Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight

Watch a three minute interview with Dr. Sederer about his book.

(12-5-16) My friend, Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, has written a new book entitled: Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight. I asked him to describe it for us.

Guest blog by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD

Mental health and addiction problems continue to dominate the news and our personal and collective concerns. The imminent change in our federal government Executive branch and Congressional leaders adds uncertainty to the health and mental health programs and financing in the years ahead.

But there are many things we can do personally, for ourselves – whether we have a mental or substance use disorder or not – and for our loved ones. They require no legislation, insurance prior approval or money out of your pocket. I call these “Four Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight.”

Those are the essence of my new book, just released and #1 in its category on Amazon It is mercifully short (109 pages, including photos) and meant for both a general and professional audience. Its full title is Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight. The book uses stories, clinical cases, historical incidents and notable people, books, TV and movies, and research findings to support each of the ‘secrets’.

The book aims to help anyone who wants to improve their health and mental health by revealing these four secrets and talking about what actions we all can take, actions that can work immediately. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy has written the Foreword.

The book’s four truths, or secrets hiding in plain sight and all eminently actionable, are:

  • Behavior serves a purpose. The search for meaning and the identification and communication value of a behavior are too often overlooked aspects of mental health care and a lost opportunity with and for clinicians, patients and their families.
  • The power of attachment. The force of attachment as a human need and drive must be harnessed if we are to change painful and problem behaviors. Relationships are the ‘royal road’ to remedying human suffering—both individual and collective.
  • As a rule, less is more. Mental health treatments, both medical and psychosocial, have too often been aggressive, from high doses of drugs to intensive sessions and psychic confrontation in individual and group psychotherapy. Unfortunately, these usually well intended but high risk efforts infrequently provide help. And they can have unwanted and problematic effects. Primum non nocere—first, do no harm—is the first law of medicine. 
  • Chronic stress is the enemy. From adverse childhood experiences to post-traumatic stress, chronic stress can be an underlying factor in the development of many mental and physical disorders. Chronic stress shortens our lives and fosters a host of physical illnesses. However, chronic stress can be understood and contained, thereby reducing its damage.

A couple endorsements I am especially proud of are:

“This is an intelligent, balanced, and very useful guide to becoming a knowledgeable and confident actor in pursuing your mental health.  It will also help you to approach mental health professionals as an equal partner.”  Andrew Solomon, PhD, Author of Far From the Tree, Winner of the National Book Award.

“Sederer’s thoughtful and provocative book could not be timelier.  It arises out of a seemingly confusing moment in mental health and poses an immense creative challenge: to draw out the rules, or laws, that govern the psyche as it adapts to an ever-changing world.  His “laws” or “secrets” – often counterintuitive, yet full of clinical utility – illuminate his profound understanding of patients and their particular predicaments. There’s a powerful thread of wisdom that runs through Sederer’s writing like a bright red line, reminding us that by identifying the driving tenets of clinical care we refresh and deepen our engagement with it in the future.  I read this book in a single setting, and felt so much wiser at the end.” Siddhartha Mukherjee  Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies, and recently of The Gene


Lloyd Sederer, MD, is the former mental health commissioner of NYC; medical editor for mental health for The Huffington Post; and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia/Mailman School of Public Health. He is a NAMI ‘exemplary psychiatrist’ and a regular contributor to US News & World Report.

Follow him on Twitter @askdrlloyd

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.