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51% #1577: Depression The Comedy; Experiencing Autism Together

Jessica Holmes

On this week’s 51%, meet a comedian turned mental health advocate; a mother starts a social group for people on the autism spectrum; and storyteller Dr. Jeri Burns shares her view on “It’s a Boy” or “It’s a Girl.”

Jessica Holmes is a comedian and writer. She has opened for comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Leslie Nielsen and Ellen DeGeneres. And she performed with The Second City and Just for Laughs shows. She probably is best known for her work on the Royal Canadian Air Farce and The Holmes Show. Her first memoir, “I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light in My Screwball Life,” was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2011. After battling post-partum depression and "regular, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety depression,” Holmes began openly sharing her mental health story using humor.  Recalling her frustration when "NBDs" ("Never Been Depressed") would ask, "Well, why don’t you just get out there and do something?" Holmes points out that "one of the most prevalent symptoms of depression is not feeling like doing anything, ever."

"It’s an illness," she reminds us, saying, "I’ve never met someone with Type 2 diabetes and thought: ‘See, I’ve always just eaten bags of delicious sugar and been fine, so I’m not sure why you can’t figure it out.’”

Holmes spoke with 51%’s Elizabeth Hill about her new book: “Depression The Comedy: A Tale of Perseverance.” She says her work as a mental health advocate pushed her to intertwine comedy with a palatable conversation about depression.

There’s an endless stream of advice online about how to make friends as an adult. The lists and blog posts often mention that it’s harder for twentysomethings to form meaningful friendships. Making friends can be even harder if you’re on the autism spectrum, and don’t live in a major city. Side Effects Public Media’s Isaiah Seibert reports on one group’s efforts to build those connections in rural America.

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the award of nearly $2.5 million in grant funding to organizations in five states to help women affected by the opioid crisis re-enter the workforce. The grants are called RESTORE grants. RESTORE stands for Re-Employment, Support, and Training for the Opioid Related Epidemic. RESTORE grants are intended to foster cooperative relationships among a wide range of entities.

The Department has awarded the 2019 RESTORE grants to Urban Workforce Advantage in Northern New Jersey, where the grant will provide 100 women with occupational training and pre-apprenticeship opportunities. In New York, the University at Buffalo, Department of Family Medicine and New York State Area Health Education Center will use the grant to provide soft skills development, resume writing, workshops, job readiness training, and more for about 200 women. Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Virginia will use the grant to assist families by providing career services and job training to 120 women. And the grant awarded to the Helen Ross McNabb Center in East Tennessee will fund the center’s Jail to Work RESTORE Expansion Project. 

And now writer Dr. Jeri Burns weighs in on babies and gender. 

Dr. Jeri Burns is a storyteller, writer and educator living in New York's Hudson Valley. You can find her at storycrafters.com. Burns also is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at the State University of New York at New Paltz. 

That’s our show for this week. Thanks to Elizabeth Hill for production assistance. Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock. Our theme music is Glow in the Dark by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio. If you’d like to hear this show again, sign up for our podcast, or visit the 51% archives on our web site at wamc.org. And follow us on Twitter @51PercentRadio

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