Book Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars- Good mental hygiene improves your life By Whistlers Mom Amazon TOP 500 REVIEWER

August 19, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition

When I was young, many people rejected the importance of dental hygiene. They Guide to Natural Mental Health Reviewpreferred to believe that they developed cavities because they had “soft teeth.” That a woman would lose a tooth for every baby she gave birth to. That if their grandparents finished up toothless, they were doomed to the same fate. It was all bad luck and genetics and brushing, flossing, good diet, and not using tobacco would make no difference.

Today, most people understand the importance of good dental hygiene, but we’re still in the Dark Ages when it comes to committing to good mental hygiene. Mental illness is scary and embarrassing and seems to strike like a bolt of thunder. In a laudable attempt to reduce the stigma of mental illness, experts stress that it may be hereditary or a result of chemical imbalances. Either way, it’s out of our control, right?

This author is a medical librarian and himself a survivor of mental illness. On both scores, he understands the importance of being well-informed. He has read thousands of articles in medical journals most of them describing the findings of clinical research in the areas of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and internet addictions. He introduces these papers and gives a brief summing up of their critical points, with special emphasis on findings which relate to self-help measures. AND he tells you the web sites where you can read the entire article yourself.

I approached this book with great misgivings. I grew up at a time when doctors were still struggling to convince the general public that they were offering something worth paying for. They did it by promoting the idea that health is only understandable by those who have gone to medical school and that traditional practices and wisdom were “old wives tales” – silly and probably dangerous. Many (most, really) books about “alternative medicine” are poorly researched and have a strong mercenary bias. “Massive doses of dandelion tea cured my cancer and I sell the only dandelion tea mix that works.” You know the sort of thing.

This author isn’t going to get rich selling his book and I don’t believe that he wrote it with that intent. He does believe passionately that we can help ourselves to better mental health by practicing good mental hygiene – diet, exercise, prayer, and developing strong personal relationships. Modern medicine is beginning to adopt the same idea and these articles represent studies and tests from well-known and well-respected medical centers, universities, and organizations. This is not snake oil, but knowledge gleaned from scientific research.

So why doesn’t everyone know about it? Because a pharmaceutical company can spend billions of dollars yearly telling the public about the benefits of its products, but there’s no profit in telling you that turning your computer off and talking to a friend or taking a walk (or better yet, both at once!) will make you feel better.

When it comes to the workings of the mind, we are only beginning to explore a new frontier. In the future, our present “knowledge” will be laughable. But we can use the latest ideas and combine them with traditional wisdom to help ourselves. You are your own best doctor and (whether it’s physical or mental illness) the best out-comes result when the patient and those who love him are well-informed and taking an active role in the process.

***** Mr. Jiang very kindly gave me a copy of his book, but that didn’t influence my opinions one bit! I skimmed it and now I’m re-reading the sections that are of special interest to me. It’s a book that should be in every household that has been affected by mental illness. That’s all of us, right?

Review- Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry by Jeffrey A. Lieberman

5.0 out of 5 stars We have come quite a way, and have miles to go before we sleep,1
November 16, 2015
This review is from: Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry (Kindle Edition)
I liked the historical treatment of American and European psychiatry in “Shrinks”. It was interesting to see the big picture from the point of view of a former American Psychiatric Association President. After reading this book, I thank God for modern psychiatric treatments. Why? Before the treatments we now have, life was generally much shorter for mental patients, and if someone was seriously ill with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety problems, after onset of their illness, they may have been imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives in an asylum. The rest of their existence would be a nightmare from which there was no escape. Psychiatry has a way to go still, but reading how life was before modern psychiatric medicine makes one appreciate the advances made so far.

4th Season Of Healthy Minds with Dr. Jeff Borenstein to Premiere on PBS

4th Season Of Healthy Minds with Dr. Jeff Borenstein to premiere on PBS

I had the memorable pleasure of meeting and talking with Dr. Jeff Borenstein at the New York State Psychiatric Institute / Columbia Psychiatry Patient and Family Library while writing my little autobiography about my own “story of madness and story of hope” about living with schizophrenia: A Schizophrenic Will. I found Dr. Borenstein down-to-earth yet visionary, a rare combination. The first and second seasons of Healthy Minds were AMAZING! I’m sure this fourth season will be even better somehow. Well done Dr. Borestein, Brain and Behavior Foundation, and all your partners! I can’t wait to get a gift DVD set to review here on !

Chess, Schizophrenia, and the Poet’s Fire

The Greek Gods Frowned Upon Hubris

willauthorI am writing this short article to fight negative stereotypes associated with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a poorly understood topic in our society. These days, with medication and talk therapy, recovery from even very serious mental illness is not only possible, but, with proper treatment, probable. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Read on, and open your mind.

