The Clubhouse is a psycho-social program, involved in the community where individuals living with mental health conditions are empowered to gain confidence and independence. Recovery of mental health conditions is achieved through individuals living and working together to discover and build new and hidden talents.


By Marcus C. Johnson, edited February 1, 2021

Thanksgiving is not another holiday to eat turkey, but a reason to give thanks. We should be thankful everyday of our lives. It also means fellowship with family and friends. But this year we shouldn’t gather with family and friends in large groups. That is what we’re supposed to do because of the corona virus but there are a lot of families going to the airport traveling and obeying CDC’s guidelines. It could be a super spreader event. Professionals on T.V. have also warned people not to travel this holiday season. On CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper have warned people not to travel. Citizens should listen and not travel but they do anyway. Most families observe Thanksgiving at religious services. It’s important so we can go to church to be reminded what God has done for us. Thanksgiving was part of the pilgrim’s religion. The pilgrims were Christians. They had to form independent congregations. Congregations are certain churches a certain churches with different denominations. Those different denominations have different beliefs but still believe in Jesus. You have to be a strong Christian to make it through time of trouble. There’s going to be a lot of persecution against God’s people because of our faith. But God reminded us he would be with us through the storm. Christians need to prepare now for that awful event. God also want to prepare us through this life of what is to come.

About Thanksgiving being on a Thursday is because Abraham Lincoln proclaimed in 1863 that Thanksgiving would be held the last Thursday of November. I’ve also wondered why Thanksgiving is always held on a Thursday, and now I know why because a long time ago one of our presidents proclaimed it.

My mom got me a psychotherapist when I was very ill and just talking my problems out helped, but I did have a lot of different therapists so I could get help.
As of today I have a really good therapist that really cares about me. I’ve been seeing him for five or more years now. So he’s a big help. So Christmas is a joyous time, but when you are depressed and sad it’s hard to enjoy the holidays. So my advice to my readers is if you want to be truly happy it takes effort.

Why it’s Hard to Enjoy the Holidays with Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited December 21, 2020

For Christmas, I lost interest in others by buying my love ones and friends gifts. The depression I’m dealing with is clinical depression. It is very tough because I lost interest in the things that I used to be interested in. For example, going on trips, relationships, sports, having fun, etc. And the sadness part of it for the holidays is that Christmas doesn’t excite me anymore. I used to like the decoration of Christmas lights, but not anymore. I also used to enjoy the decoration of the Christmas tree, but anymore. I used to enjoy shows on television during the holidays, but anymore. The depression has really taken over my life, but I’m strong enough to not let it control my life. Depression has similar symptoms of an anxiety disorder, and that is what I have. For Christmas I might worry if I’m making others sad because I’m sad. I also might worry if people are going to upset with me because I’m not happy. Clinical depression is hard illness to deal with. Also, depression could change things for that person because they might have been very happy before they got ill, now they are down in the dumps from the depression. Then, when you overcome the depression you could be even happier than when you were well. My Thanksgivings are sad too. The depression made me feel worthless and not important.
My mom got me a psychotherapist when I was very ill and just talking my problems out helped, but I did have a lot of different therapists so I could get help.
As of today I have a really good therapist that really cares about me. I’ve been seeing him for five or more years now. So he’s a big help. So Christmas is a joyous time, but when you are depressed and sad it’s hard to enjoy the holidays. So my advice to my readers is if you want to be truly happy it takes effort.

How My Learning Disability Affected My Math Skills

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited October 19, 2020

The illness affected my math skills which we call cognitive skills. At HCC, Houston Community College in Houston, Texas I took a math development class, and the first time I failed it, then I got an in-progress then finally the third time I passed with a C. It was difficult because I was in special education in all of my high school years. I didn’t have a chance to do complicated work. The math material in special education wasn’t that hard. So I took a test at HCC to see if I was ready for college courses. On the test I did poorly in math, English, and reading. I’m doing much better in English and reading but math is still a struggle. My first time taking the class on the chalkboard I saw all these different numbers and formulas so it was very difficult for me. Geometry was most difficult for me because it dealt with formulas and circumferences. The formulas were difficult because you have to solve numbers from formulas. Circumferences are the distance around the edge of a circle. It was difficult to catch on how to solve geometry work from circumferences. Also, the formula the circumference of a circle is the product pi, and the radius. You also have to get the centimeters correct if you don’t the whole problem is going to be wrong. You could see circumferences in a sentence. For example, asking what is the circumference of the Earth at the equator. You have the circumference right if you don’t you could mislead your audience and confuse them if you don’t get it right. Now, let’s talk about area that’s part of geometry. To find the area, you square the radius and multiply by pi. Remember, you have pi in area also. So math could be hard especially if you have a learning disability and that means the person with a learning disability has to work harder.


