Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

What interests you?

Back to School & Mental Health

Young people with backpacks, school uniforms, and big yellow buses are once again part of the daily hustle and bustle in towns and cities around the country. It is a refreshing sight after the shuttering of schools due to COVID-19

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What’s in a Number?

My oldest son’s high school basketball jersey was number 24. We bought a house with 24 as the street address. Next, younger siblings picked 24 for their team jerseys. Before we knew it, 24 became our family’s lucky number. Proof

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Quintessential Queen

I am generally fascinated by the British royal family, but I am in awe of Queen Elizabeth. When I heard that she had left the worries of this world behind yesterday, I couldn’t keep myself from interrupting a team meeting

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Adults Need Play, Too

Today marks the beginning of Labor Day Weekend in the United States and the end of summer (at least psychologically). This holiday is associated with backyard barbecues, back-to-school shopping, and horrible traffic. Its origins, however, date back to the Labor

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My Local Hardware Store

I love my local hardware store. It is a real hardware store. The kind that has staff mulling about waiting for you to ask them something. Customers show up with chewed up extension cords they want to replace, paint samples

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988

Urgent and sometimes terrifying, time is of the essence when it comes to a mental health crisis. People need to know they are not alone and need to know where to turn for help. Launched last month, 988 is the

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Both Sides Now

I remember it as if it were yesterday. After gently lowering the needle onto the spinning vinyl record, a brief prelude of static would give way to some of my favorite songs. I am one of the thousands who listened

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The Future of Mental Health

A little over a decade ago, I received an inquiry from Emma. A university student interested in learning more about global mental health, Emma was wondering if she could intern with me for the summer. She worked with me on

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A Visit to the Emerald Isle

A long-awaited vacation in Ireland fills this week and next. It is the first time for me to visit the homeland of my maternal grandparents. And no better way to do so than in the company of siblings and partners!

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What’s In A Year?

July 1 is the first day of the new academic year. I am in the middle of reading a book with the word “year” in it (#2 below), and with travel restrictions easing, I am already thinking about family travel

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Graduation 2022

Most people gush with joy and pride when a loved one completes a course of study – whether high school, university, professional training, or even nursery school. But these same proud friends and family members grimace when they talk about

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Mental Health at Work

In recent years, and accelerated by the pandemic, employers are recognizing that mental health matters at work. Of course it does. We don’t leave our mental health at the door when we enter the office regardless of whether we are

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Pollinators

June is National Pollinators Month. Butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and most importantly, bees are among the 200,000 pollinators who are responsible for transferring pollen from one plant to another. In doing so, they provide an essential service to plants, and

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Leadership Matters

VUCA. This acronym, first coined by the military, refers to a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. In a VUCA world, we count on and look to leaders for direction and guidance, especially in times of crisis. Where

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Headaches

Having never been prone to headaches, the experience of having one on and off every day for the past two weeks has been quite a jolt to my system. A well-documented by-product of COVID, these headaches can last from a

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Covid Positive

In addition to waking up to cards, flowers, and loving messages from my kids on Mother’s Day, I also woke up with COVID.  As one of the thousands of New Yorkers to test positive in this recent wave of the

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My Five Moms

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, we are invited to celebrate all the moms in the world, especially the ones we call our own. Five women in my life have been mothers to me. Over the years, each has taught me

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Building Communities that Build Capacity

This past Monday, April 25th, was the annual luncheon and meeting of the Columbia Council for the Advancement of Global Mental Health Research. Council members, current and past grant recipients, faculty, and staff gathered in person and online to celebrate

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The Hare with Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes is an extraordinary memoir pieced together with exquisite care by British ceramicist Edmund de Waal. He tells the story of his family, the Ephrussi, who went from Jewish shtetl in Odessa in the 1800s to

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Justice and Mental Health

The appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court is a historic moment in this great experiment of democracy that began nearly 250 years ago. As the first Black woman to take a seat on the

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Just Kidding

Happy April Fools’ Day! Although the details behind the origins of April Fools’ Day remain a mystery, the experience of practical joking is nearly universal. My brother tells the story of a practical joke that has become legendary among his

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Six Years Ago Today!

Exactly six years ago today, March 25, 2016, I launched Five on Friday. Inspired by a tradition I hold dear – Friday night dinners at home where conversations are animated and varied – I wanted to bring the topic of

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Shamrock Taschen!

The Jewish holiday of Purim and the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day both landed on Thursday of this week, March 17th. As a Jewish woman with Irish ancestry, this serendipitous coincidence makes me feel a little giddy. Although the

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We Should All Be Feminists

International Women’s Day took place this past Tuesday, March 8th. Adopted by the United Nations in 1977, its origins are rooted in the earlier twentieth-century social and political feminist movements that fought for women’s suffrage, labor rights, and the broad

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Highs, Lows, and Loop-de-Loops

The world seems to be convulsing in a time-and-space-warp kind of way. It is as if we are at the top and bottom of a roller coaster in the same instant. Racing thoughts touch on the idea that this human-made

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Reflections: Black Pioneers in Mental Health

Today is February 2022’s last Friday. Before March comes barreling in like a lion, I’d like to acknowledge that February is Black History Month, with this year’s focus being “Black Health and Wellness.” The Black American community experiences profound systemic

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No Worries Atoll

5° 53′ 15″ N, 162° 05′ 13” W. Plug in these GPS coordinates, and you will arrive at Palmyra Atoll, one of the Line Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is 967 nautical miles south of Honolulu and 1,497 miles

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To Love

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. It is a day devoted to love – that magical mix of emotion, psychology, physiology, and pixie dust. Poems. Songs. Biographies. Novels. Films… Love features prominently in every form of storytelling. Love resides

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Teens, Sleep, and Mental Health

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about night owls and heard from many of you who join me in savoring the quiet of those dark hours when others are sleeping. But if staying up late means not getting enough

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Night Owls

We have all heard it. The early bird catches the worm. Early to bed, early to rise… So what is a night owl to do? I love staying up late. I always have. I write late at night. I read

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What Martin Luther King, Jr. Knew But Never Said

On Monday, we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Stories and accolades will fill every form of media. Appropriately so. We will celebrate this legendary leader’s commitment to nonviolence and his extraordinary legacy of fighting for racial justice in

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Women’s Stories Carried Forward

January 1. Typically a time for New Year resolutions and fresh promises to self and others. This year – maybe because my family recently lost one of its matriarchs, and perhaps because we are lucky enough to be celebrating my

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How Can We Laugh?