It is a health issue. I was a “normal” kid, loved by my mom and brothers, and dad always made sure we were ok.  Athletic, well-liked and popular at Stuyvesant High School, the number one high school in New York City, my mid-teen years were joyful.  Later, at State University of New York at Stony Brook I achieved senior status and #1 status at the competitive applied math program, at the tender age of nineteen. I earned straight A in applied mathematics to the upper division, the top student at one of the top applied math programs in the world. The semester before my first psychotic break,  I signed up for twenty-three credit hours, about a double full-time credit load. The classes lined up were honors physics, data structures, econometrics, masters level game theory for economists, and Chinese, among a few others. The future looked bright. I had a girlfriend who I very much wanted to marry. I worked a job or three. The view from the top of the world was heady. I was aware of what my accomplishments were, maybe there was a touch of hubris, unhealthy pride. In any event, they say “pride cometh before the fall”, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. My ego, big and proud, fell hard, as I plummeted into the deadly abyss of insanity.

Stress causes many problems in life, both physical and mental. Critical life choices including finances were being mismanaged, and stress was one big reason I had my first psychotic break. Later, as I discovered as a psychiatric library chief there were also other reasons for my unfortunate fall from sanity: being a premature winter birth, being born to an older father, having a mother with an under-active thyroid, a stressful early childhood, having a low fatty fish content in my diet, having sub-optimal magnesium levels, not taking a good multivitamin, being sleep deprived, working seven days per week without a break for years, studying long hours for seven days per week, and, finally, having both bipolar and psychosis expressed in the genetics of the family. Yeah, unbeknownst to me, I was a ticking clock, waiting to go off, and my time eventually ran out.

I had a total psychotic break with reality at the age of nineteen. I was hospitalized for nearly two months, at Stony Brook University Hospital just a mile from my old “successful” life at University- so close but truly a whole world away. Following my descent into total madness and paranoia, eventually, I learned to cope. As mom correctly has pointed out to me, “Will, recovery for you is a journey. You are never ‘Recovered’.”  I found meaning in life by learning about my illness and psychiatry in general, so I would “know my enemy”. Years later I was invited to write as a freelance journalist for City Voices, the mental health newspaper based out of NYC, founded by famous mental health advocate Kenneth Steele back in 1995. My life’s mission was transformed into helping others in my shoes.

Excerpt From My Autobiography, A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope

At nineteen, during my first psychotic break, my thoughts were thus:

“In the psych ward, I felt that this must be how Jesus felt.  Jesus was wrongly persecuted in his life. Just as I am being persecuted.  I could have been a drug dealer many times in my life, picked up a gun and settled a few scores, or just become some kind of loser. I could have become someone with no future who didn’t try. I could have been someone who didn’t work hard, as a janitor to pay their way through college.   I’ve had a hard life, I thought.  I don’t deserve to be treated this way.  It’s not right.  But, Jesus forgave his enemies. And so will I.  Because I thought I knew exactly how Jesus felt, I reasoned, I must be an incarnation of Jesus.

Images flew through my mind. There was an excellent movie called Amadeus which chronicled a possible but far-fetched theory that Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart may have been murdered by Salieri, a musical competitor of Mozart. At the end of the movie, after Salieri confesses to his role in the demise of Mozart, the priest looked shocked to find a heart so black.  The scene cuts to Salieri being lead through the mental asylum, absolving his fellow inmates.  “I absolve you”  “I absolve you” he repeated  to everyone he saw. He said this to the people in cages and the people in chains. He laughs an evil laugh and says, “I absolve everybody.” And the movie ends, and the credits roll. For some reason, this aspect of the movie Amadeus went through my mind the same instant I thought I was some kind of incarnation of Jesus.  I, think that I, being a better person than Salieri, could truly absolve people.  I think that people will recognize my goodness and feel better about being where they were.  I walk around the room saying “I absolve you” to people who are there.   What happened next, I did not expect….”

