How could we not celebrate TV? – World Television day

World Television Day

How important is TV in your life?

On 30 October 1925, John Logie Baird made the first transmission of a moving image (a human face) on a television.

Nowadays, can we imagine a world without TV?

I mean… seriously. Can you!?

I for one, can’t. Television is a medium that informs, entertains, provokes, discusses. Television opened up the world and, to this day, it provides us with the chance to take a peek beyond our own backyards and national borders.

We probably don’t even realize how much television influences our lives

On a small scale, imagine for example, that you’re doing groceries at a supermarket and you overhear people discussing the events that happened on their favorite soap opera last night.

“Robert married Laura. How could he? She cheated on him!”

And I’m sure many of you have laughed, cried and shouted together with your favorite Once Upon A Time characters, like Emma, and Regina; or with the six goofballs in Friends!

I also know for sure that there were moments throughout your life that you will always remember, simply because you’ve witnessed them on television.

For the Baby Boomers and their parents, the words…

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

one-small-step-mankindwill probably be imprinted in their memory forever, because they saw the first moon landing happening live on TV. Our imagination was sparked and the world would never be the same again.

Or that moment in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was taken down.

The whole world was watching.

Not only the major events that are shown on TV have an influence on the world and how we perceive it. Did you know that a study showed that “ER” was responsible for Americans adopting a healthier way of life?

Or have you ever heard about the “CSI effect”? Jurors apparently have unrealistic expectations of forensic science and investigation techniques because of television crime shows.

Isn’t it crazy how much of an influence TV has on us?!

Of course, Television can’t fall behind on everything else in the world and needs its own day.

World Television Day

It is celebrated each year on the 21st November, and on this day we recognize the increasing impact television has on our lives.

More specifically, we celebrate television “as a symbol for communication and globalization in the contemporary world” (United Nations). Very formal, I know.

That’s why I am taking the poetic license to list down my favorite top 10 fictional TV shows to start this celebration in a lighter way. (Fangirls and boys out there, apologies in advance for any confronting gifs you are about to see. Sorry if I spoil you!)

Top 10 of my favorite TV shows

1. The Doctor and his companions - Doctor Who

The Tenth Doctor and Rose - Doomsday

2. Fairytales like you’ve never seen before - Once Upon A Time

Emma and Neal - Once Upon a Time

3. One of my first fangirl experiences - Charmed

Charmed - TV show

4. Mother and daughter and their entourage - Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls - TV show

5. I plead for a new series of - Gavin & Stacey

Gavin and Stacey

6. The famous British detective and his partner in crime - Sherlock

Sherlock - Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

7. That group… - Friends

Friends - TV show

8. The show that introduced me to crime series - Crime Scene Investigation

CSI - TV show

9. The partly improvised show - Outnumbered

Outnumbered - TV show

10. The crazy Catherine Tate and her sketches - The Catherine Tate Show

The Catherine Tate Show - Lauren Cooper

Now we want to see your favorite TV show! Look for a gif image, and post it here below in the comments or send it to us via Twitter (@UDucklingsInc), using the hashtag #WeLoveTV and #WorldTVDay. We’re looking forward to receiving your entries!

- Maaike
Ugly Ducklings Inc’s Research Assistant
PS: If you see any of your gif images above and would like us to remove it or properly credit you, please email us at [email protected]

It’s Movember… but, what is it?

Movember awareness, moustache

Remember, remember

The month of November

Facial hair season for men

I know of no reason

The facial hair season

Should be left solely to them

… which is at least, in part, why you’ve got a girl writing about the annual moustache growing, men’s health awareness campaign known as Movember.

The premise is simple.

Chaps (known as Mo Bros) start the month of November with a clean-shaven face and for the next 30 days grow a moustache. No beards, goatees or other facial hair allowed!

The aim is to start conversations about men’s health issues, in particular prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health.

  • The movement started in Australia in 2003 with 30 men growing moustaches to raise money for prostate cancer.
  • It has grown exponentially from there, to over four million participants from 21 official countries last year.

