The Personal IS Political!

Folks, data on women with depression is skewed. 

As I read the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, published in 2019, I was startled to learn women are prescribed antidepressants more often than men … Two and a Half times more often than men!


It is not that women report having depression more often than men, as many of us would assume!  A 2017 study discovered that men are more likely to report having symptoms of depression than women.

Even now in 2021, we assume women are the “ weaker” sex. Therefore, we assume they need treatment for depression and anxiety more than men. Physicians prescribe antidepressants, for example, for skin pain in women, where men will be prescribed pain medication for skin pain.

So why are women given anti-depressants when they are not depressed? Physicians are socially biased and influenced also.  

  • Women are prescribed antidepressants instead of pain medication for pain.
  • Women are prescribed sedatives for pain instead of pain medication for pain.

Yentl syndrome is at work. Still.

What is the Yentl Syndrome? The Yentl Syndrome describes the phenomenon whereby women are misdiagnosed and poorly treated medically unless their symptoms or diseases conform to that of men.

This is the heart of the matter: Research on most illnesses have been done on men. Female bodies are not afforded the same degree of medical attention as male bodies. 

In addition, sometimes people say, women live longer, so women do not need the same amount of medical research. Check again. Mens longevity has increased along with their years of good health. Women live on the average only 5 years longer than men now. But those 5 years are often burdened with ill health and disability! Women are the sex as elders who more often need assisted health care

And even if women did live a lot longer than men, why would less research into women’s health and well being be justified? What !!!

We must all become more political.

During your health care appointments:

  •  Ask uncomfortable questions.

How much published research, not only clinical experience or reports, have specifically included women in all aspects of health, be it dental, physical or mental?

  • Go elsewhere if you do not have a health care provider who is willing to answer uncomfortable questions. 

I hope this is an option for you. 

Before your health care appointments:

 Research your health issue, be it something that needs addressing now or is a developing or a preventable condition.  

(It is strikingly obvious to me the more I prepare for my health care appointments and make it clear to the physician I am prepared by coming with written questions and background information, the more RESPECT I obtain from the physician. I get better treatment and more options presented to me. My goal is to be on equal footing with the health care team be it mental, dental or other physical health care. )

If we persist with less data on women’s health, things do not look rosy for women.

If we persist with less research into the health of Latina, Black, Asian, Indigenous and other minority groups, things are still darker.

— Let us remember and celebrate all of us —

Thank you kindly,

Gail Louise

  • The book Invisible Women, Data Bias in A World Designed for Men was the Business Book of the Year in 2019 by the McKinsey and Company Financial Times, the winner of the 2019 Royal Science Book Prize, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and The Orwell Prize, and longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellencein Nonfiction.
  • Antidepressants have been life-giving for me in the past. I advocate for antidepressants to be prescribed judiciously and for limited time periods. 

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For … A posting for March 8th, International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day began in the early 1900’s.

Today is International Women’s Day, IWD, an official holiday in Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China ( for women only ), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar ( for women only ), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Notice the United States and the United Kingdom countries are not on the list. Neither are the often enlightened Scandinavian and other European countries. Nor Latin and South America. Nor Africa. 

Unbelievable. It is 2021 after all. Not the Dark Ages. 


You may ask why I am writing about gender equity? 

For the good of all of us. You and me.

COVID has increased unfairness to and damaged the lives of women of all ages, all around the world.

  • Women account for 70 per cent of frontline workers, yet women are left out of many COVID-19 response and recovery plans, according to the World Economic Forum, 8 February, 2021 survey.
  • Just 20 percent of the WHO emergency committee are women. And there is other ongoing damage exacerbated by COVID 19:
  • Domestic violence is rising
  • Women are taking on more duties at home, again

47 million women worldwide fall into extreme poverty – living on less than $2 a day – in 2021 they are over-represented in hard-hit sectors, such as domestic and restaurant workers, per the UN. All this has been made worse by our global epidemic. 

How have the women in your life been affected by COVID?

How have the women in your life been affected by gender inequity?

What will be the consequences for  your children and grandchildren?

Women make up fewer than 10 percent of national leaders worldwide.  Behind this eye-opening statistic lies a pattern of unequal access to power.