For Those Who Are Curious about the Science and Medicine

I like numbers, especially statistics. Roughly one percent of the world’s population develops schizophrenia. A bit more than one percent will develop bipolar disorder. About one in seven will develop an anxiety disorder. About one in seven, or more, will develop clinical depression. Think about it. If you go to a high school of 1,000 kids in just a few, short years 250 of you could be struggling with a major psychiatric issue, with or without co-occurring substance abuse. College is a crucible of stress and is made much worse by use of illicit drugs and drinking. Wife of President Ronald Regan, Nancy Regan, was right when she told kids of the 80s to “Just say No!”best books about schizophrenia

So, why do these genes that can trigger serious and persistent mental illnesses still exist? One would think that these debilitating diseases would be bred out of the gene pool eventually. It’s like this, when one identical twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has only a 50% chance of a psychotic break and consequent schizophrenia. Why? It seems genetics with schizophrenia is only 50% of the puzzle, and the mystery of the other 50% is embedded in the epigenome: the way the environment turns on off specific genes which either lead to health or illness. So, more than 50% of people who have the perfect genetics for schizophrenia will never develop the disease, and hence they are carriers. Carriers of what? Well, according to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory research, schizophrenia is a genetically complicated disorder of micro-additions and micro-deletions of genetic code. This is why they have not found one “schizophrenia gene”. It doesn’t exist. This is also why genetic therapies will have to be individualized and genetic codes sequenced, if medicine ever attempts a “cure” of the schizophrenia genetics.

Schizophrenia generally hits young men in late adolescence or early adulthood, whereas women develop the disorder in young adulthood, possible due to a protective role of estrogen. Either way, broadly speaking, in ten years time, after diagnosis, one-third of people diagnosed with schizophrenia generally completely recover, one-third stay about the same, and one-third get worse. Things like the THC in marijuana, a parasite called toxoplasma gondii sometimes found in cat fecal matter, and stress can cause people to “flip” on bad genes, causing a first psychotic break.  So, please just say no to these things, my friends!

A Full Life in Spite of the Schizophrenia

Despite my developing schizophrenia in my late teenage years and the fact that not every day is a good day, I have overcome many obstacles and accomplished much. Powerful, mind-numbing drugs have brought me down to Earth. Before medicines, I was able to read more than five hundred pages per day, do amazing feats of strength like run a half mile in under two minutes, and do a thousand push-ups in a day. No longer can I do these amazing feats of Will.

However, academically, I have graduated from a top university, with honors, then I earned an accredited Masters  in Library Science. Professionally, spanning nearly a decade, I worked as a professor at CUNY Kingsborough’s Library and then at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia Psychiatry as a respected library Chief at the #1 psychiatric research center in the world, part of a team of healers. Culturally, I am fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. I feel I have an interesting worldview, inspired by the cultures behind the languages I have learned to love.  I wish to explore more world languages and cultures.  I have authored twenty-six books about mental health, literature, business, history, language learning, library science, weight loss and diabetes control, an internationally popular guide to the living culture of New York City, a guide to natural intelligence enhancement, and an “inspiring” memoir, A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. I hope to keep writing in some capacity both in order to reach new readers and to explore new and exciting worlds both inside and outside myself.

In my professional life, the thing of which I am most proud is being one source of hope to people who may feel forgotten by life.  The thing I am most proud of in my private life is the careful attention with which I have taken care of my family and friends, because I feel the most important thing in Life is Love. With all I’ve done so far, I feel my work here on Earth is not yet done. I have miles to go before I sleep. Wish me luck in writing my next chapters, my friends. I hope to keep on doing my own brand of positive thing for a while more, and I have promises to keep.

I close with a “poetic” quote of mine about chess:

I once saw a “deep” quote from a “Buddhist” Facebook Page concerning one of my favorite games, chess: “Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.”

I thought about my own struggle with schizophrenia and I felt that I could not let that nihilist have the last apt word. So, I penned the following response…

“So true! The game of Kings ends in this way… so poetic! Yet, the play of armies, led by Kings is the thing that separates the legends from the forgotten. Kings and pawns go to the same box, true, but it is how they played that makes all the difference. Not every King is named Arthur, and not every chess player is a Kasparov or a Fischer. As for the game of life as chess, we all eventually lose to Death. Death smiles at us all as we strategize and plan, but the best a man can do is follow the rules, smile back and play his damnedest, until it is his turn to rest. Life is not only about our final destination. It is also the journey we make, the others we touch, and the tales that are told! God gives burdens, also shoulders.”Washington Heights Poetry

I invite you to check out more of my poetry and art in The Poet of Washington Heights: A Scrapbook of Poetry, Photography, Digital Art, and Social Media,  twenty three of my books in English, Spanish, and French can be found on my Amazon Author’s Page.  Many of my ebooks are available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, as well as other fine purveyors of the written word. Salud!

For quality medical information about schizophrenia: check out this information from NIMH 

This is my curated list of Best Books about Schizophrenia

Please help me reach people who need my story of hope! Thank you! |


Guest Blogger Valerie Mungau

By Valerie Mungau and William Jiang, MLS

You have heard the expression; you are what you eat. Truer words were never spoken. Simply, it means: food and drink are fuel for your brain and body. The better quality your fuel, the better your brain and body will perform.

