Marcia Morris, MD, is a psychiatrist and author of The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students. A psychiatrist at the University of Florida with over 20 years of experience providing care to university students, she is also the mother of two twenty-somethings. Dr. Morris is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Associate Program Director for Student Health Psychiatry. She writes a parenting blog for Psychology Today called "College Wellness: Promoting Happiness and Health in the College Years." In articles and talks, she promotes preventive care and comprehensive treatment for mental illness in the college years and beyond.
What do I do best?
“You have a big heart.” Someone said this to me recently regarding an issue at work. Both at work and at home, I genuinely care about other people’s feelings and aspirations. I am curious about what makes people tick and want to help them write a new positive version of their lives. As a college psychiatrist, I want to help young adults change the trajectory of their lives when things aren’t going well. When patients know I care, they are more likely to work collaboratively with me towards solutions.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am persistent in all that I do. I have always wanted to become a doctor and a writer– two passions that I pursued, though not always at the same time.
From the age of seven, looking through my grandfather’s medical books filled with black and white photographs of suffering souls, I knew I wanted to be a healer, a physician like my grandfather. In college, I realized I could combine my passion for writing and medicine by majoring in English and American literature while taking pre-med classes. In medical school, I fell in love with the field of psychiatry, which allowed me to combine my two loves – communication and science. While working as psychiatrist and raising two children, I increasingly put writing on the back burner.
When my daughter started college three years ago, it was the right time for me to pursue writing again. I wrote articles, first for local newspapers, then for psychiatry publications, and finally an article for the New York Times, called “Dear Parent, Your Child Has Had a Psychotic Break.” Parents from around the country thanked me for reflecting on the pain of their experiences while offering a message of hope. I decided to write a book for parents to give them hope while educating them about common mental health problems that college students experience, and thus my book, The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, was born.
What are my aspirations?
Writing this on the first day of the New Year, January 1 of 2018, I see this as the perfect time to consider my aspirations.
My personal goal is to take a more mindful approach to life – not feeling so rushed and making sure I can experience more fully what I am doing both at work and at home. I want to spend more meaningful time with family and friends.
My professional goals are to continue to learn and grow in the field of psychiatry by doing clinical, administrative, and scholarly work. I will also write articles about mental health to encourage hope and help-seeking for my Psychology Today blog, College Wellness: Promoting happiness and health in the college years. I hope to write another book focusing on wellness and mental health.
My Biggest Success?
Raising two children has been my biggest success. It has been wonderful and challenging and worth every minute. As I write in my book The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, parents can be a positive part of a children’s lives in the college years and beyond. Being there for my children will always be a priority.
My Most Challenging Moment?
I had a series of challenging moments related to finding the right educational experience for my children in the K-12 years. While my children had many wonderful teachers along the way, there were too many times when schools required excessive amounts of homework and testing, and when administrators did not address bullying. Many parents I have spoken to throughout the country also faced challenges regarding their children’s academic and social experiences. I am glad to hear my local community has reduced homework and has taken steps to improve the atmosphere in school.
“There is a solution to every problem.” I strongly believe that as we face life’s challenges, we can find ways to survive and thrive. Sometimes the solution does not come right away, or can be reached by multiple paths. I have an innate optimism that even in the worst situations, people can find a path toward meaning and healing.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Both my parents have high levels of empathy, something I probably inherited and learned from them. When I would come home from school, my mother always listened to the stories of my day and offered wise feedback. My father was a fundraiser for the American Heart Association and other health organizations; he also volunteered in our local community and worked statewide to improve living conditions for the intellectually disabled. With this family background, psychiatry - where listening and empathy are critical – was the natural profession for me.
Winston Churchill is a new favorite role model. He was the model of resilience, something I learned from a recent visit to the Churchill War Rooms, an elaborate series of underground rooms from which Churchill conducted the Second World War. Having suffered several political setbacks, he was elected to be Prime Minister in 1940 at the age of sixty-five to lead Britain as it faced off with Hitler and Nazi Germany. Churchill wrote prolifically throughout his life, noting “Words are the only things which last forever.” He embraced life, always working to better people’s lives through writing, speeches, and political engagement.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
After my recent visit to London during the holiday season, London now wins as my favorite place. Here were my five favorite things about London.
1. Walking in Leicester square and Piccadilly Circus, I saw people from all over the world talking, laughing, shopping, eating and generally having a good time surrounded by the wonderful Christmas lights. It was a time and place of peace and joy.
2. In Hyde Park, white swans and other water birds warmed themselves on the shore of Serpentine Lake, while happy families and tourists strolled past trees whose leaves shivered in the wind.
3. On Whitehall Road, I saw imposing white stone government buildings with intricate carvings and larger than life statues of Britain’s heroes. In their red and black uniforms, the Horse Guards marched or rode horses in formation.
4. Strolling by Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings, and the National Gallery all in one morning, I experienced the richness of royalty, history, the arts and politics going back centuries.
5. Books have a place in London like few other cities. From the several storied Waterstones to the cozy Hatchards, I browsed for hours with people who love literature as much as I do.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Orange Theory is a new workout program that I started doing about a year ago; it is a franchise with stores across the country and the world. It combines cardio and strength training using heart rate monitoring to achieve the optimal exercise experience.
As a psychiatrist, I’ve read studies about the ways regular exercise promotes physical and mental health. This program has enabled me to lose weight, build muscle strength, sleep better, and feel better overall. I love working out with the group and having a trainer inspire us.
My Current Passions?
I continue to be passionate about work – sitting in the room with a patient to collaborate on ways to improve their lives is a gift and a joy.
I am also passionate about writing, and am grateful I have had more time to do this in the last few years.
Working out has always been important to me, whether at Orange Theory or a yoga studio or a hiking trail. Wellness will always be part of my life.