We are so very proud to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through the Community Mental Health Grant Program established by H.B. 13 (85R).

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission today announced it is awarding $45 million in grant funds through the Community Mental Health Grant Program that supports mental health services and projects in Texas.

“The Community Mental Health Grant Program allows Texas to provide additional and vital mental health support to residents in need,” said Sonja Gaines, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability & Behavioral Health Services. “Promoting mental health programs in Texas is a priority for HHSC, and grant programs like these provide opportunities to help people across the state who are in need of support.”

The grant funds will go to 53 different entities over two years, funding local mental health and behavioral health authorities, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and local governmental agencies located across the state. Grants will fund community programs for people with mental illness by expanding outpatient treatment, promoting recovery and improving quality of life. Funds also support crisis respite, crisis stabilization and extended observation services.

“Congratulations to each local community mental health provider selected to receive much needed funding through the Community Mental Health Grant Program established by H.B. 13 (85R),” said State Rep. Four Price. “I thank the HHSC staff who diligently administer this program, and I especially thank all those who work on the front lines each and every day in providing these essential services to our fellow Texans.”

The 86th Legislature appropriated $45 million in 2019 to continue the Community Mental Health Grant Program in 2020 and 2021.

Awards for the Community Mental Health Grant Program were determined through a competitive procurement process. Grant awardees are required to match a portion of the state’s grant award to demonstrate their commitment to addressing local mental health needs.

A list of grant awardees can be found on the HHS website.

More information on accessing behavioral health services in Texas is available at MentalHealthTX.org. Texas residents can dial 2-1-1 to learn about programs and services.

By: Danielle Pestrikoff

Why I Lost Interest in Sports

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited September 14, 2020

I used to be a big sports fan. When I came down with mental illness I thought if I made a good play on somebody I thought they were going to retaliate in a bad way. I had fears that they were going to harm me, but I have overcome that now. I was a good baseball player when I played from ages 9-12. I made the all star team when I played. I showed really good sportsmanship even when my team lost, but for some reason I got away from that because of the illness. Also, I had sports hobbies and that was collecting baseball cards. I had a lot of good players around the major leagues. I had sets of baseball cards from all teams. I kept the sets very nice and clean. I put all the teams in different sections. The purpose of my hobbies were to someday sell them. The baseball cards that I have from the late 80’s and early 90’s weren’t worth much. I looked on e-bay and they were not worth much, so I’m going to wait a little longer to sell them. At the beginning of the illness I watched sit-coms on T.V. and not sports. Another reason why I did not watch much sports because things were not normal when I watched T.V. For example, it seemed like the teams knew what I was thinking and that was not normal. Another reason why I liked sports before I got ill is because I experienced good self-esteem from it. Also, before the illness I had a good self-image. I used to have good feelings about myself and sports. When I was young and playing baseball I was happy and had a love for the game. So, mental illness caused me to become disinterested in sports.

Why it Takes So Long to Overcome Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited August 31, 2020

As of today I’ve been going through the illness about 26 years now. It’s taken a lot of determination and perseverance to get this far. I remember in my earlier years I thought I didn’t have any hope or something to look forward to. But I had a bright future but I focused on the illness and I didn’t look at the bright side. A lot of people focus on the negative and I was one of them. I had a tough time coping and wondered when I was going to come out of it. But, the journey to full recovery takes time. There are ups and downs in our journey. Some positives for me was the more I went through illness the better I got, and the negatives were I fell a lot and gave in sometimes. But I worked on that too. My doctors had to find the right diagnosis for my recovery process and that also takes time. During the process when my doctors tried to find the right medications for me I began to have side effects. The type of side effect that I struggled with was confusion. Including in older adults is decreased alertness and that’s one that we really struggle with because I used to misplace things a lot but as I got older I remembered more. Confusion could be tough because it’s a strange feeling when you misplaced something and can’t find it. But, I usually find later what I was looking for.

