So you know… (S.Y.K.)

Revenge of Eye So You Know

Revenge of Eve

It’s another week in Revenge of Eve’s So You Know (S.Y.K.).  The focus for this week is mental health stigma.

This week’s questions are:

  1. Do you struggle with your mental health (ie. diagnosed)?
  2. What is the most aggravating misconception as it relates to your diagnosis?
  3. Is there a family history of mental illness within your immediate family?
  4. If you could change the stigma that surrounds mental illness, how would you go about doing so?
  5. Do you believe that maintaining our mental wellness will ever rank in importance with maintaining our physical health? Why or why not?

 

My answers:

  1. Do you struggle with your mental health (ie. diagnosed)?  I have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
  2. What is the most aggravating misconception as it relates to your diagnosis?   The idea that I’m depressed “about” something is pretty obnoxious.  But probably the most aggravation has come from employers who apply the usual stereotypes of dangerousness, unpredictability, and incompetence.
  3. Is there a family history of mental illness within your immediate family?  Nope.  The only mental illness in the family that I’m aware of is a great uncle with schizophrenia on my dad’s side of the family.
  4. If you could change the stigma that surrounds mental illness, how would you go about doing so?  I did a post not that long ago about researcher Patrick Corrigan’s book The Stigma Effect, and he said the research shows that having individual contact with “normal” people living with mental illness is the most effective way to combat stigma.  That means that we (or at least some of us), need to “come out” about living with mental illness.
  5. Do you believe that maintaining our mental wellness will ever rank in importance with maintaining our physical health? Why or why not?  No.  I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but maintenance of mental health is a pretty abstract concept, while maintenance of physical health is much easier to quantify.  Across the population I think concrete is likely to win out over abstract any day of the week.

 

About S.Y.K.:

  • There are no right or wrong answers… Your answers = Your opinion = Your life
  • Answer a few or one, whatever you are comfortable with
  • Pingback to any S.Y.K. post
  • Use the hashtag #SYK to tag your post
  • Be real.  If you feel a certain type of way, say it.  You were asked your opinion 😉 (double dog dare)

Thoughts on advice (giving & receiving)

I think we’ve probably all felt the urge at one point or another to give advice.  We see the situation someone is in, and can’t help but think if they only did X then things would be so much better for them.  Chances are most of us have also been on the receiving end of unhelpful or unwanted advice (and quite possibly on the giving end as well).  So how do we navigate this so all parties involved are getting the greatest benefit?

It seems to me that we all have different strengths of “fix it” tendencies than others.  Despite being very well-meaning, sometimes offering a fix it solution can actually have the opposite of the intended effect.  A friend of mine is very much a Mr. Fix-it type, and it’s been an ongoing issue that he will make a well-meaning attempt to fix the problem I’m talking about, and I’ll get upset because I feel invalidated.  My own Ms. Fix-it tendencies are most likely to kick in when Nurse Ashley has something to say, and I recognize that I need to put more effort into making sure that stays in check.

It’s worth considering whether or not the person is actually asking for advice.  I’ve noticed something interesting in this respect on my own blog.  I typically conclude my posts with a question to try to generate dialogue.  On some posts I’ve noticed that this gets interpreted as asking for advice.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m good with getting advice, but it does show that what seems like a request for advice may not have originally been intended that way, whether the advice ends up being welcomed or not.

It’s also useful to consider is how much is known about the context.  I find it fascinating when people who aren’t familiar with me or my blog at all will read a single post and comment with advice that doesn’t even remotely apply to me, which of course they wouldn’t realize because they don’t know me from a hole in the ground.

Another potentially tricky situation is when someone explicitly asks for advice but then doesn’t seem to be receptive to advice when it’s actually given.  Was the request for advice not genuine to begin with, or is it factors on the advice-giver’s side that are unwelcome?  Or some of both?  That’s a particularly tough situation to navigate because it seems likely that both people involved aren’t feeling that great about the interaction.

Then you have the medical advice-givers who are way off the mark.  I’m talking about the really out there advice like you should stop taking medications and go for a walk in the forest instead.  Is it worth it to point out how off the mark these people are?  Or is it better to just ignore it and move on?  Not too long ago I had a comment on a post about my health that I considered beyond out there and venturing into the territory of bizarre, and I decided it was probably better to just not even go there.  It did stick with me enough to inspire me to write this post, though, so clearly it had an effect on me.