I gave a talk earlier this week for the World Health Organization as part of their weekly series on mental health. This initiative is part of their expanded efforts to support the mental health of their global workforce. The discussion

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Doing Less for Mental Health

The holiday season brings with it excitement, merriment, and joy. Gatherings with friends and family provide time together and a sense of connection. But this time of year can also deliver a hefty dose of stress as a result of

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World AIDS Day 2021

This past Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDS Day. Dating back to 1988, World AIDS Day is “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate

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Grateful

Dena Nisenfeld Forster died this past Sunday. We buried her on Tuesday. Beloved by family and friends, I had the good fortune to call her my mother-in-law. But she was so much more than that. Teacher. Mentor. Confidant. Friend. She

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Si sta bene in Trieste

I am so happy to be in Italy after a nearly two-year hiatus from international travel. Italy is one of the places in the world that I call home. My paternal grandmother was born in Rome. I lived in Bologna

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Aaron Tempkin (Tim) Beck, MD

Brilliant Thinker. Visionary Pioneer. Generous Mentor. Passionate Humanitarian. Tireless Scientist. These accolades are sometimes nothing more than hyperbole. In the case of Dr. Aaron (Tim) Beck, they don’t come close to capturing the extraordinary individual who died on Monday, 1

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Halloween: Oh What a Fright

Zombies, graveyards, haunted houses, witches, goblins. How did it happen that we have this holiday that indulges all things spooking, scary and frightening? Celebrating Halloween over the years, I find myself pondering how it came to be that we celebrate

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Remembering Colin Powell

When I hear the name Colin Powell, I think “hero.” His death at age 84 on this past Monday, October 18th, marked the passing of a man who did much for many. He was a hero for a myriad of

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The Facebook Files

As I was preparing for my drive from Baltimore to New York last week, my daughter-in-law suggested that I pass the time by listening to the WSJ Facebook Files podcast.  It’s worth the listen.  1. The Basics. The Facebook Files

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Mental Health in an Unequal World

Last week, my friend and colleague, Harold Pincus, sent me a stunning photo of the vast field of white flags that carpet the Washington Mall in commemoration of the 700,000+ lives lost to COVID in the United States. It is

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Memory Making

Exactly three weeks ago today, my oldest son got married. Brendan and his bride, Hiromi, were beaming on this sunny, breezy afternoon in the garden, surrounded by friends and family who came to bear witness and celebrate. It was a

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Begin Again

Uncannily familiar and utterly new. Sitting down to write this week’s Five on Friday after a month of vacation, I am a beginner again. How fortunate indeed. For “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind

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Vacay!

It is that time of year! As this Five on Friday arrives in your inbox, I will be starting vacation. For many of us, myself included, this summer tradition looks very different from years gone by. For better or for

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Collective Safety

An afternoon with my honeybees got me thinking about what these buzzing yellow and black beauties can teach us about our health, and particularly our mental health, at this moment in our journey with COVID-19. The apis mellifera, or western

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Mental Gymnastics

I frequently get recommendations for Five on Friday topics from readers, friends, family, and colleagues. So I wasn’t surprised to hear from my brother when Simone Biles, “the greatest gymnast of all time,” withdrew from the individual all-around competition at

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Surviving Suicide Times Two

Pooja is a public health graduate student and mental health advocate. She is also a survivor of attempted suicide and a survivor of suicide loss with her brother’s death sixteen months ago. This past year, Pooja was a student of

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The Future of Global Mental Health

Talk about the future often focuses on technological innovation, space travel, and the discovery of life forms in galaxies that we can barely imagine. As a professor, my view of the future is much more exciting. It comes into focus

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Abracadabra Day

When my kids were little, we had a family tradition of Abracadabra Days. They were each entitled to one day in the fall semester and one in the spring to wake up and declare that they would take the day

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Summer Reads

With summer upon us, it is time for some good book recommendations. This year, I asked a few colleagues to share what they are reading. Wow. I want to read them all. Sci-Fi, biography, history, fiction, nonfiction. No matter the

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Prescription Problems

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Biogen’s new medication, aducanumab, for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Marketed with the brand name, Aduhelm, this is the first medication that targets the fundamental pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease and the

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Mortarboards Fly High

It’s that time of year! And this graduation devotee is over the moon. Two of my nieces and a nephew graduated this year: Lauren from Auburn University. War Eagle! Adam and Allison from high school. Cap and gown. Pomp and

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Something Old, Something New

The ink is barely dry. Just yesterday, President Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a US federal holiday. Short for June 19th, Juneteenth is tomorrow. Because its debut as a federal holiday falls on Saturday, today was declared a holiday

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The First Lady of Mental Health

The young man in the photo below with US First Lady Rosalynn Carter is my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Harold Pincus. This photo hangs adjacent to his office door. Over the years, I have passed it too many times

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Mental Health Takes Center Court

“Fault!” That’s the call of a line referee when the tennis ball lands outside an opponent’s designated service box. This week, the cry came when Naomi Osaka, four-time Grand Slam champion and number two ranked female tennis player in the

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Congratulations, Dr. Poku!

Following graduation from Mount Holyoke College, Ohemaa Poku started as the Program Coordinator at our Columbia-WHO Center for Global Mental Health in 2014. Over the past seven years, she’s been busy! She worked at Columbia for a stretch and then

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Mental Health and Work

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and marched his troops south to establish the new Roman Empire, there was no going back. I dare say we have crossed our own Rubicon with the campaign to address mental health at work.

