On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression is a one-minute animated short film by artist/animator Scott Benson.  Depending on which statistics you’re observing, depression effects between 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population, and it’s a major factor leading to countless suicides.  It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s obviously a social issue of large importance.  Benson has opened up about his own experiences with the disorder in this new short film, stating that he made the film “hoping it would be cathartic for me and maybe a bit comforting for others who might have similar issues.”

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

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Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D. (NYC)

Can you now recall all that you have known?
Will you never fall
When the light has flown?
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Won’t you come and say
If you know the way to blue?

-Nick Drake, 1969

Nick Drake: Way to Blue (1969)

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Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

Possessed is a documentary made by the young British filmmaker Martin Hampton. The short film is a shocking depiction of people whose lives have been scarred by obsessive hoarding. Possessed enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders, people with everyday experiences that have become dominated by their relationships to possessions; mobile phones, books, food containers and pieces of paper have taken over the lives of these “collectors.”

The film shows the four hoarders talking about their behavior and how it has affected their lives. It raises the question of to what extent hoarding is a revolt against the material recklessness of consumerism, and to what degree it’s an obsessive symptom of mental illness. When does collecting turn into hoarding, and why do possessions exert such an influence on our lives? Even if you can’t relate to hoarding, you’ll still be fascinated and moved by the plight of Mr. Hampton’s subjects. They are in different stages of both awareness and desperation, but all four of them are so straightforward and sincere that you can’t help but feel for them.

Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

(Best Viewed Full-Screen)

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Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Animation by Little Fluffy Clouds

Andrew Sullivan on tonight’s second presidential debate: “This has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out. It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate.”

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Out and Golden, Australia’s Matthew Mitcham Wins Men’s 10m Platform Diving

Out and Golden, Australia’s Matt Mitcham Wins Men’s 10m Platform Diving

Matthew Mitcham did two very surprising things at the Beijing Olympics. First, he snatched a gold medal away from the apparently invincible Chinese diving team. Second, Mitcham openly told anyone who asked about his sexuality that he is gay. Matt is undaunted on the platform, and he’s just as fearless about his personal life.

Making his Olympic debut in Beijing in the 10m platform event, Australia’s Matthew Mitcham earned four perfect 10’s on his last dive Saturday night, winning the men’s 10m platform diving competition. “I couldn’t hear the crowd. In my mind I was saying ‘just enjoy it’,” he said of his last, magnificent, dive. Mitcham put his hands over his face and broke into tears after making his winning dive, later saying, “It’s absolutely surreal. I never thought that this would be possible.”

I wasn’t even sure of my medal chances at all. After I did my last dive and I saw I was in first, I thought, ‘That’s it, it’s a silver medal, I am so happy with this’ and then I won. I can’t believe it, I’m so happy.” His stunning upset victory prevented China from sweeping all eight of the Olympic diving gold medals. Not only was Mitcham’s triumph an astonishing upset win, his sixth and final dive was the highest scoring dive in Olympic history. Mitcham is the first Australian man since 1924 to win a gold medal in diving, and only the third Australian ever to do so.

Mitcham grew up as a non-athletic, rebellious kid, and he’s probably the only elite diver with a tongue piercing. Matt, who is often described as “free-spirited,” still has the piercing, which he says he doesn’t even notice while diving. Mitcham first caught the eye of the then Australian national coach when he was doing back-flips into a public swimming pool as a young teenager. From 2002 until 2006, Mitcham was an award winning diver in both junior and senior national and international diving competitions.

But in 2006 he suddenly quit diving, having become sick of the sport after spending years in the Australian program’s rigid training regimen. After both emotional burnout and physical exhaustion, Matt decided to retire from the sport while he was still a teenager. For a long period of time the young Mitcham had to battle anxiety and depression, which led him to begin psychotherapy and required him to spend some time on medication.

