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What Does Struck by Living Mean?

  • April 12, 2018

Struck by Living, the title for my book has two meanings: 1. To be struck down by life 2. To be struck in awe of life It occurred to me that the Struck by Living website has far too much on depression and being struck down by life and not enough of what 90% of my life is - being in awe. As of today I am changing that - a SBL (Struck by Living) rebrand if you will. There is a fun history behind the title and the book cover, I will publish that tomorrow. For today, let me tell you what's on the awe list. Spring. This is my favorite time of year in Dallas: warm but cool weather, flowers blossoming, light dripping through trees. We don't have a real winter here, but the flowers just make me pause and breathe deep. Look around and enjoy your season, whatever it may be. Julie  

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Is ECT Right for Me (or my Loved One)?

  • April 05, 2018

Should I (or my wife/husband/son/daughter/friend) have ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)? This question comes my way at least once a week, so I’ve decided to collect my thoughts in a single document.  The answer is: it depends. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist nor am I someone who gets kickbacks for speaking about ECT. I speak from experience. I’ve had 4 ECT treatment series over the past 17 years, 28 treatments in total. ECT saved my life (in 2001) and deterred the onset of life-threatening depression in 2007 and 2016. ECT generally is administered in an intensive treatment period of three sessions a week, usually beginning with right unilateral electrode configuration (one electrode on the right side of the head and one near the top of the head). After the intensive period, treatments are spaced out, some continuing with maintenance ECT to maintain health. Typically, a course of ECT consists of about 8-12 treatment sessions, though sometimes more. At each session, the patient is put under anesthesia and a small pulse of electricity is passed through the brain. It takes less than a few minutes, and a brief time is needed to recover from the anesthesia. The big...

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Depression Management from the School of Hard Knocks

  • June 05, 2017

This is the talk I gave for my Notre Dame 2017 35th reunion on June 3, recounting my first depressive episode at the University of Notre Dame. The visuals are reversed - what I refer to as being on the left is on the right and vice versa. Wonderful to reconnect with my ND Classmates and see all the powerful things they are doing. Go Irish '82! I am VERY proud of both my children who have just graduated (Daniel) and are attending (Rachel) Northwestern. The "cringe" part was just a point of humor for my Notre Dame classmates, many of whom have children who have graduated from Notre Dame.

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A Conversation with Dr. Madhukar Trivedi and Dr. Vikram Patel

  • March 31, 2017

March 29, 2017, UT Southwestern Peter O’Donnell, Jr. Brain Institute and Austin College hosted Dr. Vikram Patel and Dr. Madhukar Trivedi in a discussion about changing the model of mental health care. Both of these men have participated in work that pushes care out into the community. Dr. Patel published a manual, Where There is No Psychiatrist in 2003.. He used this approach to train community members in India, Uganda and elsewhere (many with less than a full high school education), to provide basic mental health care. He’s publishing a free, online version of this book in the summer (2017), which incorporates over 20 years of data to back up his approach. Dr. Patel is now the Pershing Square Professor at Harvard Medical School, having recently moved to Harvard from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Trivedi’s work involves primary care practices and high schools with the Center of Depression Research and Clinical Care at UTSW. Trivedi’s team has trained 19 primary care practices to screen for depression every patient, every time s/he comes to the practice, for any type of medical care. The effort has lead to extraordinary results in about a...

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UTSW Peter O’Donnell, Jr. Brain Institute Cocktails and Conversation

  • March 24, 2017

On March 8, 2017, Bonnie and Peter Smith hosted an event as part of the UTSW Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.  I was on a panel with Dr. Marc Diamond – brilliant UT Southwestern research who is Director of the Center for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases and, moderated by Dr. Mark Dr. Mark Goldberg, Chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UTSW, Do you think I was a little intimidated? Yes! Mark proved the most genuine moderator, he’s a friend and fellow lover of the arts (especially music, in Mark’s case). He bounced back between the two of us with ease and equal respect. The three favorite questions he asked of me were: What is your dream for the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care? I answered my dream would be to have eventually two things. 1) Some type of tool to help primary care physicians to better detect depression and bipolar disease at an early level, where we have the best chance of success for management of the disease and allowing people to live full, healthy and productive lives. 2) Tools to help physicians to direct people to the best portfolio of...

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Feature on “Stories of the Mind” on PBS - and in an interview with Think on Krys Boyd

  • April 26, 2016

Yet another person came up to me at the Cooper Center yesterday and said "I heard you on NPR." I was a little confused by this considering I have not done an interview with NPR since 2010 when I had an interview with Krys Boyd (whom I greatly admire BTW, this was clearly the best interview of the ones done when my book was published). Then in the haze of post spring madness with too much on my plate, I recalled an email exchange with Krys over a weekend. It was late at night, I was watching baseball and then Scandal while I was having a dinner of popcorn and chardonnay. As I listened to the interview this morning - first time in weeks I have had a chance to breathe - I realized what people have been talking about. Check out this interview with Harry Lynch on Think!: Mind Over Matter Poor Harry, I should have warned him. I think he was slightly blindsided by the question. Note to self, do not have laptop within finger reach while imitating Olivia Pope and watching Scandal. What is interesting about the story of creation of the film - co-produced by my friend...

