Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mental Health Mini Film Festival #4 of 4: “A Brilliant Madness: John Nash”

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Mental Health Mini Film Festival
When: May 31 - June 8
  • We will view each film together, commenting throughout in text chat. Then we will discuss when we are all done viewing. Each film is Closed Captioned.

Fourth and Final Entry!

What: “A Brilliant Madness: John Nash”
When: Monday, June 8, 11:30am SLT
Where: Blue Orchid Cabana Classroom, Virtual Ability island
  • John Nash was a young and brilliant mathematician whose theoretical discoveries have applications in many fields. This documentary follows the life of Nash, the exceptional mathematician who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 for his work despite having severe mental illness. You may recall part of his story from the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

Mental Health Mini Film Festival #3 of 4: “Overpill”

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Mental Health Mini Film Festival
When: May 31 - June 8
  • We will view each film together, commenting throughout in text chat. Then we will discuss when we are all done viewing. Each film is Closed Captioned.

Third Entry!

What: “Overpill”
When: Thursday, June 4, noon SLT
Where: Blue Orchid Cabana Classroom, Virtual Ability island
  • This documentary highlights the effects of Big Pharma and its interests in treating (but not curing) mental illness. The pharmaceutical industry has capitalized on the public's awareness of mental illnesses to sell medications with known severe side effects and the danger of addiction.

Mental Health Mini Film Festival #2 of 4: “Bedlam: The history of Bethlem Hospital”

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Mental Health Mini Film Festival
When: May 31 - June 8
  • We will view each film together, commenting throughout in text chat. Then we will discuss when we are all done viewing. Each film is Closed Captioned.

Second Entry!

What: “Bedlam: The history of Bethlem Hospital”
When: Monday, June 1, 2pm SLT
Where: Blue Orchid Cabana Classroom, Virtual Ability island
  • This film documents the infamous psychiatric facility through archaeology and the research of psychiatric historians. Skeletons in a graveyard under the streets of London and antique texts help us understand the cruel and inhumane treatments of persons who may (or may not) have been mentally ill that were common from the 1600s up into modern times.

Mental Health Mini Film Festival #1 of 4: “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated”

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Mental Health Mini Film Festival
When: May 31 - June 8
  • We will view each film together, commenting throughout in text chat. Then we will discuss when we are all done viewing. Each film is Closed Captioned.

First Up!

What: “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated”
When: Sunday, May 31, 7am SLT
Where: Blue Orchid Cabana Classroom, Virtual Ability island

  • Demi Lovato is a singer, actress, and TV personality. She acted as a child on Barney and Friends, then in some Disney movies. Now she has released several popular studio albums. This film is a personal look at the star's life including her experience with an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, and addiction.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Things To Do - "Mental Health in Second Life: Then and Now" and Mindful Cove Open House

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Mental Health in Second Life: Then and Now
Who: Avalon Birke
When: Sunday May 24, 10am SLT

  • Mindful Cove is a new Second Life Community Gateway with a focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing. We offer a vast amount of related resources, developed and curated by real life mental health clinicians. And because we know that play is good for our brains, there are dozens of fun activities, from horseback riding, golf, fishing, dancing, and much more.  Ready to relax? We have three levels of meditation, yoga, exercise, and self-study areas...even a Rainbow Bridge to honor lost pets. 
  • Visitors can go on a guided waking tour, visit with Dr. Birke and our staff of volunteers, gather mental health resources in the Library, and watch slide shows about our work in mental health.
  • Presenter bio: Avalon Birke is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in real life, holds two Masters degrees, and a PhD in Cognitive Studies. She has spent the last 13 years working on a wide variety of mental health-related projects in Second Life. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Things To Do - Mental Health Un-Conference, Week of May 25, 2020

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Mental Health Un-Conference

All presentations are presented in voice and text simultaneously for maximum accessibility.
This event is part of Virtual Ability's 2020 Mental Health Un-Conference.

What: The Yellow Wallpaper
Who: Read aloud by John Laughing
When: Monday May 25, 1pm SLT
Where: Cape Serenity Library patio

  • "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a short story originally published in 1892. It is considered an important early feminist work. The story tells about a woman (who would now have a diagnosis of postpartum depression) who is treated as was typical in the 19th century for "female hysteria." 
  • Presenter bio: John Laughing is enjoying his time in Second Life. He attends classes and events, and is learning to build and script.