How to be Determined

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited August 19, 2020

I have always been determined. For example, to get better from the illness and finish my college career at a two year college despite of my obstacles. With the illness it’s always been tough for me even from the beginning. You have to have to have that mental toughness to make it through. You have to have a lot of perseverance. If mental illness is easy then everybody would want to go through it, so they can receive the blessings from it. I’m not a quitter, and that’s how you achieve good perseverance. I want to be successful in life, so I have to do everything I can to reach my goals in life.
About my college career, it’s taken me over two years to finish. It’s approximately taken me about eight years and I have left about the spring of 2021 or the summer of 2021. At first I had to take developmental courses before I took regular courses. I did well in my developmental courses because it was preparation for regular college courses. I passed my courses with B’s and I learned a lot from those classes, and in my reading classes I learned how to become a better writer. I learned where to put commas and I learned proper grammar. For grammar, I learned rules, sounds, words, sentences and other elements for writing.
Some of the obstacles I encountered were worry and thinking people are reading my thoughts. These symptoms could have stopped me from pushing through but I didn’t let it stop me. And I’m going to continue it too.

Why I Was Diagnosed With Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited August 11, 2020

I wasn’t diagnosed with mental illness because it was hereditary it was because I experienced some major trauma in my life, and that was because I got physically attacked in middle school by some by some boys and girls because they didn’t like that I was a good and polite person. As of today I’m still a good person. I didn’t feel any symptoms right away but in the year of 1995 I had to be admitted into a hospital because I was having unusual feelings, then the feelings got worse. I started feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed. I’m glad I had good family support especially my mom because my dad was ill as a stroke patient, so my mom had admitted me into a psychiatric hospital to get help. My mom made sure I had clothing and other things to take care of myself with. I also experienced some emotional abuse in middle school before my illness. The emotional abuse was verbal and humiliation. They really treated me bad in my middle school years. Part of the humiliation was when the teacher wasn’t there this guy wanted to show out in front of my classmates and he was trying to fight then he shoved me and I ran him into the wall I turned my back then he sucker punched me from the back and that was humiliating in front of my peers. I was also humiliated when some of them would make fun of me in class. Another humiliating part was when a substitute teacher left the room and they turned off the lights and acting like they were going to hit me with the furniture, so I had to endure a lot what led up to me having mental illness symptoms.

My Experience in a Psychiatric Hospital

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited August 4, 2020

My experience in a psychiatric hospital was scary because I was restricted of many things so I wouldn’t harm myself. As I was there my behavior was different. Since I was a comical person before I came down with mental illness it was hard for me to decipher when it was the illness or when it was just me being myself. It took me a long time to overcome the bad actions from the illness, and it takes a long time, usually longer than we prefer. It took me a long time to get over my abnormal behavior. It took me decades. I had to work on a lot of different things to correct my behavior. Also, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I got to the hospital. It was strange how people were acting around me. That really bothered me because I was so ill and was hallucinating and hearing different voices. So, that made me feel bad too. Another thing that made feel bad was I was separated from my loved ones and I felt lonely. Actually, I could only see my family during scheduled visiting hours. Some of the meals I didn’t like. I didn’t like them because some of the meals weren’t good or nutritious. Some of the food was processed and a lot of it was not processed. Another difficult experience for me in a psychiatric hospital was that the units that I stayed in were locked. It made me feel like I was in prison locked up. As a patient, you couldn’t just leave if you’re treatment was not complete and you have to be approved by the doctor and case worker to go home.

What it’s Like to Have Schizophrenia

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 28, 2020

Having an illness like mental illness is depressing. It’s depressing because you have more negative symptoms than positive symptoms. I’ve really struggled and still struggling with the symptoms. One of the two most difficult symptoms for me is worry and thinking people are reading my mind. The symptom of thinking people is reading my mind is difficult because I would think everybody is upset with me, and with this symptom it’s hard for me to function. But I have a psychotherapist and he helps me with the negative thoughts, but I have to keep talking to him so I can overcome the symptoms. With the worry of schizophrenia the anxiety disorder makes it hard for me to breathe properly. It’s called shortness of breath. When panic comes we tend to worry more than the panic attack comes. About treatment, it’s good to pick a technique that is best for you so you could handle panic attacks better. One of my techniques would be is to get a good routine of sleep every night. This is hard because mental illness affects our sleep patterns, and a lot of times we go to bed late. I also struggle with that to because of my symptoms of my illness is the time going fast and I might be working on a project at home as I’m doing that I look at the clock and it’s time to go to bed. One way to have a good sleep pattern is to have a good bed routine. The way to do this is writing down in order all the things you need to do for that night, then check those things off and then when you get to the end of your list then that’s when you go to bed. Easy correct?