It’s particularly important to raise awareness for men’s health issues because statistically men are far less likely to discuss or take action when they feel mentally or physically unwell than women are, and because of this, there is an overall lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face.

talk about cancer, menIn the UK, life expectancy is nearly four years lower for men than for women. They have a 14% higher risk of developing cancer, and 37% higher risk of dying from it.

Movember decided to add mental health to their remit this year because there is still such a strong stigma surrounding it and men are less likely to look after themselves until it is too late. Research by the UK mental health charity Mind indicates that nearly a third would be embarrassed to seek help for a mental health issue and what is particularly worrying is that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.

In fact 77% of suicides here are male. So, ensuring that they not only feel comfortable discussing these issues, but also that they have places to go is incredibly important.

Their aim for the funds raised this year in the UK is for at least 2.5 million to go to projects that help break down the stigma of discussing the issues of mental health, and provide resources for men to talk and share their experiences and help, and advice when it is needed.

And for my fellow ladies out there, remember that you can still support these issues in your community by becoming a Mo Sista! And also, don’t forget to discuss this with your brothers, uncles, dads, granddads…

For more information on what Movember is doing in your country please visit

- Catherine

On November 19, send us your moustache photo :)

movember twitter campaign

What does Mental Fitness mean?

mental health ED

Many of you know that Ugly Ducklings Inc works closely with a nonprofit organization called Mental Fitness Inc. This is work that we are very proud of and very passionate about. But… what is “mental fitness”?

We’ve asked Robyn Hussa Farrell to guest-interview with us this week to discuss Mental Fitness Inc, and building resiliency in children, youth and adults, among other things.

Welcome, Robyn. Thank you so much for being here with us!

Thank you Erin and Marie and all!

We’ve interviewed Robyn before, but for any new readers, could you tell us who you are and what you do for Mental Fitness Inc?

I’m the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness. I created the organization almost 9 years ago when I produced a rock musical in New York City that led to many of my friends and loved ones entering treatment for eating disorders. Mental Fitness brings evidence-based arts and media programs into schools to build resiliency in kids of all ages.

How do you define ‘mental fitness’? What is so important about it when it comes to Mental Health?

We are so obsessed with physical fitness, that we wanted to create a way to look at health that includes mental wellness, too. Interestingly we are one of the only wealthy nations in the world who DOESN’T have measures that include social, emotional and psychological well being for our kids. It is time to change that!

The website talks a lot about the “Seven Pillars of Mental Fitness”… can you tell us more about what they are?

pillarsWe have been collaborating with researchers for the last decade and found several protective factors that increase resiliency and help to build mental fitness. These include mindfulness, stress-management, nourishing the body and mind, media literacy, community connections, body image and self-esteem. We’ve written about them on the new b:resilient website here.

We brought together all of the prevention-focused research in one place and created a mental fitness map which helps kids and adults improve seven key areas of fitness. We know that if a person focuses on each of these areas, they will improve overall health measures! The seven categories include:

  • self-esteem and internal validation
  • body image
  • media literacy and critical thinking
  • stress management
  • connecting with community through volunteering and role models
  • nourishing body and mind by understanding facts about Intuitive Eating and other evidence based prevention models
  • mindfulness

The way we teach about mental fitness is through evidence-based programs. So, for example, for the Body Image category, we help schools connect with the evidence-based programs that exist in that area including Dr. Becker and Stice’s “Body Project” or Kathy Kater’s “Healthy Bodies” programs.

Where can we find more information about Mental Fitness Inc and each protective category?

There is a handout here with lots of information. 

What is next for Mental Fitness Inc?

Online learning tools at b:resilient so that more educators and professionals have access to this amazing prevention research!

Thank you so much for being here with us today! We’ll post your bio below, but what is the best way for our readers to support MFI and find you?

Our website has more information about our mission and programs. You can ‘like’ us on facebook and follow us on twitter. I am also on twitter!

