The Effexor Chronicles: Lucky Her

One woman had a near trouble-free time getting off of Effexor.

I was taking effexor for about 4 months due to having a anxiaty attack one day.

One day I just felt like I was ready to get off of them.

I started by slowly bringing down my dosage. Did that for 2 weeks. The 3rd week I stopped taking them all together.

The worst sympton I felt was the dizzy feeling, I think they call it vertigo. That lasted for up to 2 weeks after stopping the medication.

I am proud to say I am now completly effexer free, with no side affects any longer. It can be done. Just go slow !

Good luck.

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Taking on pretentious Christianity: You don't always have to be happy just because you call yourself a Christian

Nancie at More Than Conquerors has a great post up including a devotional that reflects on Jeremiah 17:17: "Do not be a terror to me; You are my hope in the day of doom." It really contradicts the notion that Christians are supposed to be bright, happy, sunshine, and flowers. Christians always seem to act like because they have "joy" in Christ, they are supposed to be happy-go-lucky and everything just works out for them.

How absolutely and utterly wrong.

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm.

Because I’m essentially faceless on this blog, I can be me–like it or not. I’m not your typical born-again Christian. I don’t act pretentious. If crap is going wrong in my life, I say it is and I won’t act like things are butterflies and sunshine. I cuss (sorry to those it offends!) at times when I’m angry or frustrated. This is me; I am a human with faith in Christ.

So I’m out to blast this notion of Christians always have the "joy of the Lord," meaning "I am so happy because Jesus saved me from my sins that I have to go around and smile all day." NO. "Joy of the Lord," I think, means quiet confidence in him. Knowing who he is and what he’s done for you and through all the trials of life, never letting go of that faith because you’re secure in his love for you.

No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children.

We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ.

The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Boy, do I feel like winds and tempests are exercising my faith. And I’m not going to act like they’re not. Jesus showed the weak side of his humanity. I’m not sure why some Christians think they need to be "stronger" than Jesus.

/end ex-fundamentalist rant/

Current Mood Rating: 5.5

A little something to brighten up your day (and mine)

Click North three times. On the third time, turn the view south.

Great editorial in NYTimes

The New York Times published a great editorial supporting a ban on much of the lavish treatment that doctors get from drug reps. If adopted by medical schools, restrictions would include:

  • Ban on personal gifts, industry-supplied foods and meals, free travel (not reimbursed for services), and payment for attending industry-sponsored meetings
  • Ban on ghostwriting, the practice of drug companies drafting an article and then getting a doc to slap his or her name on it making it look at though the doc actually wrote it
  • Drug samples would have to be submitted to a central pharmacy not individual doctors

The restrictions, however, end there. The editorial says the proposal goes far but not far enough.

Patients need to be assured that their doctors are prescribing what’s best for them, not what’s best for companies.

Can someone get a doctor to read this?

Thank you

Thank you, everyone, for your well-wishes and outpouring of support. I saw my psych today and he is adding 2-5 mg of Abilify to my medication regimen. He had me choose between Geodon and Abilify. Of course, I am hesitant to do this. Take a look at Philip’s post on Abilify and then take a look at CLPsych’s post about how Abilify performed against placebo. My psych pointed out that I did better on 200 mg of Lamictal but I distinctly remember feeling cognitive impairment on 200. The 150 seemed to work well for a while but I don’t know what’s happening. And to be quite honest, I’m always a little wary of alternative treatments even though I know they have helped so many people. I wonder if they are for me.

More thoughts soon…

Current Mood Rating

Current Mood Rating: 4.5

Gone but I don't know where

You have been drifting for so long / I know you don’t want to come down / Somewhere below you, there’s people who love you / And they’re ready for you to come home / Please come home
~ Sarah McLachlan, “Drifting”

I have an appointment with my psychiatrist on Tuesday morning. I’m not quite sure what to do.

My “symptoms” are back. Now that I know what to look for as someone with bipolar disorder, I am aware of them. I’m having mania moments. I don’t want to sleep. I have no desire to. My husband sometimes MAKES me go to sleep. I’d rather be up doing the laundry, washing the dishes, blogging, reading other blogs, making to-do lists, and organizing the apartment–all at the same time–at 2 or 3 am. (This doesn’t mean all of this stuff gets finished.)