I think it matters how we give the advice.  We can tell someone what to do (“you should do X”), make a tentative suggestion (“maybe you could try X”), or offer ourselves as an example (“I tried X and it worked well”).  I think the first option is the most likely to be met with psychological resistance (I talk more about this in my post on motivation interviewing).

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that the giving and receiving of advice is often not as simple as it may seem.  There are a lot of things to take into consideration to make sure we are getting the most out of the advice we both give and receive, and being mindful of those things can help to make run more smoothly.

 

P.S.  A huge thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of my book Psych Meds Made Simple yesterday!  💖

 

Free to download today! My book Psych Meds Made Simple 🎉

psych meds made simple

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, has been out in the world for 2 weeks now, and I’m thrilled by the positive response so far!  The book is aimed at helping people who take psych meds to be empowered to  make informed decisions about their mental illness treatment.

Today, Feb 18, the ebook is available for free on Amazon.com (.co.uk and .ca)  Make sure to pick up your copy!

And if you could leave a rating or a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads that would be awesome!

Psych Meds Made Simple is also available on in paperback format.

 

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Options to make money with blogging

Chronic illness, whether it’s mental or physical, can make it hard to hold down a full-time job, or even a job at all.  Over the last year I haven’t been able to work much, and while luckily I’ve still got a fairly substantial amount of savings, I’ve started looking at alternate ways of potentially bringing in a bit of money (and to give you an idea of what I’m aiming for, by “a bit” I’m thinking a few dollars).  I thought I’d share some of my research in case it’s relevant to other people.

Affiliate marketing

Amazon is the most popular, but there are multiple others.  Essentially the way these work is if someone clicks through from your blog to Amazon (for example) and buys a product, Amazon (or whoever) will give you a kickback.  This is already built into the price of the product on Amazon, so whether someone buys using your link or not, they’re paying the same price.  It’s also the basic idea behind rebate sites like Ebates.

I’ll talk a bit about the nuts and bolts of Amazon since it’s the one I’m familiar with.  First, you sign up with Amazon’s Associates.  It’s a separate sign-up depending on which domain you’re using: .com, .co.uk, .ca, etc.  Getting paid can get a bit more difficult if the majority of your readers are in a different country than you are.  For example, Amazon.com doesn’t do direct deposit into Canadian bank accounts, and they take a percentage cut as  processing fee if they mail you a cheque.  An alternative is to get payment loaded onto an Amazon gift card (although this is also not  transferable among different Amazon country sites).

From the Associates Central site you’re able to get unique links for Amazon products that you can use on your site.  If you’re browsing around Amazon while logged in with your affiliate account, there will be a bar at the top of the screen that will give you a ink for the particular product page you’re looking at.  Amazon requires that you explicitly state on your site that you’re using affiliate links.

Amazon also has a “bounty program”, although it’s not available for every country (.com has it, .ca doesn’t).  If someone uses your affiliate link and signs up for an Amazon service like Prime, Amazon Music, Audible, or Kindle Unlimited, then Amazon will pay you a set dollar amount (a “bounty”).  Depending on the specific bounty offer, they may pay you even if the person just signs up for a free trial.

I decided recently to incorporate Amazon affiliate marketing into my book review posts, since it seemed like a pretty natural fit, and my focus is on bounty programs that relate to books.  Will I make a dollar or two?  Maybe, maybe not, but the effort involved is pretty low, so I figured it was worth a try.

Site referrals

On some sites, if you are a member and refer someone else who becomes a member (and makes whatever is designated as a qualifying purchase), you get a bonus.  Depending on the site the person you refer may get a bonus as well.  On the rebate site Ebates, both of you  get a bonus, whereas on Groupon, just the person that makes the referral gets a bonus.  You can set up referral buttons/links on your blog.  As an example, my referral buttons from Ebates are:

Ebates.ca                ebates

On-blog advertising

With the WordPress premium and business plans there are site monetization options, including advertising or setting up a Paypal button.  I have the personal plan, so I don’t actually have experience with this myself, and therefore I can’t give you any details on the logistics.  From what I’ve read it sounds like you need pretty high traffic volumes on your site to make much money with on-page ads.  An alternative to a Paypal for getting donations is the buy a coffee sites in the next section.

