The Deceiving Act of Suicide

August 1, 2011

        Please note that I did not know Jeret Peterson personally or have any insider information about him. I am simply using what I have found about him online in order to explain how life experiences can impact a person’s life and mental health.

        Olympian Jeret “Speedy” Peterson committed suicide last week. To outsiders, this final act to end one’s life seems quite mysterious since it appears as though he had it all. Peterson won the silver medal for freestyle skiing in the 2010 Olympic Games and stated “I know that a lot of people go through a lot of things in their life, and I just want them to realize they can overcome anything. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and mine was silver, and I love it.” The silver light was not enough to make a lasting change in the internal demons he continued to face since childhood, however. 

       As a child, Peterson was sexually abused and also dealt with the loss of his sister in a car accident. Both of these experiences can be very difficult for anyone, especially children to go through. Although children are highly resilient, they still need help to work through these experiences. I am going to assume that Peterson did not receive this help as he has carried the negative effects from the experiences throughout his life. It has been reported that he has had problems with alcohol and depression, both of which are consistent with his experiences. Depression does seem to have a genetic link, but not everyone that is predisposed actually ends up with major depressive disorder. It is believed that some experiences can activate the gene of depression, which was likely the case with Peterson. In addition, alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate the symptoms of depression.

       Peterson also experienced other risk factors related to suicide. Months before the Turin Olympic games, a friend shot himself in front of Peterson. Not only another traumatic event for Peterson, but having friends or family members that commit or attempt suicide increases an individuals risks as well. Other reports state that he was “born with the heart of a gambler” as he won $550,000 in one night playing black jack. I have not read anything indicating that he was addicted to gambling as well but it would not be surprising as it sounds as though he had an addictive personality as he was addicted to alcohol and adrenaline (the body’s natural high).

        But how did he manage to stay so driven after these experiences and struggling with depression and alcohol abuse? When people have had such traumatic experiences as Peterson did, there seems to be two options until they receive the help needed and work through them. You can either wallow in their experiences and depression, turning inside, or you can go forward full speed ahead. It sounds as though Peterson chose to go full speed ahead to try to outrun his depression as it has been reported that he only had two speeds, stop and go. No matter how fast he moved, how high he flew, or how much adrenaline coursed through his body, he could never escape his experiences, thoughts, and feelings, however. Although it may have appeared that this man was on top of the world and was outgoing and happy, these do not protect anyone from suicide. In fact, it is important to note that it is sometimes hard to figure out who is hurting the most emotionally as they find different ways of hiding it, whether it be by using substances, denial, putting all efforts somewhere else, or just plain acting.

       So what is the take home lesson here? Even if your loved one is successful and happy, it doesn’t mean that they are immune to tragedy and suicide. Pay attention closely to their behavior, especially if you know they have experienced traumatic events or mental health issues in the past. If you know of someone that has been depressed and all of a sudden is happy, this may just be a sign that they have decided on a plan to end their life.


Amy Winehouse, Drug Addiction, and Mental Illness

July 25, 2011

        Amy Winehouse, famous British singer, was found dead in her home on Saturday, July 23rd. Although at this point in time it has not been confirmed, it is highly suspected that drugs and alcohol have played a part in her death. It has been widely known that she was “troubled” and suffered from addictions which have caused problems for her professionally as she has been unable to work and perform to the best of her ability. What is not as well known is that she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder*.

        Winehouse herself had reported on the fact that she was bipolar and also stated that she was not willing to take medication for it. I’m not sure whether she realized it or not but she was in fact medicating herself, although with drugs and alcohol. As reported on the Today Show this morning, Winehouse “was addicted to so many substances” and she tried everything. This piece of information suggests that she suffered from polysubstance dependence, meaning that she was dependent on using drugs in general instead of one or two specific drugs. It has been determined by studies that individuals with bipolar disorder self-medicate or use substances more than individuals with any other Axis I disorder (all those except for personality disorders and mental retardation). Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol only exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, causing more trouble in the long run. In addition to the bipolar disorder and polysubstance dependence, she also suffered from eating disorders, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

        So what can we take from Winehouse’s experience? It is important to receive the proper care for mental illness and to allow treatment from a trusted mental health professional. Stories have been playing on the news and on the internet asking if Winehouse could have been saved, and the answer is yes, if she chose to allow herself to be saved. If you or someone you know suffers from bipolar disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or an eating disorder, there is hope. With the right help you can overcome these illnesses and be a survivor instead of a statistic.

*It is important to note that a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed after an individual is no longer experiencing effects of continued drug use. I am not sure of the specifics of this diagnosis and cannot confirm that it is an accurate diagnosis or if her symptoms only resembled bipolar disorder and were in fact due to her drug use.

Plastic Surgery as a Means to Avoid Bullying

June 8, 2011

        A few weeks ago NBC’s The Today Show aired a segment on teenagers obtaining plastic surgery as a means to avoid being the target for bullying. Bullying is the new epidemic in the lives of our children and teenagers, with the consequences being deadly in some circumstances. For most children, however, it is a normal part of life and does not greatly affect them in the long term. Whether it is due to prevention of bullying, in reaction to bullying, or to improve their physical appearance, more teens are resorting to plastic surgery.

