By: Patty McCall
Tulsa, Oklahoma (The Hollywood Times) 02/18/2021
We live in a world of constant challenges, and that’s only seemed to intensify over the past year. We often turn to entertainment as a way to distract ourselves. But like any industry, Hollywood is made up of people, in front of and behind the camera, who have problems just like the rest of us. And it’s often been asked if being creative, like most people in the film and TV world, make you more prone to mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, etc.?
For those of us looking to be entertained as a form of therapy, there comes a point where you need to stop distracting yourself and face your problems head on.
We wanted to talk about these topics and so much more, so we reach out to LA based Dr. Greg Cason. He has been a psychologist for over 20 years with an expertise in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He’s worked with wide range of clients on a wide range of challenges.
THT: Dr. Cason you live in Los Angeles, how are you seeing the local population cope with the lockdowns compared to the rest of the state or country?
Dr. Cason: It’s been difficult here. I know many people who have contracted COVID and some who had to be hospitalized. Some are good at following public health guidelines while others consider themselves exempt, which unfortunately, is going to keep the lockdown going on. We have long been known as a town of narcissists and this pandemic is revealing both the best and worst of humanity.
THT: How has working as a psychologist changed during the pandemic? Do you have to do sessions virtually now?
Dr. Cason: Mental health work went through two phases. At the beginning of the pandemic my business decreased by almost half, but the pressure and uncertainty of the pandemic and the lockdowns caused people’s individual issues to only heat up and eventually boil over. Name the problem and there is far more of it these days: depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, relationship issues, etc. Everybody is feeling the effects and there are few outlets. Yes I do my sessions virtually. Though are some patients like it more, most long to have the personal connection that being in the office affords. I miss it too.
THT: How would you rate how the film and TV industry has coped in working again during COVID?
Dr. Cason: I’ve been impressed with some of the adjustments. The late night hosts appeared to take the lead and did the job that governments like New Zealand did in other countries — that of moral support and cheerleader during very uncertain times. I believe the shining stars were people like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers, to name a few, lead us through some difficult times and normalized what we were all feeling while our government was either playing it down or sending mixed messages. The other shining stars were the streaming services, which allowed people to binge-watch new shows and re-watch old favorites. Turning to favorite shows and movies were like the “chicken soup” of our viewing experience and could not have been possible with “live” network television.
THT: Do you think the lockdowns have helped at all with creativity, especially with writers?
Dr. Cason: I think for some the lockdowns has been helpful and gives them time and solitude, two things writers need. But the anxiety spurred on by the uncertainty and conflicting messages from our officials took a toll and could derail the best of efforts. This has been a unique time for most and a traumatic time for many others. Those things usually do increase creative expression, though it may not be immediate. It may be after the dust settles.
THT: Let’s change topics a bit. What are your thoughts on biofeedback? Can it help with creativity? Is this something that you recommend?
Dr. Cason: Biofeedback is a technique, where you train yourself to self-regulate your physiological response to, generally, stress. It can be helpful if your stress is too high. To be creative, you need the same kind of physiological state that we have in activities such as sex, a mix of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system response. Basically you need a mix of relaxation and excitement. Too much excitement and you can’t think straight. Too much relaxation and you don’t think much at all. Biofeedback can help with the people who have too much stress or excitement to cool themselves down enough to be productive. If you have too much relaxation (such as a couch potato), you tend to have fewer creative activities. I wonder if that’s why many of us have some great creative thoughts in the shower, we are both relaxed and invigorated. Our mind is focused and distractions are drowned out. And then it enters — the creative thought…
THT: I’m a survivor of domestic violence. We hear that domestic violence has been on the rise lately, due in part to the pandemic and lockdowns. What is the solution for people in this situation, who need to escape?
Dr. Cason: I wish that I could say here is the three step process and all will be solved. As a survivor, you know how difficult and complicated it can be when you are caught in the cycle of violence even though everyone around may think it is so easy to leave. No one wants domestic violence. The reasons for staying may be complicated and not visible to the outside world. People inside these relationships go through a several step process. The first is recognizing they are in one. A good question to ask yourself is, “Have my partner ever been hit, kicked, slapped, punched, hurt, or threatened me or denied me of food, water, or sleep — either in anger or in play?” If the answer is yes, then you strongly need to consider you may be in a domestic violence situation.
I suggest you contact a mental health professional to guide you through or call The Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233) or visiting their website at thehotline.org . There are issues to consider especially as danger escalates once one leaves, that is why I would not advise doing so without a plan and outside support.
THT: Would you say that our country is dealing with a mental health epidemic? If so, what are some solutions?
Dr. Cason: Yes, we knew from previous studies at the beginning of this pandemic that mental health issues would only escalate if lockdowns and quarantines were not handled well by our government and health authorities. And they weren’t. The lying and inconsistent messaging from the top lead an easily predicted increase in depression, anxiety, and trauma in the people below. We also saw an escalation of alcohol and drug abuse, spousal abuse, and relationship problems. We, as a country, are suffering. It will take some time to right this ship.
THT: Are creative people more susceptible to mental health issues? Or is creativity a byproduct of mental health challenges that are already there?
Dr. Cason: There as long been a debate about this. Most think that people with mental disorders have more of a propensity to be creative. The unconventional life of a creative may also lead to some mental disorders. As for me, I think being a “creative” is an orientation that comes from inside. True creatives need to create. It may be writing, or acting, or painting, or directing, or dancing, any number of creative expressions of mind, body, and spirit.
THT: What are some online resources for people needing help with mental health?
Dr. Cason: There are good websites that present credible and research-based information like PsychologyToday.com or the website of the American Psychological Association — APA.org . I would steer clear of resources that are not reputable or give simplistic advice. Memes can be fun, but I see too many that can lead people astray. If you are need of a therapist, PsychologyToday.com has the largest database, but if you are short on funds, I recommend finding a country-funded program or therapy training program near you where you can usually see a therapist for very low or no-cost.
For more information about Dr. Greg Cason visit: drgregcason.com