How to Overcome Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 23, 2020

Overcoming OCD can be hard because the person has uncontrollable reoccurring thoughts. OCD is also an anxiety disorder. For me, I’ve experienced cleanliness. When I was younger I would over clean my bathroom at my home. My bathroom wasn’t that clean so I would spend long periods of time cleaning until everything was sparkling. Also, I would wash my hands a lot. While helping my mom cook I would rinse my hands after each preparation of cooking because I did not want my hands to be dirty for the next preparation. About mood and anxiety, it was hard to function on a job. My first job was at Wendy’s it was hard because of the OCD. It affected my job because of transitioning from cleaning in the lobby to taking the trash out. Also, one small thing would get next to me and I worried about it, especially when I had to go outside and when I put the trash away I would worry if I got any trash on me even if I did not get any trash on me and I would still worry. At school I would worry if I upset somebody because of the guilt. I would think if I hurt somebody’s feelings with the smallest little thing. Sometimes I would think I had poor coping skills. I would think my coping skills were terrible because it seemed like I was not getting any better, and at the time I didn’t realize sometimes working on symptoms takes time. Coping is important because the person needs a good strategy to be where they want to be in life.

How to Cope When You Have Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 16, 2020

I cope very well with mental illness because I don’t give up or give in. For example, I never have given in to living on the streets and doing bad things. The main reason why I haven’t resorted to the streets because I had good parents to guide me in the right way and not give in to every little problem that got in my way. Also, I didn’t give in to the illness. For example, given in to the illness is where I let it control me, by not stopping when I stumble. As of today I have gone through the illness for about 26 years. I’ll be truthful with you it is a hard illness to go through. If you want to reach your goals and dreams you have to keep pushing. About isolation, I have experienced a lot of isolation with my long journey of mental health. I lost interest in the things I used to be interested in. For example, collecting baseball cards. I had a passion for it but not anymore because of the isolation from the illness. Collecting baseball cards really made me happy because if I saw in person my favorite team and favorite player at a real game it brought joy to me. Baseball is also my favorite sport. I’ve always liked baseball. I also have some good rookie card players that are now in the hall of fame. About family, I kind of didn’t want to be around them because of the isolation issue. I couldn’t figure it out then but now I figured that it is isolation. I would not be around family because I wanted to collect my thoughts and I couldn’t do that because they were around. But, right now I have overcome the isolation of the illness.

Why I Want to Become an Elementary School Teacher

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 10, 2020

I’ve always liked school and learning. In primary school I’ve always have been a good student and made good grades. I decided to take education classes late in my college career. I did well in my classes until my classes got tougher. What got me down was when I failed two classes back to back. It really discouraged me, and I felt like giving up on college, but I didn’t. To become a teacher you have to have at least a certificate, associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. For me, since I had to take developmental courses before entering regular courses it’s taken me longer to graduate. Actually, it’s taking me about eight years and I have until spring of 2020 to graduate completely. Also, the reason why it’s taking me so long because I changed my major from journalism to education. One reason why I want to become a teacher because it’s a changeling job and I want to help others. It can also be hard because I have a disability but if you work and you are dedicated you can get the job. Nevertheless, it would be a little easier for me to land a job because I have experience working as a teacher when needed. I’ve rarely worked on this job because they call you when a teacher is out and you cover for the teacher with another teacher present in the classroom. Being a teacher, you also have to have patience because some atypical children and that is children with special needs may not understand certain material because they develop slower. But, teaching is a rewarding career, when the teacher can help a child succeed.

