Petition Demanding Penn Mental Health Reform Approaching 5,000 Signatures

On April 11th, Penn junior Ao “Olivia” Kong was killed by an oncoming SEPTA train near 40th Street Station. The death was later ruled a suicide. Now, a week-old petition imploring university officials to address the problems plaguing the school’s mental health resources has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price released a statement addressing the community’s concerns and providing updates on the steps the school is taking to ramp up its mental health resources. Gutmann has called for the school’s Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare to reconvene — it completed a year-long study on the subject in 2015 following several high-profile suicides at the school. The school had vowed to fight a culture of “destructive perfectionism.”

“We have asked the chairs of the Task Force, Anthony Rostain and Rebecca Bushnell, to immediately reconvene the Task Force to determine as expeditiously as possible what additional steps can be taken to help ensure the health and well-being of our students,” Gutmann and Price’s statement reads. The school has extended the hours of its counseling service (CAPS) in the wake of Kong’s death, but some Penn students have expressed extreme discontent with the school’s ability to treat students effectively.  Read more »

Does Your Sanity Depend on Running?

You know those conversations you’ll never forget because they just left you so confused? I had one of those with my best friend, Anja, when I was around 16 years old. We’d both gotten in trouble with our parents for something I now can’t remember and, for whatever reason — probably because we were 16 — we were convinced our lives were over. At 16, our lives were OVER.  It was upsetting. So, naturally, we both got into huge screaming matches with our parents, arguing that life wasn’t fair and we knew what we were doing. We were basically adults! You know, behaving the way teenagers, always so rational, do.

And here’s where it got confusing: When we called each other to commiserate, Anja told me she’d been so upset that she just had to go for a run, and she ran and ran and ran and it made her feel better. Meanwhile, I’d been so upset that I just had to watch 16 episodes of Laguna Beach. Needless to say, I didn’t get the whole running-as-emotional-pain-relief thing. The way she turned to running — to feel better mentally — baffled me for years.  Read more »

How I Learned to Live With the OCD That Disrupted My Life for Years

I spend a lot of time in my own head. Sometimes, being inside my own head can be fun. I like playing games in my head … with … myself. Like, wondering what we do when we no longer need the word “obsolete.” See? Fun.

But other times, it’s not as fun. As a kid, at an age I can’t remember, I started having these weird guilty thoughts that demanded action. For example, when I’d wash my hands and leave the bathroom, all of a sudden I’d think, “You didn’t wash them well enough.” If I tried to shake the thought off, a stronger reprimand would respond: “You want to get other people sick too, if you leave?” So I’d wash my hands and count to a minute. Then wash them again. And again. Eventually I’d be able to leave, but no number of hand-washings could expel these thoughts.

Here’s the tricky thing about obsessive-compulsive disorder: It’s not like I was hearing a voice separate from my own. This was my own voice, my own thoughts, my own commands. It was as if I was both in control and not in control of my thoughts at any given time. Read more »

6 Ways to Detox That Don’t Involve Going on a Juice Cleanse

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good green juice. But juice alone for days on end? No, thank you. But ’tis the season for lifestyle makeovers which inevitably means it’s the season of the detox. And with this season comes the resurgence of the juice cleanse. My Instagram feed is currently filled with folks bragging about how refreshed they feel below photos of mason jar upon mason jar of juiced beets. Then there are the photos posted by local juice shops with discount codes for cleanses in the captions. Clearly, with all the juice cleanse-mania that comes with January, it’s easy to get sucked in.

So if you are currently holding a bottle of liquid vegetables in your hand, having ingested no solids for longer than you’d like to believe, wondering “How did I get here?” you are not alone. But we’re here to tell you, there are plenty of ways to give your body and mind a good reboot without surviving on liquified kale for longer than anyone should ever have to survive on liquified kale. We promise.

To detox, by definition, simply means to rid the body of or to abstain from toxic or unhealthy stuff for a period of time. Below, six ways to do just that while still maintaining your sanity. Read more »

The 19-Year-Old CHOP Patient-Turned-Playwright Whose Poetry Will Make You Cry 

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy, 19, is a poet and playwright who occasionally rocks purple hair. “I dyed it purple after I had pneumonia,” she says. “I was in the hospital and feeling so out of control of my life. My dad went out and bought me the hair dye so I could feel in control of something.”

She had to dye it back to her natural brunette before she began her most recent round of proton radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, because the radiation irritates her scalp. Elizabeth was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem when she was only seven years old. She’s had two brain surgeries, proton radiation, and three rounds of chemotherapy. She was stable for eight years before heading back to CHOP this fall.

Despite being in and out of hospitals since she was seven, she focuses all of her creative energy into a positive place: her writing. She writes poems constantly, and most recently wrote a one-act play, “The Bureaucracy of Existentialism,” which will be performed at the Shawnee Playhouse this January as part of the Shawnee Original Playwright Series Contest. Read more »

Mythbuster: Suicide Is Not More Common During the Holidays

Going "Home for the Holidays" can be chore — but it's no worse than during the rest of the year.

Going “Home for the Holidays” can be chore — but it’s no worse than during the rest of the year.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn has some good news for people who appreciate accuracy in media: Last year, for the first time in four years, there was a decrease in the number of news stories that falsely associated holiday time with suicide. Annenberg’s analysis notes that the lowest suicide rate is between mid-November and January, yet for many years the majority of news outlets tended to perpetuate the holiday-suicide myth rather than contradict it. Read more »

The Checkup: Why You Should Stop Trying So Hard to Be Happy

• It seems, in this day and age, we are all obsessed with the idea of achieving — and flaunting on social media, of course — happiness: Finding a job that will make us happy, or a spouse, or the perfect pair of fall boots — you name it. But research shows, thinking too much about finding happiness and constantly questioning whether or not we are happy can stop us from actually stumbling on actual happiness. [Medium]
Read more »

The Easy Trick to Calm a Crying Baby (and Save Your Sanity)

Parents of newborns have it hard enough: There’s the whole not getting any sleep thing, then there’s the fact that they are now responsible for the life of another human at all times for the next 18 years (!!) — and then there’s the crying. But a video of a Los Angeles-based pediatrician, Dr. Robert Hamilton, performing a baby-holding trick that calms crying newborns could help with that last one. Read more »

How I Loved/Hated Floating in a Dark Pod Filled With Salt Water

Float pod at Flotation Philly

Float pod at Flotation Philly

I am not the kind of person who likes to get wet. I’ve said it before: Water sports are not my thing; I hate showering (but don’t worry, I still do it); and I am not the most advanced swimmer. So, what urged me to call Russ Stewart, owner of Fishtown’s Flotation Philly, and tell him that I really, really wanted to try floating — where you float in a pod or tank filled with salt water for anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes in order to relax or recover from a brutal workout (Hey, marathoners!) — is honestly beyond me. But this past Thursday, that’s exactly where I found myself — and surprisingly, I kind of loved it. But I also kind of hated it, too. Read more »

The Checkup: Why You Cry When You’re Happy, Explained (Finally!) 

• A few years ago, my best friend got married in her parents’ living room and I videotaped the entire thing. But it wasn’t really worth videotaping, because all you can hear is loud, sobbing sounds … coming from me. I swear, they were happy sobs, but still, it is not cute. And for years, I have wondered: Why the heck couldn’t I control my tear ducts?!? So I am oh-so-grateful to have that episode explained to me by the lovely folks over at Science of Us. If you, too, are a happy cryer, click through to learn why. [Science of Us] Read more »

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