My husband and I have had physical fights in the past where he has had to restrain me because I wouldn’t go to bed and I wouldn’t sleep. It would be 4 in the morning and I refused to sleep and I’d fight him tooth and nail. I don’t know why. I have no problem wanting to sleep at 2 pm. Make it 2 am and there’s too much to do suddenly. I have the superhuman ability to get things accomplished between midnight and 5 am more than I can during the hours of 9 am to 11 pm. Right.

So now it’s almost 1 in the morning and I have nursery duty at church later in the morning. Then I have a hair appointment in the afternoon. Then I’m paranoid about what my hair stylist thinks of me.

She says she’s my friend but I wonder if she’s just pretending to like me because she feels sorry for me. I’m really lame you know. People at work acted nice to my face and then dissed me behind my back. She does the same thing to others, why wouldn’t she do the same to me? She just keeps me around and kisses up to me because I tip well.

Thinking like that scares me. It reminds me of the way my father used to think. Paranoid. (You can stop reading here. At this point on, it’s just a manic ramble that’s basically full of nothing but stream-of-consciousness just because i can.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Assorted links roundup

Pastor Mike at KUPC Ask the Pastors answered the ever-controversial question about suicide that plagues Christianity: Will a Christian go to hell if he or she commits suicide? Pastor Mike answers that suicide is "forgivable but not permissible."

Spacedit at mydepressionconnection.com says that she has gained victory over depression as a result of evil spirits being cast out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a subject I’ve grappled with myself, and I’m not sure what to believe. But I won’t be passing judgment on her.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Juanita Bynum

Juanita BynumAs reported by BET News, Juanita Bynum, a televangelist who is in the middle of divorcing her husband Thomas Weeks III, admitted that she wanted to kill herself when she saw her marriage falling apart.

“Suicide crossed my mind … You know, I felt hopeless,” Bynum says in a two-part episode of the TV show “Divorce Court. “I didn’t because the name Bynum represents a legacy of people that have gone before me and had I done that I would have given too much power to an individual to not just wipe me out but to wipe out the integrity of the legacy I was born in.”

There’s a debate in the comments section of this post in which people are arguing that Bynum, who calls herself a prophetess, is human and is allowed to have a weak moment like Jesus did in the garden but there are others who aren’t taking her claim seriously citing her “self-absorbed” reasoning about the “Bynum legacy.”

Suicide? If you believe that I have a bridge I want to sell you. She is too infatuated with herself to do that. We need to stop listening to this person of continuous drama. She does not practice what she preaches.

Many people reach a point in their lives where they either have suicidal thoughts or consider committing suicide but move past it. I’m sure Bynum falls into this category, and it’s understandable. J.K. Rowling recently admitted to something similar while she was in the middle of divorce proceedings.

A blogger's perspective on suicide hotline volunteer work

I’m pretty liberal when it comes to suicide humor jokes. (My husband hates it when I tell them though.) I came across this post from a blogger who volunteered at a suicide hotline center. I actually found it offensive.I don’t mind “demotivator” posters—in fact I love them—but I now realize they need to be used in an appropriate context. I would think that someone who worked at a suicide hotline would realize the severity of callers’ situations even if it was tiring work. I guess at some point you gotta laugh, right? Here’s the post:

People have been asking me what I learned from volunteering at a suicide call center.

It gets tiring telling people to “hang in there” and that they have something to live for when you really know they don’t.

Which is why I am writing my new book (see below).

Suicide poster

I’d like to dedicate my book to the New Zealand Chess Team and the Polish Space Exploration Project.

Okay, the NZ Chess Team and Polish SEP thing was funny to me.

What do you think? Am I being oversensitive?

The Last Psychiatrist—and my thoughts—on suicide

"Your life is a publicly traded company.  You may have majority ownership, but you still are subject to a Board and to your shareholders.  If you want to kill yourself, everyone you have touched in any way gets to vote.  Good luck."

I stumbled upon this post from The Last Psychiatrist written about a month ago. Alone basically argues that suicidal people shouldn’t kill themselves because they have a responsibility—a duty—to stay alive for others. The comments mostly lean toward people having the free will to kill themselves should they choose to do so. Here’s an excerpt from one of the comments:

"You have a responsibility to improve the lives of those around you." Excuse me?! When did THAT become part of the constitution? NOBODY has the responsibility or even the capability to improve anyone else’s life! Hell, you’re a Doctor and you don’t take responsibility for improving anyone’s life!

