Holding Hope Services

Julie Fanning LCSW



May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Although May is just about over – speaking out about mental health is ongoing.

mental health awareness

(This article originally appears:

Did you know May is Mental Health Month?  May is designated to highlight the discussion of mental health and helping fight stigma.   The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) indicates that over 43 million adults live with a mental illness every year – that is approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States.  This means that you know many people who are struggling with mental health issues.  If you are in a helping profession you are likely encountering many individuals whose mental health is affecting their day to day life.

What can you do to promote mental health awareness and your own mental health?

  • Talk about mental health issues. Secrecy can breed shame and there is nothing shameful about mental illness.  Talk about your stories and talk about how you take care of your own mental health.   Mental Health America this month encouraged individuals to tweet about their own mental health experience (#mentalillnessfeelslike) – Check it out.
  • Consider the language you use every day.  I actually struggle with this one.  I would always use the word “crazy” to describe situations.  With clients, I’ve learned to use the word symptomatic when discussing behaviors or their symptoms.    I still struggle when trying to describe other types of situations so I’m often testing out words other than crazy in my everyday life!
  • While considering your language – remember that individuals who have a mental illness are not just their diagnosis.   Don’t say someone is schizophrenic – say he has a diagnosis of schizophrenia or is living with schizophrenia.
  • Consider downloading and using mental health apps that are available for your phone and tablets. There is an abundance of free and low-cost  apps out there.  Go on a search and see if you find any that fit you. One comprehensive list of mental health apps is  This list is broken down into every area you can think of including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, weight control,  anxiety, children and much more.
  • Advocate for mental health services. You may not be on the street protesting but there are a lot of little ways to advocate for mental health services.  You still can sign a petition or vote for individuals who support mental health.  Mental Health America states there is 1 mental health provider for 790 adults.   I supervise a team that helps individuals successfully transition back to the community.  Anecdotally,  I know when we try to find individual’s psychiatrists in the community, that the first available appointment is often several months from the time the person needs it.  Talk to your insurance company and local businesses about making sure to have mental health resources available.    Encourage Tele-psych andTele-counseling for individuals who are unable to find or get to traditional services.  When you see an opportunity – speak up and have your opinion known.
  • Take Care of your own mental health.   When you are caring for your own mental health you generally feel better and more confident and you are able to help those you love and those you come across live better also.  Below are some ways to help your own mental health.
    1. Try therapy and counseling. Therapy and Counseling is not just for individuals with severe mental illness or someone going through a severe trauma – although it can certainly help in those situations.  Therapy can help you focus on next steps in your life.  It is undivided attention from someone who is showing you unconditional, positive regard.  Therapy can make your life clearer and more full.  It can help motivate you  or help you work through little things before they become big things.  Sometimes therapy offers validation that you may not be able to get from family or friends.  If you plan on being a therapist yourself, I would strongly encourage you to participate in your own therapy.  I have seen great therapist debates about if therapy is necessary to being a good therapist.  I believe only ones self can answer that.  However, I know I am a much better therapist because I engaged in therapy.  (I also think I am living a happier life!)
    2. Get enough sleep. Our bodies need to rejuvenate.  We need enough sleep and my guess is 5 hours each night doesn’t cut it.
    3. Have something to look forward to. I actually end most of my sessions with clients with the question  “what are you looking forward to?”  Answers vary from something they are doing today to future events to broad plans.  Make sure to have things to look forward to.  I try to have some type of trip planned all the time so I can spend time making plans and getting excited.  You don’t need to be elaborate but plan activities for the future.  It can be planning a road trip someday or spending a day at the museum.  Whatever it is, find activities you can do to get ready for your adventure.
    4. Have a day (or even a few hours) where you just read or catch up on TV shows. Give yourself permission to do nothing.
    5. Laugh and enjoy the relationships in your life.
    6. Add your own. Look back on when you feel relaxed.  Is it a warm bath or a hike outside.  Is it playing the piano or dancing to music or praying?  Whatever it is that brings you peace – go ahead and do it.

Keep up the discussion for mental health awareness all year long.




Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I just want to wish everyone joy and prosperity for the new year!  My wish for you is that you do that one thing you have been wanting to do.  Take that chance, live that dream, believe in yourself.  I want you to remember that you are worthy of love happiness.

I also want to share the link for my MSWonline blog post  – Social Work and Spirituality!

MSW online blog – Social Work Practice and Spirituality


Enjoy each moment!