Africa is the second largest continent in the world. It is rich in geographic and cultural diversity. The culture of food in the different regions of Africa is important to people throughout the world. Many of the staple foods in Africans’ diet are good for the health, from leafy green vegetables to fresh juicy fruits. Part of African culinary history is, of course, that the foods have sustained a people for ages. We are seeing a rise in the popularity of the vibrant flavors and delicious foods that offer a key to better health in the African communities. One can never go wrong when you go back to your roots.

Traditional diet is the kind of food your grandmother would have cooked. Interestingly , traditional foodstuffs are associated with a lower risk of mental health issues. Traditional diets vary widely across cultures.  However, the common element that ties them together is a lack of processing of the foods and the nutrient-dense food that permeates each culture. The association between healthy diet and mental well-being starts well before birth.

There are so many benefits of greens such as kales, spinach, and traditional herbs such as ‘Kunde’, ‘terere’ etc.  because they are low in calories and high in nutrients, such as B vitamins. Fish like omena and mbutaa have omega3s, which are great for cardiovascular and mental health. Also, you can make kale chips, a kale and avocado smoothie, and kale based salads- also known as ‘kachumbari’ in East Africa.

african mental healthPoverty in Africa influences how people cook and store food. Since many people cannot afford refrigeration, people tend to buy fresh ingredients from the market and cook them on the same day or they rely on dried and smoked fish and vegetables as forms of traditional storage of food.

Foods like dairy, butter and cheese, have almost no place at the table, due to scarcity.

A balanced meal has foods from at least 3 or 4 food groups below:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grain products
  • Milk or other dairy alternatives
  • Meat and other alternatives like traditional chicken which is widely preferred in Africa because of its nutrients.
  • Healthy fats like: Oils- (olive, canola, sunflower), nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish such as salmon, tilapia ‘omena’, and ‘mbutaa’
  • Vegetables include: Eggplant, carrots, broccoli, leafy greens such as kales, celery, spinach.
  • Fruits include: Guava, oranges, mango, banana, papaya, pineapple, apples, melon, berries.
  • Whole grains include: Oats, millet, brown rice, maize and whole wheat.
  • Legumes include: Lentils, chickpeas and cowpeas.
  • Nuts and seeds include: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, flax seeds and cashews.

A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for the brain diseases of depression and anxiety. What one eats affects how the immune system works, how genes work and how the  body responds to stress. Time to thank Grandma for her good cooking!

Best Books about Bipolar Disorder

Best Books about Bipolar Disorder

Best Books about Bipolar Disorder as Curated by former Columbia Psychiatry Library Chief

Best Books About Bipolar Disorder
Former Columbia Psychiatry/ NYSPI Library Chief, William Jiang, MLS

Bienvenidos! My name is William Jiang, MLS and I was the Chief of the Patient Library at Columbia Psychiatry / New York State Psychiatric Institute for almost a decade from 2004-2011. According to the Surgeon General, more than one in four people in the United States struggles with mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and more.  Bipolar disorder used to be called manic-depression. The following were the best books about bipolar of the Columbia Psychiatry Patient Library during my tenure and of today.

