Mental Health Start Up

Last week I asked people around the internet to talk about mental illness.  If they were victims, I asked they talk about their afflictions.  This was a tall order, but I’m happy to say that the response has been overwhelming.  We are all in this together, and there is strength in that.  We empower each other every time another one of us stands up and says “I am your child, your sibling, your friend…and I’m sick.”  This is how we cultivate a wiser society.

I also asked that those untouched by mental illness write about how knowing others with mental disorders has changed their lives.  For others, I asked that they learn something new about mental illness and that they write about it.  Again, many immediately climbed on board.

Before I get into some of them, I want to throw out this comment from the post for all the people in the field of psychology.

Can we please start a community of Atheists dealing with mental illness? I’m tired of suffering alone. Too many people think faith is the only way to deal with these issues. We can build community too and we have proved it before. There should be some central website to talk about these things and support each other. How about it?

Does something like this exist?  If not, I will put something into motion.  There needs to be a place where non-believers can go and have their concerns met with medicine, absent the judgment and prodding to ask Jesus to cure the condition god thought was a good enough idea to leave in his design.

This commenter over at Pharyngula hit the nail on the head.

If anyone out there is thinking about going to a psychiatrist, but is afraid of the stigmatization, do it. Do it as soon as possible.

Also, if you are a supportive friend of someone with mental illness (protecting the person from his or her own bullshit, checking discretely and not condescendingly for burn/razor marks, etc.) you are a lifesaver. No preacher, bishop or spiritual healer will ever compare.

The world needs to realize that people with mental disorders are not angsty mopers who don’t know how to handle a break up.  We’re not the people who clean their house every day and self-diagnose themselves as OCD.  We are your co-workers.  In many cases, we’re your heroes.  As an exhibit A on that point, read fellow FtBlogger Stephanie Zvan’s account of her own psychological tribulations.  If there is any confusion in your mind as to what courage looks like, you can resolve them by clicking that link.

Another FtBlogger, Jen McCreight, receives treatment for dermatillomania and has written about it.

All of us, if we’re good skeptics, know what it means to fail while trying to be reasonable.  How many of us know what it feels like to have to reason their way around their own minds, only to arrive at the conclusion that they cannot be trusted to map out reality on a particular subject?  Stephanie and Jen have succeeded and done great things despite that hindrance.  Victims of mental illness are not weak people – we are fighters.  What’s worse, because of our own insanities or because we live in a world that shuns the afflicted, we’re often battling alone, unable to ask for help.  Kudos to Stephanie and Jen for stepping up and breaking the ice.

As my father always said: “It’s the confession, not the priest, that absolves us.”  With 22-23% of the population having some sort of mental disorder, coming out can not only liberate an individual from the stigma attached to mental illness, it can tell others close to you that they are not alone.

I tell the BF. “I’m crazy.”

I hear something I didn’t expect. “I’m crazy too.”

More crying, only it’s happy crying now. The imaginary Apollo audience goes “awwwww,” the imaginary receptionist averts her eyes and looks ashamed.

Lastly, please read this post.  The conclusion, which I excerpt here, could be an opus for the closeted loon who is not so loony as to believe in Canaanite Jews rising from the dead.

And, important for me and for many others: the treatment of these things doesn’t have to include a deity. It doesn’t mean “giving it up to [god here].” If that helps, great. But there is a full life without a deity, there is hope for atheists with mental illness. I am an atheist, and I have depression, and it’s not because of my lack of a god, and a god isn’t helping me at all. I have reasons to live beyond any kind of hope that a creator could give me. There is the hope that we can have in reality, in humanity, and in ourselves. There is so much to empower ourselves with, and this is important to talk about. Can we please just talk about this?

It’s perfect, yet it doesn’t do the rest of the post justice.  If you read none of the other pieces I link of atheists coming out about their disorders, read the one above.

There are so many more, and I will continue to post them.  I’m trying to keep up with all the incoming mail.  The response to this has been overwhelming, so it’s a herculean task.  I don’t mind though.  I love hearing all your stories!  I want to share them.  Please feel free to send along your stories (wwjtd21[at]gmail[dot]com), but please be patient.