Buy a coffee

Buymeacoffee.com is a way for readers to donate to your blog.  The payments go through the Buymeacoffee site, and you get a link/button that you can post on your website.   There is the option for people to donate $3, $4, or $5, and there is also an option for people to support you on a monthly basis.  Payments go through Stripe, which accepts credit cards.  Buymeacoffee takes a 5% cut of any donations you receive, and Stripe takes a small amount as well.  There is also the option to create Coffeelinks, and if someone pays the price you’ve set then they will be given a link to whatever sort of premium content that you’ve created.

Ko-fi.com is similar, but with a slightly different payment model.  Just like buymeacoffee, you get a link and buttons that you can display on your website.  Ko-fi has regular and “gold” memberships.  With regular memberships, you can only collect donations via Paypal, and these are set at $3.  Ko-fi doesn’t take a cut at all.  The gold membership is $6/month, which allows you to take donations via Paypal or Stripe (credit card) and customize the donation amount.  Ko-fi doesn’t take a cut from each transaction.  The gold membership also allows you to offer premium content with no extra fees.  A new feature with the gold plan is that you can list services that people will be able to commission you for.

Premium content

Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi allow you to offer some premium content, but Patreon is a site that’s entirely focused on premium content.  People can sign up for a monthly subscription and get whatever content you create for them, whether that by writing, podcasts, videos, or whatever else you can come up with.  The payments go through Patreon, and they take a 5% cut.  You can set different membership tiers.  Alternately, you can charge people only when you create content, but I’m not really sure how that works.  I’ve set up an account just to poke around on the site with, but I haven’t created any content or subscribed to anyone’s content on Patreon, so there’s not that much I’m able to say about it.

Sites that pay based on post views

I’ve published a number of posts on different Vocal.media platforms.  As long as you meet their standards, they’ll publish your post.  They won’t publish posts you’ve already published on your own blog, but you can spruce up old material.   I find I don’t get many views besides what I drive there myself via my blog, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Their algorithm for determining how much you get paid per view is secret, but it’s fractions of a cent.  There is also the opportunity for readers to leave you tips.  The amount of money I’m making is minimal.  I’ve received 3 tips, 2 of which have been from Vocal Media themselves, presumably as an encouragement to keep creating content.  One positive is that articles on their sites seem to do pretty well in Google search result rankings.

I’ve had a little more success with Medium.com‘s partnership program.  They will pay you based on how much site members (who pay a $5/month fee) interact with the posts that you designate for the partnership program.  If you have a post accepted by a Medium publication, such as Invisible Illness, you can get broader exposure than you otherwise would on your own.  It’s still not much money, but it’s something.  Medium allows you to repost things that you’ve published already, although specific publications on Medium have different preferences around that.  Invisible Illness doesn’t require original content.

Publishing ebooks

There’s no up-front cost to self-publish on Amazon, so you could publish even a few mini-ebooks and make a bit of money that way.  You can find out more about self-publishing on my post the bloggers guide to the basics of self-publishing.

 

So there you have it, this is what I’ve learned with my assorted digging around.  Making much money blogging/writing isn’t going to happen any time soon (if ever) for me, but it’s been interesting to find out some of the various ways to make a few dollars.

Are there any other possibilities that you’ve heard about or tried?

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

 

 

Comment spam comedy corner

From what I understand, the goal of mass spam comments is to get people to click on their links.  The comments are written to try to convince spam detectors that they’re legit comments rather than spam.  Wordpress uses Akismet as a spam filter.  If you haven’t stumbled across your comment spam inbox yet, go to “My Site” in WordPress and then click on “Comments” in the “Manage” section.  There will be a menu bar near the top of the screen that lets you looks at all, pending, approved, spam, and trash.

In the early part of last year I found that a fair number of legit comments were getting marked as spam, but this has greatly improved over the last couple months.  The real spam comments seem to come and go in waves, and the content is variable.  Sometimes they’re clearly advertisements, sometimes they’re written like generic but legit comments, and other times they’re just plain bizarre.  I check my comment spam inbox somewhat regularly just in case some legit comments are getting captured, and it can be pretty amusing to read some of the spam.

Here are a few that caught my eye recently.

  • “A defence waving through Bayern Munichs players to score in the manner of Toytown traffic policemen.”

 

  • “Martial dinks a teasing cross from the left which Zlatan rises to meet with a firm flick of his man bun.”  I’m curious what would be involved in flicking one’s man bun… then again, maybe I’m better off not knowing.

 

  • “The results fuck established that majuscule product of Group who fighting with a practice Soup-strainer see it nasty to systematically Copse victimisation capable framework when compared to galvanic Toothbrushes.”