July MSW ONLINE POST – Self Determination and Social Work

I have so many great ideas for my blogs but I keep not making time to write them!  So…all I have been able to get written is another post for MSW online geared to those who are interested in social work or new to the field.  However, being candid,  I think even the older ones among us (meaning me) can use refreshers.

I am a very big proponent about people having their own choice.  One day I was complaining to my BFF about a situation and I said “I don’t know why that makes me so mad!”  She said “you always hate it when you think someone’s choice is being taken away.”

Lightbulb!  I do really hate it when people’s self-determination is taken away.  In fact one of my pet peeves ( and oh there are many) is when people say “If I were them I would…”     NO!  If you were them you would make the same choice they made because that is where your path and experiences would lead.  If you were confronted with the same situation you would make a different choice because that is what your values and experience have shown you.

Anyway, please click on over and read this months blog.  Wishes for tons of joy to come to you!


If I were them…Self Determination and Social Work

Talk about the weather!

So…this post falls squarely into the random thoughts of Julie Fanning LCSW category.

I saw this e-card and the caption above it was “boring people talk about the weather.”  Granted when I saw it was the record setting cold days and I know I saw -17 on my phone so why wouldn’t I be commenting on the weather.

However, I started thinking about it and maybe talking about the weather in the everyday is just one of the ways we try to connect with people.  It can be work trying to connect with someone else.  If I don’t know you I certainly don’t want to try to connect by making a random statement about anything.  Many statements would just cause conflict.

The weather is definitely safer than me going to some pleasant looking stranger I meet on the train “I was thinking about Obamacare and I think that…don’t you?”    I may luck out and Pleasant Looking Stranger may have views similar to me or maybe they’ll have views that are diametrically opposite of mine and then it is all awkward.  However, if I say to Mr. or Ms. Pleasant Looking Stranger – “I hate so much snow-” they’ll say something back.  Yep, I know it will be on a totally superficial level but you start somewhere.  Talking about the weather may bring on a pleasant conversation. They might reply back that they love winter because they love skiing or that they are hoping to retire to a beach or whatever.  We’ve connected and I don’t have to figure out how to move to get away from Pleasant Looking Stranger.

You may be thinking “seriously Julie? Small talk – you are going on about small talk.”  You know what –yes I am!  I think we don’t spend enough time connecting.  We go on with our busy lives and don’t want to waste a minute interacting with people not already on our radar.  How many times have you heard “I already have enough friends.” Or “I don’t need to hear that person’s life story.”  Why not?  Life is about connecting.  People come in and out of our lives all the time and our interactions are this huge part of the human experience.

When so many of us talk about trivial things like the weather -I wonder if it is just our better selves popping out.  The parts of us that are hopeful for commonalities and connection with others so we grab on to something we can talk about – the weather is pretty basic.  I think all the boring weather talk actually bodes well for the future of mankind.  We are still polite enough to engage with others.  We could choose to ignore everyone we meet but we don’t.  We try to engage even if all we can come up with is “did you remember your umbrella today?”  We are hopeful we will find something in common with someone else even if it is only “it sure is hot out there.”  If you are not sure what to say – talk about the weather and connect the heck out of a fellow person.

Totally random post…

Use Your Imagination


My client said “Never” and laughed and laughed and laughed when I asked her “Have you ever pretended you were a spy?” I have.   I wasn’t trying  to get my client to play ‘spy’ with me (although play is important too.)  I was making a point about imagination.  I encourage cultivating imagination in children because children who have an imagination are often more resilient.  Being able to picture a different outcome or a different life can be hopeful.  If a person is bullied or sad but can picture a scenario where that is not the case – this is hopeful.  It bodes well if a child can picture situations where they are cared about and valued.  Kids can even practice social skills and building relationships using imagination.  (What?  Julie you come up  the craziest things you think.)  Think about it as practice like role playing or imagining a situation in your head like adults do all the time.

Unfortunately, I think this is a skill people can lose as they become adults.  People would think I’m stranger than I am if I spoke to an imaginary friend all the time.  However,  the ability to imagine what ifs and the ability to imagine being loved or being happy or achieving your dreams – can be so very beneficial.

My advice to you is to practice using your imagination.  It will be so worth it.

For the past week, every time I try to sit down and write a blog post I get distracted by shiny things.  I just can’t get into it.  I looked through all my blog ideas and starts (and there must be 50 of them.) There is one on voting I really want to finish soon.  There is one on finding a therapist and one on positivity and I’m just indifferent to all of them.   I skipped over each blog start thinking, “boring”, “I don’t care,” “not interesting” and just passed them by.  I also save articles in my email for the purpose of blogging or Facebook and, no surprise; I was able to avoid writing by reading a bunch of interesting articles.  I just didn’t find a spark to write about.