I’ve noticed that suicide is the taboo mental health topic even among the mentally ill. I’m going to go on a brief narcissist trip and mention that I received few comments on my last suicidal post. To be honest, I figured more people would have chided me for my distorted thinking. Makes me wonder to be quite honest. If I decided that I was going to commit suicide (which I’m not right now), would you support my decision or would you make a case for me to stay alive? What would you say?

Can I be even more narcissist and hope that I get at least 5 comments on this post? Thanks in advance.

Current mood rating: 6

Calls for VA's top official to resign

I’d been meaning to talk about this story but it’s progressed faster than my typing hands can keep up.

An e-mail sent around at the Veterans Health Administration among Dr. Ira Katz, the VA mental health director, and other officials, discussed the issue of hiding the number of suicides committed by veterans from the public—an estimated five out 18 of them being under VA care. Now, a number of senators (and bloggers) are calling for Katz’s resignation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrity Sensitivity: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth PaltrowActress Gwyneth Paltrow has come clean about her bout with postpartum depression after the birth of her son Moses. Speaking to Vogue magazine, Paltrow said:

“I didn’t know I had it until after it was over. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt really out of my body. I felt really disconnected. I felt really down. I felt pessimistic.”

Katherine Stone gives her perspective on this story at Postpartum Progress.

Current Mood Rating

I haven’t used the mood rating system (left sidebar) on this blog since 2006. Since I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts recently, I’ll be posting mood rating updates. I’ve created a "Mood Rating" category for myself so I can keep track of the progression or (non-progression) of my depression. They’ll likely include no more information than the following:

Current Mood Rating:
3

CCEF: Ed Welch on Self-Injury

I’ve talked about how I get biweekly counseling from CCEF (Christian Counseling Education Foundation) in the past. I attended the foundation’s annual conference last year and have since received their bimonthly newsletters. This month, Ed Welch, licensed psychologist and author of more than more than six books and booklets (some of which are on my Helpful Reading list to the left), wrote an article about self-injury and the relief that comes from the pain. Obviously, he doesn’t advocate it but delves into the thought processes behind it and how to work on controlling the urge with God’s help. Here’s an excerpt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Anti-smoking pill drug Chantix has been linked to mental illness, according to Attorney Daily.

Chantix’s safety is currently under fire, as similar stories of patients with suicidal thoughts, depression and aggressive behavior surface. The FDA received reports of 37 suicides and 491 cases in which people had suicidal thoughts. The FDA also said it “appears increasingly likely that there is an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms.” An estimated 5 million people use the drug.

How scary is it that people are having mental health issues related to non-mental health drugs?

Steven Kazmierczak, the shooter at NIU, wrote about his problems with mental illness in his graduate school applications. He said he hoped he could be an encouragement to others. I find this interesting that he wrote about his struggle with mental illness considering that at the time, there appeared to be no official record of him having a mental illness.

Last but not least, here’s news that would make the TAC proud: Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a medical sociologist from Duke says that people suffering from mental illness are three times as likely to commit violent acts than "normal" people. To his credit, he adds:

“It’s also correct to say that the large majority of people with mental illness don’t commit violent behavior,” he said.

Further down in the article, WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask answers where all the violent acts come from if not from the mentally ill.

“Dr. Swanson says that if we could eliminate drug and alcohol addiction, we would see violent crime go down by a third. We also have the issues of people being abused as children and children growing up in violent, impoverished environments. They’re at greater risk of becoming violent adults,” Mask said.

Maybe I’m wrong here but isn’t substance abuse classified as a mental illness?

Bipolar teen missing in Colorado

A 14-year-old girl who suffers from bipolar disorder has gone missing according to local news reports.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department is asking the public for help in finding Michelle Jung. Deputies say she is in need of her bipolar medication and has not been seen since 1 p.m. Monday at Hampden Academy located at 14301 E. Hampden Ave.

Deputies described Jung at 5 feet tall and weighing 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a gray jacket and blue jeans.

Deputies believe she was heading home from school but are unable to find her. Anyone with information should contact local authorities immediately.