 

  • A comment about becoming an adult webcam model suggests: “Bright colors such as red, orange, blue, green and pink attract more customers, so you should also be matching the colors of your sheets/curtains with your clothing.”

 

  • “Right hole maintenance at the rectify experience provides us the opulence of imagination for a someone period.”

 

  • “I unremarkably reefer with my decision, but prepare digit fruit or sagaciousness disclose for the fallout of the nipper heading.”

 

  • “As semipermanent as we mollify our sprightliness for the older with recent knowledge, so our approval of Afrasian wellness habits power not be a sad attribute.”

 

  • “The recent government also gave a priority to public fettle and to issues of ?inequalities? in well-being and happiness and ?social bar?. Thus, more chlorine needs to infected birds, or droppings from infected birds.”

 

  • “So the adjacent period you experience tempted to vex that brobdingnagian gluey donut, recall almost the impression it mightiness deliver on your mind also as your embody! If you undergo you are honk much than you would ilk to be, luckily, you pot know stairs to act boosting your vector system.”

 

  • “yay google is my king assisted me to find this outstanding website !”

 

  • “I think that your web blog is rattling interesting and holds circles of great info.”  I can’t be sure if the “rattling” here is nonsense or some random British slang word… it can be hard to tell sometimes.

 

Are there any particular gems you’ve gotten on your blog?

Weekend wrap-up

wrapping paper, ribbon, and twine

Rawpixel on Pixabay

Here’s what happened in my life over the past week:

  • I hit 500 posts on my blog.  I’ve found as both the number of posts and the number of images I’ve used grow, WordPress gets slower and more stumbly.  I really notice this when trying to find an image I’ve previously used.
  • Pinterest stats puzzle me and I’m not entirely sure they’re accurate.  I’ve been humming along at around 70K monthly views for a while now, and all of a sudden I’m up over 200K.  It’s certainly not anything I’ve done differently.
  • This has been another week of not feeling well physically.  All week I’ve been coughing, trying with minimal success to clear thick gunk out of my lungs.  I’m also still experiencing psychomotor retardation.  It’s felt a bit weird the couple of times I’ve gone out to the grocery store; everyone is moving so much faster than I am, even an elderly lady with a walker!
  • I had a night shift at one of my jobs that I had booked a while back.  I decided to go ahead and do it since usually there’s not a whole lot involved.  Plus I don’t like that I’m mostly living off my savings, so a bit of income is probably a good thing.  Anyway, it was very tiring but I got through it, only to have a migraine hit on my drive home.  Fun.
  • Aside from that I’ve done very little this week.  Bed is definitely my preferred place to be.

 

How has your week been?

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

Let’s Do This Together!

Interested in venturing beyond WordPress? Check out what Dee has to say.

Thriving Not Surviving

I’m ready!  I have several people who have contacted me about collaborating.  I’d love to have more.  What WordPress has shown me is that we all achieve more when we support each other.  (Did you miss my post I Hope You Will Join Me! to learn more!)

I am ready to begin what I know will be an amazing journey and if you are interested I do hope you will join us.

Together we will build a community of some sort.  We will work out the details together.  So, if you’re a blogger looking to get discovered outside of WordPress please contact me!  Anyone is welcome, but specifically I’m hoping to find people who:

  1. Have a mental health, parenting, or self-improvement blog who wants to get discovered off of WordPress (if your blog is in a different area and you want to join lets figure out how you fit!)
  2. Have…

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What is… anosognosia?

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: anosognosia

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard this term before, so let’s break it down.  Agnosia is an inability to recognize people or things.  Nosology is the classification of diseases.  Throw the two together, and you get anosognosia, which is a lack of self-awareness of one’s own disease/disorder.

Sometimes anosognosia can occur as a result of traumatic brain injury or some other form of physical damage like a stroke.  In this case it is treated as a neurological disorder.

Anosognosia is also used to describe a total lack of insight into mental illness.  It refers both to a lack of awareness that what one is experiencing is as a result of illness, and an inability to recognize that treatment could be beneficial.   Insight can exist on a continuum ranging from good to none (i.e. anosognosia), and it requires higher-level brain functions (particularly involving the prefrontal cortex) to properly self-evaluate.  In mental illness, sometimes those higher-level functions are impaired, reducing the individual’s capacity to recognize their own illness.

People with psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia are more likely to have a lack of insight. Poor insight is not uncommon in acute mania.  In depression, there may be a lack of insight if the person attributes what they are experiencing to being fundamentally a horrible human being.

