Thursday, September 17, 2020

Reviewing TIME Mental Health: A New Understanding

TIME Mental Health - A New Understanding

I picked up TIME Mental Health: A New Understanding a year ago in the grocery store and slowly worked my way through it. I assumed I would race through the magazine and produce a shining review for my readers to enjoy. Then ADHD happened, which is like saying, “And then I breathed”. When I say “slowly”, I refer to the speed at which glaciers raced across the North American continent. Ultimately, I finished, which is the lesson I take away from my tortoise and hare situation. I wasn’t in competition with anybody, except, perhaps, Father Time, but I must admit that I had an assist from COVID–19, which gave me lots of time to break my news addiction. After all, there are only so many ways in which you can be told “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” before you tune out and suddenly decide that sorting that four year old bag of junk mail you’ve been kicking around seems like a better use of your time. Fortunately for me, this magazine was on top of that bag, so disaster averted.

There were many good articles in the magazine, but also many that weren’t exactly good, nor compelling, which might explain my glacier-like reading pace. Truthfully, I found the first half of the magazine often conflated pointing out a problem as solving it, but only the second half of the magazine offered concrete solutions. Yet there were excellent articles sprinkled throughout the magazine that caught my interest. One in particular was an article about loneliness. I found it extremely insightful, but more on that in a bit.

The magazine was laid out well and featured powerful illustrations and photography, often stunning and evocative. A true feast on the eyes. Assuming, however, you aren’t just going to leave the magazine around for guests to notice, you might be interested in which articles I found good.

Two articles were dedicated to the celebrity suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The Bourdain piece was a kind and thoughtful retrospective of his career until the end, but didn’t delve into the mental health issues behind suicide, nor offer solutions, so I ultimately found it wanting. I suppose I shouldn’t fault the author for lacking a crystal ball to peer into Anthony Bourdain’s head.

"Hope from a Strange Source” was informative, helpful, and also honest about ketamine’s benefits & downsides. I dislike that folks take a ketamine “trip” at a doctor’s office. I find the language a bit hinky to be honest, especially if you’re hoping to gain mainstream acceptance. Never mind that the results don’t last, the process is expensive, and also potentially addictive. The derivative meds look far more promising. That article was followed by a brief but informative piece called “Drug-Free Treatments Backed by Science”. My favorite poison, cognitive behavioral therapy, made the list.

There was an interesting article on float therapy. I’ve never looked into this therapy before. I mean, why would I? Isn’t this the therapy Ellie uses to get to the dark side? I have enough nightmares in my own head without inviting them to cross over into my daytime, thank you very much. However, although the process seems Hollywood-kooky, the results looked promising—assuming you aren’t claustrophobic.

There was an article on psilocybin. The discussion was grounded in sensible science, which apparently included feelings of forgiveness, love, magic, fairies, and mystical placebos riding on happy unicorns adorned with rainbows. And there I was thinking that the ketamine trips were bad.

I found solace in ‪“The Power of Exercise”, an article about the science behind the positive effects that exercise, from aerobic to resistance training, has on depression. One study even found that one to two hours a week of exercise can boost endorphins & well-being, as well as improve sleep. They didn’t mention how beneficial such a low amount of exercise was on your waistline, however. Regardless, these finding match my own anecdotal observations, as well as others who have shared their anti-depression regimens with me. Exercise is good for the brain.

There were interesting findings on the benefits of sunlight in combating depression, something I have implemented for years. There were also studies about the benefits of eating more fish vs taking supplements for increased Omega3s in your diet. All of these studies are interesting, but may or may not be beneficial to you since we are all different. I recommend trying the more harmless ones suggested in the magazine to see if you experience benefits. For example, the most harmless downside to increasing fish in your diet might only be bad breath, whereas ingesting magic mushrooms might get you in a bit of trouble. I mean, I assume it might be troublesome. You might find dancing unicorns and feeling interconnected on a cosmic level with inanimate objects such as mailboxes and 5G towers to be exactly what you were looking for. I don’t judge.

There were two article that I found were worth the cost of the magazine. “How to Help a Friend or Loved One” gave excellent, practical advice on how to broach the topic of depression with loved ones who are suffering. People find themselves paralyzed by fear when needing to discuss depression or suicide with loved ones. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want to intrude. We don’t want to hurt or accidentally push somebody away. However, indecision is ultimately the same as doing nothing.

I did disagree with one part of the article. It states “To suggest that depression is a choice is to woefully misunderstand the disorder.” As a guy with both persistent and major depression disorders, I understand that depression is not my fault. I don’t wake up in the morning and declare, “I think I’ll be miserable today!” But, and this is key, we can decide to not stay miserable. Deciding to fight depression is crucial for overcoming it. You can read more about my thoughts on this subject here.

Lastly, the article on loneliness (“The Loneliness Epidemic”) was both informative and filled with suggestions to combat the condition. It may not be a surprise to learn that researchers have identified how loneliness in young adults can lead to depression, anxiety, and self-harm, but some of the other findings were eye-opening, especially the physiological aspects.

Someone who is lonely might have higher levels of inflammation in the body, metabolic abnormalities, high blood pressure and an abnormal stress response,” explains Kimberly Smith.

At first I thought, “Delightful. I’m doomed,” but then I became amused by the idea of lowering my high blood pressure by dating. Still, there are cause-and-effect correlations to be drawn from loneliness. For example, a study found people aged 19 to 32 who spent over two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel isolated and lonely than those who treated social media like a toxic dumpster fire. There is a lesson for me in there, I am sure of it.

Although I may kid, I found the suggestions in the article for combating loneliness very practical and reasonable. It was my favorite article in the magazine.

You may not agree with every take on mental health that the various writers have, but TIME Mental Health: A New Understanding is a good starting point if you’re struggling with a particular issue. I wish more articles were as good at offering solutions as they were in identifying a problem, but there were enough articles that were balanced to make the magazine worth your time. I’d recommend picking this magazine up at your local library and thumbing through it for the topics that interest you. You won’t likely find it for sale anymore at your local grocery or book store, but you can purchase an ebook or print copy from Amazon.