On some of the email I’ve been receiving.  I am not a psychiatrist, but I do know that self-diagnosis means you are getting wikipedia at best when you may need a doctor.  If you are having prolonged symptoms that seriously affect your daily life, do not self-diagnose and call it a day.  Go see a doctor.  If you self-diagnose yourself and carry on about your daily life, throwing out your self-diagnosis with the same casual smile as you do discussing your new pair of jeans, you trivialize the suffering of others and you contribute to the present view of society of mental illness-sufferers just needing to get their shit together.

Now, there are some of you reading this who worry that you are being weak if you go see a doctor.  There are people reading this who think they have somehow failed by even considering the possibility their brain may be malfunctioning.  You are not being weak!  You are no weaker than a cancer patient who decides to see a doctor rather than fighting it by force of will.  But don’t rely on your own assessment: many mental health problems make your own analysis unreliable.  Speak with friends and follow their lead.  They care for you.  Ask them to go to the doctor with you.

I can encourage you to live without shame.  It would be immoral of me to think I can diagnose anybody writing to me.  Please, please go see a doctor for that.  No less.

MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
MENTAL ILLNESS: BDSM or Neuroscience?
MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Elizabeth Sturgeon

    So not only did you link to me (and leave me a loving comment!) but you said the nicest things ever and I’m caught between jumping around the room and crying so that’s cool.

    But enough about me- the point is that I am a web designer/developer, a mental illness patient, and a Psychology student. I am completely willing to help develop a community of atheists with any sort of mental illness. I need to go to sleep now so that I can form coherent thoughts later, but put my name down on the list of “people who will make this happen.” Other people can e-mail me (me[at]sturgotronic[dot]com) until these coherent thoughts happen, in case something amazing is developed over the next few hours and I’m not awake to experience its genesis (did you see what I did there?). But yes, sleep would be good so that I can stop babbling and flailing.

    • JT Eberhard

      If nothing else comes up within the next several hours, I nominate you. I will give you all my support and it seems the community will do likewise.


    • Psychotic Atheist

      I’m a web programmer with modest skills (I’ve never put together a major project of any kind, most comfortable with php), but I’d be happy to offer what assistance I can too. And even if I don’t help to build it, I will still come.


    • Aliasalpha

      I had an idea a month or 3 back for a community content driven atheist+mental illness themed blog but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get enough material for it to be regularly updated (from my lack of contacts & experience rather than lack of material).

      Depending on whats needed, I may well put my hand up to help. I’m not too much on the programming side but I can certainly do content management and system design

  • papango

    Crazy Meds is pretty good. But it tends to skew towards people who have a drug regime and it’s supportive, but there is only so much you can ask from people who take pills for the side effects of the pills they take.

    Still, if you’re on an SSRI and you suddenly can’t stop hiccuping, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one.

  • Stein

    My boss was mentally ill.

    I felt sorry for him, even thought he made my life hell.

    But I get satisfaction now from hating his guts.

    And your admission, JT, goes a long away toward explaining your strained, stressed, angry demeanor.

    I can only imagine what you would do to me if you were my boss, or had some political power over me.

    Fortunately, the behavior of atheists and guys like yourself means you will never get elected to policial office.

    So…Keep It Up.

    And don’t forget to take you meds!

    • Tara

      What a horrible thing to say!

      I am seriously at a loss of words on how to respond to that.

      Why in the world would you assume it has something to do with our atheism that leads to us suffering with mental illness. It makes me think you have never bothered to read the blog posts or watch the video.

      I seriously hope you are nothing more than a troll trying to get a reaction. Otherwise, you should think more carefully about what you post as it makes you look really bad.

      • John Morales

        Tara, yeah, it’s a troll.

  • anthony

    I actually am embarrassed to say that I have a mental disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with dysthymia, which is low level depression over a long period of time, about 39 years in my case.

    But the mere fact that I have it is not what I’m embarrassed about. It’s that my illness seems so trivial. It’s like complaining that I have a cold to someone with end-stage cancer.

    I’ve been a member of a support community for quite some time, but when I updated my profile a little while ago to include the fact what I was an atheist, suddenly the comment threads in my journal dried up, and it ceased to be helpful. I like to write and I like to think that I’m halfway decent at it, if I put a bit of effort into it, but one of the ways that my depression manifests itself is the need for validation.