Wyeth Pushing Pristiq Hard

PristiqThe Wall Street Journal reports that Wyeth, desperate to make money off of its Effexor XR-knockoff, Pristiq, says it will slash the antidepressant at a 20% discount compared to Effexor’s price. The price slash, CNN money reports, is a result of less-than-impressive clinical trial data on Pristiq’s “safety and effectiveness.”

Wyeth SVP Joe Mahady told analysts that Pristiq will sell for a flat $3.41 per tablet for both mid- and high-dose, Dow Jones Newswires’ Peter Loftus reports.

Wyeth, apparently, has done this in the past. Back when it was known as American Home Products, the company slashed its price on Protonix, its heartburn drug, to compete with AstraZeneca’s Prilosec. The drug generated $1.9 billion in profits for Wyeth last year. CNN Money reports that Teva Pharmaceuticals and Sun Pharmaceuticals began selling the generic version of the drug and handily cut into Wyeth’s profits: the company reported a 4.6% decline in profit and a 66% drop in sales for the drug for the first-quarter. What will happen with Pristiq remains to be seen. I’m not sure that doctors in 2010 will want to dole out prescriptions for Pristiq when they can save patients—and insurance companies—money by prescribing what will then be known as venlafaxine. WSJ also notes:

A month’s supply of sertraline (Pfizer’s old hit Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Lilly’s Prozac) goes for 50 cents a day at drugstore.com.

$3.41 or $0.50 per tablet. It wouldn’t surprise me if some insurance companies choose to exclude Pristiq from its list of covered drugs. Regardless, Wyeth expects sales of the drug to exceed $1 billion in its first year.

The drug will hit the shelves in May.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

The London Free Press reports that more than 80 percent of employees admitted to taking a “mental health” day. Most people took the day (or days) off because of work-related stress. Others called out because they were tired, bored, or lacked motivation to go to work that day.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists published a report about a month ago that concluded abortions can lead to mental illness. This is significant considering that many psychiatrists in the mental health industry deemed carrying out an unwanted pregnancy to term far more of a mental health risk than getting an abortion. However, the report seems to be echoing old information: in 2006, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry arrived at the same conclusion in young women who had abortions.

At last, New York victims of the 9/11 attack are getting assistance with their mental health benefits. Newsday reports that the benefit program “will reimburse out-of-pocket costs for mental health or substance-use treatment through a claims process similar to any insurance benefit.” These costs include outpatient services, medication related to treatment, lab work, and psych evaluations.

Unfortunately, the benefit only applies to those living in the New York City boroughs or are workers of the city. Anyone from NYC who’s curious to find out about whether they’re eligible can dial 311 or go to www.nyc.gov/9-11mentalhealth.

Finally, in more sad military news, the Veterans Health Administration admitted that about 18 vets a day—126 per week—commit suicide. This news comes on the heels of the study that found mental illness is increasing (or is being identified better) in U.S. troops.

Talk about stigma

A while ago, posted on J.K. Rowling who spoke of her battle with suicidal thoughts. Etta at Depression Marathon made a post on some comments left on a digg link about the news.

Here are a select few of the 150 current comments on digg.com. Warning: if you have a weak stomach or a low frustration tolerance, you may want to discontinue reading now.

   1. umm, big deal. who hasn’t thought about suicide before? oops…. thats right. my fault. because she’s famous this is somehow more important.
  …
   6. she should have gone through with it
   7. WHY IS THIS ON THE FRONT PAGE!!!!!The woman is one of the richest people on the planet. So how is this supposed to make any difference in ANYONE’S life or situation. WHO CARES!!!!!Kevin please fix the algorithm to keep crap like this away from those of us who actually give a shit about what gets here. This makes Digg BORING and less interesting and intellectually useful than it used to be.

  10. depression isn’t a disease. It’s a state of mind & nothing more than a word. snap out of it!

There’s not much left to say…there were a few defenders among the haters, but the vast majority are reflected within the 10 statements I’ve included above. Wow…

Explains why mental health news is so unpopular.

Vote for Furious Seasons!

I nominated Philip Dawdy’s Furious Seasons site for Best Health Blog and Best Blog of All Time for the 2008 Blogger’s Choice Awards. I know many of you read his site and really appreciate his contribution to writing about mental health issues so please go vote for him! Voting requires registration but it’s entirely worth it.

It’s about time I voted for a candidate I wholeheartedly like.

HTML

I’ve allowed HTML in the comments section. For now.

Blogging bad for mental health?

