Columns

Newlon ‘14.5: Therapy is cool

By
Opinions Columnist

I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago to see that the most read article in The Herald was entitled “Why therapy is cool.” At last, I thought, somebody agrees with me!

Then I read the article.

Unfortunately, Cara Dorris’ ’15 column expressed only more ignorance in the face of mental illness. While purportedly condemning the stigmatization of mental illness, Dorris perpetuates common negative stereotypes about mental disorders and expresses herself with the witlessness of someone who did her research by watching Girls and other popular TV shows.

Dorris characterizes Brown students who seek therapy as vapid, neurotic creatures approaching therapy like “yoga or getting a massage or drinking Odwalla juice.” Much like harem pants or the latest adorable baby video on Youtube, seeking treatment for emotional pain is now apparently “trendy!” And when those who seek therapy speak openly about psychological treatment, Dorris condemns them as “devaluing” mental illness.

I don’t know any of these mythical students who yak on about their mental illness. In my experience, students who attend therapy do so quietly, avoiding eye contact as they head to the fifth floor of J. Walter Wilson. Students are often ashamed of going to therapy. They feel weak. Those who “joke” about it often are using humor as a defense mechanism. I know I do.

As somebody who grew up with chronic depression and anxiety, I would love nothing more than peers who spoke about therapy as if it were just another visit to a general practitioner. As a kid, I would crack jokes about my obvious and pervasive anxiety to hide the reality of my hyperactive monkey-mind. My friends jokingly called me “The Captain of Starship Neurotica” – which hurt, but not as much as what I secretly believed to be true: I was probably crazy and inherently unlovable.

Imagine my relief to find people at Brown whose minds worked like mine, who not only went to therapy but could talk and joke about it! I’ve come to the realization that depression, anxiety and all other mental illnesses should be treated as exactly what they are: illnesses. If a student gets any other illness, say the flu – or something more chronic, like diabetes – Dorris would never ridicule them for seeking medical attention or treatment. A depressed person does not decide to become depressed any more than a diabetic chooses to be ill. And like a diabetic, a sufferer of depression or any other mental illness must get treatment – therapy and perhaps medication.

Students seeking help in Brown Psychological Services have the equivalent of a mental cold. And when a Brown student feels sick, they go to Health Services. I don’t see the difference here.

Psych Services has its fair share of issues, but the counseling service they provide is invaluable. Dorris seems to think it ridiculous that 16 to 18 percent of the Brown student body have sought treatment for mental health issues. Actually, the number should be higher. A 2009 National Institute of Mental Health study reported that 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function.” About 6 percent of college students reported seriously considering suicide, and one percent reported attempting it in the previous year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people age 15 to 24.

In other words, Dorris’ therapy tirade is not only silly: It is irresponsible and dangerous.

With every sentence in her column, Dorris underscores the depth of her ignorance about mental illness. She asserts that therapy is never-ending “unless your therapist hangs himself Silverman-style, and the journey finally ends. Or you die.” Disregarding her insensitivity, this statement is completely misinformed: A qualified therapist can often bestow valuable coping mechanisms and strategies in under a year. Treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been empirically proven to reduce symptoms of many mental illnesses – and they don’t take an eternity.

Despite her psychological illiteracy, Dorris loves to write about mental illness. Less than a month ago she wrote a piece about eating disorders (“What’s the skinny on Brown fat?” Oct. 14). Dorris began by noting the abhorrent lack of awareness about eating disorders at Brown – a real issue – but quickly degenerated into a lecture about the dangers of shunning food. She joked that writing about eating disorders made her want a “snack,” while offering no real solutions for a pervasive problem at Brown. She basically advised anorexics and bulimics to simply eat more cheeseburgers. Ironically, one of the main treatments for eating disorders is – you guessed it – therapy.

The cherry on top of Dorris’ offensive mess of an article is the assertion that “normal” people do not seek therapy. Therapy is only for us weirdos, I guess. Count me in as an abnormal, Dorris, as well as a fifth of the Brown population.

Uninformed, black-and-white articles are often among the most controversial and popular in The Herald. But when it comes to a subject as serious and nuanced as mental illness, do your research – or stick to writing snarky comments in diatribes about the Ratty.