    So, yeah. A community for atheists to support each other with their mental illnesses would be swell.

    The only trouble I would have with it is that I’m not self-motivated. I sincerely do not believe that I am allowed to be anything else other than… (I can’t think of the word… here’s a picture)


    This is where I’m stuck. If I allow myself even for one second, to feel anything, anything at all, the trap door opens and I’m down to Miserable for weeks. I was there a little while ago, after I got a glowing review for the last show I did, and felt some pride in my work.

    See? Compared to some of the things I have read, this is trivial. Nothing. I just need a tissue and some NyQuil.


    PS: I made a comment on another post, and I found myself in comment moderation. I’m sorry about whatever it is that I said that put me into there. Please tell me what it was, so that I don’t do it again.

    • anthony

      the “picture” should look like this


      • Lana C

        Don’t denigrate your illness. It’s not like it makes it any less an illness. It’s like Diabetes, sure you can live with it, in most cases control it and have a decent productive life with it. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. It doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You qualify to be right there with the rest of us nutjobs, and take it from me, I’ve got Major Depression. If you think that I’m the shark and you are the little fish in the pond of unhappy, then so be it. You are still there. And you deserve help and support just as much as I do. Hugs to you.

    • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

      If I allow myself even for one second, to feel anything, anything at all, the trap door opens and I’m down to Miserable for weeks.

      I hear ya. You don’t mention it in your post, but have you tried talk therapy? I’ve had a hard time in treatment (4 months on Friday – I’m making myself cookies) because of exactly that – to feel happy again I had to allow myself to feel anything, and what came out what not exactly fun. I had a few very miserable weeks, but it was a controlled environment and things slowly got better. While it’s been painful at times, I can now safely feel happy again and oh man it is awesome! You don’t have to label yourself as absolutely nuts to benefit from a good shrink.

      • anthonyallen

        I haven’t tried talk therapy, but I have read some interesting things about it. In particular, a somewhat new approach called ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and that seems like it would be a really good fit for me. I also watched a documentary called The Workshop, in which the filmmaker attends a 10-day retreat that focuses on that type of therapy. Although I must say that the person that is the doc’s primary focus seems like a something of a quack to me, I nevertheless found the therapy itself to be intriguing.

        There are some that I’ve tried, such as CBT, that didn’t work for me. (Notice how I resisted the urge to say that I failed at it. That’s a big deal for me, trust me on that.) I’ve tried 2 different SSRI meds as well, one made me detest sex, (I’m pretty sure that was the final nail in the coffin that now contains my marriage, incidentally) and the other just didn’t make me feel any different.

        @Lana C: **hugback**

        Thanks, that means a lot. I’ll have to ask you to please refrain from eating me, though. ;)

        • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

          Of course you didn’t fail. It’s not something that you can fail at. It didn’t work because it didn’t work – maybe the therapist was the wrong one, or the method was not what you needed. You didn’t fail and no one should say that you did.

          I don’t have a name for what I’m doing (and I don’t want one – it’s easier to just think about it as an hour talking to an awesome guy), but the Wikipedia entry for ACT sounds exactly like it. Thinking about it, my shrink has tried several things, including CBT. It did not work for me – I got too obsessive.

          All I can suggest is to not give up. It’s too easy to think that you are miserable because it is the way you are supposed to be, and forget what it feels like to be happy (and not afraid of the consequences). Meanwhile, we are now all here to keep each other going (and it’s awesome!).

  • LadyBlack

    Frigging heck, what is wrong with some people, are they joking?

    I know you don’t need me to protect you, JT, but I just want to extend a hug when I read stuff like the comment from “Stein”. Sad, sad little people. “Satisfaction from hating his guts”? I don’t know how that works.

    I would love to see this project come to fruition, but my time on the internet is limited (and also what I can do). It sounds like a great idea. I have a couple of websites I go to, but they all have people leading them who are…..with god (or g*d, as they write) and I feel like I’m treading on eggshells sometimes….

  • Irreverend Bastard

    There needs to be a place where non-believers can go and have their concerns met with medicine, absent the judgment and prodding to ask Jesus to cure the condition god thought was a good enough idea to leave in his design.