Two weeks ago, the NYTimes wrote a story about the pressure that blog writers have to keep on blogging. The article points out that three bloggers died (it’s assumed that it’s due in part to the nature of their work?) and that many more suffer from weight problems, sleep disorders, and a whole host of other sicknesses or illnesses because of their addiction to blogging. Many of these bloggers (the article cites the techies) are paid and get little sleep lest they not be the first to post about the latest news.

I don’t have the problem about being first about anything. I never am and don’t expect myself to be. I do know how it feels to place pressure on yourself to keep blogging, blogging, blogging. Especially when you take a look at your stats and see your readership increasing every day.

My readership hits reached a daily high last month with my two posts on the FDA’s investigation on the Singulair-suicide link. That rarely happens. But it gave me the impetus to keep digging for stories that might be of similar significant relevance. (I haven’t found any since so far.)

But it hasn’t kept me tethered to the computer although I can be if I’m in the right mood. I’m pretty slow at typing my posts and can sit here for at least an hour before hitting the publish button.

Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.

I’d like to get paid $10 a post as opposed to getting paid $0. (In fact, I’m paying $12 a month!) Anyone have any ideas to get revenue going on a blog apart from Google Ads?

(Hat tip: Six Until Me)

Another one biting the dust…

Bipolar Wellness Writer has mentioned that she will discontinue writing her blog in a few weeks. (UPDATED—See bottom of this post.) Furious Seasons and Soulful Sepulcher have mentioned various mental health blogs that have authors who either are considering the possibility of discontinuing their blog (The Trouble with Spikol), have gone on hiatus (Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Recovery), have discontinued blogging (Been Broken (gone for now)) , or have deleted their blog altogether (Psych Survivor).

I answered Philip Dawdy’s questions about the recent spate of mental health blogs that are ceasing regular updates
. But I’m beginning to form my own questions as well. The common theme that I’ve read among many of these blogs is that the authors feel "held back" or that they need to move on with their lives or pursue other interests. Is writing about mental health issues—not just about personal experiences but in general—a burden that many people feel they no longer enjoy? Sort of like a job in which the work seemed enjoyable at first but has become too much to bear and it’s time to "quit" and move on?

I appreciate all of the bloggers who have contributed to the mental health blogosphere. I guess my main question is why the bloggers of political, technology, and celebrity blogs don’t feel that their blogs are holding them back. Is it perhaps the fact that these sites are more likely to make money? Or maybe Big Pharma owns so much of the corner market on generating ad revenue that mainstream outlets are hesitant to publicize anything that would criticize them. Or maybe mental health blogs are so personal that people feel as though they can’t continue to dwell on the past. I don’t have any answers this time. However, those who search Google for blogs regarding various topics on mental health can find these (unfortunately, they’re not all blogs):

UPDATE: Susan Bernard at Bipolar Wellness Writer responded to my comment on her blog:

Dear Marissa,
All may not be lost. Ever since I’ve written this post, friends have been suggesting ways to continue blogging–but not feel "stuck." So, I may change my mind. I’m noodling a bunch of ideas!

Thanks for your comment! I’ll let you know.

Susan

She’s also made a recent post in which she’s weighing her options and may consider changing her mind. (Thanks to BPD in OKC for tipping me off to this.)

Neurontin 0, Placebo 1. Pfizer loses, Placebo wins.

Stephany at soulful sepulcher has a post up on how Neurontin has not shown itself to be more effective for bipolar disorder than placebo in clinical trials.

It's actually kind of funny that this discovery has been made in April 2008 because I'd reported on this back in January of 2007:

So let's recap: gabapentin is FDA-approved for epilepsy ONLY. But gabapentin has a slew of off-label uses.

Don't know what off-label means? It means "not FDA-approved to be prescribed for this use."

Now that we've got that out of the way, gabapentin is prescribed off-label for migraines, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD, treatment-resistant depression, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and in some instances, post-operative chronic pain.

Where did this off-label usage come from? Basically, one journal article published data on beneficial effects for patients on Neurontin for bipolar disorder and then other articles would cite that article as supporting evidence then more articles cited all the other articles that published the positive efficacy data on the drug, creating what UNC researcher Tim Carey calls the "echo chamber effect."  From Fierce Pharma:

Hearing it over and over, doctors were led to believe that Neurontin worked for bipolar patients, and prescribed it to lots and lots of them.