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Beating Back the January Blues

  • February 27, 2016

I suffered a major depressive episode this January, my first depressive break in eight years.  Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t written for Psychology Today in over 90 days. My pen stopped because I knew I should write about my relapse, but I was afraid of the impact my openness might have on my other work (Board Chair of the Dallas Theater Center). My silence wasn’t a conscious decision, but a slow opting out, an unwillingness to let my mental health world collide with my theater world. For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, I adhered to the George Costanza dictum of separate worlds. Why? Two reasons: I wanted one place in my life where people did not talk to me about depression and suicide. Sometimes the cumulative weight of these stories requires a safe place to refuel my spirit. For me, that place is the Dallas Theater Center. Despite all the lectures I have given about the need for openness about mental illness, I was afraid. I feared my openness might hurt this institution I love so much. Keeping my worlds separate works well when I’m healthy, but this...

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The Black Dot and Bringing the Conversation to Light

  • November 13, 2015

Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking at the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation Bring the Conversation to Light Luncheon.  Wonderful organization developed in honor of Jordan Harris, who lost her life to depression at age 22. I followed Mark Ware who detailed the work MHMR of Tarrant County has done in suicide prevention and preceded Eric Hipple. Eric is a good friend, whom I had met years before at the Grant Halliburton Foundation luncheon and visited at the University of Michigan while touring their Depression Center. Eric has done some phenomenal work with the NFL, military and college campuses breaking down barriers of communication and enlightening people on the power of human contact to dispel depression. He spoke lovingly of his son Jeff, who was lost to depression, and Eric’s own struggle with the depression, which he details in his book, Real Men Do Cry. Ellen Harris ended the program with a courageous speech and showing a recent video created by the foundation that honors her daughter's name. I am continually impressed with the efforts and steady persistence of the Harris family in opening the conversation about the impact of mental illness. Here is my speech,...

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From the Ashes of Disaster…

  • May 13, 2015

Last night’s talk was a train wreck. I violated all my cardinal rules of public speaking 1. Prepare 2. Don’t depend on technology 3. If you rely on technology have a backup plan. In all honesty I did prepare. I watched the film my son Daniel and I made with the Mental Health Channel and my entire speech hinged on the preface of that 8 minute film. When I arrived at Pollman Hall at Temple Emanuel, I saw Mental Health Channel emblem on the screen and thought, Great, they’ve already tested this, I can relax. Rabbi Debra Robbins asked me to write down a couple of softball questions for the Q&A after my talk.  In my over-caffeinated-I-am-invincible state I thought I hate softball questions. I pride myself on my ability to respond on stage, forgetting that my cat-like thinking usually depends on sleep and better nutrition than cheez-its, an oversized chocolate chunk cookie and shot-gunned Diet Coke. I scribbled down my starter question: I understand you have an interfaith marriage. Do you think this contributed to your depression? Did I forget to mention I had never answered that question in front of a crowd before?...

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Savor the Moment - A Year’s Worth of Peak Experiences this Month

  • December 10, 2014

I read Rick Hanson's Buddha's Brain this month and am trying to put into practice his idea of savoring experiences. His theory is our brains are predisposed to negativity. In this TED talk, he mentions that for every five positive experiences we have, one negative one wipes them out. This worked well in prehistoric humans - the person entranced by blue sky often ended up being lunch. But in today's world, that receptiveness to negativity can leave a person anxious and depressed. I've been trying to savor things on a daily basis, but this month I had three major experiences specifically related to Struck by Living - I only have a few minutes this morning, so I can only elaborate on one. Here are the three highlights from last month: 1. Jordan Harris Foundation luncheon on November 7 - more on this one in a moment. 2. Release of the Mental Health Channel's documentary. Jeff Fraley and his group had me go back to the mountain where I attempted suicide in 2001 and tell the story to my now 20 year-old son. I've blogged about this for Pscyhology Today: An Unexpected Thanksgiving Story and here is the link to...

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Testimonial

"Splendid! Struck by Living details the debilitating illness that many of us have battled. Julie’s honesty enables readers to understand the serious damage caused by depression and the happiness unleashed in recovery."

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson, former president of CNN and publisher of the LA Times and Dallas Times Herald
About Struck By Living

In Struck by Living, Julie Hersh picks apart the irony of her life with humor and brutal honesty. Despite a loving husband, healthy children, financial security, Julie attempted suicide three times. With the help of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), Julie broke the deadly course of her disorder. Now well, Julie promotes the importance of mental health with collaborations with other artists and organizations.

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