California Mental Health Helpline supports the advancement of research as well as the increased coverage of mental health issues in the news and local events. We strive to keep this stream of updates available to those who wish to keep up and learn more about personal experiences in the field as well. We also hope this information is able to inspire, inform and help readers.

For additional resources, please contact California Mental Health Helpline online or at 855-559-3923.

Friendship and cognitive Health Part 1: Friendships could lead to a longer life

Friendship and cognitive Health Part 1: Friendships could lead to a longer life

National Friendship Day occurred earlier this month to spotlight the ways in which friendships can increase an individual’s quality of life. Recent research has found that strong social relationships can also have health benefits, decreasing a person’s risk of mortality. Friendships and connections within the community have the power to influence an individual’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

A 2010 meta-analysis led by Brigham Young University psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad entitled “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review” determined that friendships and other interpersonal relationships are positively associated with survival. Individuals with strong relationships had a 50 percent “higher likelihood of survival” than those who did not have consistent social relationships. Researchers reviewed 148 studies with a total of approximately 308,000 participants and found that these results were consistent with different ages, sexes, health statuses and causes of death. This meta-analysis concludes that “the influence of social relationships on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality,” such as smoking (Holt-Lunstad ,2010).

Holt-Lunstad explains that romantic relationships, friendships, perceptions of relationships and participation within an individual’s community are all included in these findings as contributing to mortality rates. She suggests this data has to do with the fact that friends provide support during difficult times, stating, “As we encounter potentially stressful events in our lives, if we know that we’ve got people we can count on or that we can turn to, we may be less likely to even perceive it as stressful, because we already know we can handle it. But also, let’s say we’re already in the throes of some kind of stressful event, our relationships can also help us cope with it and buffer that reaction to the stress.” (Rettner, 2010)

A 2008 study at the University of Virginia concludes that the quality of friendships also impacts an individual’s mental health. This study consisted of 34 students placed at the bottom of a steep hill with a weighted backpack, who were each told to estimate the steepness of said hill. Some of these students stood with friends and others stood alone. According to the study, an individual’s perception regarding the steepness of the hill was directly related to his or her relationships to nearby classmates. Those standing next to friends they had known for relatively long periods of time measured the hill as less steep upon first glance than those standing alone or standing next to acquaintances or short-term friends (Parker-Pope, 2009).

Though friends can help you cope during difficult and/or stressful times, professional help is recommended if mental health issues are present. If you or a loved one is struggling with these issues, such as anxiety or depression, help is available. The California Mental Health Helpline is a facility that specializes in treating individuals dealing with mental health disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call us to speak with a professional today.

Monsters, creatures and nightmares, oh my! What nightmares can mean

Monsters, creatures and nightmares, oh my! What nightmares can mean

Parents turn off the lights, check under the bed and in the closet, see no monsters, say good night, turn on the night light and crack the bedroom door open just a peek. But as we get older, this regimen doesn’t ward off what lies beneath. The items in the bedroom become warped in the dark and nightmares only make it worse. Why do we have nightmares and what are they supposed to mean? Scientists find differing theories on the subject and studies continue.

Nightmares are vivid recreations of fears from a monster lurking in the shadows who eats children to an unsettling clown doll that will try to pull children under the bed. Of course, children conquer their fears as they grow up, but fears of the horror genre are not the only fuel to nightmares. People with post-traumatic stress disorder –PTSD—may have continual nightmares of one event, tormenting them.

What are nightmares?

An issue with interpreting dreams and nightmares are there is no sound scientific practice agreed on. Associate Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Patrick McNamara, Ph.D., writes “There is no scientifically supported system of dream interpretation.” McNamara goes into details about most dream interpretation sites using generic explanations to cover basic dreams. For example, a dream in which one is chased by a monster or villain could mean one is running away from bad memories or feelings.

“In short, what the dream interpretation websites offer up for dream interpretation systems is mere metaphor mongering.” This does not mean that explaining dreams to a therapist is a terrible idea, rather there is not always going to be an exact answer to a dream.