Overcoming Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 6, 2020

Overcoming mental illness is hard because the symptoms are very intense. For example, a person with schizophrenia has negative thoughts with people reading their mind. It can also be hard because your behavior is abnormal because of the symptoms. Also, clinical depression is bad because you lose interest in the things you used to be interested in before the diagnosis. Clinical depression is also known as major depression. Depression also causes anxiety. Worry is difficult because it’s hard to move on and enjoy life because the worry is bearing down on you. For me, worry really discourages me because it makes me feel like giving up. It makes me feel like giving up because I would want to do something positive and the anxiety and is there to keep me from doing that positive thing. I have also experienced a lot of guilt in my life because in middle school some boys and girls physically attacked me in middle school because they wanted me to be a bad person like they were. So, after that experience I started to think it was my fault why they did that to me and all along I felt guilty, and as of today I still have some of that guilt. One day I will overcome the guilt. Also as of today I have unexplained physical problems and that is high blood pressure. It’s not hereditary it was just the trauma what happened to me in middle school. Finally, I had issues in school due to the depression. I would wander and not to make it to class on time and it was hard for me to concentrate, so my mom put me in special education classes in high school and I did okay.

Online Course Review: A Plan to Take Principles of Synthetic Biology Course by MIT

By Kevin Kin, edited June 26, 2020

Synthetic biologists are interested in creating self sustaining lifeforms starting from cells such as these bacterial colonies

EdX, an online platform for various online courses, has an online course called Principles of Synthetic Biology. This blog post will outline my plan to take the 15 week online course. I will be giving my educational background which is based in a strained relationship with traditional schooling. I express some concerns I have towards completing the course, notably towards my fragmented background in calculus and computer science. My plan is to write pitfalls and learning progression as I attempt to complete this advanced course.

I Have Exposure to Many Diverse Subjects, Regardless of Schooling

I am interested in using insights from the field of molecular biology to develop therapies for aging. Advances in engineering and systems science has led to the “chemicalization” and “mathematicalization” of biology. Scientists and engineers are now more motivated than ever to frame aging as a disease and develop drugs, measurements, models, and treatments for this disability, where the body is basically falling apart from years of accumulated damage.


In terms of schooling and personal study experience, I have 7 years of experience in studying textbooks on psychology and sociology. My degree is in psychology. I also had exposure to simple programs in diverse programming languages from staples such as C++ to prototypes such as the biological programming language, Gro. I have taken courses in basic biology, general chemistry, and biotechnology. 


Going to school involves spending thousands of dollars on courses and textbooks as well as satisfying rigid prerequisites. At the end of years of study is a degree, a recorded agreement between the psychology sub-departments, of my achievement. If there is another way of showing my achievement, whether through the witness of authorities on a subject, or the development of a portfolio project, then I will prefer that method over the school route. Blogging about a course is one way to build a portfolio.


In terms of online courses, I have studied various online courses including General Chemistry: Concept Development and Application from Rice University with limited success. I have taken another online course called Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life, also from MIT. Similarly, I had limited success with that course. It seems like knowledge is very narrow, such that a course in synthetic biology would be more interesting than a course on molecular biology, despite both dealing with biology.

Synthetic biologists are interested in creating self sustaining lifeforms starting from cells such as these bacterial colonies

I am Using the EdX Platform to Take the Course

Principles of Synthetic Biology (PoSB) is an online course on the field of synthetic biology as taught by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Online courses are a series of online videos and graded assignments that can be taken by anyone with a computer and internet connection. PoSB is one of many online courses supported by an education platform (an online course website) called EdX. EdX is funded by MIT and Harvard University. The course lasts for 15 weeks with an estimated course load of 8 – 10 hours of study per week. The course is free unless I apply for a certificate. Online courses are also updated every semester, which keeps the content more recent than traditional textbooks.

The Principles of Synthetic Biology Course Looks Considerably Advanced Despite Lack of Prerequisites

In the course, I will be designing circuits used by synthetic biologists such as oscillators, toggle switches, and band-pass filters. I will be solving Ordinary Differential Equations (ODEs) in a programming language called Matlab. It will be noteworthy to see how my calculus understanding scales up to differential equations, I don’t have any notable exposure to a differential equations class. I will be using a software called Cello to automate the design of genetic circuits. It seems like I am going to build logic gates that can, in principle, be ported to cells. I am concerned I do not have a solid background for this course but, surprisingly, there are no prerequisites for taking it. 


I have a freshly guided bias towards Principles of Synthetic Biology (PoSB) over another online course from MIT: Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life (ItBTSoL). ItBTSoL has a weekly workload of 5-10 hours per week for 16 weeks, but the workload is comparable to PoSB, even a little less than PoSB. However, my experience with ItBTSoL is strained, it throws a wide conceptual net over the field of molecular biology. Between using their online flashcards, watching lectures, and doing homework and quizzes that provide only brief glimpses into the field, I felt like my daily tasks were being pulled apart. I may be more prepared now than I was when I took the course several years ago, especially with blogging as a source of perseverance, but I am just as ready to try a new course. 