Disagreeing with a diagnosis is not in and of itself a lack of insight.  Someone might recognize that they are experiencing symptoms of an illness, but disagree with their physician on what condition best accounts for those symptoms.  Someone with partial insight might recognize that they’ve had a decline in functioning, but have no idea what accounts for it.  Partial insight could also be manifested as awareness that certain symptoms are due to illness, but believing that other effects are not.  As an example, someone with schizophrenia might recognize that hallucinations are probably due to their illness, but remain firmly fixed in their belief that a delusional idea is reality-based.

Lack of insight related to the need for treatment isn’t the same as declining a particular form of treatment someone doesn’t wish to have, or deciding that the potential downsides outweigh the potential benefits.  It is more of an issue of the effects of the illness reducing one’s capacity to recognize that treatment would be helpful and reasonably consider the pros and cons.  This is where involuntary treatment may come into play.

There is a test called the Beck Cognitive Insight Scale, which I hadn’t previously heard of, that was developed to evaluate the extent to which people experiencing psychosis were able to integrate reality-oriented feedback about their delusions.  Some of the items on the 15-item scale are:

  • “My interpretations of my experiences are definitely right.”
  • “Some of the ideas I was certain were true turned out to be false.”
  • “If something feels right, it means that it is right.”
  • “I cannot trust other people’s opinion about my experiences.”
  • “If somebody points out that my beliefs are wrong, I am willing to consider it.”

While a standardized test might be helpful to quantify variations over time, in my work as a mental health nurse it’s usually fairly easy to determine the level of insight someone has without using any form of structured test.

With my own illness, I’ve generally had pretty good insight.  I haven’t aways agreed with treatment providers, but that has had more to do with my opinion of them than any lack of awareness of my symptoms.

What has your insight been like over the course of your illness?

 

Sources:

You can find the rest of my What Is series on my blog index.

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

Happy un-Valentine’s day

crafted hearts and flowers

For those of us who are single, whether we want to be or not, Valentine’s day can feel like it’s created for the express purpose of making single people feel shitty about themselves.

Saint Valentine is a Catholic saint who is also recognized in the Anglican and Lutheran churches.  His history isn’t entirely clear, but he is said to have restored a young woman’s sight, and was later executed for trying to convert the Roman emperor Claudius to Christianity.  Sometime in the Middle Ages St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) became associated with love, although there are conflicting stories as to how this came about.

So, one ancient white dude had another ancient white dude killed, and now single people are made to feel crappy and coupled people are spending a shit-ton of money on flowers and chocolates and what have you in celebration.

Yeah, no thank you.  Instead, happy un-Valentine’s day to all the other single people out there, and tomorrow we can go to the store and buy all the leftover chocolate at half price.  Now that’s something worth celebrating.

I Hope You Will Join Me!

Check out this great idea that Dee has!

Thriving Not Surviving

I have an idea.  And the more I think about this idea, the more excited I get.  I hope you will feel the same because I want you to join me!

For at least 15 years, maybe more, I’ve had this dream of creating my future.  I was taught growing up that the “right” way to be successful was to go to college (which I paid for myself) and then get a “good” job.  I have followed this path all my life.  I have to say that although I don’t like my current job, and I find it infinitely frustrating at times, it is by anyone’s standards a “good” job.  It’s better than good.  It pays well.  The benefits are great (not just hard benefits like health insurance and retirement, but also soft ones like working from home and lots of paid vacation).  It’s also flexible and has allowed me…

View original post 660 more words

Book review: No More Grumpies

Book cover: No More Grumpies

Here’s a quickie second book review for today, No More Grumpies by fellow blogger Maranda Russell.

This lovely children’s book will likely remind any adult of their own grumpy moments from their childhood. The little boy’s complaint “This bacon isn’t crispy enough” was music to my ears. As the book follows little Michael through a variety of grumpy moments, his mom tells him not to be grumpy, and he tries his best to do what he says. As the book nears the end, Michael gets in trouble for his grumpies in a delightfully positive twist.
This is a great little book for both children and adults alike.

Book review: What Is The Worst Case Scenario?

Book cover: What is the worse case scenario?

What Is the Worst Case Scenario? by Marie Abanga includes a foreword by mental health advocate and Olympian Amy Gamble. For anyone familiar with Marie’s blog, you will very much recognize her distinctive voice in this book.

