Social Media and Mental Health

Social media is regarded as a tool to stay connected, informed, and interconnected with everyone in your inner circle and even around the world. The days of writing a letter or calling a distant relative to catch up on what is going on in his or her life seem but a memory. The world seems to prefer the click of an app or your mouse to get the latest and greatest news as fast as your browser or phone can download it. You do not even have to worry about the small talk before getting to the 140 characters of what is really going on in someone’s life or the daily (sometimes hourly) ‘status’ on Facebook. While there are seemingly no limits to what one can search for and learn about, there is also something fundamental missing in the constant refreshing of pages and pages of information. A real, deep connection to someone or something is severely lacking. Instead of communicating with an open heart and open mind, one can scroll through to get to the high points of a ‘likable’ moment.

Loved ones are people we share our lives with for a reason. That reason is because of the love and deep personal ties that these people have with us. They might have been there to help you through a break-up, loss of some kind, or have even shared a joyous occasion that bonded you. Those are memories. I believe that I will never tell my grandchildren of the time I got 35 likes on Facebook or the time I read a tweet about what celebrity got arrested.

A lot can be said for the amount of comfort, satisfaction, and joy comes from spending time with someone you really care about or a quiet moment alone. The hustle of figuring out the Wi-Fi password so you can tweet about what a bad day you just had will never be a substitute for meeting your best friend to talk it out. Connection and interaction feels so comforting because it is a building block of human nature. We have to have it. Without the communication and belonging, we would be endlessly scrolling and uploading; instead of living and loving deeply. Being social is not about how many social networking websites you are a part of, but your real social network is made up of those around you every day. Cherish those that you care for and search to find the connections that you are hard wired to make. You will be much happier.


Erika McCaghren

All is a miracle

“I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on the earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”           – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Helpful tips for handling the holiday "blahs"

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.


Erika McCaghren

The Power of Recovery

For the past several weeks and months we have been hearing a lot about the problems caused by substance abuse and addiction. The people that have died, the bizarre and sometimes offensive behavior, and those having legal and professional issues seem to be in the news. We hear and talk about them but rarely hear and talk about those that have had success in recovery from substance abuse.  Substance abuse treatment works.

Here is one person’s story:
He was 17 and had a good life.  He loved school, sports, church, fishing, hunting, and most of all his family.  He loved life and all it brought to him.  Then shortly before high school graduation his world changed.  His mother died in an auto accident, he was driving.  The trauma, grief and guilt were so overwhelming.  Within a month he drank alcohol for the first time and it brought the relief he was seeking.  Finally he could cope with life again, just have a drink.

College started in the fall and his drinking increased.  Alcohol helped him cope with the change and it took away the pain he was feeling. When he went home for winter break he again experienced the unexpected.  His father died of a heart attack as he was giving him CPR in the family home. The emotions were extreme and confusing.  Alcohol was there to help.

He moved back to the family home to live with his sisters so they would be able to live as a family.  The effects of emotional pain, grief, trauma, and guilt led to the experimentation with marijuana. It was great!  The pain would go away, for while.

For the next decades this is how he dealt with life’s complications, with alcohol and drugs.  Even though he was able to complete college, hold down jobs, get married, have children the emotions that come with trauma and loss were never addressed.  He was living an unhealthy life filled with lies, deceptions, alcohol, drugs, shame and guilt.

After 27 years of using unhealthy coping skills, drugs and alcohol, and denial that he needed help he accepted the family support and encouragement (ultimatum) to get that help. Dealing with the issues in his life was now to take a different course.

Changing course in his life included going to an outpatient treatment program for his substance abuse. He accepted that he did not want alcohol and drugs to dictate his feelings and behavior.  For the 6 months in outpatient treatment he received the understanding, guidance and support that he needed. He started to network with others and participated in support groups. He changed his course in life.


He will be the first to tell you that change is not easy and not everything gets better quickly.  He will tell you that if you can be honest, open-minded, and willing, life does get much better. Recovery is a process not an event, some things change quickly and others need more work.  His life continues to evolve by doing so. It has been seventeen years since entering that treatment program and by getting the counseling and using the recovery tools, he has not used alcohol or drugs since. He feels life is great again. Treatment works! Recovery saved his life.

This is my story, a true story of life and the story of changing course. I am Gary Nelson a person in long term recovery since 1997. I accepted help in dealing with the unexpected events in life, facing the addiction and co-occurring issues.  I now again love life and all it brings to me, the outdoors, golf, church, time with friends, and helping others seeking recovery. I am a sober husband, dad and Papa. There’s nothing better than that! There are approximately 23 million other people with long term recovery in the United States today.  We are the anonymous people, your neighbors, employers, your healthcare workers, and your friends.

Substance abuse treatment today includes addressing co-occurring issues in life.  These may include mental health issues of depression or anxiety, relationship issues, or additional behavioral addictions.  Research has provided an understanding of why the disease is so destructive to our brain and how miraculous the healing process is.  For more information on the disease of addiction go to:

Gary Nelson, CCDP

Therapist or Counselor: What's the difference?

