New York Times on Penn’s Problems With Suicide and Perfectionism

Terracotta Heraldry on the Duhring Wing.   | Steven Minicola, University of Pennsylvania  Communications.

Terracotta Heraldry on the Duhring Wing. | Steven Minicola, University of Pennsylvania Communications.

Today’s New York Times has an article on campus suicide that features the story of Kathryn DeWitt, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Like her classmate Madison Holleran, DeWitt was a standout student and athlete in high school, but arrived at Penn to find that plenty of other students were just as remarkable as she was — and many were such high achievers, they made DeWitt feel inferior. In what seemed like countless ways, DeWitt imagined she didn’t measure up, as the TimesJulie Scelfo writes: Read more »

They Survived Byberry

From a collection of artwork by Anna Jennings.

From a collection of artwork by Anna Jennings.

Philadelphia State Hospital — the psychiatric facility colloquially known as Byberry because of its location at Roosevelt Boulevard and Southampton Road in Northeast Philadelphia — was almost Anna Jennings’ last stop.

Six years after her stay there, the pretty, blue-eyed 32-year-old would die by suicide in the back ward of a different state hospital. But her tenacity had not yet reached its end point while she was at Byberry, despite more than a decade in and out of institutions where she endured terrible abuses and erroneously prescribed treatments — some of which were so awful they’re now illegal. In fact, if it were not for Anna’s persistence, Byberry might still be in operation today. Read more »

Daughter of Sandy Hook Victim Partners With South Jersey Mental Health Nonprofit

marysherlachMary Joy Sherlach lived for the kids. A school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Mary did what her daughter Maura Schwartz says was utterly in keeping with her character when a gunman opened fire at her school in December 2012: She ran toward the gunfire, not away from it.

That was the kind of teacher — and mother — Mary was: totally engaged on behalf of the children she loved. And now Maura is making sure her mother’s passion won’t be forgotten.

Last week, Maura stood at a podium in a banquet room at the Valleybrook Country Club in Gloucester Township, N.J., and spoke about the day her mother died, describing her final act of heroism. She also described a terrific mom — an easy and empathetic confidante for her and her sister, Katy.

When Maura was growing up, Mary’s passion about the mental well-being of children and adolescents she worked with permeated their home life. After her mother died, Maura recognized not only their own loss, but that of so many children whose lives her mother would have touched. And it was especially ironic that Mary died at the hands of a troubled adolescent, who, Maura noted, had himself been lacking in mental health care resources that he obviously sorely needed.

Read more »

5 Ways to Be Happier This Week

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Shutterstock

As a psychologist, I’m often asked for my professional opinion about how to be happier. There’s no easy answer, of course, but over the years I’ve developed what I believe to be the five keys to happiness. These are principles I strive to live myself, day in and day out; sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. But what I’ve learned is that keeping these concepts front and center has gone a long way toward helping me feel happier and more fulfilled.

Won’t you give it a try this week?  Read more »

Are Women Being Overmedicated?

Psychiatrist Julie Holland wrote in the New York Times this weekend about adjudicating the female mood, which ever since the publication of the feminist classic The Yellow Wallpaper, a book chronicling the imprisonment of a “hysterical” woman, has been the subject of peculiar debate. When a woman is moody, does it mean she’s crazy?  Or is she simply experiencing hormonal or emotional differences that serve her evolutionary purpose?

Thankfully, as of 2015, we’ve come to a consensus closer to the latter point of view, at least scientifically. This is chronicled in Holland’s cheekily titled book, Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy.

But colloquially and in everyday life, the “psycho” bitch who won’t stop calling after a breakup, the crazy girlfriend who’s super jealous, the chick who’s a nightmare when she’s PMS-ing — these tropes are all too common. Read more »

Mindfulness: Hippie Nonsense or the Key to Happiness?

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Shutterstock

Much has been written about the concept of mindfulness in the past decade. Corporations have adopted mindfulness-training programs for employees. Elementary schools now teach mindfulness to students. It’s become a word that rolls off the tongue, but few of us really understand its utility.

To oversimplify, the goal of mindfulness is to slow down and to be present in your life as it happens. Critics of the mindfulness movement decry mindfulness as bohemian psychobabble. These critics point out that the simple concept of slowing down and savoring the present moment shouldn’t need to be taught. After all, children don’t need to be instructed to be present, because children are nothing if not exclusively attuned to their present environment.

And the critics are right. We were all born with the capacity for mindfulness. But there has been one recent invention that has ultimately derailed our abilities to stay mindful: That invention is the smartphone. Read more »

This Is Best Thing I’ve Done for My Sanity This Year (And You Can Do It, Too!)

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Shutterstock

About a month ago, I noticed that I couldn’t help but check my phone when it vibrated. I could have been giving my very own TED talk with the President, Beyoncé and Meryl Streep in the audience (That’s everyone’s version of living the dream, right?), and if my phone vibrated — knowing that it was probably an email from Twitter that I would delete instantly, anyway, telling me that Paris Hilton just ate ice cream — I still would have had the nagging urge to check it. Even on a TED stage, in front of the freakin’ President of the United States!

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