Marie explains that writing this book was “my journey to a new me, a me who wants to keep facing and fighting fear, and also a me who wants to share with the world in all candidness.”  She shows her own evolution from FEAR as in Fold Everything And Run to instead Face Everything And Rise.

This memoir covers the birth of her sons, her marriage that turned out to be a sham, and her her own mental health challenges.  She shares that while pregnant with her third son things became so desperate that she picked up a knife and was ready to end her life.  It was feeling her son kicking inside her that saved her.

After her marriage ended, she left her sons at home in her native country of Cameroon and went to live in Belgium.  While living there she had to deal with the death of her brother as well as others stressors, and she became depressed and started having panic attacks.

She writes about the various fears she has had to tackle, including fear of failure, fear of love, and fear of being happy.

She explains that in Cameroon, mental illness tends to be attributed to “witchcraft, greed, or maybe a crazy lineage.”  Inspired in part by her brother’s experience of mental illness before his death, she chose to become a mental health advocate.  She writes: “Whenever I smell stigma, I spray more spirit on the open cut to burn it out and tell it to its darkness that I am an over-comer.”  She includes posts that other bloggers have shared about stigma.  Throughout the book there are also quotes included from various inspirational sources, including Maya Angelou.

This story captures Marie’s spirit and ability to persevere through adversity.  She has chosen to be vulnerable in sharing her story, and in doing so demonstrates how much strength there is in vulnerability.

 

You can find Marie on Marie Abanga’s Blog.

 

You can find my other book reviews here.

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

 

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This post contains affiliate links.  By using these links to sign up for services or make purchases on Amazon you are helping to support my blog at no extra cost to you.

The Pharma-psychiatry tango: necessary evil or dance with the devil?

This is a follow-up to a recent post on why I think direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is wrong. This post is going to look specifically at marketing by drug companies aimed at health care professionals.  Primarily this marketing targets physicians, since they’re doing the majority of the prescribing.

There are multiple different forms this marketing can take. One example is the drug reps that go around to medical offices. They’ll schmooze with physicians and do things like provide written information about the drug, give samples, and hand out assorted merch like pens and notepads so that their product name is in front of the prescriber’s eyeballs more often.  While drug reps receive training on their particular set of drugs, in most cases they don’t have health professional training.

Drug companies will also sponsor educational activities. They may sponsor a hospital’s departmental grand rounds, providing free lunch for an event that would have gone ahead with or without sponsorship.  A drug rep would often be there, happy for the opportunity to schmooze.

A pharmaceutical company might also bring in a speaker, typically a psychiatrist, to give a talk about the company’ drug.  This might be a local psychiatrist who the audience will already know and presumably trust, or someone who’s brought in from elsewhere and has strong credentials.  Typically there is food involved, because who doesn’t love free food, right?

Another strategy is to sponsor continuing education activities that are geared at a broader audience, which may take the form of a free webinar.  All health professionals have some form of continuing education requirements they have to meet every year, and the opportunity to get free continuing education hours can be attractive.

There are pros and cons with all of this.  Health professionals do need to learn about new drugs that are on the market.  Just because a talk is being sponsored by  a drug company does not necessarily mean that the speaker will be heavily biased.  Sometimes the featured speakers at drug company sponsored events are widely recognized as experts in their field.

Sometimes health care organizations will put restrictions on sponsored activities occurring onsite.  I remember earlier in my career going to grand rounds at the hospital I worked at and munching on drug company-funded lunch.  A few years later the healthy authority I worked at put the kibosh on sponsored events at any of the health authority’s sites.  I’ve been to a couple drug company-sponsored dinners, one with a speaker they’d brought in from elsewhere, and one with a local psychiatrist I really respected.  I fairly regularly do continuing education webinars that are free because of drug company sponsorship.  I like to think that I’m enough of an informed consumer of information to be able to evaluate what’s being given to me, and recognize that, sponsored or not, one particular talk is never going to give me the whole picture on the topic.

This is pure speculation, but I wonder if the most potential iffy part of what I’ve talked about so far is drug reps going into family doctors’ offices.  Psychiatrists are only really keeping up to date about new psychiatry meds, and the same is true with other specialties. General practitioners often have little free time, and they have to learn about a much wider range of new drugs.  Chances are, they’re going to be relying a little more on what they’re getting from drug reps.  Still, a health professional should have the background information to put new info from drug reps into a proper context, something that’s just not possible when it comes to direct-to-consumer advertising.