Things To Do - Mental Health Un-Conference, Week of May 18, 2020

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

All presentations are presented in voice and text simultaneously for maximum accessibility.
This event is part of Virtual Ability's 2020 Mental Health Un-Conference.

What: Coping with our avatars, and the people behind them
Who: Dr. Nick Bowman
When: Monday May 18, 11am-1pm SLT
Where: Yellow Hibiscus Cabana, Virtual Ability, Second Life
  • A growing body of research has shown that technology users have varied social relationships with their avatars. These relationships range from asocial "Object" orientations in which avatars are nothing more than pixels, to "Me" orientations in which avatars are a true representation of ourselves in a digital world, to "Other" orientations in which avatars represent a companion in the virtual space. Research even shows "Symbiote" orientations in which users blend pieces of themselves with pieces of their avatar as a way to work through uncertainty. These relations are already dynamic and complex during somewhat routine online engagement. In the face of COVID-19 in which many around the world are becoming increasingly exposed to and reliant on online interactions, we might wonder if and how we are shifting our relationships with our avatars as a way to cope with the sudden influx of so many social others online. Following a brief presentation on user-avatar relationships, Dr. Nick Bowman will lead an open dialogue focused on how the relationships we form with our avatars might be affected by the relationships we form and foster with other users.
  • Nick Bowman (PhD, Michigan State University) is an Associate Professor in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University, where he researches the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social demands of interactive media such as video games and virtual reality. He has published over 80 manuscripts in academic journals and is a regular speaker on issues of media psychology and mass communication research. He is the incoming editor of Journal of Media Psychology and just recently completed a J. William Fulbright research and teaching fellowship at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan.

What: Research in Online Communities: An interactive workshop on privacy and human subjects research considerations
Who: Dr. Michelle Colder Carras
When: Wednesday May 20, 1pm SLT
Where: Yellow Hibiscus Cabana Classroom, Virtual Ability island

  • Belonging to an online community can be good for your health, especially if you have a disability, but do you know the implications for your privacy? What are your thoughts and opinions about health research being conducted within online communities? How can we balance protecting health information that people share with the realities of public spaces that are accessible with only a few clicks? Join Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, a health researcher specializing in video games, online communities, and health research for a frank discussion. Questions to think about in advance are posted here. You can write out your thoughts to share during the discussion. Notes from the discussion will be used to inform designs and ethical protocols for research in online communities.
  • Presenter bio: Dr. Michelle Colder Carras is a public mental health scientist and informaticist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who specializes in normative and problematic media and technology use. Her most recent work has focused on how commercial video games and gaming communities can be useful for mental health and suicide prevention. She is a gamer, a mother, a hiker, and a person with bipolar disorder. You can find more information on her website,

What: Virtual Worlds, Real Healing for PTSD
Who: Anya Ibor/Colleen M. Crary
When: Thursday May 21, 1:00 pm
Where: Fearless Nation PTSD Support

  • A review of how PTSD symptoms can be negotiated, re-framed, and resolved through virtual world activities, creating resilience in people with post-trauma. Slide show, visual presentation in voice and chat. 
  • Anya Ibor, Colleen M. Crary, M.A. in RL, is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology currently editing her research for publication. A BA in Graphic Design from SDSU and Masters in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago school, Colleen has been focused on the efficacy of virtual reality for PTSD care for over 10 years. A PTSD subject matter expert and group facilitator in SL and RL, she works as a consultant in XR (VR, UI, AR) and Cyberpsychology.

Eyewear and Flu Viruses

Woman with red and yellow hat wearing glasses

Since the lining of your upper and lower eyelids is a mucous membrane, the eyes are one of the major entrances for viruses into the body, from which they can travel into the lungs. (The other main entrances are the nose and mouth.) Therefore it is important to protect your eyes from exposure to germs as much as possible. Here are some ways to prevent viruses from invading through your eyes.

If you wear contact lenses
During flu season, it is even more important than it always should be to practice all recommended hygiene procedures for disinfecting, cleaning, handling, and inserting your lenses. This is intended to prevent you from infecting yourself with germs that might be on your fingers.

However, since contact lenses only cover 30-40% of the surface of the eye, they do not provide protection from germs in the air. You can get better protection by switching to glasses during the pandemic and flu season.

If you wear glasses
Your eyes will be protected from incoming germs in front of you better than if you use contact lenses, but they can still get into your eyes from the sides where your glasses do not cover. Glasses provide much better protection than not having anything in front of your eyes, but are not as effective as a wrap-around face shield.