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Billboard Mental Health

Roadtrip! I am writing from the backseat of a newfangled rental car because, as you may remember from an earlier post, our family car (who we affectionately call “AMY” after her license plate) is a 2002 Toyota Camry with almost

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Five Years of Five on Friday

I can hardly believe that I have been writing these weekly musings for five years. Our readership (you!) now numbers in the tens of thousands. In celebration of this milestone, we compiled all the past posts and created an online

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ForLikeMinds

“Stigma, Meet Hope.” This is how Katherine Ponte begins her story. Katherine knows a thing or two about stigma. She has lived with bipolar I disorder with psychosis for twenty years. In manic episodes, she thought she was a prophet,

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Healthy Planet, Healthy People

Planet Earth. Home sweet home for almost eight billion people. This past Thursday we celebrated with our annual Earth Day, and our week was filled with related news and programs. The beautiful images and extraordinary stories about mother nature were

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It’s Scary Out There

I was talking with a friend the other day about meeting for coffee. We are both vaccinated. It didn’t seem reckless, but as we anxiously confirmed the details, it sounded like we were complete newbies to the coffee meet-up. A

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The Confess Project

Hair. It’s a major strand in the braid of our pandemic stories. Women have gone gray. Men have gone from crew cut to ponytail. People are cutting and coloring their own hair (at their own peril). Some have feverishly tracked

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Risk Forward

We might have imagined that with the vaccine rollout out, this topsy turvy world would feel more settled, but that is not how life goes. The pandemic has been a storm of uncertainty. We have spent more than a year

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Conversations on Freedom

As the sun goes down tomorrow, the Jewish holiday of Passover begins, and it begins with a story. The story of the exodus of the Israelites from the land Egypt. From slavery to freedom. Essential to Passover is the retelling

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Wisdom from the Hives

I can’t wait to see my honeybees. They have been clustered in their hives through the winter. With the arrival of some sunny March days, they are beginning to take flight from their winter huddle to scope out the world

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A Year of COVID by Broadway

Exactly one year ago, I picked up my daughter from her university apartment in Baltimore to drive to NYC, pick up her twin brother, and depart the city to wait out the passing of the novel coronavirus. Exactly one year

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Diana

Okay. I admit it. I am one of those Americans who is irrationally beguiled by British royalty. So what better way to indulge my fascination than to watch The Crown this past year? I finished Season Four just before last

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The Madness of Framing Britney Spears

I didn’t know quite what to expect from the newly released documentary, Framing Britney Spears. It is the story of Princess of Pop, gone mad. But it is not just a story about a little girl from Mississippi whose talents launched

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Power of Community

Something happened every day this week that reminded me of the power of community to protect and promote mental health.  It’s not just that being connected in community is good for our mental health, which it is. It was the

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Heart Health & Mental Health

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day is all about love, cupid and fluttering hearts.  All year long, another story about our hearts is taking place – the story of heart health and mental health. While mental illness is

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Punxsutawney Phil & Superstition

Punxsutawney Phil is the seer of seers of groundhogs. Each year, his singular job is to emerge on February 2nd and predict whether we are in for another six weeks of winter. If he sees his shadow, we need to

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Another Side of Technology

Your mic is muted. You catch a glimpse of your hair and wish you washed it last night. Your connection is unstable. You are feeling fatigued and have a slight headache. You send a message about your doctor’s appointment to

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Coats of Many Colors

I have a thing for coats, so you can imagine my delight on Inauguration Day. Coats of many colors were on full display. Coats negotiate the space between inside and out. On the exterior, coats shield us from the elements.

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Difficult Conversations

The news headlines have been unrelenting sirens about the challenges of our time. Global pandemic. Variant strains. Vaccine distribution failures. Political mayhem. Unemployment and economic upheaval. Racial injustice. Social unrest. I am finding that these huge social stressors have crossed

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Hugs

2021 is here. It’s been a rocky start. Expletives of dismay, exasperation, despair, disgust, and fear fill the airwaves of personal conversations, social media posts, newspaper articles and televised broadcasts. Surely there will be thoughtful and important analyses of the

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Tracy’s Christmas Carol Challenge

My friend, Tracy, is a nice Jewish girl who loves Christmas carols. This is her favorite time of year to drive around because she has four Christmas carol stations on her car radio. It all started with her elementary school

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Light

We lit the first candle of Hanukkah yesterday. White match head pressed against the rough side of the box. Swift strike. Flame ignites. Gentle touch. Wick burns. Candle glows. The light is mesmerizing. Hanukkah is in good company. Around this

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Who Heals?

When we are patients in the hospital, we know that doctors and nurses will be poking and prodding and taking our vitals with every intention of employing their professional training to restore our health. But what can someone who is

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Mental Health at the Movies

The quiet days following Thanksgiving invite us to slow down a bit. In New York, it is dark by 5 PM, so all the more reason to curl up on the sofa to watch a movie or two. After the

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I May Be the First…

When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris walked on stage in her white suffragette suit on November 7th, I cried. One hundred years after women won the right to vote in the USA, she is the first woman vice president. The first

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Roman Tritz

World War II bomber pilot Roman Tritz died earlier this year at the age of 97. He was the last known survivor of a U.S. government program that lobotomized combat veterans who suffered from treatment-resistant forms of mental illness, including

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Longing

About this time of year, many moons ago, I tiptoed out of my apartment in the dark of night to leave the urban sprawl of Tokyo on a quest. I was answering the beckoning call of Mt. Fuji. This iconic

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Stress and Coping

It is cold and windy in New York. We even saw a few snow flurries today. COVID-19 cases are surging in the world. Right now, a new case is being reported every second. In the past twenty-four hours, I have

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Go Where The People Are

Taking mental health out of the medical center and into the community, where the people are, is a mantra for Columbia Professor and colleague, Dr. Sidney Hankerson. This year’s inaugural speaker for our Columbia University Seminar Series on Global Mental

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Words Matter

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about hope. I referenced multiple challenges in this world right now that are sparring with hope, including “riots in Chicago.” I hit submit. Within moments I had a message from a trusted colleague

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World Mental Health Day 2020

Tomorrow, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. Initiated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, World Mental Health Day creates awareness about mental health and mental illness. The theme this year is Mental Health for All: Greater

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Lose Hope, Game Over

Lose hope. Game over. The words of a dear friend ring in my ears these days. But it’s hard to stay hopeful. Just when it seems like things cannot get worse, they do. The US Presidential debate was a spectacle

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RIP RBG

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg bid the world farewell last Friday as Jews around the world welcomed in the new year. The Notorious RBG is the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and is the first woman and first

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Shanah Tovah!