        Although it may be beneficial for some teenagers, there are a few problems that I see with this trend. Bullying is a fact of life, there is probably no teenager that goes through school without being made fun of, talked about, or teased for one reason or another. If a teen were to get plastic surgery to change their appearance, it is likely they will only be made fun of for something else. One thing specifically that may still make them a target is the fact that they had plastic surgery. Since a lot of teasing is not even based on legitimate reasons, there is no guarantee that the name calling will end due to the surgery either. It is more important to teach our children skills on how to deal with bullies and to help them build their self-esteem, especially since as I stated before, chances are they will just get picked on for something else. Children need to be taught that self-esteem needs to come from within and that who you are on the inside is more important than appearance.

        Another worry when children and teens are requesting plastic surgery is the possibility of a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a disorder in which an individual sees nonexistent flaws with their physical appearance. So if your child insists they need rhinoplasty but everyone believes she’s got the cutest little nose, therapy may be in order. Individuals who have BDD tend to seek plastic surgery for their perceived flaws but are never satisfied afterwards. They find more and more “flaws” to have “fixed”.

       Bottom line is that this is a decision that cannot be made in haste. Take time to think it out, weigh your options and really decide if there is more positives than negatives to obtaining plastic surgery.

Can A Neat Freak and A Slob Live Happily Ever After?

May 21, 2011

I am proud to say that I have been cited by an author for an online magazine on this topic. You can read this article and see what I had to say on this topic!

Shopping for a Therapist

May 19, 2011

Although I had a post in mind for today, I came across this article from NPR that matches what I plan on talking about for the next few blog entries. I figured I would share it with everyone today since it so nicely fits into my plan for what I want to share with everyone about finding the right therapist. I hope you enjoy and find it informative.

Shop For A Therapist to Avoid the Lemons

The Mommies: A Musical Blog Mental Health Review

May 12, 2011

        Yesterday I went to see The Mommies: A Musical Blog. From a mental health perspective I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the play. It discussed aspects of motherhood from the time before the sperm even meets the egg to the empty nest. I believe the musical did a wonderful job of highlighting some of the struggles of motherhood and the emotions involved. During the scene discussing trying to conceive, the characters hit on the multitude of feelings such as sadness, guilt, embarrassment, and resentment when others around them are becoming pregnant and they are not. A musical number focusing on the postpartum period discussed feelings of baby blues, depression, lack of libido, and other struggles accurately and poignantly. In fact, the emotions portrayed were the same as many that I see in my office including confusion and guilt over why they don’t feel as they thought they should about their baby, resentment and sadness over losing a sense of self, and feelings of isolation and frustration.

         Later in the play, struggles of being a mother to older children, tweens, and teenagers are hit upon in not only an accurate but also a humorous manner. The scene on tweens mentions the transition between childhood and the teenage years and how children often flip flop between the two. The scene on teenagers likens this stage as a battle, which I believe many parents will wholeheartedly agree on as teens begin to try to find their own sense of self.

        The musical is not only an accurate portrayal of the feelings associated with motherhood and of the developmental milestones children and parents reach but also on the trends of our society today. The musical shows a mother’s tendency to search for answers on the “right” way to do everything from conceiving, potty training, and letting go and even highlights The SuperNanny in this quest. Also, as the name suggests, it is all about using the internet and technology to reach out to other mom’s to connect. Although this is definitely a trend, I do not agree that it is a helpful one when it takes the place of face to face, deeper interactions. Overall, I believe that any parents that decide to check out the play will find that they will be able to relate to stories.

If you are in the Brevard County area and looking for a counselor due to your own struggles as a parent, I would be more than happy to talk with you.

Causes of ADHD- Pesticides, Discipline, or Genetics

April 14, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County

       I was in line waiting to pay for some produce at a farmer’s market today and struck up a conversation with the lady in line behind me. I mentioned a study that I just recently heard about that found a link between high levels of pesticides ingested through foods and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. I believe this study is very important but is pretty self explanatory so I won’t go into further detail about it. (Hopefully we do not find out that it has been falsified like the one linking immunizations and autism, although I really do not see any downsides to limiting the amount of pesticides you and your family ingest so I would follow it anyways.) The thing that surprised me though, was this woman’s response. She stated something to the effect of ADHD is just an excuse for parents who do not discipline their children. I tried to explain to this woman that ADHD is a real disorder but quickly realized I would not be changing her mind so easily, especially not in the time we had to wait in line.
        The point that I want to make today is that although ADHD is sometimes overly diagnosed and people make jokes about being ADHD when they are a bit hyper, forgetful, or distractible, it is a real disorder. Parenting techniques are not to blame, as with most mental health disorders, a person has a genetic predisposition (simply meaning it is in their genes) and then from there it may or may not surface. There are definite differences in brain functioning/structure between individuals who have ADHD and those who do not. And as I previously stated, it has been more recently linked to pesticides as well. For more information on the causes of ADHD (which there is not definitive answers on) you can check here. Please note, there is nothing about discipline mentioned!
       If you are looking for a Brevard County counselor or therapist give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.