All of this is small potatoes compared to the potential for corruption at higher levels.  Drug companies’ primary objective is to generate profit for their shareholders.  Yes, it would be nice if they were concerned about the wellbeing of the people taking their drugs, but that’s not the reality of capitalism.  It may not be very nice, but it is what it is, and there’s no point pretending otherwise.  The problem really comes if the drug companies are getting in bed with regulators or with major medical organizations.  In an ideal world, the drug companies would be at not just arm’s length from regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but more like football field length.  Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world, and that kind of thing can be difficult to enforce.  What if John Smith worked at the FDA for years, and decides he’s ready to make some big bucks and takes a position at a drug company.  It’s pretty tough to regulate away that influence John Smith is still going to have with all his old buddies at the FDA.  It’s the old boys’ club at its finest.

Concerns have been raised about drug companies having undue influence with the American Psychiatric Association’s committee responsible for developing the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).  The fact that the people on the committee have received either research funding or speaking fees from drug company doesn’t inherently mean they’re biased.  Often, prominent figures within a specialty field are particularly sought after by drug companies for that kind of thing; it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily drug company flunkies.  Yet the old boys’ club appearance is still there.

I think sometimes arguments in that area go a bit too far and throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.  Sometimes GlaxoSmithKline, the makes of Paxil, are accused of inventing social anxiety disorder as a way to sell more Paxil.  Whatever role they did or did not play in the inclusion of social anxiety disorder in the DSM, there are many sufferers who would attest that social anxiety disorder is all too real and all too debilitating.

Of all of these areas, the relationships between drug companies and regulators like the FDA are most likely to cause damage, and that damage can occur on a very broad scale.  If alarming research results are being hushed up because the drug companies are too cozy with the FDA, that’s dangerous.  What is the answer, though?  I wish I knew.

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

The blogger’s guide to the basics of self-publishing

book lying on grass surrounded by leaves

I did quite a bit of research on this topic for my book that came out last week, and I’ve seen several bloggers mention that they’re also contemplating doing books at some point, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned.  I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve managed to get past the initial deer in the headlights phase.

Where to publish

There are multiple ways to publish a book, and you can stick to one or do a a mix of several.  Amazon is the biggest fish in the sea with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.  They allow you to publish an ebook and/or paperback with no up front costs to you.  I’ll come back to them soon.

You can also publish directly through other book publishing platforms.  Apple’s iBooks is one option, and they have an iBook Author app that can help.  If you use Apple’s Pages word processing software, in your file menu there’s a “publish to Apple Books” option built right in  Apple’s market share is fairly small, so you probably won’t want that to be your only option.  Rakuten’s Kobo has a larger share of the ebook market than Apple, and their Writing Life platform can be used to prepare a manuscript to publish with Kobo.  Kobo ebooks can be read on Kobo ereaders or using the Kobo app.  You can set your ebook price, and it looks like typically royalties would be 70%

You can also publish through a distributor like Smashwords.  They will help you put together your book, and then distribute it to various booksellers including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other platforms like OverDrive that sells to public libraries.  You don’t pay an upfront fee to publish your book, but they will take a cut of sales.  Your royalty on sales would depend on where the sale was made.  Your royalties are going to end up being lower than if you dealt with each of the different selling platforms directly, but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of having Smashwords do all the work.  There are a variety of similar distributors out there, but Smashwords is the only one I’ve looked into.

Ebooks on Amazon

While you have the option of publishing your book through several platforms, simplicity can be nice, especially when you’re starting out.  Amazon has a program called KDP Select, in which you agree to publish your ebook exclusively through Amazon.  They obviously would prefer if you did this, and there are two key draws.  You have to be enrolled in KDP Select for your book to be available through Kindle Unlimited, where people pay a monthly fee and can read as many books as they want.  The royalties you would get from Kindle Unlimited would depend on how much your book was read.  The other drawing point for KDP Select is that you get higher royalties on book sales (typically 70%).

There is a Kindle Create app that will help you format your book from a Word document.  You can design your book cover using Amazon’s online Cover Creator tool, or you can make your own using a site like Canva (which is what I did).  There’s also the option of paying a designer to come up with something fancier.  KDP ebooks are formatted to be read by either Kindle ereaders or the Kindle Reader app, which can be downloaded onto your desktop/laptop or mobile device.