This evening’s setting sun ushers in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It marks the beginning of the High Holy Days for Jews around the world, which continue for 10 days and culminate on Yom Kippur. Today is my first

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Vacation Anyone?

I tried earlier this summer to take vacation. I started with two weeks. Before the first day of the scheduled time off, I had already made a few exceptions to the plan and agreed to join several work calls for

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If French Fries are Wrong…

If french fries are wrong, I don’t want to be right. Printed on the side of a beach bag in a store window, this line made me laugh. The truth is I love french fries. Actually I am good with

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The Rabbit Effect

What do rabbits have to do with mental health? In her recent book, The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness, Columbia psychiatrist Dr. Kelli Harding makes the connection quite clearly. We were fortunate

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Everyday Heroes

During this pandemic, frontline health care providers have put their lives at risk to save others. We have also come to recognize the essential roles of so many other individuals, including bus drivers, grocery store clerks, electric company line workers,

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Challah

With more of us at home and less frequent trips to the grocery store since we have been sheltering in place, Friday has become a day for challah making (not just eating) in my family. Different members of our pod

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An Apology Please

Our public leaders are also our teachers. This week, Representative Ted Yoho delivered a paradoxical lesson on apologies. It reminded me of the “opposite game” I played with my kids when they were little. We picked a topic and said

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Celebrating Light at Times of Darkness

We are living during a period of history that is testing people’s coping skills, resilience, and spirit. I have heard many people say that we have yet to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” when it comes

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Mental Health in our Gardens

Like many of you, I have been spending more time in the garden this year. Planting lavender everywhere, giving tomatoes one more try, and even experimenting with corn. I am not sure about the corn since our dog, Nike, has

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Happy Interdependence Day

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. Signed in 1776, the Declaration of Independence put forward a bold vision on a profoundly flawed foundation that included only white male property owners. This vision and exclusion set the future for

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#RaiseTheFlagForSarah

Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided a landmark civil rights case. In a 6-3 ruling, the court determined that federal anti-bias law, already on the books for decades, covers millions of gay, lesbian and transgender workers. It is

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Men, Mental Health, and Tech Meet Ups

With this Sunday being Father’s Day and June being Men’s Mental Health Month, I have been thinking about men and mental health. Often, the discussion about men and mental health focuses on how bad things are – high rates of mental health

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Is A Shadow Pandemic Brewing?

The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly caused the largest and most rapid disruption to how and where we work since anyone can remember. From Wuhan to Wichita, from mom and pop shops to multi-national corporations, the working world has been rocked.

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Why Now?

George Floyd was killed on 25 May 2020. His death has triggered protests around the country, indeed, around the world. But racism and abuse of power are not new. So what is it about this particular moment? What accounts for the

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It’s Enough Already

Disruptive. Topsy Turvey. Unprecedented. These have been the go-to adjectives in this era of COVID-19. Nary a Zoom meeting, conversation, or webinar this week escaped reference to challenges of our time. Amidst it all, mental health concerns have been front

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Graduation 2020: Squirm a Little

This week, throughout the United States, amidst the unprecedented pandemic of our day, academic commencements large and small have been taking place, virtually. In my own family – my twins, my daughter-in-law, my nephew, and the husbands of two of

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Thank You to the Artists

Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Faulkner said that it was the work of the artist to lift up people’s lives and help them endure. I am sure that he would have said the same today. As we

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Women On My Mind

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. At the time of this writing, Coronavirus accounts for 274,651 deaths globally. And this week, my honeybees are buzzing. The unexpected intersections of Mother’s Day, COVID-19, and honeybees bring together themes that move me to

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Trouble Sleeping?

I never have trouble sleeping. Well, almost never. During this pandemic, I have actually been able to sleep pretty well, but I have also had some restless nights, some nights that I have been up until the wee hours to

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Sakura 2020

Sakura (桜) is the Japanese word for cherry trees and their blossoms. But the word means so much more than that. With just one word, the Japanese are talking about the beauty of nature, the renewal of spring, and the ephemeral quality

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Why a Mask is Not Just a Mask

To mask or not to mask. That has been an evolving question in the throes of COVID-19. Until now, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization have advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear

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Among the Most Vulnerable in Our Communities

Much has been written about the stress on communities wrought by COVID-19. From everyday social isolation to postponing weddings and graduations to conducting virtual Passover Seders, Easter Egg hunts, and even funerals. In contrast, we have heard little from or

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With Our Young and With Our Old

The eight days of Passover begin next Wednesday evening. Depending on family traditions, the Seder can take hours and hours or be quite brief. But in all cases, it is essential to recount the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt

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Mental Health on the Frontlines of COVID-19

My sister, Virginia, is a surgeon. As a breed, surgeons aren’t sissies. And that’s true for Virginia, too. She was a resident at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, NYC during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. She has cared

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Recovery is a Verb

When will it end? How many more days until it is over? All of us are asking these questions every day about COVID-19. It’s natural that we do so. This is the way we typically frame our questions about ill

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The Four Children of COVID-19

The Jewish holiday of Passover is less than four weeks away. It is looking like COVID-19 will impact the possibility of gathering multiple generations of family and friends who would typically squeeze together around the dining table for a banquet

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Why I Love Ms. Pac-Man

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted from the deluge of discussions this week about hand sanitizer and health care policy, travel bans and super delegates. No doubt that coronavirus and the US Democratic primaries are serious topics

