Social Media Maven (in-the-making)

NOTE: I have changed course a bit since I wrote this. However, Depression + Social Media are still relevant. okcontinueon

Oh, this poor blog. How I have neglected you so!

When you check your #WordPress site stats, do you ever see images run through your head, of people all over the world who’ve read your blog? In my case, the scant peoples who have read your blog.

If you’re like me, you’ve barely kept your blog alive with the occasional, sporadic and random ‘CPR post.’ When I birthed this blog in 2008, I wanted a place to share my creations on the interwebs. I was writing poetry, composing and recording songs, and taking a LOT of photos with my phone and the D-SLR camera I purchased on a whim, circa 2009.

However, as you can see in the graph below, my writing has been erratic and declining over the years. Note: I started graduate school in 2013. Not that I’m looking for an excuse.

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I’m in my last month of graduate school and, omg am I ready to exert my energies and brainpower toward what I want to do: Write.

Write and get paid for it. More specifically, I’ve been spending my days learning as much as I can about social media marketing and/or management. I want to utilize my writing chops as well as my systems-oriented skills.

I started in the Couple and Family Therapy Program at Antioch University Seattle; a year ago, I discovered that being a therapist was no longer my goal. When in internship, I felt anxious and insecure but now I know that those feelings were my body and subconscious mind trying to tell me something.

I changed course and transferred to the Non-Clinical Psychology Program. In lieu of working with clients, I’m conducting research for my final project. Research geek alert!The current title is, Examining the Potential of Utilizing Social Media to Address Employee #Depression. (It’s my study, I get to put a hashtag in the title of a research paper if I want.)

All this to say, I am soaking up social media like a sponge on a hot summer’s day.

It occurred to me that I can share the little tips and tricks I’ve been learning with all of you wonderful readers, but not on silent retreat (this blog.)

I’ve decided to close this chapter of my #bloglife and start anew. This blog’s not going anywhere, though.

My new blog will be on (don’t look yet – it’s not ready!), where I’ll share my social media ventures, pearls and perils. The huge roadblock of not having professional experience has earned me many kind “thanks but no thanks” responses. It’s frustrating!

On my new blog, I plan to write articles that I curate to learn and practice skills that’ll get me closer to my goal: To metamorphose in to a Social Media Maven.

What you can expect: infographics galore; practice creating products like landing pages and white papers (stuff I don’t know – yet); a series of logos I make for imaginary brands; my frustrations and insights; bad puns and poetry about social media. It’s gonna be geekalicious. (I’m joining the GeekGirlCon team this year as a volunteer copywriter, so the nerd factor is gonna be at an all-time high, folks.)

In the meantime, you can check out my latest pieces in my writing portfolio.

When is ready, I would love your company. <3

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My first practice logo. Made with #OnlineLogoMaker.


Hidden pictures.

“Hidden Pictures,” a Mental Health Documentary, Confronts a Global Stigma

Sonal is in a private garden, tugging at her necklace; a weariness in her eyes, she tells us, “I sometimes think, Is there a monster in me?” She’s a young woman with thick black hair and a kind face softened by big brown eyes. She lives in New Delhi with her mom, who worries that her daughter won’t find a husband. Sonal leaves home only when her mom takes her — over two hours each way — to see her psychiatrist: Sonal has schizophrenia.

In Hidden Pictures, physician and Seattle filmmaker Delaney Ruston takes us around the world and introduces us to individuals like Sonal who live with mental illness. The film screened at STIFF in early May, and was voted “most moving documentary” by the festival’s judges. Ruston says it will air on PBS stations soon. (Her documentary,Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, which recounted her experience of her father and his schizophrenia, also aired on PBS.)

Through her lens we travel to five countries: India, South Africa, China, France, and the United States. We see glimpses of what life is like with a mental disorder, and how mental illness is viewed and treated in different parts of the world. The film is a patchwork of people with varying illnesses in assorted cultures, and as the personal stories unfold, we see that stigma permeates all borders. In this pioneering documentary,Hidden Pictures exposes us to an intimate view of mental illness on a global level.

In South Africa we meet Buyisva who has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. Like Sonal, she isolates herself from her community. “Maybe they will laugh,” she says. On the other hand, in Beijing, Tang Lei (“Jeff”) has been institutionalized for eight years with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, though he doesn’t appear to have a mental disorder.

Comparatively, France has one of the best health care systems in the world. All mental health care costs are covered, including therapy sessions for family members, but despite tremendous federal support, societal stigma remains. To treat his depression and anxiety, Steve spends six months at an inpatient hospital on the government’s dime, but after his recovery, he feels he has to hide his mental illness to find work. Steve’s mom doesn’t know what to tell people about her son so she avoids social events. The barnacle of shame that clings to mental illness affects more than the afflicted.

Anecdotally at least, it’s apparent that stigma against mental illness runs rampant. Regardless of culture, the shame associated with mental disorders exists in all demographics. Ruston “found it nearly impossible to find someone affected by mental illness — even leaders in mental health activist groups” she told Global Pulse, who was “willing to appear on-camera.” Stigma, Ruston concludes in her film, is found in “poor countries, rich countries, and countries known for strong family ties.”

Over 450 million people across the globe have a mental illness, but this number only represents incidences that have been reported, notes the World Health Organization. Almost half of those reported to have a mental disorder live in a country where there is one psychiatrist or less to serve 200,000 people. That’s like eight psychiatrists serving the 1.6 million people living in Manhattan, explains Global Pulse’s Emily Judem: “Worldwide spending on mental health is less than US$2 per person, per year. In low-income countries, that number drops to less than 25 cents per person, per year.”