One additional advantage of wearing glasses during flu season is that it may remind you not to unthinkingly touch your eyes, as we often do when not wearing glasses.

If you do not wear glasses
When outdoors, sunglasses provide similar protection to wearing prescription glasses. Some styles of sunglasses are wrap around, providing additional protection to the sides of the eyes.

If you do not need prescription lenses, you can purchase clear (nonprescription), cheap eyeglasses at many pharmacies or online. They will not change your vision, but they will provide some protection for your eyes when you are indoors in environments like stores or your workplace.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Things To Do - Clean High Touch Areas

Person cleaning stovetop with rubber-gloved hand and cloth

OK, this does not sound like a fun activity, but it is an important one, and you should be doing this daily in addition to your regular home cleaning routine.

What are high touch areas?
Think of them as places you and others in your home leave lots of fingerprints. Here are some common examples:

  • Door knobs
  • Light Switches
  • Water faucet handles
  • Toilet flush handle
  • Remote control
  • Telephone
  • Keyboards and keypads
  • Counter tops 
  • Drawer and cabinet pulls
  • Refrigerator door handle
  • Microwave door handle
  • Table tops

What cleaning equipment do I need?
Disinfectant spray or wipes that contain ingredients to kill 99.9% of germs on hard surfaces
Soapy water (a few drops of liquid dish soap in a cup of water) is equally effective.

How do I clean these surfaces?
In a word, thoroughly. Be sure you wipe vigorously. Get into all crevices and be sure to wipe off all exposed surfaces.

WARNING:  Never spray or wipe liquids on electronic devices such as phones or computer keyboards. Follow manufacturer directions. It is generally safe to spray cleaning products onto a soft lint free cloth just until the cloth is damp, and then use it to gently wipe the device.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Things To Do - Virtual Ability's Mental Health Un-Conference

Picture of colorful sticky notes on a cork board

What: Art & Mental Health
Who: Marylou Goldrosen
When: May 12, 9:00 am
Where: Yellow Hibiscus Cabana, Virtual Ability Island

  • Marylou Goldrosen will share images of paintings related to mental health from various times in history. We will learn a bit of history about the artists and their time period.
  • In RL, Marylou Goldrosen is Dr. Mary Stokrocki. She is a Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University. She teaches at NonProfit Commons in Second Life at her Art Ark.

What: Mental Health in Poetry
Who: Shyla the Super Gecko
When: May 13, 10:00 am
Where: Cape Serenity Library patio

  • Shyla will read poetry by poets with mental illness or on the topic of mental illness or mental health.
  • Shyla began writing poetry at a young age, including lyrical expression. She has been the featured reader at poetic venues within Second Life including Sunday Spoken Word and Circe's. Her work has been published in Second Life's REZ Magazine and in the physical world's The Fib Review. Shyla has an installation of her work on Ethnographia Island in Second Life.

What: Ability Strange Days Indeed!
Who: Coughran Mayo
When: May 14, 2:00 pm
Where: Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability

  • As with most everything else, the world-wide health crisis is having an impact on alcoholism and other drug addictions. Helping professionals are required to find new ways to reach people in need and deliver services. People are sheltering at home, but liquor stores are still considered “essential businesses” in many places, and sales of alcohol have increased dramatically. Mental health problems are accelerating and many will turn to drugs for relief. The economic impact on non-profit and for-profit treatment programs alike is profound, with experts predicting that 30 – 50% of the traditional treatment providers may not survive the next six months. The potentially large increase in the number of people showing signs of addiction as the crisis progresses, along with the likely reduction in resources available is setting up a crisis of dramatic proportion. What will the future bring?
  • Dick Dillon is the man behind the avatar Coughran Mayo. Mr. Dillon has over 30 years of experience in organization management, working with both for-profit and non-profit behavioral health organizations. He is the founder of the Cox CARE Center and co-creator of the Web of Addictions site (one of the first websites to provide accurate information about addiction). As an executive at Preferred Family Healthcare, he created Avatar Assisted Therapy, in which therapeutic interventions are delivered in a virtual environment. He is now CEO of Innovaision LLC, a consulting firm for non-profits wishing to work in virtual worlds.