If I complete the course, I can study more technical but less specialized courses such as math or chemistry. Finishing a course in calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and probability theory will drive synthetic biology knowledge towards abstraction. Finishing a course in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry will bring in wisdom from the chemical sciences.

Plan For The Blog Series

I will blog my experiences with taking this course as well as pitfalls encountered along the way. I can record my progression of learning difficult concepts. I may have to spend time with resources outside of the course material, especially when working with differential equations. This progression will also be recorded. 


Online courses can suffer from innate pressures to drop-out. Like reading a book, students are free to stop taking a course and resume taking the course at a later time.

I may not complete the whole 15 weeks of the course despite the motivation provided by blogging. I should recognize my failure points for the next time taking online courses.


I like programming problems and math problems for their skill building abilities and ability to check for mistakes in reasoning. Solving these symbolic problems has advantages over using critical thought to answer questions. It is often easy to recognize mistakes in applying rules. For example, if I solve an equation such as V = I x R as found in electronics calculations, I can find the value of variable V using variables I and R. I can then check if V is correct by plugging the value of V back into the equation, hoping to recover the same I or R values that I was given.


Symbolic problem solving seems different from critical thinking problems, which are much more open-ended. For example, a possible critical thinking question may be how will teleromase technology enable people to live longer lives with less damage to their DNA. I can turn the process into a logical argument, such as “more telomeres will cause genetic mechanisms to fix themselves and lead to stable gene expression, etc”. The rules for checking a logical argument are not precise enough, which can lead overconfidence in an illogical argument.


Hopefully running Matlab programs as well as Cello software will keep me working with symbolic problems. Solving a lot of symbolic problems and creating my own symbolic practice problems will improve my ability to analyze living things. I think that creating my own practice problems builds a sense of individualization over the study material. For example, I can come up with a chemical reaction and calculate the products using what I learned from chemistry. Creating my own practice problems can make me feel like my contribution to the field is unique, even if the practice problems are minor deviations from the lesson.

Towards Synthetic Biology

I presented my 15 week long plan to study and write reviews for an online course called Principles of Synthetic Biology (PoSB). I explained my motivation for synthetic biology which is grounded in anti-aging technology, as well as some parts of my educational experience on subjects such as programming and biology, which seem relevant to this course. I have some concerns over not having a solid background in calculus and computer science needed before taking this course. I will mention pitfalls and learning progression as I work through the course. 

An example of a genetic circuit

What do you think about online courses? What course or textbook do you want to study? What level of success did you have with an online course?


Adam Arkin, Ron Weiss. Started May 26, 2020. “Principles of Synthetic Biology”. https://www.edx.org/course/principles-of-synthetic-biology . MIT. Using EdX. 


Eric S. Lander, et al. Starts July 14, 2020. “Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life”. https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-to-biology-the-secret-of-life-3 . MIT. Using EdX.


John Steven Hutchinson. Starts June 26, 2020. “General Chemistry: Concept Development and Application”. https://www.coursera.org/learn/general-chemistry . Rice University. Using Coursera.

Being a College Student with Mental Illness

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited July 2, 2020

Being a college student with mental illness is hard, because you have to remember a lot of things.  For example, you have to recall information for a midterm or final exam.  That can be stressful for a person with mental illness.  You have to be dedicated if not you will not be successful.  I’m a good example for that because not too long ago in December of 2019 I failed my only two classes because it was hard for me to interpret the information.  It was hard.  Since I failed both classes financial aid put me on probation, that means I couldn’t get any more funds to help pay for my schooling, but I did do a sap appeal, then I got back on financial aid.  I felt bad about it because I felt like a prisoner because of the word probation.  Just the thought of it made me feel bad.  But, the next semester I earned a B in my only class.  Another reason I didn’t have success in my classes because at the time I was taking too many classes.  College could also be hard because with mental illness your sleep patterns are not in order, because you have to get up at a certain time in the morning and having a routine for that morning.  So, college could be hard.