    Why only atheists and religion? Why not broaden the field and say skeptics and woo? Jesus is not the only non-solution out there. There are plenty of atheists that believe in chiropractic, homeopathy and similar nonsense.


    Fortunately, the behavior of atheists and guys like yourself means you will never get elected to policial office.

    Only in the United States of Jesus. There are plenty of atheists in top political positions in Europe.

    • Richard

      Points for not replying directly to that guy, trolls like that should starve.

    • teh_faust

      Good point about the woo – contemporary psychology -and not only the slef-help popular kind – is still full of it.
      A friend once texted me this gem live from her classroom:
      Imagine sitting through an obligatory psychoanalysis seminary in an otherwhise modern and serious university and being offered the following (s)explanation for gender differences in depression rates: Depression is, kind of like sadness, therefore it is related two loss. As the females subconsiously believe that they lost their penis at birth and are now looking forward for a dull and pointless life without them, they have suffered more loss and therefore, are more prone to depression.

      • WMDKitty

        Paging Dr. Freud?

        • teh_faust

          We hoped nailing the lid would do the job. But obviously it wasn’t enough.

          • Dissonanz

            Ironically, nailing on the lid would’ve done it.

            Evidence-based treatments should, by now, be the standard, I think. Unfortunately, it still is hard to find out whom you can trust, without first researching everything they want to do yourself. And even then.. Oh, hell.

      • teh_faust

        @Dissonanz: I was wondering when you’d show up :D You never fail to surprise me.

        • teh_faust


  • John

    I would like to re-emphasize JT’s point about not self-diagnosing. It can be dangerous.

    When you seek a doctor or therapist’s help be sure to ask questions. Find out what kind of treatment they find useful and research it. Let them know right away that you are an atheist or skeptic. If you don’t like their reaction to that or their preferred method of treatment look for another doctor or therapist. Find one that you will be comfortable with and will be most likely to help you. Many list their treatment plans and specializations on their web sites.

  • Pteryxx

    Re making this happen… I seem to recall some discussions over on Skepchick that touched on the need to destigmatize mental illness. (They’ve also posted on disabilities, which may overlap.) How about contacting them?

    (tb;dr) (too busy, didn’t research)

  • Laurence

    One of the main problems of going to see a doctor about a mental illness is that a lot of people just can’t afford to go see a doctor about it. Like any kind of healthcare in the United States, it’s expensive. It’s really unfortunate that people who want help cannot get the help they need.

    • WMDKitty

      And funding has been cut to free/low cost mental health care services. I was turfed from talk therapy because of funding.

  • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

    The openness of the skeptic community to talk about these issues is the one thing that lowered the stigma threshold enough to allow me to get help. So I think that just having it periodically show up as a topic of discussion through the blogosphere is helpful.

    I sometimes lurk the PostSecret forums – lots of people talking about mental illness. There’s a LOT of god in there, and lots of *hugs* and *kisses*, so it’s not my kind of place (also lots of triggers – careful). The Endless Thread sometimes becomes a support group for mental illness, when people vent about their issues and others jump in, and THAT is awesome. If we could somehow merge the two, it would be great.

    Maybe we should ask Richard Wade (at Friendly Atheist) for his input.

    • Pteryxx

      The Endless Thread sometimes becomes a support group for mental illness, when people vent about their issues and others jump in, and THAT is awesome. If we could somehow merge the two, it would be great.

      ^ agreed, wholeheartedly.

      TET’s also a community, where lurkers can see people laughing and arguing and commenting on random songs, who also have mental illnesses and will talk about those. I think it’d lose something if the community were only about support for mental illness, because the stigma’s so overwhelming and isolating. So… I guess I’m suggesting that any support community needs to retain strong ties to a vibrant, actively discussing population such as FTB enjoys.

      …What if there were a blog here dedicated to mental illness, with its own open thread? /brainstorming

      • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

        That’s brilliant! That way you also avoid forum posts with no replies – those are sad :( .

  • Rebecca

    Hey! I found your blog very recently through others commenting on your wonderful skepticon talk, JT. Upon sharing it on Facebook, I was surprised how many people came forward and said “yes, stigma is shitty, and this is something I have to deal with”.

