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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Psyches & Serpents: The more you know

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

berezovskyheadshot_opWhen I began this column almost seven weeks ago (more if you count the fact that you submit a column in the fall), I figured that writing on a weekly basis about mental health would teach me a lot of things. Basically, I would be a lot more knowledgeable when talking to shrinks or psychiatrists or the layperson. But as I’ve read (skimmed) books and articles on mental health, I’ve discovered that there’s actually a lot more to mental health than I realized. A lot more that I know nothing, or next to nothing, about. Let me tell you about three areas in which I’ve come to realize that I need to learn more about within the realm of mental health (listed in the order I’ll be discussing them): research, resources and diet.

Regarding research on mental health, I’m embarrassingly unknowledgable. This is normally not a problem in conversation, because without a fact-checker poised at their laptop nearby you can feel free to stray as from the truth on this or that finding (as in, “Yeah. It was a study of 12,000 students. Or maybe it was just 12.”) The exception is if you’re talking to a grad student, who (if they are worth their salt) will ask you for a reference point blank on anything you cite. And there are a lot of things to cite. Yet most people keep citing that same old study (often falsely), like the one that says playing Mozart will develop babies’ brain better. What’s hard for myself is tearing away from some semi-poetic perspective on bipolar from Kay Jamison or Mark Vonnegut in order to read the peer-reviewed scholarly article on mental health parity regulation statistics. If anyone reading this has any tricks to make those journals more interesting or bearable, please let me know.

On one level there are a lot of local mental health resources on which I’m just pitifully uninformed on. For example, UC Davis has at least one mental health club (I can remember reading the group page), but I’ve yet to attend (actually, if anyone knows anything about this, please inform me). There’s a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter local to Davis. It’s a significant organization, and my mom went to my hometown’s chapter when I was diagnosed (she highly recommends it to anyone, if you’re wondering). There’s also significant homeless/mental health support in downtown Davis (as many homeless deal with schizophrenia and other mental conditions). I’ve biked by two, one that’s run by the Quakers and another on H Street. The reason I’ve yet to learn more usually has to do with time management, another issue I need help with.

On another level, I have used some resources here at Davis, including CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) counseling and psychiatry at the SHCS (Student Health & Counseling Services). As an aside, SHCS has the better massage chairs of the two. I consider the ARC (Activities and Recreation Center) to actually be one of the best mental health resources, which I use on a regular basis. Another resource I used recently was a visit to a dietician at SHCS, which leads me to my next topic.

Diet is a subject of endless fascination for me, and one to which I admit to being endlessly ignorant. For example, I’ve had acne for most of my life now, and I’ve yet to eliminate it completely from my life, but with good diet I can get close for periods. There are many indicators that a diet is eliminating acne (mainly visual). But say you’re trying to eliminate something else, say mental “illness.” Whether a mental illness can be eliminated or only reduced is a matter of debate, but it’s besides the point. I won’t go into specifics, but I’ve tried a lot of things (raw, vegan, vegetarian, maple syrup, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, ketogenic, fasting) in the hopes of getting mental clarity, mood stability and – for lack of better words – good vibes. Really though, there are so many factors that complicate a diet plan, such as exercise, sun exposure and sourcing, that it’s hard to tell if one is on the right track. For myself, I think that reading scholarly articles and using diet resources such as nutritionists, who are also mental health resources, in a balanced fashion is the best way to grow my knowledge of proper diet.

So I think it’s fair to say that I do know something about mental health research, resources and diet. But I can use improvement (especially in understanding research, which is a foundation for proper use of the other two). And, looking at it, I can see that a lot of what I wrote here I learned this quarter. But the knowledge I stand on only gives me a better view of the landscape (or mindscape) which I couldn’t see before. And it’s quite vast. I’d like to think that Einstein was a mentally stable guy, but who knows). At least when it comes to views on knowledge, we have one thing in common.

PAUL BEREZOVSKY would like to know what you know at pbberezovsky@ucdavis.edu.

Graphic by CA Aggie Graphic Team

Photo by CA Aggie Photo Team

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