Being elected and staying elected to leadership positions is paramount for positive change to occur in the lives of all citizens, for the good of all.

Women promote equal access and distribution of resources and better health care to all – medical, dental and mental. Women must design and conduct research to insure that research will be with women as subjects by women physicians, public health doctors,  and epidemiologists. 

Do you know that most research of disease has been done exclusively on men? 

Do you know that most research on other mammals, say mice for example, is done on male mice?

It is undeniable that the female body is different from the male body, functions differently, recovers differently, not just in regard to our reproductive health but we differ in other body systems as well.

So to learn more about gender bias and why there are not more women in leadership roles, I will be reading from my copy of Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons,  published in 2020, by Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, Nigeria’s two term Minister of Finance.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela is now head of the World Trade Organization.

Other contributors are: Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister to three terms in New Zealand and still Prime Minister, who gave birth while governing, Thersa May, Christine Lagarde, Michelle Bachlet, Joyce Banda, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Erna Solberg and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The GOOD NEWS is the vast majority of men and women around the world expect their leaders to take action to advance gender equality.

In closing, I offer a poem written in commemoration of the 40,000 women and children who, in 1956, marched to protest South Africa’s racist Pass Laws and presented at the United Nations, August 7th, 1978
A Poem by June Jordan ( 1938 – 2002 )

Poem for South African Women

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
even as the first women whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptisimal smoke where yes
there will be a fire

And babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea

We are the ones we have been waiting for

Let us all be the “Sweet Company ” 
Thank you kindly.

This poem can be found in “ We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner LIght in A TIme of Darkness ”  by Pulitzer Prize author and human rights activist, Alice Walker, 2006. 


I’d like to give you a feel for the burden of suicide in Wisconsin: A joint report released in 2014 (the most current data I have) says that, on average, 724 valued and treasured individuals in Wisconsin take their own life each year.

What do we know about these individuals as a group?

Four out of five persons who died by suicide were male.

For every person who died by suicide there were eleven hospitalizations or emergency visits for self-inflicted injury.  And approximately three out of five patients hospitalized for self-inflicted injury were female.

Taken together, one estimates 8,000 people attempt suicide every year in Wisconsin.  724 die.

Firearms were the most frequent means of suicide.  And Means Matter:  Men use firearms more often than women, and attempts with guns are more likely to result in death than those in which other means are utilized.

Death from a suicide attempt was highest among individuals aged 45-54.

Veterans accounted for one out of five suicides in Wisconsin.

Teens and young adults are more likely to be seen or hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries than any other age group.

Among suicides with known circumstances, fifty percent had a current mental health problem and approximately forty-five percent were currently receiving mental health treatment. Where toxicology testing was performed, 37% tested positive for alcohol and 20% tested positive for opiates.  Of the known life stressors, intimate partner problems, physical health and job problems were most often reported. Significantly, 35% disclosed their intent to die by suicide to at least one person.

724 deaths by suicide in Wisconsin.  Each year.

And yet, as the Harvard School of Public Health reports, 90% who survive their attempted suicide do not go on to die by suicide later.  This is a terribly important fact.  Help is possible.  Those who attempt suicide, much more often than not, do not go on to die by suicide later.

How can we offer help to someone contemplating suicide?

The good news: Everyone can play a role in protecting their friends, family members and colleagues from suicide. However, as a national poll found, 50% of American respondents found obstacles and barriers that stopped them from trying to help someone at risk for suicide. Two barriers were commonly raised: Many feared that something they would say or do would make things worse rather than better. And many, understandably, simply did not know how to find help for a person feeling suicidal.

  • Most suicidal individuals want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their deep struggles and setbacks.
  • Most individuals give definite warnings of the suicidal intentions.
  • Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
  • Surviving family members not only suffer the trauma of losing a loves one to suicide, they may themselves be at higher risk for suicide and emotional problems.

Let’s look at what we as individuals can do to help.

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped-like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Be available. Show the person interest and support.
  • Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.
  • It’s ok to be direct: Talk openly and freely about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow for the expression of feelings, and accept them.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or if one’s feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t dare him/her to do it.
  • Don’t ask ‘why’. This encourages defensiveness.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.
  • Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.
  • Take action: Remove means!
  • Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (phone:   text:) is a good place to start.