These articles that touted the benefits of Neurontin were cited 400 times. Carey:

It “becomes a rumor mill in which physicians may be exposed to these types of articles, and citations of articles, which then gives credibility to off-label use.”

The conclusion?

“No scientifically acceptable clinical trial evidence supports use” of the drug in bipolar disorder.

Ouch. Hitting Pfizer where it hurts.

Wyeth reps no like Pristiq

Oof. I'm just starting to read The Carlat Psychiatry Blog and stumbled upon this post about Wyeth drug reps trashing Pristiq. Wow. Carlat pulled an excerpt of a Wyeth rep mocking Pristiq's new marketing slogan: "People, Passion, Performance… Pristiq!"

"PEOPLE – 1/2 of you will be gone in less than 27 days

PASSION – There is no passion now, but for those that remain with Wyeth, we will bribe the passion out of you by taking you to Vegas for 4 days.

PERFORMANCE – You thought it was hard to reach your performance incentive before? Wait until 2nd quarter

PRISTIQ – Good luck selling both Effexor XR and Pristiq at the same time. So Dr., would you like to hear about my antidepressant that has been around for 12 years, with proven efficacy with the ability to titrate the dose as need to better care for each patient's needs that will have generic competition in 4 months, or would you like to hear about my brand new antidepressant with one dose, less indications and less evidence of efficacy? You want me to choose, let me check with my bonus plan to see which one pays more."

Carlat:

If this is the typical attitude within the Pristiq sales force, Wyeth may end up a little shy of the blockbuster they were hoping for!

I couldn't have said it better myself.

"You can do this"

From October 10, 2006:

carI’m tempted to go crash my car.

Again, the boy cried wolf.

Except I’m a girl.


Right now, I’m going through what my old pastor used to say is a “spiritual winter.” I just fall into moments when I just cease praying and reading my Bible for whatever reason. I’m not mad at God or anything; I still struggle with believing in a God that I’ve never seen with my own two eyes. But then I think about the specific events that have taken place in my life and I know He exists.

With that being said, I sat in my car this morning with the ignition turned on, ready to drive my car over the bridge into the Schuylkill River. I was ready to run home, make the stupid “goodbye world” post on this blog, text my husband “I love you. Goodbye” and then ram my car into a divider on I-76. It’s the worst suicidal thought I’ve had since I ended up in the hospital in October 2006.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrity Sensitivity: Half of Us

Pete WentzCelebrity Crust has a post on Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy who is doing a campaign on behalf of Half of Us, a mtvU-site geared toward college students that focuses on mental health issues.

Wentz was joined stars such as Mary J. Blige and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan as a spokesperson for the Jed Foundation’s Half Of Us campaign which is aimed at cutting student suicide rates.

The site also deals with issues such as eating disorders, stress, substance abuse, cutting, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. As part of Generation Y (or Z or XYZ), I grew up loving mtv as a teen. Now I can’t stand it. (Mainly because it’s reality-TV show channel for than music television.) But I have to hand it to the mtv networks this time. They got it right. Use celebrities if you have to so that college students will be less hesitant to seek the help they need.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Pete Wentz

Pete WentzOk. I recently posted on Pete Wentz, bassist for Fall Out Boy, who has openly admitted to struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. He recently said that his relationship with Ashlee Simpson and and regular therapy sessions have helped him to overcome depression. There is no mention whether he took psych drugs as part of his recovery.

But Wentz is convinced that although he still battles with mental health issues, his relationship with Simpson has made him more emotionally balanced.

He says, “The hardest thing about depression is that it is addictive.
It begins to feel uncomfortable not to be depressed. You feel guilty
for feeling happy.

Spoken like someone who really struggles with depression. Wentz’s story underscores some points from my “about me” post that emphasizes the need for encouraging and healthy relationships.

Response to "Mental Health Blogs Going Bye-Bye?"

From one of Furious Seasons’s latest posts:

Mental Health Blogs Going Bye-Bye?

As I noted earlier, there’s a spate of mental health blogs that are going on hiatus of some kind. Now, it’s my sad duty to report that Gianna Kali’s Bipolar Blast blog is going on an indefinite hiatus as well. You can read her post "Quitting?" for the details. Bottom line: all those years of very high doses of psych meds seem to have injured her body. I cannot even begin to send her enough good wishes. I cannot even begin to express my disgust with some of the bad doctors she ran into over the years.

