Familial Support Is Vital To Recovery

Familial Support Is Vital To Recovery

Through the thick and thin...

To simply put it, you must try and be understanding. You must be informed. You must try to reach out for support and work closely with your loved one’s treatment team. Try to find resources. Try to work on setting realistic expectations. Try and stay positive for your loved one, who is consistently combating a small creature in their head. People living with a mental illness experience stigma and stereotypes surrounding their diagnoses that can spur embarrassment, anger, hopelessness, and fear. Try your best to destroy that stigma. Stray away from saying things like, “She’s crazy. He’s crazy. They’re schizo. They’re bipolar." Instead of ripping apart stigma at the seams, that kind of talk simply encourages the idea that mental illness is an identity, or a mentality. Inform yourself, because education is the true foundation of support. Families that are provided with education and are involved in the treatment process, notice that their loved ones experienced a reduction in symptoms and relapse. The family environment will naturally improve, and it is healthy for the patient. For example, without information and education, it’s difficult for families and friends to comprehend and understand the seriousness of the symptoms, such as horrifying thoughts and hallucinations correlated with Schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts associated with severe depression. It’s common for families to wonder why their loved ones just can’t snap out of it. Not understanding how the illness functions and the symptoms will be hard on you and your loved one. Look into family therapy sessions, connect with your loved one’s therapist and psychiatrist, overall, be involved with the process, and when it gets hard, reach out for support.

Things will inevitably become unstable, and to speak out about it is healthy. Sometimes stigma can prevent families from finding resources and talking about it, but it gets hard for everyone. Through support can you gain understanding and strength. Find resources! There are an abundance of books and articles written from the perspective of a person living with a mental illness or a person living with a loved one that has a mental illness. Talk to your loved one’s therapist or psychologist.

Supporting a loved one through a diagnosis and beyond is undeniably difficult, but there are manifested ways to help a loved one living with a mental illness. While that is a difficult reality, medications have improved, and therapy and new evidence-based psychotherapeutic inventions have proven to be powerful and effective.

People living with mental illness still have an identity and a voice. Spur conversations with your loved one in an open and honest manner. Ask what they’re feeling, struggling with, and if they’d like anything from you. Work with them to set realistic expectations. Praise your loved ones on their progress and vigor. It’s hard, and through the flood of emotions and hardships and dark emotions, there’s a light.

Cover Image Credit: Didem Arslanoglu

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.


Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

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The TRUTH about tanning and sunburn

Why avoiding the sunscreen this summer is a bad idea...


Whether it's naturally at the beach, in a tanning bed, or sprayed through a can, tanning definitely has more cons than we think this day in age. Everyone wants that dark tan glow after returning home from vacation or back to school in the fall, and most people won't care about the dangers and effects that tanning causes. "70% of people who go to tanning salons are white females between 16 to 29 years old." (11 Facts About Tanning) That means all you college girls who pay over $20 a month for a tanning membership, you're embracing the stereotype that's leading to a 2.6 million dollar indoor tanning revenue each year. Now, there are alternatives that cost little to nothing where you can still get a darker skin tone, yet are the risks worth the reward?

Tanning is extremely dangerous for your skin. It's as simple as that. UV rays from the sun and beds can lead to skin cell damage, aging, eye damage, immune suppression, burns, melanoma, and cancer, just to name a few. "In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent." (The Dangers of Tanning)

If you tan, you'll most likely burn, and don't forget the wonderful peeling that you receive after the burn and having to drop skin flakes for weeks after you go to the beach. Ouch! Although people love the way they look after tanning and desiring that social expectation that tan is beautiful, there are other options if you still want the look without the cost.

The wonderful invention of sunscreen which only 1/3 people will actually use it while tanning, but sunscreen actually is a barrier that protects you from the harmful UV rays that cause so many diseases and harmful effects to your body. It's necessary to get a lotion that's SPF 30 or higher and it's said to block 97% of the sun's rays (Facts about Sunscreen and Sun Protection). There are also other options that will do half the job if you're not a fan of sunscreen but still want some protection. Tanning lotions will somewhat aid in protecting you against the sun, as long as they include SPF, as well as adding that glow. As long as you choose the correct lotion, (indoor, outdoor, bronzer, etc.), the lotions are less harmful than the just laying out in the sun or in the beds with no protection. (Everything You Need to Know About Tanning Lotions)

In conclusion, I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy the look that tanning gives and if it's not part of my summer ritual, but not without taking the necessary precautions, especially now after reading the facts. If you do decide to tan this summer, ask yourself if it's worth it or throw some sunscreen on before it's too late.

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