Category: Mental Health

Are you processing or are you ruminating?

I am a self-described over-thinker.  From a young age, my family often complained that I over analyzed everything.  While this has served me well in many pursuits, I recently read that it may not be so great for my health.

According to a recent article by U.S. News and World Report, rumination over stressful or negative events may lead to prolonged psychological recovery time along with increased blood pressure and heart rate (1).  While I’m still an advocate for processing difficult situations, rumination is different.  Rumination typically leads to repeatedly and cyclically thinking about the same situation while creating moods that spiral downward (1).   People often end up ruminating without realizing it; they think they’re attempting to problem-solve instead (1).  I know this speaks to the analytical “Ms. Fix-it” in me.

According to the article, people can identify if they’re in rumination mode by asking themselves if their thoughts are unproductive, creating feelings of being overwhelmed, or causing distractions from their surroundings (1).  Suggestions to get past this include distraction by taking a walk or enjoying a hobby (1).

Now, all of this is said with a giant caveat-  if you feel like you need mental health help, get it.  Rumination often happens when people are dealing with something traumatic in their lives.  I am by no means telling you to shove your feelings down and avoid them.  What I am encouraging you to do is stop and ask yourself if you’re having the same negative thoughts over and over again.  If you feel like it’s something minor, you may want to stop and distract yourself to break the cycle.  If it’s something that’s a big deal to you, then you may need to enlist the help of a mental health professional.

Thinking about situations is helpful, but if three days have passed, and you’re still thinking about how the coffee-shop barista spelled your name wrong, you may be ruminating and hurting your health in the process.



  1. Colino, Stacey. The Hazards of Rumination for Your Mental and Physical Health. U. S. News and World Report. [Online] March 14, 2018.


Study confirms grad students have higher rates of anxiety and depression

I’m currently in my second semester of grad school, and I have heard many people talking positively about mental healthcare since I’ve been here.  Within the first few days of classes in August, we were informed where and how to get mental health help on campus.  I know plenty of people who have sought assistance with their mental health, and they speak about it without any sort of stigma.  All of this talk got me wondering, what’s behind this positivity?  Is it:

A) My department is super supportive

B) We’re a bunch of public health enthusiasts who want to dismantle stigma in every way we can

C) There’s a huge need for mental healthcare among graduate students

It turns out that the answer is likely: D) all of the above.

According to a recent study published in Nature Biotechnology the prevalence of both moderate to severe and anxiety and moderate to severe depression is over six times higher in graduate students than in the general population (1).  The good news is that the study also found that a good work-life balance helps improve mental health (1).  This means the next time someone tells you to take care of yourself, they’re not just repeating trite advice.  It really is important.

If you’re one of the many grad students (or anyone for that matter) who feels overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone.  Many of us are there with you, and it’s OK if you need to enlist the help of a professional.  Personally, I view this as a sign of strength instead of weakness.



(1) Pain, Elisabeth. Graduate students need more mental health support, new study highlights. [Online] March 6, 2018.

Celebrities, Social Media, and Mental Illness

By Jacob Rohde

Earlier this month, Selena Gomez opened up to Harper’s Bazaar magazine about her struggles with mental illness [1]. When asked about her upcoming plans for the new year, Gomez responded:

“I will always start with my health and my wellbeing. I’ve had a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, and I’ve been very vocal about it, but it’s not something I feel I’ll ever overcome… I think it’s a battle I’m gonna have to face for the rest of my life…”

Gomez is joined by several other celebrities, from Gina Rodriguez to Kid Cudi, who have spoken out about the realities of their mental illnesses and have used social media to publicly vocalize their related experiences [2]. For example, Gomez recently used Instagram to talk about her lupus diagnosis, which she has linked to her depression and anxiety [3]. All too often, celebrities are viewed as immune to such circumstances when, in reality, they share many of our own battles with mental illness. Social media allows celebrities, like Gomez, to connect with their audiences who may also struggle from mental illness, or to those who do not fully understand the complexity of mental illness symptoms.

Fifty percent of Americans will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime [4], yet public perceptions about mental illness remain highly stigmatized, especially among young adults and college students [5]. In my own experiences, I have witnessed several students express their reluctance to seek mental health services as to avoid being “outed” by peers and stereotyped.

Efforts to reduce mental illness stigma can benefit from the stories and experiences shared by celebrities through their social media accounts. Indeed, a recent study found that college students exposed to celebrity narratives about mental disorders were far less likely to stigmatize mental illness overall and had fewer negative perceptions about those who seek help for mental illness than students in control conditions [6]. Given this, celebrity use of social media as a platform to talk about mental illness may have a positive effect on how the public perceives mental illness.

Of course, I am not advocating for celebrities to share deeply personal experiences. However, if they choose to address certain issues pertaining to their mental health, it may serve to reduce the taboo culture currently surrounding depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. At minimum, doing so shows that celebrities, like Gomez, are not so different than ourselves.

