A noted mental health professional casts light on “some of the dark avenues of our lives.”
Writing for his fellow psychiatric practitioners, but in language accessible to lay readers, Sederer (The Family Guide to Mental Health Care, 2013, etc.)—chief medical officer of the New York State Office of Mental Health and the medical editor for mental health for the Huffington Post—identifies what he characterizes as four “secrets” that illustrate “opportunities in plain sight” for therapy. One is the thesis that “behavior serves a purpose.” That purpose may not be readily discernible, but, the author writes, a cornerstone of good psychiatric practice is finding the right language to allow the patient room for self-expression: “We have to ask more, in a manner that allows a person to respond, over time, knowing that they will not be judged or harmed when allowing another person access to their private and sometimes previously inaccessible thinking.” The challenges are numerous, but Sederer’s insistence on there being a discoverable reason for mental illness helps ferret out why, for instance, smart young people should fall victim to anorexia nervosa or what logic underlies manic depression. The author writes that mental health is a product of both nature and nurture; we cannot help our genes, and people have only so much control over whether their families are supportive or they are able to earn a decent living. It is in that scenario of environmental control that another of Sederer’s secrets emerges, namely that “chronic stress is the enemy.” The stress response, like all behavior, has a purpose, but acute inflammation and the endless fight or flight of modern life takes its toll. Blending cutting-edge science with therapeutic art (“positive thinking is good protection against stress and beneficial to our health”), the author offers an optimistic view of what we can do to improve our well-being.
A helpful owner’s manual for those in possession of emotions—and, more to the point, those possessed by them.