 

 

Cara Newlon ‘14.5 will be happy to laugh, joke and talk about her therapy at

 cara_newlon@brown.edu.

  • Anonymous

    Well-said, Cara.

  • Anonymous

    most of your poorly interpreted “quotes” about Dorris’s article are taken out of context. at the end Dorris says, “There’s no denying some people really benefit from therapy. And while I don’t think Brown should cut back on its services, I do think we should question ourselves before we consider it a fast solution for all types of emotional distress.”

    she’s not saying anything that extreme. lighten up.

  • Anonymous

    Dorris’s column “dangerous.” wow chill out.
    therapy is one of those taboo issues that people are not allowed to have any negative opinions about. i’m glad Dorris finally said something different and wasn’t afraid people like you were going write a whole column attacking it.

  • Anonymous

    In response to a comment below: it is not taboo to have negative opinions about therapy – the attitude that therapy is a “trendy” thing to do for “hypersensitive attention seekers” has pervaded popular culture for many, many years. The stigma of mental illness is very much alive, and it’s very serious. Thousands of people die every year because they are ashamed to seek help – many suicides could be prevented if people only sought the care they needed. Ms. Dorris is well within her rights to express her opinion – however, her attitude reflects an oversimplified and dismissive view of mental health that is all too common and causes many people unnecessary pain. Hopefully this helps readers put Ms. Newlon’s reaction in perspective.

  • Anonymous

    i’m not surprised they called you “Captain of Starship Neurotica.” and thanks for insulting your readers. i didn’t just read Dorris’s article because i’m stupid and i like “uniformed and black-and-white articles.” i read it because it was interesting and a different perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Comments like the one below only highlight why Cara N.’s article is necessary.People who are brave enough to talk about mental illness get personally attacked.

  • Anonymous

    great article, cara!

  • Anonymous

    This response was so necessary. Only the truly ignorant and privileged could ignore the huge stigma of mental illness and instead write about its “trendiness”. Thanks for calling Cara Dorris out.

  • Anonymous

    You go, Cara. This is awesome and needed to be said. There are more of us Brown students who use and strongly benefit from Psych Services than one might think.

  • Anonymous

    “I don’t know any of these mythical students who yak on about their mental illness.” – do you live under a rock?

    With every sentence in her column, Dorris underscores the depth of her ignorance about mental illness. – please exaggerate more.

    30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function.” – What does this even mean? This so called “statistic” is evidently overly exaggerated, excessively emotionally-charged and vague – a classic attention-seeking attempt of self-involved teenagers – such a statement should not be taken seriously. Moreover, try to picture what it would look like if 30% of the college population were not able to “function”…… this is absurd.

  • Anonymous

    Cara, IGNORE THE HATERS. You did a great service for the Brown community by writing this article – it’s well-researched, beautifully written, heartfelt, and moreover, SO NECESSARY. The stigma against mental health needs to be addressed, especially at an institution like Brown where we are supposedly so accepting. Dorris’s article was some of the most ignorant drivel I’ve ever read, and I’m really happy you countered it in a productive way. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Wow all these horrible comments are just proving Cara’s point.

  • Anonymous

    this article is poorly researched. people aren’t attacking you for talking about mental illness, they’re attacking you for taking Dorris’s article out of context to prove your own point.

  • Anonymous

    16:11 is right. your research is very poor and basically you just took another writer’s article out of context to falsely back up your claims. you’re not proving a point about therapy, your just negating another article.

  • A.S. '88

    i’m not liking this. every single time Newlon quotes Dorris she distorts what the quote actually meant. this is just dishonest writing.

  • Anonymous

    A fair and needed response to the original, deeply offensive article! Newlon isn’t misinterpreting anything, because Dorris did not have to intend malice to BE malicious.

  • Anonymous

    Great response piece. A well-written, thoughtful response to a problem that many Brown students experience during their time here. We need more spaces where we can discuss experiences of depression, anxiety, mental illness, and trauma without the threat of stigmatization or reductive criticism. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    TLDR: Dorris, suck a dick.

  • Anonymous

    Oh god. Not this again. Lighten up people and hear me out. I’ve been depressed, in and out of therapy for 8 years now but Dorris’s article didn’t offend me the slightest. Nothing about it was malicious, it was just a “food-for-thought” article, how we should not consider therapy the answer to all problems. So calm down.