Robyn Hussa Farrell, Mental Fitness IncRobyn Hussa Farrell is the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness, Inc., the non-profit we support here at UglyDucklings Inc. Marie and I have been in touch with her for almost two years now, and she is a constant inspiration to us. Robyn works incredibly hard to ensure that children grow up with a healthy mental fitness; something that is very important and inspiring work. We are so happy and proud to be a part of such an amazing organization that really is changing the lives of children in America. You can check out our other pieces about Mental Fitness Inc and our interview with Robyn to learn more… additionally, be sure to check back in the new year as we will be having a HUGE charity raffle to raise support for Mental Fitness Inc.

Mental Health & Diabetes – An Interesting Connection


Today is World Diabetes Day and this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We are excited to have an incredible blog here by Heather Gomez; when we asked Heather to write a blog for us about her struggles with diabetes, we had no idea how much it would tie into our series on Mental Health Awareness week in addition to bringing awareness to diabetes.  I am very excited to share this with you – check out Heather’s bio and website below as well!

By Heather Gomez

I spent the majority of Christmas holidays of 2005 curled up in a ball on the living room couch, tears streaming down my face. I felt empty, purposeless, isolated, and hopeless. My parents, concerned that I might be depressed, took me to my family doctor who ran a series of blood tests to first rule out anything physical. It was only days later we got the news that something physical was indeed wrong; I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic at 16 years old. The doctors I spoke to were of the opinion that, with the correct dosage of insulin, I should be feeling better in no time.

Six years later, I sat numb and partially sedated in front of a psychiatrist in the mental health ward of my local PHOT0014.JPGhospital, detailing the crushing crescendo that had evolved from those same feelings that began back in high school. I spent three weeks in the psychiatric ward, heavily medicated and glassy-eyed. When I emerged I had five new medications and a formal diagnosis – Major Depressive Disorder.  I was referred to a 12-week outpatient therapy program through the hospital, where I was followed by a psychiatrist. Medications were tweaked and weekly dialogues with a therapist ensued. Depression and diabetes were becoming a reality.

Eventually I was referred to an eating disorders clinic, where I attended group therapy sessions twice a week, and regularly saw a counselor, psychiatrist, and dietitian. My time at the eating disorders clinic was extremely enlightening, and I developed a keen sense of self-awareness through candid discussions. As I shared my frustrations, anxieties, and stressors week-to-week with the group, I noticed my diabetes would frequently take center stage. I had never thought of my diabetes as a particularly “bad” part of my life – it was just who I was. Yet when I openly and honestly shared, I found myself referencing my defunct pancreas and its related demands on not just my body, but also my mind, heart, and soul.

As I began to piece together my experiences with mental illness, I discovered other anatomical parts of my body – not just the organ floating in my skull – were part of the bigger picture. Yet for so long I had quarantined the two issues – body and mind – from each other. If my blood sugar was high, I would take more insulin. If I was feeling suicidal, I would practice positive self-talk. Of course, neither of these are bad things, but they were only addressing one fraction of the puzzle in each case.

Unfortunately, this partiality was, and is, common practice among my healthcare providers. When I visit the endocrinologist, I am treated as a diabetic. During my time in the psychiatric ward and during appointments with therapists, I was treated as a mentally-ill patient. Rarely have I been treated as both simultaneously, and this is where the problem lies. In my specific case, diabetes and mental health are not mutually exclusive.