What: Mental Illness in Literature
Who: Gentle Heron and Draxtor Despres
When: May 15, 6:00 am
Where: Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability
  • Draxtor and Gentle, both avid readers, will discuss how mental illness has been portrayed in literature of all varieties. An amazing number of works of literature throughout history deal with various aspects of mental illness. A booklist of recommended readings will be provided.
  • Draxtor Despres (Bernard Drax in the physical world) is a German filmmaker, composer, and host of the Second Life Book Club. His recent feature film “Our Digital Selves” documents embodiment and place-making for people with disabilities in virtual worlds. He has been documenting SL via short reportages as the Drax Files since early 2007 and is now a contractor for Linden Lab.
  • Gentle Heron (Alice Krueger in the physical world) is President of Virtual Ability, Inc., which is the nonprofit that supports the Virtual Ability community in virtual worlds. She is a former educator and education researcher, sidelined by multiple sclerosis.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

How To - Where Texting and Email Meet - Text someone using email!

Picture of computer, tablet, and cell phone screens

There are times when it’s easier to use email than poke at a phone to text someone.  Possible reasons could be:

  • You do not have a cell phone
  • Your cell phone is broken
  • You can type faster than you can text
  • You cannot text at all
  • Cell phone coverage at your location is poor

To deal with this, cell phone providers created email gateways that can be used to send a text to one of their customers.  You simply open your email application and use the cell phone number and the email gateway their provider supplies to form an email address.

There are two kinds of text messages:  SMS (Short Message Service:  text only) and MMS (Multimedia Message Service:  multiple people or graphics).  Each type of text message requires a different email gateway.  Some providers do not provide email gateways for both kinds of messages.
For example:
Now, where to find each provider’s gateway?  It is not your provider’s gateway – it’s the gateway of your recipient’s provider.  Fortunately, people have compiled a list comprising many countries:  That site allows you to either subscribe for a one-time USD $3 fee and get perpetual updates (in Excel-compatible CSV, JSON, and PDF eBook formats), or you can download the CSV file directly from the site yourself using their handy “download it here” link.  Note that you will need to right-click the link and select “Save link as.”  Or, you can click the link and save it to your bookmarks for future reference (will only be available to you when you’re online, though).

For example, if your recipient uses AT&T as their provider, their SMS and MMS email gateways are and  Some providers use the same email gateway for both.

Here is the best news:  people can respond to your text and you’ll get it in your email!  That means you can have a correspondence with them with your email.  Very handy!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Things to Do - Photography in Second Life

Picture of 12 colorfully drawn cameras

By Lissena (Wisdomseeker), Virtual Ability member

For May 2020, Second Life residents are invited to participate in a series of photography challenges, sponsored by Whole Brain Health at Inspiration Island.

Curated by Associate Director Thuja Hynes (Tooyaa), each week offers a new opportunity to share our vision, creativity, and technical prowess with inworld photography.

  • Week 1 (May 4 - 10):  Visit our Photo Studio and Gallery for Fantasy Foto challenge!
  • Week 2 (May 11 - 17):  Takes shutterbugs out into the SL realm to seek and snap full-frame landscapes with the theme Springtime Alive! 
  • Week 3 (May 18 - 24):  Returning to Inspiration Island, celebrate those whom you admire with the SL Heroes theme
  • Week 4 May 25 - 31):  In the final week we expand our field again to Second Life overall with the theme Tout le Monde, photographing the remarkable social gatherings we enjoy. 

Photo submissions will be exhibited at four galleries on Inspiration Island, in the Whole Brain Health Flickr group, and in compilations. Contact Thuja Hynes inworld with questions. Start here and grab details:

We're eager to see your art!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Things To Do - Attend the introduction to Virtual Ability's Mental Health Un-Conference!

Picture of Mental Health Un-Conference Reminder Board

Thursday, May 7 at 7 am SLT
Gentle Heron will present Introduction to the Mental Health Un-Conference
This is an introduction to Virtual Ability’s 2020 Mental Health Un-Conference that will be held throughout the month of May. A guided tour of the mental health displays and exhibits on Healthinfo Island will include information on how these interactive poster sets are made to be accessible.

Host Bio:
Gentle Heron likes to share evidence-based health and wellness information. Her RL avatar is president of Virtual Ability, Inc.

Thursday, May 7 at 9 am SLT
Jadin Emerald will present Identity, Mental Illness, and Disability: How Second Life Has Helped
This exhibit is a sort of "build biography" — a story of the discovery of a new self as a result of being in a virtual world, after having become disabled due to mental illness. The build is set up like an immersive gallery exhibit that you can walk through and interact with. It includes signs with pictures and captions, as well as objects and demonstrations that show some of the things that the story is talking about. Jadin will give a brief introduction, and then be available for questions while participants tour the exhibit at their own pace for the remainder of the session.

