The Conference on World Affairs at CU Boulder hosted a panel on mental health featuring Sam Cook, a distributor of performance poetry; Chris Borland, an ex-NFL linebacker; and Lloyd Sederer, a psychologist and chief medical officer for the New York State Office.
The talk, titled “Mental Health: Stepping Out of the Darkness,” saw Cook discuss being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He shared a poem from one of the authors he publishes and used it to articulate his belief that having conversations about mental health is important.
Sederer was the next to take the mic. He shared an article he had written for the Huffington Post, as their medical editor for mental health, that discussed what can be done to help people with mental illnesses.
Borland was the last to talk. He said that to end the stigma around mental illness, instead of individuals “stepping out of the darkness,” society needs to eliminate the darkness.
From there, the panelists answered questions from the audience. One question asked whether the panelists would prefer mental diversity or for mental illness to be eliminated. Cook said he believes we’ll be closer to “mental diversity” in the future than eliminating mental illness, which he said was a benefit and a struggle, since dealing with mental illness is a struggle. He did, however, offer a benefit.
“There’s more autism in Silicon Valley than anywhere else in the world,” Cook said. “I’m not a scientist — I’m not a mathematician — but I’m guessing there’s a reason.”
There has been some discussion on this topic. It was first introduced by WIRED magazine in 2001, which noted that children born in the Silicon Valley had an abnormally high autism rate. However, not everyone agrees there’s a connection between autism and children of Silicon Valley residents.
A repeated idea from all panelists was the idea of how to use words when talking with and about people with mental illness. Borland and Cook noted that it’s important to put a noun with the disease to reinforce the fact that this is affecting a human.
That means instead of saying “he is depressed,” people should say “he was diagnosed with depression.”
Sederer said that there should be different questions that we ask people about mental illness. He said this was a universal trick for anyone to use.
“It has to do with the words you use,” Sederer said. “Instead of asking ‘Are you depressed?’, ask ‘Do you have trouble sleeping?’, ‘Do you wake up stressed out?’, ‘How’s your appetite?’”
Contact CU Independent Managing Editing Jake Mauff at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jake_mauff.