The depressive symptoms I encountered throughout high school and university had been augmented by my diabetes. Likewise, the challenges of self-care for a chronic illness had been exacerbated by my depression and eating disorder. If I am not managing one sphere of my health well, the other will also suffer. Likewise, if I am making healthy choices to manage one illness, the other will almost certainly reap benefits as a result. It was in understanding this that I was, and am, able to achieve the greatest level of care for both illnesses that I live with.

freedomWordsChronic illness is not merely a physical battle, nor are the effects of mental illness strictly resigned to the mind. If I have learned anything over the past eight years living with both diabetes and mental illness, it is that I can’t manage one without managing the other. Periods of depression will always negatively exert themselves on my will to properly self-care, just as the daily grind of blood testing and carbohydrate-counting will mentally exhaust and discourage me at times. I can’t undo either condition, but I can consciously choose to do my best to manage the deficits of both body and mind. As I do, I am striving to raise awareness among healthcare workers and fellow patients about the link between mental health and chronic illness. It is my hope that our healthcare system will get to a point where both body and mind, the physical and the mental, the seen and the unseen, are delicately considered despite the nature of a diagnosis.

Thank you so much, Heather, for your contribution to Ugly Ducklings!  You can find out more about Heather and her journey by visiting her blog Bigger Than My Body.

A family secret: I suffered a mental health problem

Mental health awareness

I diagnosed myself when I was fifteen;
seven years later, a psychiatrist did it.

In February 2012, I was confronted with a family secret: My grandfather had been a patient in a psychiatric hospital for six months when my Dad was a teenager due to a mental breakdown and psychosis. While my grandfather was there, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Whether that was type I or type II, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.

I confronted my Dad about why I was never told of this, especially because of my continuous depressions through my life. He tried to play it off, like it was no big deal. (I’m not looking to make my Dad seem like a bad guy because he certainly is not; he just doesn’t seem to be proud of his – my – family’s history – except for the good things of course.)

mental-health-story-quote-1Well, that night I made a decision to go to my doctor and demand to get a referral for a psych evaluation. I’d been going to him at least once a year since I was 15, telling him that I needed help and he’d just kept sending me to psychologists who failed to recognize any signs. But this time, I wasn’t going to listen to him; this time he was going to listen to me!

Three weeks later, I went and told my doctor to give me that referral… He finally did. After seven years, I was finally going to get the help that I knew I needed. Since my first serious depression, I’d known that it wasn’t “just” a depression. I knew it was more than that, but no one would listen to a “hormonal” 15 year old.

Six months later I went to the psychiatrist and filled out a questionnaire that would determine if I had an actual mental illness and if so, which one. After I’d filled it out, I went in for the consult and I told him why I’d sought for psychiatric help as opposed to psychological and we made an appointment for another consult a month later.

August ended and September 21st came; I finally got there and sat down in the waiting room. Of course, the doctor was late. Typical, isn’t it? When you’re about to be late and you rush to get there, whoever you’re meeting is late. It didn’t take long for him to pull me in and give me my diagnosis. “Hi Camilla. So… There’s no doubt about it. You have Bipolar Disorder type II.”

No doubt. No doubt? After seven years, at least seven depression consults with my doctor, three psychologists and countless counsellors, it took one test and one conversation with a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis. A diagnosis that I had known I would receive. For seven years I had dealt with the downside of this illness and no one had been there to really help me.

mental-health-story-quote-2Less two months after I got my diagnosis, I went through another downward spiral, with the snap of two fingers. All I remember is waking up one morning and not being able to get up. I, physically, couldn’t. I lied there, listening to my alarm going off until my Mom came in half an hour later and asked me why I wasn’t up yet. I just looked into the air and said, “It’s gone bad again.” And so, another battle started, but this time we knew why and how to help it.

I ended up dropping out of school –third try on getting an education– to concentrate on getting better and staying better. With a diagnosis it wasn’t hard to have the system work with me instead of against me. They set me up in a mindfulness-ish class that had a couple of painting hours a week, which were the only reason I went. I wasted seven months there until I could get into a program for people who aren’t fit for work or school.

During those months, I did my best to experience as many things that would give me joy as possible. I went to Paris to meet one of my two best friends for the first time. Two months later I went to the Monte Carlo TV Festival with my other best friend – my best friend for longer than forever, as her and I say. And that same Summer I was lucky enough to not get renewed at that mindfulness-ish class, so that I could have a month vacation before starting the program. This break gave me two weeks in Skagen; this annual trip was exactly what I needed! A week of having fun with a friend and the next with my Dad and sister – later joined by my sister’s mother – where I spent most days relaxing in the sun. Perfect.