I was very fortunate when I was suicidal long ago. My husband enacted a good many of these helpful responses to me. He and we talked openly and freely about suicide. I did express some of my feelings about being suicidal and he accepted those feelings. Also important, I was offered empathy and most of all, I was offered hope. Hope offered when I had no hope. What a gift!

Remembering My Father in this Election Year 2016

Picture this, a big table in our farm kitchen covered with red and while checked oil cloth and dozens of clean clear glass jars, standing alert and ready to receive the recently made homemade jam of the month. Perhaps it was my favorite, raspberry jam. Raspberry jam was the perfect complement to my mother’s homemade bread. (It was heavenly in our kitchen when Mom baked bread. The aroma of the baking bread was divine.  She would find a way week after week to fit all 7 loaves of bread/dinner rolls into the oven simultaneously. If we timed it just right, the younger children, would arrive home from school just as the bread finished baking. The big question always was: Which of us would get the crusts?

This past weekend I have been enjoying making fresh applesauce and tasty apple butter. As I write, this it is Thanksgiving week and I hope everyone who will share our holiday feast will enjoy some warm fragrant apple butter with my daughter’s fresh baked dinner rolls. The apple butter is (mostly) made from dark red McIntosh apples which yielded a rich bright pink naturally sweet sauce. The sauce looked good to eat, and it was as delicious as it looked!

I smiled as I remembered these things. For you see, I am thankful that my mother had passed food preserving skills and interest in them to me when I was as young as 9 years old.  I realize that I’ve passed these baking and cooking skills to my daughter and son, who are more gifted with food creation than both my mother and I.

And then I felt sad. Other than my lovely singing voice, what gifts did my father pass on to me?  I thought for awhile and then realized I had let the fact that he had a mental illness blur my sight and my insight. My father gave me something I’m sure to need for today and for these next four years.  He taught me the importance of attending to daily news, especially state and national news, and politics. Dad was attentive to the news, to politics, and to our government. And I was proud of his interest and ability to discuss and debate current affairs.

I’ve never forgotten the image of my Dad reading the daily paper:  The afternoon paper, which was the liberal paper – and in contrast to his in-laws, who always read the morning, conservative, Republican paper. The prime location for reading the daily paper was the kitchen table. He’d sit down in his overalls and cap with a cup of coffee in his rugged hands.  Perhaps the hardworking hands were chapped or sunburned. The paper would be spread out to cover most of the table. We children dare not monkey with the paper until Dad had read the news—you know, the front page and section. We children also did not talk with Dad or fool around in the kitchen when he was reading.

Mom as well read the paper every day. (As a farm wife, she deserved a break every day before we all returned home. It was always reading the paper, sitting at the kitchen table, with a refreshing drink, right when the clock struck three pm.) But Mom read quietly, and kept her views of the news private.

During the 1950’s when times were good for our family, Mother and Dad took me, then 13-years old, and my two teenage brothers on a trip to see our nation’s capital. Two younger sisters both then in grade school were left in the care of a neighboring farm family.  The care and feeding of a dairy herd is a very personal skill, and a task that cannot cease even for a single day.  I don’t know if this expresses how unusual and how risky it was for a farm family to take leave of their farm for a vacation that meant traveling across a considerable area of the United States. We did stop at historic sites too, including Gettysburg.

Why did my father choose Washington, DC? He felt we three older children were at the right age to learn the importance of and to visit our national capitol and the famous monuments, and to hear again the story of our grandparents who had immigrated earlier during the 1900’s from Norway. Both became citizens.  But the biggest push was to meet the congressmen representing Wisconsin.  Fortunately, the elected officials with their busy schedules were available. They were able to spend a brief 5 to 10 minutes each with us. Three future new voters were very impressed with Mom and Dad’s vacation gift and its lessons of people, history …. and responsibility. And we, to the best of my knowledge, have always exercised our responsibility and privilege as citizens of this great land my father took us across.

Even this year.

Three Key Messages

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in our country. Unlike many of the leading causes of death, the suicide rate has shown no appreciable decline over the last 50 years. [see the footnote at the end of this post]That this should be so, losing so many people to this mental illness outcome, is a tragedy. It is also a tragedy we can do something about.