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The Hero’s Journey

This past Monday, we hosted an evening celebrating the unique capacity of the arts to connect communities and advocate for mental health. Our fourth annual event, Love is EleMental, raised awareness and funds that will translate into improved access to care for individuals

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Purpose

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how,’” wrote Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Equally, the absence of ‘why’ can make unbearable almost any ‘how.’ We live in a world where

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El Dia del Amor y la Amistad

I am spending this weekend with dear friends in Mexico City where February 14th is celebrated as El Día del Amor y la Amistad, the “day of love and friendship.” And earlier this week, two friends from different parts of

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2020 Tracy Challenge

Yes, folks, it is that time again: the Tracy Challenge. Here are the rules. My friend, Tracy, sends me a list of five things that do not immediately appear to have anything to do with mental health, and my mission

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Hi Kathy, Stan Here

“Hi Kathy. Stan here. Called to say hello and wish you a good Shabbos. Give me a call when you get a chance. Love you. Bye.” That was the message I could count on every Friday if I was not

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Start of Spring Semester

Columbia University spring semester started this week. How lovely and hopeful that the semester that starts in the dead of winter, is called spring semester. I started teaching the course “Priorities in Global Mental Health” in 2014. In recent years

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The Treaty of Versailles Lesson on Revenge

The Treaty of Versailles took force exactly one hundred years ago today on January 10, 1920. The Allied and Associated Powers, the victors of WWI, imposed the Treaty on the Central Powers and codified the terms of peace between the

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Blue

With the start of the new year and new decade, the color company Pantone has named classic blue (Pantone 19-4052) as its 2020 color of the year. With 1867 colors to choose from, Pantone says that classic blue has “a

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Five on Friday 2019

Dear Readers,  Another year of musings on mental health. We have covered a lot of ground. From grief to burnout to the benefits of boredom. From psilocybin to what the American Founding Fathers knew about mental illness to eating disorders

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A Lot More Than Happy

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! And today, Happy Birthday to my son, Brendan! Happy is good. But this time of year can be emotionally intense. Sometimes overwhelming. And it is common for us to experience a whole host of feelings

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Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

This week, legendary puppeteer Carroll Spinney died at the age of 85. Spinney was the artist who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on Sesame Street for fifty years! Launched in 1969, Jim Henson’s Sesame Street was

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How To Change Your Mind

That’s the first part of the title of Michael Pollan’s most recent best-selling book. The rest of the title is, What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Pollan is the consummate storyteller. Remember

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Get the Popcorn

I am just recovering from my Thanksgiving food coma!! How about you? Whether you are in America celebrating Thanksgiving weekend or down under celebrating the coming of summer; whether you like your popcorn with butter or prefer to pass on

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Vaping, Lung Health, and Mental Health

Many times we conflate addiction with the use of illegal substances. In fact, the two substances that have the highest rates of addiction around the world are completely legal – and for some also lethal. We’re talking about alcohol and nicotine.

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Canine Companions and Mental Health

Canis lupus familiaris. Man’s best friend. We all know that is Fido (or for me, Nike). No other interspecies relationship compares to the one that exists between humans and dogs. And this week at the Gerontological Society Association (GSA) Meeting

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Health and Aging & Mental Health

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with aging. We want to grow older, but we don’t want to grow old. The good news is that we are living longer. The bad news is that many individuals and families and

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Boo!

Yesterday, the streets and halls were filled with ghosts and superheroes, princesses and fantastical dragons. Between an all-day meeting and a work dinner, I was able to sneak away for a couple of hours to celebrate Halloween with my in-laws.

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OMG! Too Many Options

Ingenuity. Productivity. Creativity. Opportunity. It is all great. To a point. And then… you have the cereal aisle in the supermarket. No Sugar. Natural Sugar. Whole Wheat. All Natural. No Artificial Colors. Gluten Free. Super Heroes. No Artificial Sweeteners. Added

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Find Your Seat at the Table for Suicide Prevention

Last Thursday, October 10 was World Mental Health Day. An international day for mental health education, awareness, and advocacy. This year’s focus was suicide prevention. We participated in various advocacy initiatives, including raising awareness that someone dies by suicide every 40

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Grazie, Gaby

This week I write from Bologna, one of the places that I call home. It is almost 40 years ago that I arrived as a university student. Gabriella Conti was in search of an English tutor for her young sons

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Mental Health and Climate Change

Last Friday, several members of our Global Mental Health Programs joined an estimated 300,000 people to participate in the Global Climate Strike in Foley Square. One of over 2,500 events held in over 163 countries on all seven continents. Over

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Know My Name

Trigger warning: sexual assault, sexual abuse, PTSD, suicide Chanel Miller, the victim of the now-infamous sexual assault case at Stanford University in 2015, has decided to share her name. She was known as Emily Doe when she read her searing victim impact

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More on Eating Disorders

Five on Friday is coming to you late because I have been fully consumed for the past few days with the Eating Disorders Research Society annual meeting. The inaugural launch of this Society was in Minneapolis a quarter of a

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Today’s My Lucky Day

I spent the morning at DMV. How can that be lucky? Who wants to spend the last day of summer vacation at the DMV? I would have said no one but the hundred-person line in front of me before the

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Lisbon, Mental Health & Jewish History

Lisbon is all the rage right now. Most visitors come to see the seven hills and Tagus River Harbor, the moorish architecture and historic cobblestones, and to taste bacalhau and pastel de nata. I am here for the annual World Psychiatric Association

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“Mom, I’m Bored”

Music to my ears. But this wasn’t always so. As parents, we have been brainwashed to be afraid of hearing those dreaded words: “I’m bored.” The same thing happened in healthcare around pain when, in the late 1990’s, pain was

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Many Thanks to our 2019 Summer Interns

This summer, we have had thirteen interns working here in New York City with Columbia faculty and post-docs to advance mental health research, policy and advocacy. To name just a few projects: Interns were engaged in developing e-learning training modules,