The exhibit is designed to be accessible primarily with notecards that participants can get by clicking any of the signs, and also with semi-transparent ramps overlying all stairs, clear labeling of objects, a pleasant soundscape, and other accessibility features.

Host Bio:
Jadin Emerald is otherwise known in SL by a host of other avatar names, including Jadyn Firehawk, who is now retired from public life to pursue her favorite hobbies and practice self-care. Today, Jadin is primarily a creator in SL with a focus on wellness and owner of Jadin Emerald Design Studio. She also operates the Coronavirus Survival Store, a store that is all freebies and is designed to help people through the pandemic crisis. She has developed a layperson's expertise on bipolar disorder and PTSD from having lived with their effects for most of her life. She is a former faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, where she taught environmental science. She holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

Sunday, May 10 at 7 am SLT
Gentle Heron will once again present Introduction to the Mental Health Un-Conference

Monday, May 4, 2020

Things To Do - Get enough sleep

Father and infant sleeping

Sleep seems to be a simple activity, but it really isn’t. Getting adequate sleep is known to improve your quality of life_. Most adults need about 8 hours of sleep each night. Both too much more and too much less than this average amount of nightly sleep are harmful to your health.

Many factors can lead to poor quality or inadequate amounts of sleep, and that can lead to health problems. However, you don’t need to resign yourself to poor sleep. Good sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene, are steps you can take to improve your rest. Here are some helpful tips for establishing good sleep hygiene.

  • Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day of the week, whether you are going to work or not. Having a consistent sleep schedule will get your body clock regulated.
  • Use light levels to aid your body clock to establish a consistent circadian rhythm. Try to be in sunlight in the morning, user brighter lights for daytime tasks, and avoid bright light in the evening before bedtime.
  • Avoid naps, especially within 8 hours of your bedtime. If you routinely nap because you get tired during the day, try power naps earlier in the day. But you may have to forego napping entirely.
  • Optimize your bedroom to sleep. It should be a little cool, ideally between 60-67 degrees F (15-19 degrees C) and free from noise and light that may inhibit sleep. You may need eyeshades, earplugs, dark curtains, or a white noise generator. Be sure your mattress and pillows are in good shape, clean, and allergen-free.
  • Create a bedtime ritual to help you relax. You can use meditation, prayer, progressive relaxation, or other activities to wind down. Reading is a good way to relax, but not online. The blue light from the screens of our electronic devices, including televisions and phones, actually makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. If you can’t sleep after a reasonable attempt to relax, get out of bed, go into another room, and do something relaxing until you feel ready to try going to sleep.
  • Don’t rely on over-the-counter sleep medications. Frequent use of chemical sleep aids can result in a variety of health issues.
  • Some lifestyle choices can affect your sleep. Regular exercise will help you sleep. Some people find exercising in the evening to be too energizing; if so, schedule your activity for morning or lunchtime. Alcohol and nicotine can both disrupt sleep. Avoid eating heavy or spicy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime, to prevent indigestion that can keep you awake.

A useful resource for information about sleep is the National Sleep Foundation.

If these self-management strategies aren’t enough to help you get the sleep you need, consider asking for a medical evaluation. To find a sleep clinician in your area, consult the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These medical professionals can diagnose the cause of your sleep problems, often by doing a sleep study, and then can explain the best ways for you to get a better night’s sleep.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Things To Do - Celebrate World Laughter Day!

Male worker smiling

Come celebrate World Laughter Day, celebrated on the first Sunday in May each year.  Why?  Laughter is fun!  Do we need another reason?

Red Skelton, the famous comedian, said:  “Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.”

Laughter also helps us in other ways.  It:

  • Relaxes the whole body
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins
  • Protects the heart
  • Burns calories
  • Lightens anger’s heavy load
  • May even help you to live longer

You can celebrate with other people!  According to the World Laughter Day website, “Come tune up and tune in with the power of laughter and positive energies with like-minded spirits this coming Sunday 3rd May 2020, from 11am until 12 noon, Pacific Time.”
Los AngelesNew YorkLondonSouth Africa
Open to the first 100 people to post their feed, this will be live-streamed on Facebook for everyone to see.

One of the critical ideas of laughter in psychology is the “facial feedback hypothesis,” which states that skeletal muscle feedback from facial expressions plays a causal role in regulating emotional experience and behavior.  This means that simply smiling and laughing can improve your outlook, at least temporarily.

Give it a shot.  Laughter is often the best medicine.

Learn more at Wikipedia or World Laughter Day.