media of course has a large role in this, but the study of psychopaths is also done on prison populations. It seems like a very good place to do so, as the assumption is that psychopaths are unrepentant criminals.

However, the study of those in prison represents but a fraction of the psychopathic community at large. Most of us are among you, your friends, your neighbors, a person with the same basic abiding human nature as you. There is a brilliant quote by Armon J. Tamatea that I often repeat: “Psychopaths in many ways are the least and most visible members of our communities.” We are defined by the worst of us, because the rest of us stay hidden from sight. This is because we are not like those inhabiting the world around us. In fact, we are very different. Continue reading I Am A Psychopath

What It Really Means to be a Psychopath, Sociopath, or Narcissist

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Psychopath, sociopath, narcissist — these are words we sometimes throw around when talking about people who have difficult personalities or have been harmful to us in some way. Many of my clients, for example, have used these terms to describe their exes or people they don’t like. It’s often used in a pejorative sense.

But what does all of that really mean? The differences are more nuanced and complicated than you may think.

To understand these labels better, we need to first discuss what the basis is for understanding a person’s character or personality. A personality is a cluster of traits that makes up a person’s essence or “feel.” It’s how they interact with the world around them. Continue reading What It Really Means to be a Psychopath, Sociopath, or Narcissist

3 Therapists Open Up About Why They Work for Talkspace

Talkspace therapists headshots

Psychotherapists are sometimes skeptical about online therapy. Some of the concerns stem from the medium itself. They imagine that it’s difficult to build relationships online, that the lack of body language limits its effectiveness, that tone and nuance are lost in communication. Other concerns center around hours of availability, fear about managing emergencies, or about licensing restrictions.

The vast majority of therapists, however, are interested in embracing new technologies — tools that help them be more data-driven, more available, and better able to track client progress. They’re passionate about how technology can empower their practice, but worry about using it in a safe way that doesn’t endanger their clients’ privacy or expose them to undue liability, as communicating via SMS, email, or Skype does.

Talkspace is one of the technologies helping therapists reach new clients — a HIPAA certified platform that provides a more convenient therapy experience for clients and therapists, one that employs banking-grade encryption and is fully compliant with state licensing regulations. Talkspace also has strict protocols in place to handle emergency situations, including an on-staff Crisis Intervention Expert, continual client risk assessments, and a secure on-platform tool to capture emergency contact information. Talkspace therapists typically set their own flexible hours and reply to clients twice daily on business days. Continue reading 3 Therapists Open Up About Why They Work for Talkspace