On, they describe nightmares as, “Alarms triggered by something inside of you that needs attention.” Psychcentral also agrees with McNamara and adds, “Correctly identifying the emotions underlying your dreams is a must if you wish to understand the meaning of your nightmares, address those issues and resolve them.” Each nightmare is unique to the individual and a therapist can help the individual interpret the nightmare, offering insight. A therapist cannot offer all the answers to a nightmare.

PTSD and nightmares

PTSD can form when someone goes through a traumatic or life-threatening experience. A person with PTSD will experience or witness a traumatic event and find it difficult to recover from the event afterwards. A normal day will include with flashbacks of the traumatic event, anxiety, tension, worry, guilt or sadness. Someone with PTSD will avoid the location or similar situation of the accident as much as possible and fight with loved.

The nightmares for PTSD patients focus more around the event and the feelings associated with it, as opposed to common nightmares or bad dreams. The National Institute on Mental Health –NIMH– notes that bad dreams and nightmares of the traumatic event are common for patients with PTSD. If nightmares of a traumatic event continue, it may be wise to seek a therapist or PTSD specialist. NIMH says, “PTSD can be treated. A doctor or mental health professional who has experience in treating people with PTSD can help you. Treatment may include “talk” therapy, medication, or both.”

What you can do

Therapy has less of a taboo now, than it did years ago and people are still hesitant to look into it. With the sources listed above, therapy was a strong recommendation for nightmares and traumatic events. By talking to someone and expressing the emotions and pain, people can find healing and answers together.

Another option to help interpret dreams is to keep a dream journal. describes how keeping a journal by the bedside and filling it in with each dream will help keep track. Once dreams have been recorded, the common trends or emotions may present themselves.

To let the emotions and pain of a nightmare or traumatic event tear yourself up inside will ruin your life. If you or a loved one exhibits the signs or symptoms of PTSD or another mental illness and wish to seek treatment, please do not hesitate to call 855-559-3923.

If the job fits (the disorder), work it!

If the job fits (the disorder), work it!

For people on the spectrum of mental health disabilities, it can be difficult to hold a job. The social formalities that may come naturally to a majority of the population are much more difficult for people with Autism Spectrum disorder. People with OCD have trouble with anxiety and need to have everything a specific way. The thing is, they are people and they still have a brain and a heart. People with a mental disorder can still function in society, but many believe that this is not true.

Everyone is born with the potential to make a successful life and flourish in society. Some are able to gain more with less work, while others have to fight for success. The National Alliance on Mental Illness writes on their website,, “Almost 80 percent of the nearly 7 million individuals served by the public mental health system in this country are unemployed. About 60 to 70 percent of these same people want to work and would work if they had appropriate support.” The issues of concentration, absence from work, awkward social tendencies and periods of illness make it difficult for employers to hire people with a mental illness. However, there are tools and organizations to help.

Tools at your disposal

The National Institute on Mental Health –NIMH—funds a website through, dedicated to giving advice and tips for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder find work and more importantly, keep the job. With guides, exercises and easy to access information, this site is an excellent tool for anyone looking to transition into the working world. They are also one of several sources that will recommend holding back on mentioning a mental health issue if it does not interfere with the job. However, this is only for consideration and will vary greatly on the job and the severity of the mental illness. This type of disclosure is allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NAMI summarizes supported employment as, “a well-defined approach to helping people with disabilities participate in the competitive labor market, helping them find meaningful jobs and providing ongoing support from a team of professionals.” It may be more of a challenge for the employer, but people with a mental disorder or illness, tend to be more dedicated to their job and work harder.

Other tips and options

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism recommends a list of jobs for people with autism or poor verbal skills. Some options include restocking shelves in any setting, factory assembly work, fast food restaurants and others.