Paperbacks on Amazon

Amazon gives you guidance on how to format your manuscript for a paperback, and they have Microsoft Word templates that you can use.  I decided to do it without using a template, and it wasn’t particularly difficult, although I use Apple Pages rather than Microsoft Word, so it took a bit of extra time to figure out how to do some of the steps.

Amazon will print paperbacks of your book on demand, i.e. when someone orders one.  They let you know how much it will cost to print the book so your book can be priced accordingly.  Because the books are printed on-demand, you don’t have to pay money up front for them to have a supply available.  You can choose the extended distribution option to make your paperback available through retailers other than Amazon, but you get a much lower royalty for books sold that way.

Paperbacks need to have an ISBN (international standard book number); this is optional for ebooks.  KDP will give you a free ISBN, and the publisher associated with that ISBN will be listed as “independently published”.  You can also purchase your own ISBN, and this allows you to designate your own publisher name.  I haven’t been able to figure out why this would be worth paying for, but in Canada we can get free ISBNs through the government, so I was officially published by Mental Health @ Home Books.  It’s kind of fun, but not so fun that I’d be willing to cough up money for it.

The actual volume of information that KDP makes available can be a bit daunting  at first.  A good place to start is their KDP Jumpstart learning series to help you get familiar with all the different aspects of self-publishing.  It takes you through everything step by step, and I found it quite helpful.

Promotion

Publishing a book also means promoting your book.  Obviously your blog is a good place to do this, as well as social media.  There are a number of bloggers out there publishing books, so watch what they’re doing and get ideas from them.  Marketing is definitely not my forte, so it’s something I’m fumbling along with and trying to figure out as best I can.

To help potential readers get to know a bit more about you, you can create an author page on Amazon or whatever platform you publish on.  Goodreads is another good place to create an author page.  There are a variety of other book sites like AUTHORSdb and iAuthor that you can sign up with to help put your book out there to the world.  Booklife from Publisher’s Weekly has some good resources.

You can also check out Writers With Mental Illness (also on Twitter), which aims to support writers with mental illness and neurodiversity.

 

For my book I decided to go with Amazon and with KDP Select, in large part for the sake of simplicity.  My paperback will be available through extended distribution as well, only because I’m hoping my local library will pick it up as part of their local indie author program.  So far I’ve been happy with the Amazon experience, although the Kindle Create app didn’t do everything that I wanted it to do.

Are you thinking of publishing a book at some point?  Have you started researching options yet?

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

 

So You Know

Revenge of Eye So You Know

 

So You Know (S.Y.K.) is a new weekly challenge from Revenge of Eve.  This week’s questions are:

  • What is the soul?
  • What is religion?
  • What is spirituality?
  • What purpose do humans serve in the scheme of things?

 

What is the soul?

I conceptualize the soul as the energy that is contained within our body.  I also think of the physics law of conservation of energy, and so it makes sense to me that when we die the energy contained within us goes back into the earth.  Sort of a Lion King circle of life kind of deal.

What is religion?

When I think religion I think of organized belief systems that address broad issues like a higher power, greater purpose, and the meaning of life and death.  While this is something that can potentially give people a great deal of comfort, particularly during difficult times, rigid adherence to doctrine can cause a lot of problems.  It can also get in the way of acceptance of others, especially those with different belief systems, although that’s probably more about certain people’s interpretation than anything else.  The number of people who have been killed throughout history related to religious beliefs is truly frightening, and to me it shows that at its core religion may be about a higher power, but in practice its led by fallible humans who can become corrupted by power.

Personally the idea of an organized belief system doesn’t sit very well with me, so I am not and never will be a religious person.  My parents were atheists as well, so it’s probably not too surprising that I turned out this way.

What is spirituality?

I see spirituality as each person’s individual beliefs around the same sort of broader questions that religion addresses.  Spirituality may be based highly, somewhat, or not at all on religious beliefs.  Spiritual practices can include anything that allows us as individuals to connect with something greater than the microcosm of ourselves.

What purpose do humans serve in the scheme of things?

I’m not convinced there is a greater scheme of things, but I think if we can be compassionate towards others then we’ve done what we came here for.

 


 

If you want to join in, these are the S.Y.K. guidelines:

  • There are no right or wrong answers… Your answers = Your opinion = Your life
  • Answer a few or one, whatever you are comfortable with
  • Pingback to any S.Y.K. post
  • Use the hashtag #SYK to tag your post
  • Be real.  If you feel a certain type of way, say it.  You were asked your opinion 😉 (double dog dare)