Also, the Psych Survivor blog, written by a man I only know as Mark, was taken down a few weeks ago, and from what I gather he is in the hospital with heart problems. His was/is a good and strident voice on these issues we all care about and his work is missed.

All of this kind of makes me feel glum, since the two people above had been at the blogging game for well over a year and I sensed that they’d both be around long-term. These are people I care about and it sucks that they won’t be the presence they once were.

Why is it that mental health blogs are so difficult to do and keep going? Why is it so hard for them to find the substantial audiences they deserve? The Internet is crowded with blogs about politics, technology, gadgets, gossip and parenting and many of these seem to do quite well and have huge audiences and long lives, despite the fact that many of them are merely echoes of one another. Are readers of blogs that simple-minded that all they need is the latest news and opinion on Apple’s or Microsoft’s latest bit of software or Obama’s or Hillary’s latest gaffe?

You’d think in a country where 10 percent of the population is on anti-depressants and another 5 percent to 10 percent is likely on some other psych med that there would be a substantial audience for these issues (regardless of what one makes of the dominant mental health paradigm), especially given how wildly popular neuroscience is on the Net. It makes me wonder if we all–and here I include myself–have done something wrong in how we analyze these issues (are we too contrarian?) or if we all simply haven’t been crowded out of the big search engines (that’s how most people find mental health information online) because the Net is so over-populated with pharma sites and allied pro-pharma health websites. I can certainly say that the mainstream media–which usually loves writing about characters on the Net who push against life’s many intellectual tides–has given very little attention to sites like this one, despite the fact that sites like mine have been a very real service to many in the media.

Or maybe the mainstream approach to mental health care is right and the public is just trying to tell us something.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you what I think.

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Survey

I don't usually do these meme/survey things but I got tagged by depression marathon (thanks!) and I'd like to return the favor.

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What's wrong with this picture?

weather

(Hint: It might require an eye that’s good for catching errors.)

Mental illness trend on the rise among troops

soldierThe AP is reporting that nearly one in every five soldiers who have been part of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan now suffer from clinical depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The researchers said 18.5 percent of current and former service members contacted in a recent survey reported symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress. Based on Pentagon data that more than 1.6 million have deployed to the two wars, the researchers calculated that about 300,000 are suffering mental health problems.

“There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at Rand. “Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation.”

The trend of mental illness on the rise among soldiers isn’t a new story. I’ve written about the problem several times here, here, and here. The real question now is how the problem is being addressed.

Veterans Affairs is responsible for care of service members after they have leave the military. The Defense Department covers active duty and reservist needs.

Col. Loree Sutton, who heads a new Pentagon center on brain injury, said the Rand study will add to the work defense officials are doing. That includes researching best practices used inside the military and out, improving and expanding training and prevention programs, adding mental health staff and trying to change a military culture in which many troops are afraid or embarrassed to get mental health treatment.
“We’ve got to get the word out that seeking help is a sign of strength,” Sutton said.

She said officials have been working to add thousands more mental health professionals to help the uniformed psychiatrists, psychologists and others struggling to meet the wartime demands of troops and their families. Across the services, officials are trying to hire over 1,000 additional staff. Also, companies providing health care by contract to the Pentagon have added over 3,000 in the past year, and the U.S. Public Health Service has provided some 200, she said. Veterans Affairs has added some 3,800 professionals in the past couple of years, officials there said.

It sounds like the VA is doing all they can with what they’ve got at the moment to address this problem. According to the article, the hesitation among troops to seek help is slowly and steadily on the decline. That’s a good sign. However, a few impediments that can block this progress:

  • they worried about the side effects of medication,
  • they believed family and friends could help them with the problem, or
  • they feared seeking care might damage their careers.

Again, I think many of these problems stem from psychological issues and should be heavily addressed by psychologists who are specifically trained help them work through these problems. This is one instance where I would downplay the use of psych drugs and focus primarily on talk (CBT/DBT/counseling) therapy.

Ghostwriting

According to the International Herald Tribune (IHT), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published an article about Merck’s practice of writing research studies and then asking doctors to slap their names on them. This practice has called into question Merck’s marketing of Vioxx, a profitable cardiovascular drug that was pulled off the shelves due to its link to heart attacks.