Over 41,000 people in America died by suicide in 2013….

Recently reforms have been recommended in suicide planning and care. The new recommendations, which I will comment on in this post, are found in three documents.

  • The Way Forward (2014 pdf).  Released by the Suicide Attempt Survivor Task Force of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
  • Suicide Care in Systems Framework (2012 pdf).  Report by the Clinical Care and Intervention Task Force of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
  • Continuity of care for suicide prevention and research (2011 pdf).  A report commissioned by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Download links to each of these reports, and much else, can be found here on my website.

What am I asking us to do?  TO INFORM OURSELVES about the reforms these reports recommend in suicide prevention planning and care! TO BRING THE NEW RECOMMENDATIONS to our local institutions, mental health organizations, doctors, therapists as well as to our families and to our loved ones with a mental illness!

In my opinion, these three are the most significant and far reaching of the recommendations:

 1.    Add suicide loss survivors and suicide attempters to the committees or task forces appointed to develop prevention efforts. Representation is an essential and important first step in suicide prevention (The Way Forward, 2014).  We can learn from suicide loss survivors and attempt survivors both what was and what wasn’t helpful and, importantly, what was missing in preventing suicide – and solicit their suggestions for improvement.

2.    Here is the second essential change: As with people who experience a stroke or heart attack, all persons in suicidal crisis should have immediate access to care – effective treatment and support services must be available to persons in crisis, how and when they need them (Suicide Care in Systems Framework, 2012). This report details a successful example of a large organization providing immediate access to care: The Henry Ford Health System restructured its behavioral health care system with the goal of Perfect Depression Care, and now offers same-day-drop-in-care for persons in crisis.

3.    Especially, we need an infrastructure for continuity of care.The third document, (Continuity of Care for Suicide Prevention and Research, 2011) focuses on the care provided after discharge from emergency and in-patient stays, noting: “As many as 70 % of suicide attempter of all ages will never make it to their first out-patient appointment. The report continues: “[Although] patient attributes such as having few skills, minimal resources, socioeconomic distress make it hard to engage them in out-patient treatment … organizational attributes can be altered.”   “Continuity of care and coordination of care require the support of cohesive health services infrastructures rather than numerous disconnected facilities and care provision arrangements.”

Organized, accountable, actionable continuity of care is essential.

The Task Force responsible for our second report (Suicide Care in Systems Framework, 2012) believes that making suicide a never event must be the nation’s vision. “Public and behavioral health organizations save countless lives every day. By creating an organizational culture where suicide attempts and deaths are unacceptable events, and managing a care environment around that cultural shift, even more lives can be saved.”

A powerful statement.  Won’t you, along with me, be participants in advocating these reforms and that vision?


Re “…the tenth leading cause of death” see Targeting Suicide by Thomas Insel, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, April 2, 2015.  “Indeed,” Dr Insel notes, “the rate among middle-aged Americans is increasing, and for young people ages 15-34, it is not the tenth, but the second leading cause of death.”

In contrast with suicide, whose rates have not declined, mortality from other medical causes such as stroke, AIDS, heart disease, has declined significantly.  Clearly our suicide prevention efforts have not been effective enough nor engaged enough people to change this rate.

No fault; no blame

It’s a fine Spring afternoon; I’m sitting at my desk writing, and a memory of my early encounter with a profound message rises: Somehow, somewhere, back in 1992, I believe – I found my first NAMI Dane County newsletter. That’s not important. What is important was the written message it contained.

I believe it was the newsletter’s “From the President’s Desk” column that encouraged me to learn more about NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). The column reflected an understanding of biologically based mental illness that I had not found before, and an understanding, not only of my illness experience, but more importantly for me an understanding of my father’s illness and my family’s response to that illness. It was a strong “no fault, no blame” grasp of the fundamentals of daily life with a serious disorder.

It was clear to me that the column’s author and others in NAMI knew and believed without question the conclusion that I had just encountered: The only way to view mental illnesses and brain disorders is without applying blame or fault.  Not to families.  Not to individuals.

Communities in Action to Prevent Suicide, part I

Hello spring!  And hello during this National Mental Health Awareness Month.

Last Wednesday, April 29th, 2015, I attended the Communities in Action to Prevent Suicide conference put on by a growing organization I want you to know about, prevent suicide wisconsin, and Mental Health America, Wisconsin.