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What’s On Our Mind: Dementia

This week, we launched a new series called “What’s On Our Mind” to provide a space where we can talk with experts from around the world about current mental health issues. Hosted on Facebook Live (you don’t need a Facebook

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Imagine

Last week, my family moved to the west side of Central Park. A whole new perspective on the same fabulous park. The new neighborhood is great, and now our dog walking route takes us through Strawberry Fields: the 2.5-acre area

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Pride

I was a young girl at the time of the 1969 Stonewall riots. Those were days when virtually no one talked about homosexuality and the AIDS Epidemic was still in the future. Fifty years on, an estimated 4.5 million people

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Burnout Explained

Hitting the send button each week is like serving in tennis. With great anticipation, I always wonder what will come back at me. Last Friday, I wrote about the recent adoption of the WHO International Classification of Diseases-11 (ICD-11) and

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Dementia Reimagined

Dr. Tia Powell directs the Center for Bioethics for Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  She is a national expert on dementia, and for full disclosure, she is a dear friend. So, it is with enormous joy

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From Russia With Love

If only 007 could see it now… I spent the last two weeks in Moscow and St. Petersburg, first working and then visiting a world that has been colored for me by great (and long) Russian novels filled with palaces

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Is Your Insurance Company Breaking the Law?

Quite possibly. For the more than 50,000 individuals who were denied insurance coverage for mental health and addiction treatment in a recent landmark case, the answer was definitively “yes. Health insurance companies are required by law to provide coverage for mental illness

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Why I Ride for Mental Health

Last Sunday, thirteen riders from our WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Mental Health team braved the downpour to bike in the Five Boro Bike Tour in support of global mental health. The Five Boro Bike Tour is a recreational ride that

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I Thought I Would Never Run Again

A few years ago, I was standing in Central Park admiring the fall leaves. It was one of those lyrical moments of oneness with nature. Until our dog, whose leash I was holding, decided that she would do her own

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Nothing About Us Without Us

Last week, we were joined in our Priorities in Global Mental Health class by members of Fountain House. Located in midtown Manhattan, Fountain House is dedicated to the “recovery of men and women with mental illness by providing opportunities for members to live,

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What is the Price of Freedom?

As the sun goes down this evening, millions of Jews around the world will celebrate the first night of Passover. The Passover Seder tells the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. We are to tell the story

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Everything Is Illuminated

This is the title of Jonathan Safran Foer’s New York Times Bestseller about a young Jewish writer on a journey to Ukraine to find his grandfather’s hometown and the woman who saved his life during World War II. The story

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The Long Shadow of Trauma

The news has been filled with grief and confusion emanating from the recent suicides of a father of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook shootings and two Parkland students. These individuals were survivors of the school massacres

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We Feel and Think What We Eat

This week, I had the joy of sharing spring break with my daughter and niece in Paris. It was a food lover’s dream. Beginning with a baguette and fresh berries each morning and making our way through the day with

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Ketamine: From Party Drug to Prescription Medicine

Ketamine’s ignominious start was as a psychedelic party drug with the street name of Special K. Its future is as a promising intervention for treatment-resistant depression. Just this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved esketamine, a form

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What Would Women Say?

Today is International Women’s Day. We have much to celebrate around the world. Rates of education for girls are up. Maternal mortality is down. And women are speaking out. Just a few weeks ago at the Academy Awards, as the

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Not Just Skinny White Girls

This week is 2019 Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Championed by the National Eating Disorders Association, with the theme Come as You Are, programs around the world are hosting awareness raising activities and connecting people who might be struggling with an eating disorders to others

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Grow Old with Me…

… the best is yet to be. A beautiful notion about the journey of increasing years. We are social creatures and relationships play a key role in protecting and promoting our mental health throughout our lives. So it is ironic

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Love is EleMental 2019

Most people don’t have a hard time seeing the link between Valentine’s Day and love, but when we go from love to mental health, a few will scratch their heads and wonder: really? Yes. Really. This week of Valentine’s Day,

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No One Can Whistle a Symphony…

… It takes a whole orchestra to play it. These words from H.E. Luccock capture an essential truth about advancing mental health globally. In this spirit, we are thrilled to announce that on Monday, February 11th, the Global Mental Health Programs at Columbia

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Super Bowl Mental Health

With over one hundred million viewers, the Super Bowl is one of the most widely watched American broadcasts of the year. It is the quintessential sports spectacle of strategy and strength. Football players are famous for their size and muscle,

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Dark Days; Dark Mood

Friends of mine just left for two weeks of vacation to someplace closer to the equator where they went to soak up some sunshine. For many of us, we experience a visceral desire to go where it’s warm and sunny

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Good Grief

I attended a funeral last week. The sudden death of my friend’s husband left family and friends with shattered dreams and broken hearts. Losing a loved one precipitates a journey of grieving. And although this experience of loss is nearly

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Hello 2019; Goodbye 2018

With the start of a new year, we all engage in some form of accounting – taking stock of the last twelve months and setting resolutions for those on the horizon. In doing so, almost universally, we focus on aspects

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Five on Friday 2018

Dear Readers, Another year of musings on mental health. From the gut biome to the unintended consequences of focusing on resilience. From explorations of gun violence and suicide to the teenage brain, concussions, technology, and the mental health benefits of

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Suicide and the Holidays

Suicide is more common around the holidays, right? Wrong. 1. It is a myth that suicide rates increase around the holidays. Perhaps because we hope that the holidays will be a time of enhanced joy and connection, it feels especially poignant

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2018 Home Office Challenge

My goal with Five on Friday is to raise awareness about mental health by opening conversations that link mental health topics to our everyday lives. Thus was born the 2017 Headlines Challenge. For fun, my friend, Tracy, picked five front page articles from

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The Happiness Industry Makes Me Sad

I am all for being happy. Who isn’t? But the happiness industry? That’s another thing altogether. The happiness industrial complex promises that bliss will be found when we get our eating, exercise, sleep, journaling, weight, complexion, clothing, and all our Christmas