For people with OCD it is recommended by that people with OCD may enjoy simple low-stress jobs such as accounting, analytics, software engineering, machine operations, librarian, dietician or an audiologist. However, they also recommend graphic designer, animator or photography for those who are bursting with creativity. They note that some jobs will be more stressful than others and it depends on the company and the level of OCD for the level of stress. quotes Victoria Maxwell from her show, “Funny, You Don’t Look Crazy,” about employment for those with mental illness. She lists three tips for those with mental illnesses who are job seekers and want to have some challenge in their life.

  1. Maxwell says to search into the jobs of interest and find if they are supportive of people with mental illnesses. Certainly if they don’t mention employee well-being at all then that’s a red flag for you.”
  2. “Remember you have experience successfully managing your illness.” Maxwell explains that being employed prior to searching or in the process of searching, means that the illness should be somewhat under control. Understand the symptoms and how to deal with them
  3. The supportive workplace will be different for each individual. “No workplace will be perfect of course. But you can find supportive workplaces, supportive managers and environments that value you for your talents and respect your needs.”

A mental illness challenges the individual with varying severity and symptoms and because of the extreme cases being seen as the norm a stigma has grown. This stigma lead to society not realizing that people with mental illnesses are as capable as anyone else at working in specific settings.

The CA Mental Health Helpline strives to help people understand and seek treatment for a mental illness. If you or a loved one struggle with a mental illness or condition and wish to seek advice, please call 855-559-3923.

Free mental health first aid saves lives in more ways than one

Free mental health first aid saves lives in more ways than one

Someone in a subway car clutches their chest and falls to the ground, struggling to breathe. Another person begins choking on their dinner and needs CPR. An ambulance is on its way, but some people know how to help the person in peril and perform CPR or keep the person calm until help arrives.

Not everyone receives training for emergency first aid such as CPR, but many have the knowledge and ability to help. Sadly, the same cannot be said regarding first aid for mental health issues. Many would not know what to do if someone was having a mental health crisis on the subway beyond calling the police. This is why the Mental Health Association of New York State –MHANYS—has obtained a grant to offer the first aid training for free.

Imagine the scenario, a stranger on the subway mumbling under their breath and frequently looking from left to right. Maybe a neighbor sounds disturbed in their apartment and you notice alarming sounds and shouting — they believe the government is listening to their thoughts and are losing control. In San Francisco, California in 2013 a man began to pace back and forth, freaking out above ground. He then proceeded to strip off his clothes and run below ground to the subway, assaulting passengers and causing problems. A video recording went viral and the man was put in for mental evaluation. If people had known what to do before the event escalated, the situation could have been avoided. Basic training can help to spot the signs of a mental crisis and keep the person non-threatening until help arrives.

The program

Awarded by the state, this grant allows MHANYS to hold training classes for free. They will offer a 12-hour mental health first aid training course, focusing on the action needed for someone with a mental condition or crisis. It is difficult to understand what is going on with someone who is having a mental crisis. Unlike with the ABC’s of CPR, where people know to check the airways, breathing and circulation, many are unsure of what to do for a mental crisis.

This training can help people deal with a tense and uncomfortable situation, when a person is having a mental crisis. As writes, this training, “Builds mental health literacy; helping the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.” There is a stigma with mental illness that people tend to avoid. Less people want to speak about and understand the effects of schizophrenia or the symptoms of major bipolar mood swings.

The idea something painful is happening to an individual mentally and not being aware of how to help is frightening. John Richter, director of Public Policy for MHANYS said, “This can help demystify some of that by talking about mental health the same way we talk about physical illness.” Richter is referring to the stigma of mental health and hopes this training will break down the barriers between healthy and mentally ill individuals.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness — NAMI — states around 61.5 million Americans experience a mental illness each year. Many of these illnesses are treatable, yet people may still feel ostracized because of an illness or disorder. The training covered in this program will certify an individual for three years.