Reading the preconference materials, I was immediately attracted to one of the keynote speakers, Ursula Whiteside, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist from the University of Washington.  Ms. Whiteside is a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Zero Suicide Advisory Group.  The Action Alliance was launched by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to champion suicide prevention as a national priority. To quote from their literature, the Alliance champions “…a nation free from the tragic event of suicide.”

DrUrsulaWhitesideI wrote to Ursula before the conference, and to my delight she agreed to meet with me for a casual interview early in the morning, before her keynote. I greatly enjoyed meeting her, learned a lot, and am further encouraged.  She is a suicide attempt survivor herself and also knows and understands the Zero Suicide movement, an approach to suicide prevention that I’ll be discussing with you in my next post or two this week.

Stay tuned.

The Coming Days Emphasis ………… Suicide Prevention

Good day!   I officially launched my website and blog last Friday and Saturday at the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Wisconsin Conference. So many friends and colleagues expressed interest and well wishes to me that I am more eager to write than ever.

I took yesterday off to spend an afternoon hiking the prairie and woodsy grounds of one of my favorite places, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) near Baraboo, WI. It was so serene and peaceful that I was able to see long and deep. Today I find my mind is free and my body is relaxed to think and write.

I will focus on prevention of suicide in my coming posts this spring. Particularly on advances in suicide prevention. Why? I believe suicide prevention should be a top priority for mental health organizations and concerned individuals, indefinitely. The US suicide rate is unchanged in 2 decades. Mortality from various medical causes has decreased (see charts below).
In hope of gathering current material on advances in suicide prevention, I am traveling to Stevens Point on Wednesday to attend another conference. The conference theme is “Communities in Action to Prevent Suicide” put on by Prevent Suicide, Wisconsin and sponsored by Mental Health America (MHA). There are two nationally known keynote speakers from the prevent suicide movement featured. I am eager to hear what they have to say and the advice they have to give.

I will couple the information from the Stevens Point conference with the conclusions and recommendations offered in the report The Way Forward: Pathways to hope, recovery, and wellness with insights from lived experience, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force. (2014).  The report is available on my Resources On Suicide page. My hope is that you will feel better informed to look at suicide prevention practices in your area and seek input, if needed, and to update local policies and procedures to save more lives.


These graphs from a keynote presentation by Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of National Institute of Mental Health at the NAMI annual convention


About Partnerships … thinking about enhancing care and support within them

46 years. That’s how long my husband and I have been married.  And it was 50 years ago when we first dated, a sweet memory today.  Jim has always been the very kindest, most fun and interesting man I know.  Our kindness toward one another is a key to our relationship, especially when the water wasn’t so smooth due to effects of mental illness on my thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

My partnership is our marriage.   It is the most supportive aspect of our lives together.  It is, it turns out, quite a bit stronger than mental illness.  Yours may be another partnership – marriage is not the required word, but supportive is.  How do we support our partner without being overwhelmed?  How can we be supported without having to feel we’re a burden?  I don’t have all the answers, but we do have some suggestions here based on our experience.

Resources on Suicide – and the way forward

I’ve written a resource page on Suicide – Look on the menu bar, click Suicide and then Resources on Suicide.  There are links there for anyone who may be at risk for suicide or is a survivor of a suicide attempt.  I hope they can be of help for you.

Especially I want to draw attention to the link for the report The Way Forward: Pathways to hope, recovery and wellness with insights from lived experience (2014 pdf), by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Suicide Attempt Survivors Task force.   The report is unique in its breath and scope, and unique in that its co-leads were one, a survivor of suicide attempts and mental health advocate, and the other, a psychologist with years of experience working with people in suicidal crisis.

“For far too many years suicide prevention has not engaged the perspectives of those who have lived through suicidal experiences. Because of social stigma and fear, as well as personal shame, a culture of silence prevailed. The Way Forward represents a seminal moment in this field’s history; it is an opportunity to benefit from the lived experience of suicide attempt survivors. Many of its recommendations are derived from evidence-based practices, and several are aspirational. All are grounded in the evidence of recovery and resiliency that is clear in the lives of our Task Force members.”
– from the report.