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Helpful messages, no jargon

By Tom Davis

Ira Minot likes this headline for his life story: "Fromthe Depths of Despair to a Mission of Advocacy."

That's the kind of language people can understand, Minot said: simple,forthright and honest.

It's the kind of message he's promoting in Mental HealthNews.

Minot is editor andpublisher of the New York-based publication, providing it with a personal touchthat's reflected in its writing, story topics and approach.

Minot's mission is tohelp people avoid the kinds of problems he had when he suffered from severedepression. One of the most frequent questions he asked back then: "Wherecan I go for help?"

The answer, unfortunately, was usually buried in somescientific jargon that was never easy to comprehend or decode, Minot said.

"It just angered me that there was nothing out therethat let me know that I could get help," said Minot, 54. "It was like, if you foundit, you were lucky."

After years of suffering, Minot has made it his goal to help others --even if he has to do all the work himself.

Minot, who has a background in social work and once workedas a charity fund-raiser, started the publication about six years ago,receiving some assistance -- financial and otherwise -- from mental health professionalsin the New York region. Using old-fashioned people skills, he sold them on theidea that such a publication is necessary and can work.

"In the beginning, they were like, 'He's a nice guy.Let's help him out,' " Minot said.

At the start, Minotsent out thousands of copies to professionals and hospitals. His pitch wassimple: No matter who you are, everybody's life is impacted by mental health.

He now enjoys strong support from mental healthprofessionals in the New York Cityregion. They donate money and help him circulate the quarterly publication tomore than 60,000 medical professionals, the media and consumers.

"It's like a labor of love for me," Minot said. "It'slike an orchestra, and I'm the orchestra leader and we're making beautifulmusic together."

Minotdoes virtually all the desktop publishing work at his New York apartment. Hisstaff is, essentially, a Web master and a part-time graphic designer. Both aremental health professionals who write -- in a conversational way. They alsodon't earn any money for their labor, Minotsaid.

In the winter 2006 edition, Richard McCarthy, an associateprofessor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, wrote aboutanxiety and how the medication that treats it can be addictive andsleep-inducing.

Henry Acosta, deputy director of the New Jersey MentalHealth Institute, noted Minothas started a bilingual version of his publication, called SaludMental.

"It's reader-friendly. It's geared to providers andconsumers," Acosta said. "Any layperson can pick it up and readit."

In a crisis, sufferers of schizophrenia and other disordersshould know what to do immediately, Minotsaid. It took him many years to figure out how to help himself.

Minot suffered fromdepression that "destroyed everything," he said. He was divorced. Hebecame homeless. He was especially tormented that his son "just watchedhis father's life fall apart."

A decade ago, he finally found help, in the form of shocktherapy. He called it "the magic bullet." A housing agency alsohelped him find an apartment.

But it came after many years of destruction, when the answerwas simple.

"I didn't realize that there was this mental healthcommunity that can help," he said.

Starting Mental Health News also helped him recover, hesaid, allowing him to "get outside of my own head" and examine mentalhealth for what it is. Now, mental health education is his life.

"When I turned that around, and said, 'What can I dofor other people?' it was the best therapy for me," Minot said.

On the Web:

Reproduced with permission of The Record of Hackensack, NJ.

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