What the program will do

The program offers mental health first aid training courses for adults and students. The adult course will focus on teaching the proper first aid emergency care and the student course will focus on intervention and how to help friends with an illness. The four main points the MHANYS website, that will be the main focus of the training are:

  • Gaining knowledge of the warning signs and risks for a variety of mental health disorders
  • Covering a plan consisting of five steps including the skills, resources and knowledge to understand the situation and helping the individual in crisis with the appropriate interventions
  • Understanding that mental illnesses are becoming more common in the U.S. and the need to decrease the stigma
  • Education of the available treatment programs, support groups and aid available to those with mental illness


This is an excellent opportunity to become equipped with skills and knowledge to help those with a mental illness and save bystanders who could get caught in the middle of a traumatizing episode. If you or a loved on exhibit signs or symptoms of a mental illness and have interest in treatment, please call us at 855-559-3923.

What Becomes of the O.D.D. child?

What Becomes of the O.D.D. child?

May 3, 2015 through May 9, 2015, is children’s mental health awareness week, dedicated to informing people of all ages about the vast spectrum of mental health disorders in children. For some children, an average day can be excruciatingly long. Especially when they had to go the grocery store with their mom and there is nothing for them to do there. Driving home and being told they now have to clean their room, the tantrum starts. There may be crying, screaming, time-outs executed and apologies given out. Overall, maybe 15 to 20 minutes for some; timing may vary. However, some children continue to throw tantrums for smaller incidents. Some will continue to harbor hostile behavior towards parents or authority figures for being told to put down their toy. This can be more than just a spoiled child. This can be a disorder that compels them to have such a strong defiance towards adults.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder –ODD—is a disorder starting in childhood, which involves defiant, negative hostile and disobedient behavior towards adults or figures of authority.  This behavior needs to be continuous for six months before a child can be diagnosed with the disorder. Children with ODD will frequently argue with adults, lose temper, defying rules of adults or authority figures, choosing actions they know will annoy others and being spiteful or vindictive.

These symptoms are easily viewed as just a rebellious period in children, but can continue and increase in intensity. Children with ODD believe that they are right and the adults are wrong. The key factor in discovering if a child has ODD is by seeing a continuous behavior of anger and disobedience that does not stop, whereas other kids grow out of it or calm down.

The treatment for these symptoms is mainly found in therapy and the interaction of parents to child. There are also many self-help groups that can help parents in the similar situation to help each other out. writes, “Very little research has been conducted in the use of medications for oppositional defiant disorder. Therefore, medication is not recommended as a treatment option for this problem.” As with many other mental disorders and illnesses, there is no single cure-all method for ODD. There are however ways to manage it and learn to live with it.

There have been four tips listed by as recommendations for interacting with ODD:

  1. Respond to this behavior without anger and pick your battles
  2. Be clear and concise with the child, follow through with what is said
  3. Do not take things personally; the behavior is about the child and not the parent — the child will lash out to familiar authority figures regardless
  4. Be a parent and not the best friend: discipline and do not become a friend just so the child will stop throwing a tantrum

While these tips are helpful, the real question is: What happens to those who continue to live with this disorder into adulthood?

What happens post treatment?

In most cases, ODD will continue on into adulthood for the child. Adults with ODD may continue to express angry behavior often and can continually claim that they are right, when someone else says they are wrong. They may even feel alone or that no one understands them. ODD has been found to be more of a subset of another conduct disorder such as ADHD. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. explains the cause for ODD in adults, “It’s unclear. It could be that a pattern of rebellion sets in when children with ADHD are constantly at odds with adults who are trying to make them behave in ways that their executive function deficit.”

In most cases, ODD is a manageable condition intermixed with another mental disorder. It mainly starts in childhood and is connected with another disorder, ADHD, which is why adults may not experience it as much. This is not to disprove that ODD can develop the child’s brain in such a way that they continue to express irrational obstinance to other adults later on in life. The key to learning how to manage these mental disorders is to seek treatment and diagnosis from a doctor, forms of therapy, family members understanding the condition and medication. Utilizing these resources, adults with ODD have learned mechanisms to cope with the mental illness.