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GISD talk with TeenCONTACT on September 23

  • September 24, 2014

photo sent by Andreina Lira - thank you Andreina!

I had the extreme priviledge yesterday to speak with TeenCONTACT to about 600 middle and high school students from the Garland ISD about suicide prevention and brain health. Spoke with GISD parents in the evening on a panel - about 80 parents showed for that. Honored to be on the stage with Brent Blackburn from EYL. Brent told the heartbreaking story about the loss of his brother to suicide - with a strong message - "Leadership is less about what you say and more about what you do."

I followed Brent, shared my story and talked about brain health protection. Favorite part, as always, the Q&A. Sample of questions:

- do you still suffer from depression? YES, but I consciously manage my behavior to self correct if my depression seems to be growing past just being sad.

- how do you manage it? talked about being the scientest of my own behavior. I try to study my own moods and figure out patterns. If I'm illogically sad on a consistent day, I try to figure out if I am doing something that triggers the problem. For example i shared the story of being depressed consistently on Saturdays. I take a dopmanie based antidepressant. On fridays I would run really early and routinely forget to take my antidepressant. I'd then have a glass or wine of two on Friday night (which causes a rise and then plummet in dopamine). On Saturdays - I don't exercise - my only day off (another dopamine downer). So I figured out I was putting myself in a state of dopamine deprivation. I got better about taking my medication (put it out the night before), reduced alcohol and presto the problem disappeared. I encouraged them to look for patterns in their behavior too.

- do you like what you do? This was an interesting question. I said I enjoy doing what i do when it helps others, and gave a few examples. However doing this kind of work requires balance. I can't do it all the time. Last week I was feeling really down. I have been in heavy speaking mode due to all the suicide prevention events in september. Just wiped me out. I talked about the importance of balancing my life with other things (like a really good show at the Dallas Theater Center - Rocky Horror). This young man reminded me of my own need for balance and honesty with myself. Thank you!!!

- what is a genetic predisposition? Made me realize I need to remember my audience as I said this in the first couple of sentences. I explained that depression is a common experience in my family. Also cautioned them if there is depression, alcohol or drug abuse in their family, they just need to be more aware that they too might have these tendencies. This doesn't mean they will have these issues, but they should take extra precaution in protecting their brains.

 

"Clues" provided by TeenCONTACT for students

Then I was following by the amazing energy explosion of mattissuperman - Matt Ransdell. He blew the roof off the place. The students loved him.

Sierra Sanchez got them to put the teen number in their phones. Here it is along with the adult and Spanish lines:

Crisis Help Line: (972) 233-2233

Teen Help Line: (972) 233-8336

*Spanish Help Line: (972) 233-2428

The night event was amazing as well Brent Blackburn moderated the panel with Judy ?? from GISD, Dr. Abel Tomatis,Amy Stewart (President of CONTACT with an amazing resume in care for those in grief), me and an expert on cyber bullying. Tomatis had a wealth of information about bullying and harrassment. I didn't realize that if you are being harrassed by a "private" caller, you can call your service provide and demand the phone number of the person, then take it to the police. It is a right protected by law (will have to follow up with him and ask him about which law). He also had some great insights on parenting adolescents. Very impressed.

What touched me the most was a number of Spanish speaking families who collected their copies of Decidí Vivir. We distributed free copies of Struck by Living and free pre-release copies Decidí Vivir. These families were so grateful, so affectionate. I felt completely humbled. Lovely men, supporting their wives with depression. The commitment to family and caring for those who need help with depression was awe inspiring.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt exhausted by the end, but priviledged to serve. As I drove to both events I evoked a rendition of Theiiard de Chardin's prayer. Before he'd write he would say "God fill my pen." I always am a bit apprehensive when speaking before a group because I want to say something that will actually help people get and stay well. Yesterday, pretty tired from an intense month and feeling not as prepared as I would like to be, I just turned it over. God fill my voice, open my ears.

As always I never know if what I do makes a difference. My friend Jorge Correa (who translated Struck By Living) had a great expression when we were talking about how to reach Spanish speaking people today. I told him we just needed to try things, most of the time our efforts won't work, but we have to try. "I see," he said, "like fishing. We are casting the net." Just love that.

A lucky to be alive kind of day. Shana Tova (Happy New Year) to all my Jewish friends. Thank you to CONTACT, Brent, Matt, Dr. Tomatis, Amy Stewart and James Bryant for such an incredible opportunity.

 

Julie

 

Panel for GISD parents in the evening of Sept 23

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Testimonial

"Julie Hersh has bravely recounted her experiences with suicidality and depression. Her story is profound yet poetic. Julie's narrative provides a much-needed patient-centered perspective to those who care for the mentally ill. Her passion for communicating the devastating effects of depression and suicidality to others is a powerful tool in the war against the social stigma experienced by those who live with suicidal thoughts, those who have made suicide attempts, and those who have survived the suicide of a loved one."

Jane Mahoney
Jane Mahoney, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, Director of Nursing Practice and Research,The Menninger Clinic: Assistant Professor, Menninger Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of MedicineHouston, TX
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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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