Mental illness is a serious concern. If you are struggling, please seek professional help or reach out to the 24/7 suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

If you are a UNC student, free support is available through the Counseling and Psychological Services program (CAPS). Information available here:


  1. Langford, K. (2018). Selena Gomez’s Wild Ride. Harper’s Bazaar. Retrieved from ew/
  2. Yang, L. (2017). 23 celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with mental illness. Retrieved from ess-2017-11#cara-delevingne-struggled-with-depression-as-a-teenager-8
  3. Chiu, M. (2016). Selena gomez taking time off after dealing with ‘anxiety, panic attacks and depression’ due to her lupus diagnosis. People Magazine. Retrieved from s/
  4. Kessler, R. C., Angermeyer, M., Anthony, J. C., De Graaf, R. O. N., Demyttenaere, K., Gasquet, I., … & Kawakami, N. (2007). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry, 6(3), 168.
  5. Eisenberg, D., Downs, M. F., Golberstein, E., & Zivin, K. (2009). Stigma and help seeking for mental health among college students. Medical Care Research and Review, 66(5), 522-541.
  6. Ferrari, A. (2016). Using celebrities in abnormal psychology as teaching tools to decrease stigma and increase help seeking. Teaching of Psychology, 43(4), 329-333.

Teens for Gun Reform Make Their White House Appearance

The events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkside, Florida last week have sparked the gun control debate yet again in the United States. To me the past week has felt a little like déjà vu: Sandy Hook, Route 91 Festival and Pulse nightclub shootings. Thinking even farther back to Columbine shooting in 1997 when a school shooting seemed unthinkable and how that has changed to be almost a predictable occurrence today. Each shooting seems to spark the same cycle of outcry among our nation with folks pressuring change from policymakers. Yet each time there is no change from the people in power. A few weeks go by and there is another story that captives our attention and it is pushed to the back of our minds until the next shooting occurs and the cycle begins again. However one group is attempting to stop this hopeless cycle: Teens for Gun Reform.

Teens for Gun Reform is a student run group that appeared in front of the White House on Monday. They prepared a “silent lie-in” demonstration of 17 members lying down for three minutes in the streets in front of the White House (the amount of time it took the gunman to take the lives of the students and teachers). Around a hundred students and other advocates rallied and protested following the demonstration. These students are standing up for what they believe needs to be changed since policymakers aren’t listening to anyone else. It’s their lives that are in danger and hopefully protests and pressures from this group will lead to change regarding gun control.

To learn more about this group and the protest visit the following sites:

Are Mobile Mental Health Apps User-Friendly?

by Kat Caskey

Currently, only about half of those affected by mental illness in the United States will receive any kind of treatment[1]. In the past few years, however, experts have begun to look to remote healthcare options that could improve access to mental health treatment. Perhaps most promising is the growing consensus that mental health apps, or mHealth apps, “have unprecedented potential for improving quality of life and public health outcomes” for the tens of millions of people affected by mental health conditions in the U.S. each year.[2]

Mobile apps have the unique potential to reduce many of the traditional barriers to mental health treatment. For example, mHealth apps can be significantly less expensive than traditional treatment and may be accessed anytime, including during times of crisis, without an appointment. In addition, apps can reduce cultural barriers to care as they provide a “discrete mobile environment” free from social stigma.[3]

Evidence-based mHealth apps have been proven effective at treating a variety of mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder[4], anxiety[5], depression[6], obsessive compulsive disorder[7], bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse[8]. Unfortunately, however, although patients frequently download any of the myriad of mental health apps available in the App store, many are deleted after only a few uses, and a staggering 26% are used only once. One study that surveyed mental health app users found that among the most common reasons for deleting mental health apps included “not engaging” and “not user friendly,” with “ease of navigation” being the top feature that makes eHealth apps for mental health favorable.[9]

What good are evidence-based mental health apps if people won’t use them? These results indicate trouble in the realm of user experience, which considers “user emotions, affects, motivations, and values” as well as “ease of use, ease of learning and basic subjective satisfaction.”[10] Understanding user experience has been identified as “a key step in realizing the role of mental health apps”[11] and reminds us that it is not enough to understand the clinical basis of new health technologies; equally significant is consideration of the best ways to design and implement apps for people with mental health conditions. Ideally, user experience and usability testing evaluations should involve all relevant stakeholders, including patients and providers.[12]

Especially considering the wide reach of mHealth apps, “even minor efforts to further refine the usability and utility of the app” have the potential to decrease app attrition rates and increase user exposure to evidence-based treatment recommendations.[13] As apps designed to improve mental health continue to proliferate, app designers and researchers should continue to investigate how an emphasis on user experience can improve mHealth tools for mental health.

[1] National Institute of Mental Health.  Accessed February 4, 2018.