Best Books about Bipolar Disorder

  • An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
    by Kay Redfield Jamison “An international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who are full professors of medicine at American Universities – a remarkable personal testimony: the revelation of her own struggle since adolescence with manic depression, and how it shaped her life. With vivid prose and wit, she takes us into the fascinating and dangerous territory of this form of madness – a world in which one pole can be the alluring dark land ruled by what Byron called the “melancholy star of the imagination,” and the other a desert of depression and, all too frequently, death.”
  • Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania Paperback – February 11, 2003
    by Andy Behrman “Electroboy is an emotionally frenzied
    best books about bipolarmemoir that reveals with kaleidoscopic intensity the terrifying world of manic depression. For years Andy Behrman hid his raging mania behind a larger-than-life personality. He sought a high wherever he could find one and changed jobs the way some people change outfits: filmmaker, PR agent, art dealer, stripper-whatever made him feel like a cartoon character, invincible and bright. Misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychotherapists for years, his condition exacted a terrible price: out-of-control euphoric highs and tornado-like rages of depression that put his life in jeopardy.”
  • Guide to Natural Mental Health: Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Schizophrenia, and Digital Addiction: Nutrition, and Complementary Therapies
    by William Jiang, MLS “In this useful guide, Jiang gives a short practical summary of a wide variety of mental disorders ranging from the classical bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia to the more modern affliction of digital addictions. In each category, he supplies a list of non-pharmacologic treatments, providing for each item a reference with abstract. He also offers resources such as national networks and local support groups.” – Marjorie Ordene, MD
  • 100 Questions & Answers About Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder
    by Ava T. Albrecht  “Whether you’re a newly diagnosed patient, a friend, or relative, this book offers help. The only volume to provide both the doctor’s and patient’s views, 100 Questions & Answers About Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder, gives you authoritative, practical answers to your questions about treatment options, coping strategies, sources of support, and much more. Written by a prominent psychiatrist, with actual patient commentary, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone coping with the medical, psychological, and emotional turmoil of this debilitating condition.”
  • Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness
    by Jessie Close “In RESILIENCE, Jessie dives into the dark and dangerous shadows of mental illness without shying away from its horror and turmoil. With New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley, she tells of finally discovering the treatment she needs and, with the encouragement of her sister and others, the emotional fortitude to bring herself back from the edge.”
  • Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
    by Kay Redfield Jamison “Drawing from the lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Byron and Virginia Woolf, Jamison examines the links between manic-depression and creativity.”
  • Shock
    by Kitty Dukakis “Kitty Dukakis has battled debilitating depression for more than twenty years. Coupled with drug and alcohol addictions that both hid and fueled her suffering, Kitty?s despair was overwhelming. She tried every medication and treatment available; none worked for long. It wasn’t until she tried electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, that she could reclaim her life. Kitty?s dramatic first-person account of how ECT keeps her illness at bay is half the story of Shock. The other half, by award winning medical reporter Larry Tye, is an engrossing look at the science behind ECT and its dramatic yet subterranean comeback. This book presents a full picture of ECT, analyzing the treatment’s risks along with its benefits. ECT, it turns out, is neither a panacea nor a scourge but a serious option for treating life threatening and disabling mental diseases, like depression, bipolar disorder, and others.”
  • The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Book & CD)
    by Mark Williams  “If you’ve ever struggled with depression, take heart. Mindfulness, a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences, can help you break the cycle of chronic unhappiness once and for all. In The Mindful Way through Depression, four uniquely qualified experts explain why our usual attempts to “think” our way out of a bad mood or just “snap out of it” lead us deeper into the downward spiral. Through insightful lessons drawn from both Eastern meditative traditions and cognitive therapy, they demonstrate how to sidestep the mental habits that lead to despair, including rumination and self-blame, so you can face life’s challenges with greater resilience. This enhanced e-book includes an audio program of guided meditations narrated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.”
  • Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
    by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky “Developed by two master clinicians with extensive experience in cognitive therapy treatment and training, this popular workbook shows readers how to improve their lives using cognitive therapy. The book is designed to be used alone or in conjunction with professional treatment. Step-by-step worksheets teach specific skills that have helped hundreds of thousands people conquer depression, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and relationship problems. Readers learn to use mood questionnaires to identify, rate, and track changes in feelings; change the thoughts that contribute to problems; follow step-by-step strategies to improve moods; and take action to improve daily living and relationships. The book’s large-size format facilitates reading and writing ease.”
  • The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know
    by David J. Miklowitz “Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward reclaiming your life from bipolar disorder. But if you or someone you love is struggling with the frantic highs and crushing lows of this illness, there are still many hurdles to surmount at home, at work, and in daily life. You need current information and practical problem-solving advice you can count on. You’ve come to the right place. Trusted authority Dr. David J. Miklowitz offers straight talk, true stories, and proven strategies that can help you achieve greater Best Books About Bipolarbalance and free yourself from out-of-control moods. The updated second edition of this bestselling guide has the latest facts on medications and therapy, an expanded discussion of parenting issues for bipolar adults, and a new chapter, “For Women Only.”
  • A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction
    by Patrick J. Kennedy “Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care’s history in the country alongside his and every family’s private struggles. On May 5, 2006, the New York Times ran two stories, “Patrick Kennedy Crashes Car into Capitol Barrier” and then, several hours later, “Patrick Kennedy Says He’ll Seek Help for Addiction.” It was the first time that the popular Rhode Island congressman had publicly disclosed his addiction to prescription painkillers, the true extent of his struggle with bipolar disorder and his plan to immediately seek treatment. That could have been the end of his career, but instead it was the beginning. Since then, Kennedy has become the nation’s leading advocate for mental health and substance abuse care, research and policy both in and out of Congress.”


I invite you to add your own favorite books about bipolar disorder in the comments.

In Health,

William Jiang, MLS