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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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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...

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Talk at Garland ISD Today, September 23

  • September 23, 2014

Talking with Garland ISD today in the morning to middle school and high schoolers and tonight for parents. I won't have a long speaking time, but want to list my Top Ten for wellness that I use when I speak at The Unversity of Notre Dame and other college campuses. This top ten list began as a Psychology Today blog that's received over 13,000 hits, and has been refined as I gain more information from my own research and exposure from talks with students. Uniformly when I speak to college counseling centers I am told - "This needs to reach students BEFORE they come to college. By the time they reach college, habits are set and hard to change." Thank you Garland ISD for teaching students early and giving them the knowledge they need to maintain their mental health. I'm listing it again here to make it easy for Garland ISD parents and students to find! Top Ten for Mental Health Brain Protection for College Students Julie Kosnik Hersh Mental illness, like many diseases, is prime a example of “what comes first?” Do genetics cause mental illness or does the environment breed it? The answer is...

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Robin Williams - Can we Stay Focused on Mental Health?

  • August 15, 2014

Robin Williams - can we stay focused? Whenever a major celebity or notable figure dies by suicide, heck whenever friends I know hear about a suicide, I can always expect a phone call or two from people encouraging me to keep up with my work. This week, there were tons of phone calls. Robin Williams touched the lives of so many - touched my life as well. I'm old enough to remember "Mork and Mindy," so my joy from Robin Williams goes way back. What a talent. What an incredible man. I'm so sad that he's gone for our sakes, and also for the sake of his family. Knowing what he battled, I am glad that he brilliantly battled for so long. In one of the interviews I did this week, a person asked if I thought stories like Robin Williams will make a difference. They do, but my concern is the focus is in the wrong place if we ever want to get ahead of the disease. I've seen this happen too many times. Someone who supposedly "has it all" dies by suicide and everyone is upset for 24 hours, 48 hours or maybe a week. We...

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Honor Courage Commitment Inspires 3,600 to Awareness

  • April 30, 2014

What an incredible month! The push-up initiative mentioned in my last blog spurred over 3,600 people to post videos of themselves doing 22 push-ups to honor those who serve and remember that 22 veterans a day are dying by suicide. I just wrote a Psychology Today article about this amazing experience with Honor Courage and Commitment entitled: Intrinsic Motivation: The Missing Link in Mental Health Care. The photo above is the jumbotron from the Texas Rangers game against the Philadelphia. The Texas Rangers have been phenomenal, helping us spread the word and with their own push-ups too! In addition, I traveled with the Director of the Hersh Foundation, Kristi Bernstein to the kickoff of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute on April 16. Amazing set of panelists spoke about the progress on mental health intitiatves in Texas. Texas still has a long way to go, but Meadows will help lead the way. On April 28 I participated in the live feed viewing of the Center for BrainHealth's Inaugural BrainHealth Summit. Again another series of fabulous panelists. One of whom, Dr. Bror Saxenberg, Cheif Leraning Officer at Kaplan, inspired me to look into this concept of Intrinsic Motivation, which I talk about in my PT...

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UT Southwestern Grand Rounds

  • December 12, 2013

Very exciting event last week. I was asked to speak at UT Southwestern Psychiatric Grand Rounds. Engaging event, lots of great questions. I want to post the latest Struck by Living Stay Well list here - as I promised some I would publish this digitally for them. Special thanks to Dr. Madhukar Trivedi for this opportunity! Struck by Living Top Ten for Mental Health Brain Protection for Adults– Julie K. Hersh Mental illness, like many diseases, is prime example of “what comes first?” Do genetics cause mental illness or does the environment breed it? I always answer “both” to this question. How we react to our environment determines our mental health, oftentimes more than the environment itself. We’ve all seen one person devastated by failure or disappointment, while another person uses that same situation as motivation for future success. As Charles Darwin said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is that one that is the most adaptable to change." This list has undergone various iterations – showing that a mental health list changes for different phases of life. The first five items...

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October Events - ND, Galapagos, Pscyhology Today and Managing Depression article

  • October 27, 2013

October has been one of those months where I look back and think - how did this all happen? The month began with seeing an amazing production of "Raisin in the Sun" at the Dallas Theater Center. Incredible show, Liz Mikel as Lena gave an outstanding performance as well as Bowman Wright as Walter. Written over 50 years ago, this show tackles tough issues of poverty, family dynamics and competing dreams. Although it's constantly advertised as a show about race, I believe that narrow focus misses the point. This is a show about supression of dreams and resilience. What Hansberry (the late playwright) does so deftly is she writes a character that is flawed, but empathetic. This is great, great writing. I know I saw this movie years ago with Sidney Poitier, but the themes resonated so much more strongly seeing it as an adult. After watching a stunning ND victory over ASU on October 5, I headed up to ND to give a talk about managing mental health at college. The ND student body had their first week-long focus on mental health - calling it the "Irish State of Mind." All sorts of activities spanned the week including my talk,...

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Hildegard: The First Encounter

  • August 19, 2012

My relationship with Hildegard jump-started due to a colorful postcard of a woman with smoke coming out of her head. I’d stumbled into a funky, now defunct art gallery in the summer of 2008, a few yards from the four-way stop in Pecos, NM that marked the center of town. The blue of her gown caught me first. Offset by sun-hued yellow, a series of letters framed her body. Japanese, Chinese, petroglyph-type symbols enwrapped this dark-skinned beauty so intent on her work. I was taken. I read the bio on the back of the card. Hildegard Von Bingen: Artist, writer, physician, mystic who came up with her own language. Hildegard seemed the female DaVinci of the 1100s. A switch in my brain flipped. Hildegard should be my muse, my visual mentor as I finished my book. I bought the postcard. I wanted the artist to make me a poster-sized image of her Hildegard to hang above my desk. The back of the card had a badly smudged name with no website. Taking to the Internet, I began a game of trial and error to find the artist. I’m not usually an artist-stalker, but the quest for Hildegard...

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Know Yourself: A Message from Hildegard Von Bingen

  • August 18, 2012

At the risk of sounding, well, crazy, I want to let you know that I'm being followed by a 12th century mystic. Not literarlly followed, I haven't had a vision or visitation, I'm not hearing voices or anything like that, but Hildegard Von Bingen has appeared so frequently in my life lately that I've decided it's time to give her some air time. For those for whom Hildegard means nothing (probably most of you), Hildegard was a mystic, artist, playwright, physician, musician, herbalist, who happened to create her own language and build a monastery for women in a time where most women lived as virtual slaves of their husbands. Hildegard's medical approach was holistic and simplistic. With observation, listening, taking a pulse and examining urine, she'd give a herbal medical prescription. However, with each prescription came an assigned regimen. More or less exercise, what foods to eat, level of sexual activity all were gauged to obtain a balance. Hildegard viewed each person individually and in the perspective of his or her environment. A master gardener of people, Hildegard understood that health was a process that required tweaking and constant refinement. She gauged her patients' viriditas, their greenness or vitality. Just...

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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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