April 13, 2022

Good morning MindSite News readers. Gaslighting probably never went away, but the phrase has enjoyed a resurgence in the disinformation era. Clubhouses give people coping with mental illness a judgement-free place to go, relax and get support from their peers. Britney Spears, free from conservatorship, takes to social media with a useful message about perinatal depression. And more…

The clubhouse: a place to make friends, get support and learn to cope with a mental illness

Before he discovered the Mariposa Clubhouse in San Diego’s Oceanside district in 2019, clubhouse member Michael Barritt used to feel alone and crazy. The Mariposa is one of 10 clubhouses in San Diego that provide people with mental illness – teens, adults and seniors – a place they can go to socialize, have fun, acquire job skills, and be part of a reliable and mutual support system.

“I’m on medication and have severe anxiety,” Barritt told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I didn’t have anywhere to hang out or be with other people like me. I felt alone, and then I found this place and started coming every day, five times a week, and making friends…I get to go to groups, I get to learn about myself, I get to meet people and go on outings. It really helped me as a person to like myself and care for myself better. I knew I had something to wake up for, and something to live for that day.”

The 10 San Diego clubhouses are modeled after the original Fountain House Clubhouse in New York City. Piedad Garcia, deputy director of Behavioral Health Services in San Diego County, visited Fountain House in 2002 and brought the model back to San Diego. Fountain House today is a national nonprofit committed to transforming the way the world sees and treats people who are diagnosed with mental illness. “I can say it’s helped me become a better person mentally and emotionally,” said Tre Jackson, 22, a member of the Oasis Clubhouse who uses the art room to draw, paint and sculpt and the fitness room to stay in shape. (Note: Tom Insel, chair of the MindSite News editorial advisory board, is a member of the Fountain House board of directors.)

Britney Spears provides another teaching moment … about perinatal depression

Britney Spears is pregnant! But the bigger news is how her announcement has the world talking about perinatal depression. The 40-year-old singer, who has two teenage boys, posted on Instagram: “It’s hard because when I was pregnant (before) I had perinatal depression…I have to say it is absolutely horrible.” She continued, “Women didn’t talk about it back then…some people considered it dangerous if a woman complained like that with a baby inside her…but now women talk about it everyday.”

Britney Spears’ Instagram post

USA Today used the news to do an explainer about perinatal depression and how it differs from postpartum depression. Perinatal depression occurs during pregnancy and the first year after delivery and symptoms may include depression, difficulty sleeping, reduced ability to think or concentrate, feelings of worthlessness, and even suicidal ideation. Postpartum depression describes a mood disorder following the birth of a baby. While these conditions can’t be completely avoided, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that counseling, exercise, education, yoga, and infant sleep training can significantly reduce the risks. 

Most importantly, expectant mothers should communicate their feelings and let their support networks activate. “While some degree of emotional upheaval is expected, women should be encouraged to seek help if the level of distress feels too high or if it interferes with their ability to function the way they normally do,” Karen Kleinman, founding director of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of several books on postpartum depression and anxiety, told USA Today. “A strong support system has been shown to make a significant difference in how women recover if they do develop symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

Gaslighting’ (the phrase) makes a comeback, and this academic thinks that’s great 

The term gaslighting entered the lexicon after the success of the 1938 play, Gas Light, later a hit MGM movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In it, a husband in Victorian-era London seeks to drive his wife insane in an effort to have her institutionalized and steal her fortune. He pretends to leave the house without telling her where he’s going. For a time the plan seems to work, until – spoiler alert – the house’s gas lighting tips her off to the fact that her husband never actually leaves at all, but rather heads upstairs to play tricks on her mind. Not long after, the term began showing up in pop culture and was fairly common until the 1960s. In the years since #MeToo and the rampant misinformation of recent years, it’s made a resurgence.

The Atlantic devoted an article to the return of the phrase (the action never disappeared). According to Tracy Conner, a sociolinguistics professor at Northwestern University, gaslighting is “a form of conscious or subconscious psychological manipulation” aimed at “invalidating or denying” another person’s reality. If phrases like “You’re overreacting” or “You’re being too sensitive” or “I’m sorry you feel that way” draw deep frustration from you, it may be your internal gaslight flickering to signal that someone is – intentionally or not –undermining your very real experience. To Conner, the term gaslight is an essential tool to fight back against the action by “materializing something that seems highly invisible.” 

In other news…

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “CARE Court” idea is now a bill. According to the Sacramento Bee, California SB 1338, would authorize certain officials to petition a civil court to create a plan and impose services – including mental health care, required medications, and housing support – on adults with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders “who lack decision-making capacity.” Presented by Newsom as a way to help California’s homeless population, homeless advocates argue the legislation violates individuals’ civil rights.

The average school day starts way too early, especially for teens. That’s the gist of this two-minute report from KMOV in St. Louis. Child health expert Lisa Melzer, who led a study on the impact of early school start-times, said they “can impact teen’s learning and increase risks for obesity and depression.” She says delaying start times by 50 minutes increases the amount of sleep both parents and students get, improving mood and health for the whole family.

In this first-person narrative published by Prevention magazine, Vania Zuniga said that “being diagnosed with bipolar disorder was the best thing that ever happened” to her. Having previously been misdiagnosed with only depression, Zuniga experienced multiple hospitalizations before doctors finally, accurately, recognized her condition. “Getting a proper bipolar disorder diagnosis is like putting together different pieces of a puzzle,” she wrote, “which makes it something that’s not easily diagnosed.” She encouraged those feeling paranoid, depressed, or like “something is off with your health” to keep track of their behaviors and feelings in a journal when they can. It can serve as a guide later on.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

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Courtney WiseReporter

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...