Therapists frequently give counsel and counselors frequently provide therapy. Sometimes counselors call themselves therapists and sometimes therapists call themselves counselors. If you are seeking help, it doesn’t matter whether the person you are speaking with is a counselor or a therapist. What matters is whether or not you’ve found someone who can help you. (See a complete list of mental health credentials here: Psychology Today: Therapist Credentials.)


The right person, whether they call themselves a counselor, therapist, or psychotherapist, can help you change your life. Finding someone to help in this endeavor is a very important decision. Our advice: shop around. Use the first appointment to see if you’ve found the right person. Don’t move forward unless you’re certain.


Here are a couple questions you should take with you into a first appointment:

  • Can this therapist or counselor listen to me and talk to me and understand me in a way that helps me understand myself  more honestly, more truthfully?
  • Does this person have a deep knowledge base in the following areas: behaviors, emotions, addictions, self-deceptions, change, spirituality, and meaning?
  • If I had to hear bad news, would I want to hear it from this person?
  • Do I feel that he or she cares about me?
  • Can I trust this person to help me change?

Domestic Violence Against Men

Men tend to be silent about the abuse they suffer because of the perception that the man is able to defend and subdue an attack because of his size, weight, and strength. Men are embarrassed to admit they are living this way and if they do, they receive very little support from the police or the court system. There are very few shelters that accept men and even most women’s shelters will not accept children over the age of 13.

Men who do report physical violence are more likely to be ridiculed by the police and the public. Society has a hard time believing that a woman could physically overcome a man and hurt him but more often than not, she will attack when he is asleep or in some other vulnerable position and with a weapon! Because of a lack of funding and the absence of men reporting their abuse, there has been very little research on domestic violence against men by women. It is the common belief that women only hit when they are trying to defend themselves and that it is much easier for a man to leave the relationship than the woman. It’s not that easy for a man to leave, especially if there are children involved.

Innovative, Creative, and Inspiring

Innovative, creative, and inspiring are tags used to search for videos on, the source for videos on almost anything. While it is nice to find something something funny to watch while you are at work, here are some videos that might spark your attention in the “tag” areas. Check them out:

Sarah Kay
“How many lives can you live?”
Sarah Kay uses two spoken-word poems to explain her love/hate relationship with living one life. She shares her hope to rush and hear everyone’s stories and to share her story so that she can see life through another person’s frame of reference as many times as she can, so as to not miss out on anything that others have to offer. Sarah ends her talk with another spoken-word poem about the power of experience and living lives of our own and of others in a special way.

Ash Beckham
“We are all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up.”
Ash Beckham discusses the closets that keep us from opening up and sharing our story. The story that makes us shut the door to the closet of secrets and pushes others away. Although she tells her own story of having a hard conversation about who she was to a little girl in a diner, Ash sends an important message about connection. That message is that the safety of covering up secrets and hiding from owning our story scares us into believing that we are alone. What we are is different and unique, but we are never alone in our struggles.

“All a closet is… is a hard conversation.”  –Ash Beckham


Colin Stokes
“How movies teach manhood”
Colin Stokes uses two classic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, to illustrate the differences between masculine and feminine ideals presented by mainstream video media that play continuously throughout a child’s upbringing. These ideals in the form of movie protagonists in Disney and Pixar films can be masculine or feminine, but the message of courage transcends much deeper than hero or heroine. Stokes challenges parents to see the journey of the movies to show children themes that are more impactful and universal than fighting the bad guy or saving the princess; they involve friendships, self-discovery, and teamwork.

Erika McCaghren

Anger & Depression

A gentle but steady current of anger inwardly directed will result in depression over time. Many people experiencing depression are surprised when mental health professionals question them about anger. Are you angry? Where is your anger? How are you angry? Can you express your anger, share it, verbalize it? Sometime is requires a substantial amount of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual spade work to uncover and expose this well of inwardly-directed anger.

Everyone is familiar with anger that explodes. But anger that seethes can be just as dangerous. Particularly when we are the targets of our own quiet rage.


Gratitude has been proven by research to significantly decrease anxiety and depression. Individuals who spend time thinking  about the positive elements of their lives report feeling happier and more motivated. So, as the Thanksgiving season  approaches, what can you be thankful for? Be sure to look around at not only the significant relationships and events in your life, but also the little details that actually do make a difference, even if they may seem insignificant. We all have things to be grateful for, even if it’s just the gift of waking up every day and experiencing life. Sometimes, we just have to shift our focus in  order to see it.

Writing a list or keeping a journal of daily events that cause you to be grateful is a helpful exercise. Additionally, be sure to tell your friends, family, coworkers and others what you appreciate about them. Don’t forget, you can be grateful for yourself as well! Express gratitude towards yourself for who you are and things that you have accomplished. Each of these exercises will more than likely serve to lighten your mood and increase your hope about the future.