And finally August came and the program started.

This program has three subjects: music, art and theatre. And since August 2013, I have been an amateur actress. This place is safe. If you’re energized and overjoyed, you use that energy to do theatre work. If you’re tired or sad – or both – there’s a place upstairs with a couch, where you can lie down if you need to. It’s a place where you have support your co-workers, the guidance counsellors and the ones who are in charge of each subject. There’s room for you there. Continue reading

In honour of Remembrance Day

Poppies Vintage

Some of my friends have entire poems memorized. I’ve never really been one for poetry at all (though Mary Oliver’s endless wisdom has definitely been growing on me lately). I do have two poems memorized. And I am very happy that the two poems I have memorized are the ones my brain has decided to retain.

One is a poem about our heroes (A Hero Is…), something close to my heart that I’ve shared about before in this blog. But the first poem I ever remember learning is In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. This beautiful poem is read every year in our schools on November 11th – our Remembrance Day here in Canada (The USA’s Veteran’s Day).SoldiersVintage

Today is November 11th and we want to use this date to honour all those who have given their lives and made sacrifices for the freedoms of others. Ultimately, we want to honour these individuals every day; I keep my poppy on display year-round with a Canadian flag pin stuck in it to remind me of what it means to be Canadian; to remind me of the blood spilled so I have the privilege of waking up each morning and doing whatever I want to do and being whoever I want to be.

Please take the time today to honour our Veterans in your heart and in your life. And I will leave you with this poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- John McCrae


An unusual view of adoption to help create awareness

November, adoption awareness

We wanted to show you this, because it raises awareness about adoption from a less-typical perspective. Share your thoughts in the comments below! Do you have an adoption story? If you do, send it our way. Email us at [email protected]

I always find that there is a side of adoption that doesn’t seem to get talked about quite as much as the rest. Adopted children are often asked to share their stories. Their adoptive parents are also generally given an open forum for talking about their motivations for adopting. But I always find the birth family isn’t often acknowledged, specifically in the media and our culture.

If and when a birth mother is given a significant story line in either fiction or non-fiction, it usually is talking about the circumstances that caused her to give-up her babies or young children, or what caused her babies or young children to be taken from her.

I love adoption.  I think it is an amazing and beautiful thing. 

And I truly believe that without adoption, I wouldn’t be alive.

She found us

I wasn’t adopted, but my mom had a baby when she was fifteen years old and gave her up for adoption. The statistics of couples that stay together while raising an infant born during their adolescence definitely point to me not being here if my mother hadn’t made that choice.

I didn’t know my mother and father had had this baby when I was younger.  I didn’t know about the baby until she, as an adult, searched for her birth parents and found them together with two young children. I was eleven.

adoption awareness monthTo say my life changed would be an understatement… but every single change was for the better. My sister is an incredibly strong and smart individual and we are very close. She is definitely my hero and I am so proud to have her as a sister.

It’s been so long now, we are just sisters; we were pretty much just sisters from the start. She is as much a part of our family as I am, and she is a part of me.

It’s also been so long now that we don’t have to tell the story that we didn’t always know each other to everyone we meet. The people who have been in our lives from the time we met already know… and the new people in our lives only know who we are now and what our relationship is now.

Occasionally, the story comes up in conversation and we do tell people who have never known us in any other context. The reactions range anywhere from endearing…

- “That is so sweet.  It is so nice to see you two having such a marvellous relationship now.”

… to hurtful

- “Oh… so she’s not your real sister?”

And there is the occasional disbelief, but probably not in the sense you’re thinking:

- “Pft, whatever. Adopted. Yeah right. By a family that looks exactly like you.”

It’s true.  We do look alike.  I have a photo of my mother, my sister and I at the same age, side-by-side… there’s no doubt we’re all related.