A year later, Mitcham returned to the sport and began training under his current coach, Chava Sobrino, at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. In 2008, Mitcham won all three of his diving events at the Australian Nationals, clean-sweeping the gold medals in the 1m, 3m and 10m individual platform diving events. He followed this spectacular comeback appearance by winning the 2008 Diving Grand Prix event earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Then just three months prior to leaving with the Australian team to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mitcham made headlines in Australia when he revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald that he is gay, becoming one of the first Australian athletes to do so. In fact, according to a recent sports study, Matt Mitcham is the only man among 10,500 Olympic athletes to have publicly stated that he is gay while still participating in Olympic competition. Mitcham wanted more than anything else for his longtime partner, Lachlan, who has fought the tumultuous battle of Olympic dreams with him, to be there in Beijing’s stands cheering him on. When Mitcham couldn’t afford to pay for it on his own, a grant from Johnson and Johnson’s Athlete Family Support Program enabled his partner to come to Beijing and support him.

The first thing that Mitcham did in the “mixed zone” with the print journalists, after getting off of the Gold Medal ceremony platform, was to hug the Sydney Morning Herald reporter who had handled with such particular sensitivity the story in which Mitcham had revealed that he was gay. He was asked what this Olympic victory meant to him after the tumultuous ups and downs of his last few years. “Everything, absolutely everything I’ve done has been for this,” he said. “I knew it was a far chance, but I did absolutely everything I could to give myself the best chance of doing it. It’s actually happened, and I never thought it would.”

Matt Mitcham Wins Olympic Gold in 10m Platform Diving

The Olympic Gold Medal Ceremony

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Trapped: Mentally Ill Persons in Our Nation’s Prisons and Jails

Photography by: Jenn Ackerman

Trapped: Mentally Ill Persons in Our Nation’s Prisons and Jails

The continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons across the U.S. into the default mental health facilities. A report in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice showed that the number of Americans with mental illnesses who are incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails is disproportionately high. Almost 555,000 people with mental illness are incarcerated, while fewer than 55,000 persons are being treated in designated mental health hospitals.

The problem with the mental health system in our country did not spring up overnight. “There was a shift in the way our society sees mental illness,” says psychologist Dr. Stephanie Roby. “We saw a fallout from the 1960s when we were institutionalizing everyone. Society reacted by saying the community needs to be more responsible for these individuals.”

The goal was to reduce the number of mental health patients housed in large government-operated, public psychiatric hospitals by shifting their care to local communities where programs would be created to handle their special needs. “It was a great idea in theory,” says Dr. Roby. “Unfortunately, mentally ill people do a lot of inappropriate things, they are misunderstood and they commit crimes….” As a result, they then have ended up as inmates in our country’s prisons and jails, rather than receiving treatment in mental health facilities.

Even worse, as the prisons and jails in our country have become the dumping ground for mentally ill people, we will end up simply replicating what happened in the 1960s when they just warehoused mentally ill persons in large public psychiatric hospitals and then sent them back onto the streets to fend for themselves.

The documentary video that is presented below was produced at The Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Kentucky. “We are the surrogate mental hospitals now,” said Warden Larry Chandler. With the rapidly rising number of mentally ill prisoners, the reformatory was forced to rebuild a system that was designed for correctional security. It was never intended to be a mental health facility. However, by necessity mental health treatment has quickly become one of its primary goals. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to Kentucky. The continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons all across the U.S. into the default mental health facilities.

Mentally Ill Prisoners at The Kentucky State Reformatory

Video by: Jenn Ackerman

You can read more about Jenn Ackerman’s project studying the treatment of mentally ill persons in the nation’s prisons and jails here.

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Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

28 Days is the story of a successful New York City writer who is living in the fast lane and is everyone’s favorite party girl. She shares her roller-coaster social lifestyle, hopping back and forth from dance clubs to bars and the morning after hangovers, with her boyfriend. He is handsome and magnetic, but equally attracted to life on the wild side. Life is nothing but a perpetual game of debauchery, until she gets drunk with her boyfriend on the day of her sister’s wedding, commandeers her sister’s wedding limousine and ends up with a 28-day stay in a substance abuse rehabilitation center.

A young urban woman who is cynical to the core, she is determined not to conform. But her experiences within the highly structured rehab setting begin to break through her carefully constructed defenses and lead her to start taking a closer look at who she might really be. Ultimately, she gradually starts to lose her deeply jaded sense of pessimism about life and begins to rediscover the possibility of having intimately loving relationships with others.

28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

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