Valarie Ward is a mental health writer and advocate specializing in articles and grant proposals. She is a regular contributor to The Official Mental Health Awareness Project and Absolute Advocacy, as well as other mental health publications. She has her BA in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield, where she earned the Marilyn Ostrowski award for best undergraduate essay. She also has her Grant Writing Certification from Western Carolina University.
If you’ve been waiting for a sign to take a vacation, here it is!
For those working in “helper” professions like mental health, substance abuse, and general healthcare, it’s easy to feel the emotional toll of giving all of our time and energy to helping other people. This compounds when we have obligations with friends, family, and around the home; when is it time to help the helpers?
These feelings can often lead to burnout or its younger sister, compassion fatigue. One of the best ways to f...
How early is too early to start talking to your children about substance use and abuse? It’s probably earlier than you think; a research review from the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that 9 in 10 European adolescents had their first drink before the age of 15. Many parents seem to think it’s OK for kids to try a sip of alcohol early, but studies show that the earlier a child starts using alcohol or cannabis, the more likely they are to develop a substance abuse disorder later in life.
Did you know that 9 in 10 European adolescents started drinking before the age of 15? Children start drinking earlier than you might think. It’s important to note that there are no exceptions to North Carolina’s underage drinking policy; that is, it’s not even OK for you to give your kids a sip of alcohol before their twenty-first birthday.
In addition to the legal risks, studies show that children who start using alcohol early are at a heightened risk for developing Alcohol Use Disorder. In ...
Habits are important
Abraham Maslow lists “homeostasis” (consistency in your life) as a fundamental human need in his hierarchy of human needs
In episode one of her podcast, “Happier”, Gretchen Rubin talks about the one-coin loophole. Just as we make wealth one coin at a time, we build habits one day at a time, and we need to be consistent.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where participants aim to write 50,000 words in one month. The way you win? By writing every single ...
Sorry to disappoint you, but if you didn’t catch the sarcasm in the headline of this article, you’ve been clickbaited.
Why? Because I need to talk to the people who read these articles, and the people who write them.
There is no one-size-fits-all cure to your mental health condition. (If there were, I, with my BA in English, would certainly not have it.) Medication helps some people. Talk therapy helps others. Self-therapy can be helpful, too.
And for some people, simple changes to environmen...
Here’s my deep, dark secret: I’ve had Twitter since 2014.
“But Valarie,” you say*. “I have spent a great deal of time on your Twitter profile and therefore know that your Twitter profile says you joined December 2018, you filthy fucking liar.”
* No one has ever said this, nor will they ever.
I know — but this is my second account. *audible gasps*
Don’t worry — you get the real me, I promise. And no, I don’t say that to all the girls.
My other account is my authorial pen name, because I do sti...
Recently, I wrote an article on structural problems in US capitalism that work against our mental health to both create and exacerbate mental illnesses (particularly depression and anxiety). I want to take this one step further and talk about what the United States workforce can do to better support those struggling with their mental health.
Mo from TreatYoBrain.com recently tweeted about this:
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of system where mentally ill people only work for as lo...
TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM
This is a little personal, and hard to admit, but:
Last week, I had to call a suicide hotline.
I am doing much better this week, and things are looking up. But at the time, I felt hopeless.
The perky hotline operator answered, “Hi! Can I help you?”
How do you respond to that question when you’re depressed? How do you say, “Yes, hello, lovely weather we’re having, but I feel hopeless and I have a plan to end my life”?
I hung up the phone.
I had the same e...
I’d like to tell you a story about four people I’ve met, all struggling with their mental health.
The first: She went from miserable working at McDonald’s to utterly depressed working in a call center for a price-gauging pharmaceutical company. She lasted one year before quitting and moving across the country to another side of her family. Her best hope is to take tens of thousands of dollars in college debt, then hopefully find a job that can pay the bills, all while being beholden to the de...
Before I started freelance writing, the last job I held was as head cashier for a retailer. I helped ensure our cashiers’ satisfaction via rewards for certain goals. We would create Candyland-esque games to track employee progress. In other words, half of my job involved arts and crafts. It was pretty great.
But I was also the person the cashiers called when their tech wasn’t working. As head cashiers, we were given a manual of troubleshooting tasks to do first – things like, “Unplug it and w...
Recently, in a mental crisis, I did the scary thing people tell you to do. I texted my friends, saying, “I’m sad today, I feel hopeless, and I don’t know what to do.”
None of them could help me.
In part, I didn’t communicate what I needed at that moment. In part, they didn’t know what to say.
We can’t be counselors for our mentally ill friends. We can’t be around for them 24/7. But when someone trusts you enough to place this burden in your hands, you need to know what to do with it.
Capitalism and Mental Illness
The current state of capitalism is in turmoil, according to independent op-eds, political pundits, and even the United Nations; a group of scientists has recently warned the UN that capitalism will fail because it focuses on short-term profits, not long-term benefits.
Mental illnesses, including addiction, exemplify this problem. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) quantifies some of our challenges:
9.8 million adults in the US “experiences a serious m...
U.S. veterans have prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice – losing their lives in the defense of our country. While this dedication should be lauded, too many veterans are coming back to lives of mental anguish and despair. And too often, our veterans are experiencing mental illness, abusing substances, and even taking their lives when they return from abroad.
How many veterans are affected by mental disorders, including addiction? What are the consequences of a lack of treatment in these ar...
The poorest citizens in our country, often living in impoverished communities, are plagued by mental illnesses including substance abuse. We often see this as a problem that begins with an addiction that ruins a person’s finances and leads to poor mental health.
However, living in an impoverished area can expose a person to constantly stressful situations that can lead to the onset of PTSD and an increased risk of substance abuse. Those living in poverty can sometimes feel trapped in this cyc...
An AUD, or alcohol use disorder, is a term defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to describe a person struggling with alcohol addiction. Aside from AUD, you may have heard many terms to describe an unhealthy relationship with alcohol: alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or alcohol dependence, among others. But what is the relation between these terms?
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Prior editions of the DSM categorized substance addictions–including alcohol addict...