  • Anonymous

    Dorris mentions somewhere in her article that there are genuine mental health issues, but it’s in the throw-away context that somebody uses before they say something shocking and offensive. Newlon only took the quotes “out of context” if removing them from Dorris’ article changed their meaning- which I don’t think it did. Dorris blathered away in her article with essentially no empirical support.

  • Anonymous

    Dorris’s article was satirical i’m pretty sure.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! What an angry article! You missed the satire! I really enjoyed Cara Dorris’s perspective! I hope Dorris doesn’t stop writing for fear of reprisal! Open your mind!

  • Anonymous

    I agree. Nothing against Newlon but Dorris’s article was definitely satirical. She must’ve expected this type of reaction. That is what everyone is missing here.

  • Jack McCoy

    This is without a doubt the most pretentious, sanctimonious article I’ve read in the Herald, and that is really saying something.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe we wouldn’t need so much therapy if we could see the humor in life as evident in Cara Dorris’s satirical article.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think these commentators know what satire is… hahaha. you go cara.

  • Anonymous

    Listen, I get what Dorris was saying. However, the fact of the matter is that far more people who could really be helped by therapy don’t go due to the stigma or the cost, as opposed to the number of people who go to seem “cool”. Until that changes, we should be encouraging more people to seek help and encouraging more open discussions about mental health, not the other way around.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like Newlon was personally offended because she has gone to a lot of therapy – which I totally understand, but I really did think Dorris had many good points and wrote a funny and persuasive article that doesn’t take itself so seriously. I think some of Newlon’s anger shows that she didn’t really understand Dorris’s article was supposed to be satirical.

  • Jane Doe

    I don’t think Newlon’s article is that angry. If you’ve ever known anybody who has committed suicide or suffered from chronic mental illness, this is a serious issue not to be badly satirized. What was Dorris attempting to say? That sometimes people seek treatment and it’s unnecessary? What’s the harm in that?

    Thank you for this.

  • Anonymous

    The author of this article really needs to cut down on the ad hominem attacks. The previous opinion article was simply stating that people should not treat therapy as a solution to all problems. As Newlon points out, mental illness is a form of illness that benefits from treatment. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should go get therapy — only those who need it.

  • Anonymous

    Cara, haters gone hate. IF SOMEONE WANTS TO GO TO THERAPY THEY SHOULD GO. what’s the problem with going? there is SO much more of a stigma associated with mental illness and dorris completely disregarded it in her column

  • Anonymous

    I see what Cara is saying but i think she might be a bit confused. Dorris’s article was an intentional ridicule intending to expose the truth. that’s satire is. Dorris isn’t against therapy.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting how most people think Dorris’ article is a satire. Maybe she really just is an uninformed student that constantly writes ridiculous articles. Thank you Newlon. I was hoping another better writer would tackle Dorris’ silly piece.

  • Anonymous

    this is the worst article i’ve ever seen of Newlon’s. entirely ad hominem.

  • Anonymous

    can we be done with this? i understand that Newlon might be upset that anyone says anything about therapy but she needs to just lighten up. 89 people liked Dorris’s article so obviously brown students agree that therapy is becoming too pervasive in culture for the wrong reasons.

  • Anonymous

    Dorris’ writing is terrible. I’m not sure WHAT her point was… it was deeply offensive to me. you wouldn’t tell people to lighten up if they made fun of the physically handicapped!

  • Anonymous

    YOU GO GIRL

  • Anonymous

    Dorris’s is writing is terrible? you must be joking. hers are the only ones that i read – theyre funny and serious at the same time. she was quoted by yahoo finance last year, business insider, and the huffington post re-published her piece. she is a good writer. enough said. stop attacking Dorris. if you don’t like her ideas. that’s one thing. this is just wrong.

  • Anonymous

    YEAH

  • Anonymous

    This is an articulate takedown of Dorris’ immature article. THANK YOU.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for writing this. I was really bothered by Dorris’ article. I don’t think an article about therapy or mental health in the school paper is the appropriate place to be so condescending and snarky.

  • Anonymous

    this is spot-on. thanks for being so open.