The Reason Why I Want to Become a Famous Author

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited June 29, 2020

First I took some journalism classes at Houston Community College in Houston, Tx. And that is how I developed good writing skills along with a mentor and also taking developmental courses at HCC. Then, I changed my major to being an elementary school educator. Also, I want to help others. I would teach my students to have good spelling and grammar skills. To succeed children need to know how to spell well, because once they reach college they will need to know how to write essays and other assignments to learn and pass their courses. Spelling helps the child in the subject of reading, especially for sounds and letters, because in elementary I was a good speller I sounded words out and I studied hard. Even with the more difficult words I spelled them right because I sounded them out correctly. You also have to be good with letters. Another reason why spelling helps out with reading because improves the reading ability and students will understand the alphabetical system better to succeed in primary school. In order for children to spell well they need to practice, practice, and practice. When I was in elementary school I really studied hard to study the words for the spelling test and I did well. Being a famous author is not all about making a lot of money because being a teacher is a calling to serve others.

How to live with Corona virus in a Care Home

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited June 18, 2020

Living with corona virus in my care home is lonely to me, because even though I have people
around me it’s still hard because of the symptoms and one of them is loneliness. Since we are
still at stay at home orders that makes it even worse. Sometimes I get bored at home. The things
I can do to keep busy is getting on the computer constantly learning and doing some reading
from time to time. One thing about it is I don’t go outside enough to get fresh air and enjoying
nature. I used to get out sometimes but not anymore because of the symptoms from the illness.
Also, I try to do light exercise. Exercise is important to keep healthy. The kind of exercise I
would do is pushups and sit ups. Also, while we are to stay at home I try to keep up with making
phone calls to check on family and friends. This is especially important at this time so I can see
if everybody is safe due to the virus.

Marcus C Jonson

My Experience of Living during the Corona virus of 2020

By Marcus C. Johnson, edited June 8, 2020

My experience of living with the Corona virus is a tough one.  First, with being in college all the schools closed, and we had to switch to online courses. It was a bit hard for me but I got through it.  My college kept delaying the time to go back to school; they canceled for late March then canceled face to face instruction for the entire summer, for classes only online.  It was also difficult for me because I wanted to go back to school and learn.  Furthermore, I earned a B in my class.  I also worry if I’m going to get the virus because of the confusion of my symptoms.  The confusion of it is when I get a cold I think I have it but it is not true, so I walk around thinking I have it and I really don’t.  Also, the staying at home part gets next to me, but I know the community leaders are trying to protect us.  It also gets hard because of the anxiety. I would think the Corona virus will never go away. But, with the proper testing, social distancing, and most of all a vaccine will make it go away.

Speaking Concerns and Giving Responses: More Than Advice

By Kevin Kin, edited May 20, 2020

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month long holiday is for promoting support of others, educating the public, and advocating for policies addressing the  challenges brought by mental illness. In this article, I will discuss helpful ways to talk about problems and strategic ways to express advice. I believe that any advice can be interpreted as acting in speaker and responder roles and will be explaining the concept of general conversations. I hope that this blog post will make you more strategic speakers and responders.

As a mental illness sufferer, I receive a lot of advice from others. The most difficult advice comes from family members. Advice is often like “you can distract yourself from hearing the voices” or “eat black colored food to get more energy”. Other times the advice is really open-ended. Such as “Do what works for you”or “think about what I just told you”. What makes one advice more helpful than another?

Talking is More Helpful Than Keeping Quiet

I do react to advice in different ways. However, I tend to believe that talking to others, rather than provide solutions, is better than not talking at all. When my parents tell me that I should do sit-up exercises every day to reduce abdominal fat, I have tried the exercises the next day. When I told my parents I was feeling stressed, they told me that I should do household chores when I am walking around the house due to anxiety. I did not implement their chores advice. Rather, I used the advice for a different task. I used the chore of vacuuming the house after studying. Because I always feel stressed after a study session. Advice is indispensable in this regard. Even if I do not accept some advice, I may adopt the advice in different contexts (see Marty Nemko 2014).

About Conversations and Communication

Talking about problems and receiving solutions is part of the action of conversation. Any talking within small groups can be considered a conversation. A heated argument would be considered a conversation. So would a light talk about hobbies, so would a weighted talk about mental illness, I will consider all cases as conversations. Healthy conversation is implicitly expected using loose rules of communication. 

An analogy about conversation: it is like taking turns biting a Taco Bell chicken chalupa:

  1. The group takes turns biting the chalupa. If someone bites the chalupa more than someone else, the conversation becomes one sided.
  2. The group finishes the chalupa. If someone wants to terminate the conversation early then the whole group must stop the conversation or change subjects.