In fact, claims mental health advocate Vikram Patel, “the treatment gap between developing and developed countries is 90%, and 50% of people in Europe don’t get care.”

If you see Hidden Pictures, it will be hard to ignore the role that stigma plays in the dire state of global mental health care. The degree of support that can be provided hinges on how high the stigma barrier climbs. Ruston aims to arm viewers with the knowledge and awareness needed to continue to break down the stigma barrier. The shame and misunderstanding surrounding mental illness must be dispelled, she argues, for effective progress to be made worldwide.


Original article published on The SunBreak is here.

The girl who knew too much: a story of suicide.

I recently had the opportunity to view footage of and write about a documentary in-the-making about a story of suicide. This will be an amazing film and I can’t wait to to see it. In the meantime. An article I wrote as a guest contributor to The SunBreak:


Seattle Documentary Filmmakers Talk About a Subject’s Suicide

Special to The SunBreak by Odawni AJ Palmer.

Suicide is an increasingly significant global public health problem but stigma and other cultural and social factors keep suicide out of public discourse. It’s a silent and solitary act that needs to be talked about at a higher volume.

After viewing a 30-minute rough cut of Scott Squire and Amy Benson’s documentary footage of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, which explores their subject’s suicide in Nepal, this is exactly what we did — a panel-led audience of filmmakers, educators, human rights activists, mental health specialists, and native Nepalese — we talked.

Before they rolled footage, local filmmakers Squire and Benson gave a brief introduction of how they arrived at West Seattle’s Youngstown Cultural Center, presenting this concept piece. In 2008, the couple traveled to Nepal to begin a documentary about education changing the lives of girls who’d received school scholarships via a non-governmental organization’s program.

One of the girls, Shanta, captured their attention with her intelligence and ambition, so they followed her on her journey.  The following year, after the couple returned to Seattle to take a break from filmmaking, they learned that Shanta had hung herself. Devastated and confused, Squire and Benson returned to Nepal and interviewed her family about Shanta’s suicide. They wanted to try to understand what happened. What went wrong? What could have been done to help Shanta? Why did Shanta commit suicide?

Why does anyone commit suicide?

With The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Squire and Benson have the tragic opportunity to show us what it looks like before someone acts to take her life. They asked us to consider some questions as we watched the footage: What theme speaks to you? What did Shanta need? Why should we care? What can we do?

It’s clear that Shanta was isolated by her pursuit of education.

“Being smart is difficult in my situation,” she says. She has moved to the city to attend school, and away from her parents and younger sister who live in a low-resource rural community. She now lives in a crammed studio space with her brother, sister-in-law, and toddler-aged niece. Shanta sits at her “desk,” the edge of the family’s shared bed, maintaining focus on her studies as her niece makes many attempts to play and her sister-in-law sits nearby.

The film cuts to a later interview with her sister-in-law: “It’s not good to be over intelligent. Look what happened to her,” she says after Shanta has killed herself. The sister-in-law blames intelligence and Shanta’s drive to learn, rather than consider that Shanta’s decision to kill herself was possibly a result of a deep internal pain. (Suicide is illegal and punishable in Nepal.) The disconnect is clear.

Additionally, Shanta is a Dalit, a member of a lower Indian caste. She gets shoved out of line by women of a higher caste when she goes to town to collect water.  She is met with regular social oppression and discrimination but Shanta keeps with the “culture of silence.” Women in Nepal are pressured to suppress their negative emotions. Could this be a precipitating factor in Shanta’s decision to hang herself? Did she have friends or adult figures to talk to? Who did Shanta look to for emotional support? Did she feel as though she could seek support?

These are questions that Squire and Benson hope to find answers to.

In fact, Shanta’s story is one of many stories of suicide in Nepal. Her story is one of many, many stories of suicide in countries around the world. Stigma is a globally pervasive factor in our ignorance of a major public health problem, one that keeps suicide a silent issue.

Recent research finds that “[m]ental disorders account for 11.1% of the total burden of disease in low-resource countries such as Nepal.” In their conclusion, the authors suggest culture-specific approaches to addressing suicide based on their research findings. A 2010 report by the World Health Organization tells us, “[i]n low and middle-income countries 75% of people do not get the mental health services they need.” But WHO’s mental health Gap Action Program (mhGAP) argues that “with costs as low as US $2 per person per year, and with proper care, assistance and medication, millions can be treated.”

In Squire and Benson’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, they’re working to unearth the causes of a single suicide in Nepal. But their film will have the power to ignite and inspire conversations about suicide in private and public spheres wherever it’s shown. Suicide is not any individual’s issue. It’s a global public health problem, one complicated by the fact that treatment “will need to be tailored to suit the different etiology, culture, expectations, resources, skills and spiritual beliefs of both patient and doctor” (Benson & Shakya).

Because suicide is so often an act shrouded in shame, silence, and secrecy, there are a lot of questions to ask. A suicide survivor, J.D. Schramm, said at a TED Talk, “because of our taboos around suicide, we’re not sure what to say, and so quite often we say nothing…. It’s a conversation worth having.”

Scott Squire and Amy Benson are raising funds to return to Nepal in January 2013 to complete their film.  They will follow up with Shanta’s sister and conduct interviews and on-the-ground research to learn more about what happened in Shanta’s case and to learn more about suicide in Nepal. Benson tells us that Nepal’s first suicide hotline will be set up, “This will help us to see who’s calling in and why.”

Contributions to The Girl Who Knew Too Much project can be made at this Kickstarterpage. You can find project updates here.