[2] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[3] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[4]Rodriguez-Paras, C., Tippey, K., Brown, E., Sasangohar, F., Creech, S., Kum, H. C., … & Benzer, J. K. (2017). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Mobile Health: App Investigation and Scoping Literature Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth5(10).;
Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[5] Sucala, M., Cuijpers, P., Muench, F., Cardoș, R., Soflau, R., Dobrean, A., … & David, D. (2017). Anxiety: There is an app for that. A systematic review of anxiety apps. Depression and anxiety.

[6] Lattie, E. G., Schueller, S. M., Sargent, E., Stiles-Shields, C., Tomasino, K. N., Corden, M. E., … & Mohr, D. C. (2016). Uptake and usage of IntelliCare: a publicly available suite of mental health and well-being apps. Internet interventions4, 152-158.

[7] Ameringen, M., Turna, J., Khalesi, Z., Pullia, K., & Patterson, B. (2017). There is an app for that! The current state of mobile applications (apps) for DSM‐5 obsessive‐compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and mood disorders. Depression and anxiety.

[8] Rizvi, S. L., Dimeff, L. A., Skutch, J., Carroll, D., & Linehan, M. M. (2011). A pilot study of the DBT coach: an interactive mobile phone application for individuals with borderline personality disorder and substance use disorder. Behavior therapy42(4), 589-600.

[9] Smith, D. Motivating Patients to use Smartphone Health Apps. Consumer Health Information Corporation. Published 2014. Accessed February 4, 2018.

[10] Abrahão, S., Bordeleau, F., Cheng, B., Kokaly, S., Paige, R. F., Störrle, H., & Whittle, J. (2017, September). User Experience for Model-Driven Engineering: Challenges and Future Directions. In 2017 ACM/IEEE 20th International Conference on Model Driven Engineering Languages and Systems (MODELS) (pp. 229-236). IEEE.

[11] Lemon, Christopher. “The User Experience: A Key Step in Realizing the Role of Mental Health Apps.” Psychiatric Times, 7 Feb. 2018,

[12] Price, M., Yuen, E. K., Goetter, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., Acierno, R., & Ruggiero, K. J. (2014). mHealth: a mechanism to deliver more accessible, more effective mental health care. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy21(5), 427-436.

[13] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

Love is all you need (that, and chocolate)

Hypothetically speaking of course, if one had no plans at all for this Wednesday and/or if that same someone muttered, “What’s this Wednesday,” one might recommend a day of self-care. Hallmark be darned! Regardless of plan status (or, you know, relationship status), self-love can be every day. I’m talking about healthy, happy choices.

Take a soak in the tub of love

Sprinkle some rose petals and rose water in there for some antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing action. Or pour in a glass of red wine! The polyphenols soften skin and antioxidants give you a boost.


Get you some dark chocolate. It’s high in iron, magnesium, and feel-good phenylethylamine. One to two ounces should do the trick.

Hit some zzz’s right in the bullseye with Cupid’s arrow

Pro tip: Sleeping naked helps the body regulate its temperature, which in turn helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol and balance melatonin.


If that’s not a romantic evening of self-care, I don’t know what is. Enjoy!

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.


Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself:

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”:

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”:

Learn to Let Go:

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”:

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”:

You can do it

Here we are, winding down the semester.  I want to take my last blog post of the year 2017 and share with y’all this little poem-ish reminder I wrote to help me through this push before the holidays.


Stop watching so much Netflix and do something fun yet productive. 🙂

Do what you’re passionate about!

Love yourself and be kind!

Post too many exclamation points if ya feel like it!!!!

Listen to music that makes you feel like how you want to feel

Find what works for you and it’s okay if that changes.

Appreciate the people around you!

Be yourself.

Open me,


These next two weeks may be stressful, but you can do it.  Remember to take care of your mind and body in addition to nurturing that intellect!

“I’ll have a blue christmas without you”

This time of the year is it hard not to get swept up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, extravagant amount of food and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As we move through these next few weeks, it’s important to consider this time is not always merry for those around this. The holiday blues is a term coined to those who have feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays due to the extra stress and expectations from this time of year. It differs from clinical anxiety and depression due to its temporary state. Holiday blues can look like fatigue, tension, loneliness, isolation and sadness. There are many triggers associated with them as such as less exposure to sunlight, changes in your diet and exercise routine, or inability to be with loved ones during the holiday season. Particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions are at risk for the holiday blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has provided suggestions on how to avoid the holiday blues

  • Stick to normal routines
  • Sleep
  • Eat and drink in moderation
  • Exercise
  • Set goals and reasonable expectations for holiday shopping, cooking, entertaining etc.
  • Listen to music or other outlets for relaxation

To those experiencing the holiday blues, remember that this time of year is temporary and these feelings are short term. Happy Holidays!

A Different Type of Stress Eating

Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?

Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).

Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.

Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.

Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.

Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.

Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).

Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Check back next week for a post on what foods are a good source of these nutrients!