Marsha Linehan, creator of DBT, opens up about her mental health struggles

June 24, 2011

 

This week, the New York Times published an article featuring Marsha Linehan.  To those of us who are therapists, Linehan is a celebrity!  She created a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that is widely applauded as one of the most effective types of therapy to use with people who have intense emotions that often leave them feeling suicidal.  In the article, Linehan opens up about her own struggles with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and being hospitalized when no one knew how to help her.

Telling our stories, and hearing the stories of others is incredibly healing.  In part, it seems like describing our experiences connects us with other people, maybe especially when you find out that other people have been through the same or very similar experiences.  But I also think that the act of telling stories about life experiences helps people find their voice, validate their own reality, and assists people to feel more in control of the meaning they make out of their experiences.  It’s one way to make a choice to survive and thrive in life vs. allowing life to victimize and “happen to” you.

 

Opening up about experiences with mental illness or emotional struggles is still one of the most difficult areas for people to talk about.  And yet, more and more it seems that people in the public eye are beginning to tell their stories in an effort to help others feel less desperate and alone.  I think many people will benefit from reading Linehan’s story because not only is she open about the worst time in her life, she is also open about what recovery is really like – she has to continue to work to understand her emotional vulnerabilities, and practice taking care of herself so that she can keep living the life she wants.   Such a great message!

 

If you have a moment to check out the story, and its accompanying video, you can find it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

 

Another interesting project going on in Illinois is the Say It Outloud campaign, a public awareness campaign designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness by encouraging others to tell their stories and make it easier to locate mental health treatment.  You can check out the campaign, and view videos of people sharing their stories here:

http://mentalhealthillinois.org/

 

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!  Thanks for reading!

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