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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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Expect the Unexpected, Avoid the Winner’s Vortex

  • November 16, 2014

I'm writing this blog the day after my alma mater's (University of Notre Dame) stunning loss to Northwestern. No one expected Northwestern to win. My son Daniel, a sophomore at Northwestern, met me and my husband in South Bend for some in-person-intra-family football trash talk. Even Daniel deemed the game an impossible long shot for the Wildcats. My dread at the field goal that set the game into overtime was only partially offset by his giddiness. The thrill of an underdog upset (if you're the underdog), is one of life's gems. I remember feeling that way a few weeks ago, right before the official called back ND's touch down in the FSU game. The experience of ND's loss combined with other events this week amplified a question in my mind. Does depression in high  achievers happen because success steals the possibility of an underdog upset?  With the constant expectation of success, winning becomes a no-win proposition. If you win, great, you should. If you lose, you're not just a failure but an underachiever.  One of the reasons most of us love sports is because on any given day, any...

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Decidí Vivir Celebration

  • November 03, 2014

When I asked Jorge Correa about what we should do to launch Decidí Vivir to reach Spanish speakers, he wisely advised, “Latinos will come to a party, but they are not going to come to a talk about depression!” Listening to his advice, we garnered some good food and drink and put our depression experts on a glistening green-blue stage with a castle in the background. I knew it was going to be an interesting night when a young from the catering staff asked if he could have a book. “My brother,” he told me, “Killed himself when he was 19.” We spent several minutes talking before the event. It was clear this young man had not told his story to many people, certainly not a stranger he had just met. But as has happened many times before, being open about my story swings wide the door so others can release theirs. He seemed visibly relieved to know that someone else could listen without judgment. I told him as I tell all people who have lost loved ones: “What your loved one did is not out of lack of love for you.” ...

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Celebration Book Release Decidí Vivir by Author, Julie K. Hersh

  • October 09, 2014

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Hersh Foundation will present a celebration of the book release, Decidí Vivir on Tuesday, October 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Dallas Children’s Theater - Rosewood Center for Family Arts located at 5938 Skillman Street. In a collaboration of culture unique to Dallas, Texas, four families from three different countries have worked together to bring a story of hope to those suffering from depression. “This book is a collaboration of kindness” Dallas resident and Chilean native Andrés Correa heard Struck by Living author Julie Hersh speak on KERA when Hersh originally released her book in 2010. Struck by Living traces Hersh’s trek through depression and recovery beginning with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Knowing that his mother suffered from depression, Andrés recommended the book to his father, Jorge Correa, Spanish Teacher and Community Service Director at St. Mark’s School of Texas. Jorge then translated the book page by page into Spanish, reading it to his wife as she received treatment in UTSW, the place where coincidentally Hersh had been hospitalized. When Jorge reached out to Julie to thank her for writing ...

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New Milestones “Defying Depression” Talk at JCC Austin

  • October 04, 2014

I knew it was going to be a magical day when Susan Sager from New Milestones Foundation handed me a handful of silver hearts. "These are milagros," she said, "do you know what this means?" Miracles. I knew the answer to that. If nothing else, the translation of Decidí Vivir has taught me to believe in miracles. Susan explained that the hearts are pockmarked and irregular to symbolize that we are loved even with our imperfections. Susan Sager from New Milestones Foundation That day I needed a few miracles. On the plane to Austin, I realized I'd left my speech on the counter in Dallas. That's okay I assured myself, you have it on your IPad. After Val Newberg's kind and generous introduction, I took the stage. My IPad flickered, sputtered, then went blank. Sometimes I get the message loud and clear and this was one of those times. Put away your notes. Speak from the heart. Luckily my cousin support group was there in full force (David Levy, Arielle Levy, Rebecca Levy, Cheryl Levy and Brooke Hersh-Thompson). David agreed to hold my little Nikon camera to record my speech so we could provide the link...

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Testimonial

"Hersh's page-turner story is very informative about the state of mind of people experiencing very high suicide risk; to take two examples, perceived burdensomeness and social isolation.  I'm relieved for her and for all of us that she survived.  Struck by Living shows a life beyond suicidality, filled with possibility."

Thomas Joiner
Thomas Joiner, The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Florida State University, Author of Why People Die by Suicide and Myths About Suicide
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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