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Ninety Years and Counting

This Monday, my dear friend, Jim Spool (AKA Grandpa Jimmy), will be ninety years old. Born on December 3, 1928, Grandpa Jimmy arrived on earth the same year that commercially available sliced bread was invented. Really. It was also in

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Thanksgiving 2018

Everyone knows that thanksgiving is a compound word expressing the essence of this favorite American holiday focused on giving thanks. But did you know that beyond “thanks” and “giving” there are another 346 Scrabble-approved words we can make out of

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Knockin’ Your Noggin

It is football season in the United States. That means Friday night lights for families with high school kids, and weekends filled with games from the 5-year-old MightyMites to collegiate and professional rivalries that now don’t finish until late Monday

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Healthier, Longer Lives

Isn’t that what we all want? To be healthy, and if healthy, enjoy long lives? So why should it be any different for someone with serious mental illness? But that’s not how it typically goes. The odds have it that

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A Walk in the Park

Having flown halfway around the world to get to Sydney last week, I decided that a visit to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park was worth another 3-hour flight to the Australian Outback. A UNESCO world heritage site, Uluru is a sacred place

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Fat and Happy

I am in Sydney for the Eating Disorders Research Society Meeting, an annual and global convening of leading scientists in the field. Having arrived a day before the program opened, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours walking

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I Crossed the Street

I was walking home the other evening. Replaying the highs and lows of the day. Deep in thought. The activity on the street was barely a murmur in the background. Until my gaze fell upon an old, disheveled man wrapped

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World Mental Health Day – Focus on Youth

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Every year this date calls our attention to a particular mental health priority. This year’s focus is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World. The focus on young people is fitting given

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Mental Health Parity & Reality

Imagine being diagnosed with breast cancer and being told that treatment services were not covered. Or maybe that half of the necessary chemotherapy sessions would be covered. The rest must be paid out of pocket. Or maybe that treatment is

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Breaking the Glass

The most iconic moment of a Jewish wedding follows many beautiful and symbolic prayers and gestures that culminate in the much anticipated crescendo when the couple standing before their community break a glass – stomping on it and shattering it

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An Easy Fast

This week was Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days for the Jewish people. It’s really big. Even those who don’t go to services regularly throughout the year take themselves to synagogue on Yom Kippur. It is the last day

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A Life’s Work

Two kids grow up in the same home or same neighborhood. How is it that only one develops major depression? One kid grows up exposed to violence the other not. Who is more prone to anxiety? Poverty? Loss? Education? What do

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Just for Fun

My first research assistant position was with Professor Catherine Garvey in the Psychology Department at Johns Hopkins University. It was all fun and games. Literally. Professor Garvey was a world expert on play. Traditionally, we have described play as an activity that we pursue for

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If Truth isn’t Truth, What about Lies?

This week, the media went wild with commentary on Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s Meet the Press statement that “truth isn’t truth.” Giuliani’s jaunt into philosophizing about truth was highly impolitic, especially given the situation, but possibly not incorrect. And his assertion set

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Lyme Disease and Mental Health

Ah! The joys of summer – sun, vacation, bike riding, swimming, and hiking. All good things for our mental health. Generally. The thing is that lots of animals love this time of year, including ticks. And where there are ticks,

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What about Dorothea Dix?

Last night five dear friends came over for dinner. We laughed; we told stories. We talked politics and kids in alternating breaths. We ran through summer plans, college drop-offs and future adventures and before we knew it, midnight struck. It

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The Bright Future of Mental Health

While doom and gloom dominate much of the mental health and mental illness landscape, there is a crop of next-generation young adults demonstrating a brighter future. It is true that we have a broken mental health system in the US

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Guru Purnima

For all the teachers out there, take note. Today is Guru Purnima in India, Nepal, and other countries where Buddhism and Jainism are infused in the fabric of society. It is a day devoted to celebrating and honoring our teachers,

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Do You Pixar?

My son saw Incredibles 2 when it opened a few weeks ago. An instant box office hit, he declared it one of Pixar’s best on our family chat on his way home. His praise opened the floodgates to a flurry

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Friday the Thirteenth

Today is Friday the Thirteenth. Synonymous with bad luck, superstitions about the number thirteen are everywhere. Thirteen is so unlucky that in many hotels and apartment buildings, there is no room with the number 13 and no 13th floor. How did that happen?

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When in Doubt, Serve

Wednesday was July 4th. Nowadays, it is a day for barbeques and fireworks. But its origins are rooted in celebrating the independence of Colonial America. The date is practically synonymous with liberty. But today – from traditional print to electronic

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SCOTUS: What about Mental Illness?

This was a big week for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Not only did the Court rule on Trump v. Hawaii, also known as the “travel ban” case, but Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement

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Two Suicides in One Week?

This is the refrain of the day. Yes, the two high profile suicides this week are tragic. Just a few blocks from my home, the iconic handbag designer Kate Spade took her life at age 55. This morning, media headlines

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Seeing the “Men” in Mental Illness

Despite all the advances in gender equity over the past decades, recent events have filled the media with plenty of reminders that women still suffer from glass ceilings, lack of family-friendly work policies, and the threat of sexual harassment. Less

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Graduation Junkie

It is that time of year in the United States again. Mortar boards and tassels, tossed in celebration, dance in the sky. And, as I have shared previously, I am a graduation junkie. So, you can imagine how disappointed I was

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The Black Swan, Turkey, and Butcher

This week’s Five on Friday was slated to focus on something else altogether. But as I sit down to prepare today’s blog, Santa Fe High School is still an active crime scene, emergency medical care is underway in the hopes

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Why I Ride for Mental Health

Last Sunday was the Five Boro Bike Tour. It is a 40-mile recreational ride that takes about 32,000 riders through the streets of Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. It is a fabulous way to see parts of the

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Mimi and David Say I Do

As this Five on Friday is posted, I will be toasting my son and his fiancée who will be married on Saturday. My first child to marry. It is a joy beyond measure to know that someone loves my child

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Healthy NY Summit and Awards 2018

What: Healthy NY Summit and Awards 2018 When: Yesterday, April 18th Where: National Geographic Encounter in Times Square Who: New York City and State Health care researchers, policymakers and providers Why: New York City and State are facing serious health challenges and

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Crossing the Channel

Last week I wrote about our Global Mental Health delegation meetings in Scotland. As our mission continued across the English Channel to Berlin and Geneva, we had much to learn and share about mental health, which culminated in an afternoon at the

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Edinburgh in April

I had never been to Scotland until this week. So, it was especially a privilege to visit Edinburgh with professional colleagues and members of our Global Mental Health Program (GMHP) International Advisory Board Members to meet with the Minister for

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Two Years of Five on Friday!