A healthy conversation should involve the input of everyone. Also, a beneficial conversation should involve the genuine feelings of the speakers. For example, if something is not going well in your day, and someone asks “how was your week?”, you can tell them something about your day rather than say all the time “everything is fine”. The listener may not have a solution to your problems, but may have a different perspective (see Marie Dubuque 2014). I will explain the structures of problems and then recommend a structure for responding.

Speaking and Responding

Problems I have; such as not being able to find a job, and studying very slowly. The structure for expressing a problem follows:

  1. Describe the context – What led up to the problem? For example: Today I applied for 10 job positions for company X at Indeed.com. So far, I have not received any interview requests.
  2. Describe what you want – What are you looking for? Why do you want to solve the problem? For example: I want to get entry into company Y’s field by first getting experience at company X.
  3. Describe what you have tried – How did you go about solving the problem? For example: I have been applying to job position P almost every day for around a year now.

Responding to problems can be really challenging, especially since you may not know the solution to the problems. The problems can be so traumatizing that there is a long silence after the speaker stops talking. Having a mindset for curiosity can keep the mind from getting stuck. When someone is curious, they stare into space contemplatively, their eyes are soft and facing forward, they maintain their enthusiasm and openness to alternatives and interpretations.

Approaching the conversation in an associative way also prevents mental roadblocks. For example, if a mother wants to buy a birthday gift for her son, there may be some similar problem related to children. Don’t children play with anything that they touch? What about empty yogurt cups? For curiosity and association, see Henrik Edberg 2020.

An entire conversation involving several exchanges can be organized into chunks using the Inquire-Follow up-Relate method (IFR) (see David A. Morin 2019):

  1. Inquire – Ask a sincere question.
  2. Follow up – Ask a follow-up question.
  3. Relate – Share a little bit about yourself based on the other person’s response.
  4. Return to the Inquire step.

An example IFR conversation:

Responder: It seems like you are going through a lot of struggles. How is school going?

Speaker: My Psychology Intro class explained many perspectives about how the mind works but I don’t know how to use what I learned to view the mind in a way that can be programmed into a robot.

Responder: School concepts can be hard to apply. Have you thought about learning programming?

Speaker: I studied a programming textbook but programming is too detail oriented and I don’t know how to go about programming. I am looking for a high level description of the mind that I thought that a course in psychology can provide. Then I can learn programming later.

Responder: I took a programming class in high school. Programming is hard and I did not know what I was programming.

Responder: Do you think in a logical way?


The IFR method can make conversations that last for a long time. Hopefully the conversation becomes centered on the speaker so that the responder works with the speaker to  learn more about the speaker’s own problem. The responder should be gentle in their questioning by giving the speaker time and reassuring the speaker. Make the responding less like an interrogation.

Speaking Takes Practice

Both the speaking and responding strategies may take months of practice. In my own discussion applications, it is not easy for me to recognize that it is time to use the inquire strategy, or to think that the right time has come to tell the listener about what I have tried to solve a problem I was struggling with. Recording past conversations can help you correct your responses. You can also prepare for meetings by organizing problems and responses using the structures I presented. You can also recall why you want to become better at communicating. Maybe you are tired of feeling frustrated trying to get your feelings out. Maybe you really want to help someone but don’t know how to reach them. Communication can be considered a technical skill no different than mathematical modeling or learning to use a computer software.

Continuing The Conversation

Advice is the most direct way to help someone. However, few experts know enough to feel comfortable giving advice. I have cast the issue in terms of speaking and responding, which follow the rules of communication. I have presented a structure for speakers to talk about their problems using descriptions of what context the speaker has been through, what they want to do, and what they tried. I have also presented  a structure for responders to help the speakers using the IFR method. The conversation structures may keep the conversation more organized and informative, especially for those going through the swings of mental illness.

What are some of your best and worst memories of conversations? Was the advice helpful later or at the moment? Could the conversations be more informative?


Marty Nemko. June 2, 2014. “In praise of unsolicited advice”. Psychology Today.

Marie Dubuque. August 10, 2014. “How much should you talk about your problems to someone?”. Youtube.

Henrik Edberg. February 3, 2020. “How to overcome the I don’t know what to say syndrome”. The Positivity Blog.

David A. Morin. April 8, 2019. “”I don’t know what to say” – 10 tips to always know what to say”. Socialpro.