When people accuse her of not being my “real” sister… that’s the one that gets to me the most.  She is my sister.  Not only is she 100% biologically my sister… she is my sister in every other sense of the word.  I’ve had her in my life for more years now than not. We are close friends. We talk every day. She constantly inspires me and helps me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through high school without her.

She is my sister.  She is a part of me.

And yeah… I’m the bio family. I’m the family that’s not often talked about when the discussion of adoption comes up – certainly not biological siblings. But we do exist. Whether we’re 100% blood siblings or half siblings, we are “real” siblings and we are affected by the adoption too.

Prevention is the best tool against breast cancer

Do a self exam to prevent breast cancer

I will always remember the day my mother called me to tell me the news.

It was 2012 when she told me that my Nana found a lump the size of an egg in her left breast. What followed was actually worse.

She had found the lump a few years prior, however she ignored it because Poppop was terminal with lung cancer. Within a few months I received my own re-occurrence.

While I went with a more aggressive approach, my Nana -God love her- she chose an alternative treatment so she would not lose her hair.

I would send pictures of myself to my mom to share with her to see that radiation and chemotherapy wasn’t that bad. However, after a long, tough year my Nana finally succumbed to the disease that not only took her health but her mind in the end.

I will never know why my Nana, who was such a strong woman, chose not to fight, but I like to think that she just missed my Poppop.

The ending of your story

These past few paragraphs were written by Shannon, just one of the many women out there whose life has been impacted by breast cancer. What lesson can you learn from this story?

Besides not saying anything to her relatives about what was wrong, there is something else:

Check yourself

We can learn from other people’s experiences, and from Shannon’s story in particular. For all the young women, monthly self exams are very important, and clinical breast exams are even better, just to make sure everything is okay. If you have a history of the disease in your family, though, your safest bet is that you get a mammogram.

After your 40th birthday, regular mammograms are the best tool to prevent breast cancer from affecting you in any way.

It’s SO easy, so simple, and so quick to check yourself, that you just need to do it!

You write your own ending to your story, and the only possible words at the end of it have to be: “and she lived happily ever after”. As Shannon says: “Monthly self breast exams, and yearly physicals are the tools for early detection, which is key for successful treatment”.

Let’s save ourselves some trouble, shall we? And LET’S DANCE!

To all the LGBT youth: there will always be someone out there willing to help


Purple is now the color that will always come to mind whenever people want to create awareness against bullying the LGBT youth.

The initiative has taken the social networks as well as various websites, and mainstream media, so more people know how serious this matter is, and how important is the role you and I have in our society to help others who need us.

Tips and facts about bullyingEarlier today we posted these tips and facts about bullying, that may well apply to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender teenagers and young adults out there who are not only struggling to find their true self, but also need to deal with feeling accepted and loved by their families and friends.

One of my favorite from that list is the one that says that, according to a survey, 70% of kids argued that they felt good whenever they were able to stand up for someone who was being bullied.

We are all different. We are all special in our own, awesome way. The moment parents, children, and friends understand that we can embrace our differences and appreciate what makes us unique, that’s when hurtful actions will become less and less. Remember that you are not alone, that it’s not okay for others to treat you badly, and that there is a complete network of sources where you can find help.

An ideal scenario right?

Acceptance in the LGBT world

This subject brings to mind a film that will be released on DVD very soon, and that deals with this subject in a very particular way.

It’s called Once Upon a Time in Queens and it’s the story of how an ex-mob boss who was released from prison has to deal with life after so many years behind bars. When reunited with his family, he finds out that his daughter is gay, and he needs to find a way to comprehend and deal with this issue.

I won’t spoil you! but I can tell you that this movie can be a great lesson for parents and relatives. It’s about acceptance. If an old, hard-headed, ex-mafia boss can learn to accept his gay daughter, anyone can.

We leave you with the trailer. And remember, let’s keep spreading awareness and showing others that respect and love is above any sort of violence.