This Friday marks two years of Five on Friday!  Some weeks the post comes easily. Some weeks I am scratching my head for inspiration. Every week, I am challenged and gratified by the opportunity share my musings on mental health

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Is Mom Depressed?

We know some women are at increased risk for depression during and following pregnancy. We also know that when moms are depressed, kids pay a price. So maternal mental health screening is a no brainer, right? Not really… California is

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What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” So said Socrates more than 2000 years ago about the youth of ancient Greece. And it

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An Award of Our Own

Last week, I wrote about the Academy Awards and the ways in which mental health themes were addressed in certain movies nominated for Best Picture. This week, we had the privilege of presenting an award of our own. The Global Mental

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And the winner is…

Oscars will be distributed with much fanfare this Sunday evening. Extraordinary stories, scores and scenery. Each year, I look forward to watching the Academy Awards with my son, Ben, who knows far more than I do about film. I don’t

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#ArmMeWith…

This week, the President of the United States met with survivors of another deadly school shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 people were killed on the 14th of February. Let me say it again,

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Putting our Heads Together

The news comes at us rapid fire these days. And this week, I am sure I am not alone in my struggle to make sense of the tragedy of another school shooting, the embattled state of immigration policy for “the

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Love is EleMENTAL

One of the pillars of our Global Mental Health Program is our Arts and Advocacy Program. Through the engagement of the arts, our aim is to improve understanding about mental health and mental illness and promote conversations in community where

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Touch

Earlier this week, feeling sad and preoccupied by some recent events, I was making my way in a crowd of people to take my turn on an escalator that was inadequate for the demand. My head was elsewhere. My feet

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The Downside to Fostering Resilience

Some individuals are exceptionally resilient. When life knocks them down, they bounce back quickly. They refuse to let failure or hurt or loss overwhelm them.  Instead, they cope and adapt and forge on. They inspire us. But part of me

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Antipodal Mental Health

Stand up straight. Plant your feet.  Now imagine drilling from your toes, straight through the exact center of the earth and across to the other side.  When you reach the point on the earth diametrically opposite to where you are

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Gut Feelings

Over 2500 years ago, Hippocrates declared, “All diseases begin in the gut.” All? Doubtful. Some? For sure.  Mental illness? Maybe. Modern science suggests that the gut and the brain are more intimately connected than we ever imagined. And rapidly advancing research on

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Hundred Acre Wood

Lots of people flew to sandy Caribbean beaches or snowy alpine resorts for the holidays. Those in the southern hemisphere didn’t have to travel far for warm, sunny, and leisurely days. I stayed home and enjoyed the quiet of the

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A Year of Five on Fridays

Dear Readers, From post-operative depression to the opioid epidemic to the wild nature of adolescence; from Peru to Geel to Nigeria; from living to 103 and dying of a broken heart, we have covered a lot of ground in our

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Psychology 101 with Santa and Friends

Christmas is replete with mythical characters. These beloved personages speak to fundamental psychological ideas and ideals – embodying how we think, what we value, and why we feel certain ways. Not simply delightful imaginings for children, Santa and friends are

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Why I Light Hanukkah Candles

In the northern hemisphere, daylight has been dwindling and next week, December 21st, will mark the winter solstice. In my hometown of New York City, we will have almost six fewer hours of daylight than we had around the summer

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More than a Bowl of Soup

I love Thanksgiving. I love the colors of fall, the crisp air and blue skies, and the Macy’s Day Parade – for which I will be a garden gnome this year in case you are watching!  I love that it

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#FearlessSquad

Earthquakes, mass shootings, Zika virus… The world can feel like a pretty scary place sometimes, especially when we are feeling vulnerable in our personal lives. In fact, we are hardwired to experience fear, and if we didn’t know fear, we

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Rescue

Last night was the annual gala for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It was a grand but bittersweet celebration. I was inspired by refugees who shared their stories of forging on and creating new lives with IRC support. I was

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Born to Be Wild

Get your motor runnin’ | Head out on the highway | Lookin’ for adventure | And whatever comes our way …  I am a pop culture midget and even I know this song by Steppenwolf. What makes this sixties classic so

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#MeToo

Hollywood mega-mogul Harvey Weinstein made headlines this week. Not for another great film. No, this time we are watching a documentary in the making. Weinstein’s decades-long story of sexually exploitative and violent behavior against women is spewing from every media

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Mental Health in the Workplace

From the basement work cubicle to the c-suite corner office, mental health problems are everywhere in the workplace. Hiding in plain sight, people generally suffer in secrecy and in silence. This past Tuesday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day 2017 –

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Las Vegas: 58/489

The massacre that occurred in Las Vegas on Sunday evening at the Route 91 Harvest Festival killed 58 people and injured 489 others. In and of itself, it is tragic. Placed in the larger context of violence in America, it

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Shared Roots

Coinciding with the setting of the sun tonight, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar begins: Yom Kippur. It is a day of fasting, reflection and introspection. Metaphorically, within a 24 hour period, the gates will open or close and

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Let Me Hear Your Voice

This past Tuesday, while millions of citizens in Mexico were going about their daily routine, another earthquake struck. This one registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale, and as compared to the earthquake that struck the country just two weeks ago,

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