    Today I thought, maybe it would be cool if there was a website or a blog in which everyone could submit their experiences of coping with a mental disorder, anonymously or not. A safe space to share, if you will, which can be easily circulated around the internet/to peoples social circles. How about something like that?

  • eNeMeE

    Now, there are some of you reading this who worry that you are being weak if you go see a doctor.

    Oh, hells, YES. Took me years to get the courage together to do this and it was all so freakin’ easy once I did it (and so much better, too). You don’t even need to go see a psych necessarily – your GP can handle some or all of it.

    • Pteryxx

      Adding to this… for someone without much access to medical care *cough* Planned Parenthood can be very helpful. I know, they’re about reproductive care not psychiatric care, but they’re accepting folks, dedicated to being supportive, nonreligious, and by and large they’ve seen it all. Practitioners there gave me some good starter tips on depression back in the day.

  • judykomorita

    I would love to see a community about this, and in support of it. I’ve tried family members, and most of them don’t seem to *get* it.

    I don’t know if I have anything that can be labeled, but I sure have a lot of trouble coping with my life, this stupid world, its inhabitants, and the emotions I generate within myself because of them. Been on just about every SSRI ever made, and I hate the side effects.

    Would *love* to have an atheist/skeptic community (bulletin board or blog) about this.

  • AliLynneC

    I have suffered from depression, anxiety, and an as yet not completely diagnosed eating disorder. On top of all of that my dad is an abusive alcoholic who made my childhood fairly miserable and caused me to have some pretty significant co-dependency issues (a phrase I dislike, but is none the less the term that is used).

    Al-anon is the suggested resource for anybody deals with substance abuse issues, and I’m well aware that they have done great work. However, al-anon focuses on the twelve steps, all of which involve recognizing some variety of higher power. This drives me crazy. I’m looking for help, not to give myself up to a non-existant entity.

    I’m all for creating a place on the internet where atheists, skeptics, etc can go for help with all mental health issues without being told that the only way to solve the problem is to give oneself up to a higher power, whatever that may be.

    Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

  • Claire Kelly

    I work in mental health, in general but with a focus on youth, here in Australia. Our program is about fighting stigma, and about educating the public to recognise symptoms of mental illness and respond appropriately and helpfully.
    Australia is definitely a less religious country than America, but here as well I struggle with running training in groups where people try to convince themselves that the sky bully has a plan, that suffering has purpose, BLAH BLAH BLAH. I think it’s more useful to your mental health to be an atheist, frankly; better balanced locus of control and less daft roadblocks to seeking and getting help.
    If there was anything I could do to contribute to running an atheist MI hub of some sort, I’d do it – articles, whatever. I think it’s a brilliant idea.
    JT, you’re my hero xx

  • Rando

    Somebody needs to rewrite those 12 step rules, cause they all involve some form of a God or “Higher Power”, and addiction is hard enough but when your fellow addicts are judging you simply because you don’t believe in their “Higher Power” it’s pretty hard to deal with your addiction issues.

    The organizer of my Narcotics Anonymous program was a Baptist Minister an he tried to throw me out of the program because I was an Atheist. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t on parole and getting thrown out meant going back to jail. Thank Someone Else’s God, my parole officer was understanding and set me up with a group that wasn’t ruled over by a fascist religious maniac.

    • AliLynneC

      I actually keep meaning to do just that. The problem is that the depression makes it hard for me to get anything done. My husband just lost his job, and our health insurance along with it. So I’m currently living without meds and doctors.

      But perhaps working on a new list will help.

    • Filthy Pazuzu

      I’ve been in way too many Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. They’re exactly the same thing, and amount to religious cults.

      Also, what “success” rates of theirs that are available (they don’t release them) are exactly the same as people who try to handle their addictions on their own: 5%. (Yes, sadly only about 5% who try to quit using succeed. Most addicts do try at least several times, though, so that helps.)

      Check out The Orange Papers, by a former AA member who didn’t like what he found in those meetings, and so with rabid single-mindedness dedicated an enormous amount of time over many years to research AA and expose it as the fraudulent cult that it is. His website is an incredible resource.