I started to wonder about how my complete block  parallels our lives.   How often do we have a task we just can’t get around to doing?  Sometimes it is not just duty or tasks we don’t like to do, often people can’t even get started on enjoyable activities.  I have heard more times than I can count from people that there are things they want to do but just can’t seem to start.   I question how much people miss out on just because they can’t get started.   So, I decided to write about nothing.  It got me started and I already have the urge to finish one of the blog starts.

The advice to just get started might seem basic.  It may prompt a “duh!” response but there it is.  Just get started.  People tend to feel more confident, more purposeful; more accomplished when just doing something. It doesn’t have to be a big, major event.  It can be starting your cleaning project by emptying your dishwasher.  It can be beginning to write your great novel by typing up a paragraph.  It can be starting that new career by updating your resume.  It can be starting that hobby you’ve always dreamed about doing by just looking up information on the internet.    Just take action.  Stop being distracted by shiny things (whoops, that may be just me.)

Giant leap not necessary.    Just get started.

Busy Busy Busy

Busy, busy, busy.  You have a list of so many things you want to get done.  Cook healthy meals.  Take me time.  Get a promotion at your job.  Clean out your closet.  Go to yoga.  Take your kids to that show.  Figure out your life.  Find a significant other.  Paint the fence.  Paint a masterpiece.  Floss.   Go rock climbing. Saving your marriage.  Walk your dogs.  What is on your list?

The question is – “What are you prioritizing.”  You will always be busy.  There will always be work, responsibilities, carpooling, classes, responsibilities and duties.  Things you ‘have’ to do will always be there.   Is it possible that making time for the things that mean living and life are more important than cleaning your home?  Is it possible that prioritizing having happy, healthy family relationships is more important than making sure your child is in every activity possible?

Prioritize what is important to you.  Your priorities illustrate who you are.   Take a moment and review your priorities.  Are you putting your relationships, friends and family at the top.  (Keeping in mind quality not quantity.)  It takes time and work to keep nurture our relationships.   “I’m too busy, “is really just a convenient excuse for us to use.  You can always find to time to do what is important to you.  It is just figuring out what is really matters to you.

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” ~Henry David Thoreau

Yes, I still have a ton of Doctor Who quotes to share.

Previous posts (and explanations) with Doctor Who Quotes:

“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.” – The Third Doctor, The Time Warrior


Making lists, checking off tasks, moving ahead – all good ways to reach your goals.  Just don’t forget that being better than and having more than is generally not the purpose of life.  It is ok to take a bit of a side trip.  Think of all the things you miss by strictly adhering to a schedule.  You might miss talking to the older couple at the gas station telling how they just hit their 60th anniversary and their secrets on keeping a marriage together.  Maybe you will miss seeing that gorgeous waterfall that is a bit off the beaten path.  Maybe you’ll miss hysterically laughing with your family as you somehow get lost in a parking garage when you swear you were just driving down a street.  Maybe you’ll miss a deeper connection with family and friends because you skip that 15 minutes of coffee in the morning with your significant other or you go and run errands rather than have a picnic with the kids.  Like many of you I want to move forward, meet my goals and live fully.  I just know the times I remember are not the times I completed my tasks in an orderly manner (get up, get ready, feed everybody, go to work, run errands, get dinner on the stove, network a half other, do a load of laundry, play on the internet, get ready for bed, go to sleep.)  The times I remember are the other times.  The times I jumped a bit off the scheduled path.  The days I remember are the days I say “let’s totally do this instead.”  I remember the days I said “well I was planning on doing this but I can be flexible.”  I know we all have responsibilities and duties in our lives but is that really it?

I believe life is not meant to be a series of tasks but interesting.  I want to enjoy interesting things, interesting places and interesting people.  Next time you feel yourself stressed out about sticking to your schedule – maybe ask yourself if you’d rather open yourself up for all sorts of interesting things to happen and give yourself permission to take a step out of your to do list.

I am going to admit that I’ve never seen the third doctor but that would be the beauty of the internet.  You can find anything!  Here is a clip with the Third Doctor.

Happy Friday!

Life often sucks.  True story.  But you know what?  There are so many ways to find joyful moments.  I hope everyone has a great weekend.  Hoping you have plenty of laughter and love this coming weekend.

Here is a video clip from The Big Bang Theory ( and I don’t even actually watch it.)  My BFF Karen had me watch this clip and I thought it was hilarious. So here is a jump start on the laughs. “Of Course I do, I am a princess and this is my tiara.”

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