      I think the fact that American justice systems from the municipal level all the way up to federal are allowed to sentence defendants to what are obviously religious organizations is despicable and perhaps even unconstitutional.

      As for being mentally ill AND chemically addicted (MICA, to us in the biz)… Yeah, it sucks hard. Self-medication can lead to frightening situations.

  • Elizabeth Sturgeon

    I also wanted to contribute this to the discussion- I contacted my best friend, who is a skeptic with mental illness issues and a history of addiction. He suggested Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.) as an alternative to the 12 Step Meetings as a secular support group for those dealing with addiction in general and chemical dependency specifically.

  • Elyssa Burg

    Hi. I’d be willing to help start a community of atheists with mental disorders. I’m a patient myself (my diagnoses stem from a history of childhood sexual and emotional abuse and neglect). I’m a basic scientist, so definitely not in the mental health field, but I have read the academic literature (and some of the popular literature) on complex trauma and dissociation. I also run a meetup group for survivors of trauma/abuse, so I’d like to think that might help…somehow. Anyway, if someone’s asking for volunteers to help get things started, please add me to your list! -Elyssa (

  • AliLynneC

    I’m happy be a ringleader here. I’m pretty fed up with not being able to find the resources I need. And even though having to be organized and involved with people again, it’s something I desperately need to do. So I’m voluteering to be an/the organizer. When I’ve been able to work it’s been as an administrative assistant, so I’m pretty good with organizing and getting things set up. I do have some web design/dev experience, but it’s limited. However, I live in the middle of Startup Country in SF where there is no shortage of people willing to help with setting up sites and organizations like these. So please, let me know what I can do.

  • Marty

    Wow. Just read that dermatillomania thing. I have that. Didn’t know it was a disorder, just thought it was a really bad habit (although I suppose there is a bit of a spectrum thing). Might look into what they suggest for it, then I can have legs without sores on them (the combo of eczema and not leaving sores alone is not a happy couple).

    Sorry for the random self diagnosis thing guys, but it’s kind of nice to know that it’s not just a really weird thing that I do, you know?

  • TommyP

    HUGS JT. Just got wind of all this via Greta Christina (love that dame, seriously)

    Thank you so much for speaking out about this stuff. It’s an important nuance of being atheist that I feel is hardly touched upon. I know I’ve gotten a lot of useless flak about giving my problems to a god or some other such magical construct. Not particularly useful to me. I’ve done most of my psychological heavy lifting on my own all these years, and it’s been effective, to a degree. But there’s a lot to be said for asking for help, and damn am I glad to see someone asking. We’re a social species, and we seem to do so much better if you throw us together and give us the tools to help one another. That you spoke out about your thoughts and feelings, ah! So refreshing dude. I’m going to be paying much closer attention to your blog from now on. Maybe I’ll randomly chime in with something useful. Regardless, thanks a million! You’re a biscuit.

  • Leo

    Trying to fly under the radar is evil because it’s living in shame and encouraging invisibility. Self-diagnosing and self-medicating and being casual about it is evil because it’s trivializing. The only moral way is to go see a real doctor.

    How nice of you to offer to look up doctors for me, and remind me to call them, and pick me up from the floor after I do. How sweet of you to offer to go with me to the tax office and help me fill out insurance paperwork. How positively delightful of you to offer to drop by or call me to check if I haven’t missed an appointment and I’m able to get to one.

    I realize I’m being a jerk here. I mean, what you’re doing rocks. Thanks for making some noise about mental illness, thanks for being open about your own, thanks for making this noise in the atheist community in particular, and, yeah, thanks for the pep talk. Just… no thanks for the part where you go “Whatsamatter, McGyver? You too weak to see a real doctor?”.

  • robinpowell

    I’ve been thinking for Quite Some Time that we really need an atheist, rationalist (in the <a href="; title="lesswrong" sense) church/temple/something. There's a whole *host* of community benefits that religious people get that atheists simply *do not have*. There's *always* somewhere to go, someone to talk to (I mean, maybe not at any given time, but you wait a couple of days at most…), and those people generally accept you freely and so on and so forth. The advantages of such a lifestyle (one where you have a strong sense of culture and community and you know your neighbours and so on), and atheists just don't get them.

    On top of that, such a group could play with the power of ritual, and try to extract its beneficial bits in a context steeped in actual psychological theory instead of random memetic chance. Like, people keep saying you need religion to get over depression. Well, why? What aspects of religion assist in this process? How can we extract those aspects? How can we improve on them, make them more effective?

    This blog post is just one in a long line of similar ideas I've seen for a while now. Unfortunately, I don't myself have the energy to be the front man in such a movement, but I'd love to participate.

    I apologize if I'm hijacking this thread for something off-topic, but it seems like a similar sort of idea to me.


    • robinpowell

      I don’t know what happened to that link, and I can’t edit it, so trying again: lesswrong.

  • TommyP

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And it’s interesting, one of my roomates just went off the wall because I was depressed. Yelling that I’m pitiful and need to leave. Normally I’d withdraw from that kind of conflict. My usual response to strife and anger and abuse is to withdraw and try not to stir it up by being visible. It’s pretty deeply a part of me that I don’t like to get angry at people. But this time I stood up for myself and tried to explain things. Tomorrow, I’m going to my doctor and I’m going to get some paperwork to back this up. Somehow, it would be nice to get some respect for actually trying, and not being a giant, abusive jerk. Seriously, thanks for the little incidental nudge by sharing your thoughts JT. It made a difference for me today, and I hope it does the same for others.

  • Shira

    If this could happen, it would be amazing. I have to work myself up to go to the grocery store each week and my family’s only answer is church.

    I have fought with major reoccurring depression since I was in elementary school and went to church for years expecting some god to fix me once I was good enough to deserve it. It took a lot of work and years of effort to realize I AM good enough to deserve to be better and I don’t need prove it to some unreachable voice in the sky to start down that path. Being able to reach out and talk to other people who understand that idea and who understand what it’s like to live with this every single day would be absolutely fantastic.

    • BlueNTX

      testing,testing… here goes first EVER post on the Intertoobs..[Don't tell PZ,his feelings will be hurt as I've been lurking at Pharyngula for over a year and didn't officially become a minion of the Tentacled Overlord.][Shame,guilt to follow...]
      THIS one I could not let pass.
      Seeng that this discussion has been going on for a couple of days I’m replying to Shira speciffically as his/her post shows to be only an hour diffrent than mine.[Update:OK I still haven't figured out this FTB time thing !]
      Were we (and possibly others in the comments) seperated at birth ? I too have had reoccuring depression since childhood,though I didn’t know what those anxiety attacks were until after I was 30.
      I’ll spare you more tedious detail (this time)but just want to say thank you JT and all supportive commentators.Seeing this post was much like admiting my atheism–there ARE other people like me out there!
      Living in a rural area with limited (mental)health care is very…limiting. I hope to see you all (and others)in ‘virtual group’ soon.

  • Taylor Mali

    Do not think of suicide as the ultimate Fuck you
    or that your moral plane is so much higher.
    Nothing in the world has a thing to do with you—
    little ever does, when everything is through,
    your majesty, your royal highness, bastard, sire.
    Do not think of suicide as the ultimate Fuck you,
    or even a selfish act; she did what she had to do.
    The storm-blown hawk knows when to release the wire.
    Nothing in the world has a thing to do with you.
    Her life was night and nothing more for all she knew,
    angels of the minor keys sang among her choir.
    Do not think of suicide as the ultimate Fuck you.
    There’s nothing you could have done and nothing to undo.
    Fill your life with everything you love, what you desire.
    Nothing in the world has a thing to do with you.
    She had regrets and grief, was more than passing blue,
    but no one blames the hand for withdrawing from the fire.
    Do not think of suicide as the ultimate Fuck you,
    nothing in the world has a thing to do with you.

  • adelheid

    It feels great to know I am not alone. I am lucky to be a functioning sufferer of depression and social anxiety. I say functioning as I am still able to work and make a good living and have managed to maintain my relatioship with my amazing so. However unfortunetely that is about the extent of my functioning. My socal anxiety is so bad it took me 2 days just to write this comment, as i feel not mater what I wite it is lame.

  • Claire Kelly

    We’re glad you’re here, adelheid :o)

  • Brock Rogers