Merck acknowledged Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article’s conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.

Continue reading:

One paper involved a study of Vioxx as a possible deterrent to Alzheimer’s progression.

The draft of the paper, dated August 2003, identified the lead writer as "External author?" But when it was published in 2005 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the lead author was listed as Dr. Leon Thal, a well-known Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

The second author listed on the published Alzheimer’s paper, whose name had not been on the draft, was Ferris, the New York University professor. Ferris, reached by telephone Tuesday, said he had played an active role in the research and he was substantially involved in helping shape the final draft.
"It’s simply false that we didn’t contribute to the final publication," Ferris said.

A third author, also not named on the initial draft, was Dr. Louis Kirby, currently the medical director for the company Provista Life Sciences. In an e-mail message on Tuesday, Kirby said that as a clinical investigator for the study he had enrolled more patients, 109, than any of the other researchers. He also said he made revisions to the final document.

"The fact that the draft was written by a Merck employee for later discussion by all the authors does not in and of itself constitute ghostwriting," Kirby’s e-mail message said.

Uh, yeah it does.

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What do you know?

I received a $150 check today. Joe made good on his promise and sent me a copy of my piece and a check for one that’s been published and one that’s been accepted for publication. Who’s the jerk now?

Suicide

My family would have killed me (for lack of a better term) if I had written this.

Blog design

I’ll be messing with the blog design on and off so don’t be surprised if it looks kind of funky every now and then when you visit the site.

Freelance writing, editing, and proofreading

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to obtain a part-time job at an ad/marketing agency where I can do some freelance editing and proofreading. I charge them $10 more than what I made at my last job right now, but in retrospect, I think I underestimated my value. However, I cut the company some slack because I haven’t been editing or proofreading in quite a while. I figure I’m a good deal considering my kick-butt skills at the rate that I’m charging. (Woo-hoo! Confidence!)

This leaves me with two free days to do some writing. I’ve mentioned in the past that I haven’t done any form of reporting since 2005, which scares me. In the past, I’ve had editors tell me what stories they think are important or relevant to the locals and I just went out, covered the story, wrote up my assignment, turned it in, then basked in the glow of seeing my name glistening in print. Now, it’s up to me to be up on what’s important and relevant to the community that I live in and decide what I think editors will want to publish. It’s a tricky game and I’m bound for rejection. Considering my history of rejection from my peers, I don’t know if I’m particularly apt for constant rejection from editors. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally but I’m Ms. Overly Sensitive. My recent experience with Joe (here and here) from the magazine I interviewed for has actually taught me a lot. It’s been an annoyance to endure but it’s been a valuable lesson. I’m learning not to take his treatment of me personally. Perhaps I read him all wrong and he’s not the jerk that I think he is. Regardless, he at least sent me a copy of the  issue my work was published in — wouldn’t you know — sans that elusive $75 check. I’m particularly angry with him, mainly because I feel like I got played for the fool. Part of me wants to pursue my writing career even more now to show him that he lost out by not hiring me. The other part of me knows that I’m so unmotivated to do anything that I won’t get anywhere with anything. Better to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than to have high expectations and be significantly disappointed.

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Loose Screws Mental Health News

If the state gets its way, hundreds of children could be put in foster homes, in what could be a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling.

Wow. That's all I can say. How do you place 400 different children in foster homes and ensure they'll get proper care? You can't.

NYTimes

“The drugs save lives, and we often have no choice but to use them — even if we have questions about their long-term use. But the questions are big ones, and we owe it to our patients to try to answer them.”

Richard FriedmanDr. Richard Friedman, a frequent mental health columnist for the New York Times, has written a piece that questions the use of antidepressants and how dependent patients have become on them. I’ve read Friedman’s previous columns and appreciate his realistic take on the psychiatric and psychological field. His most recent piece is worth reading.

Scary statistic

Here's one scary statistic:

In a study, the first of its kind, scientists have found that websites encouraging suicide pop up more frequently in Internet search engines than those which aim to prevent it.

The story, reported by the Times of India, must be speaking of Web sites outside of the U.S. because I sure can't find such a phenomenon on U.S. sites. (Yes, yes, I've previously tried.)

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics":

While one in five sites that popped up on the click of a mouse were dedicated suicide sites, and over 50% of them encouraged, promoted or facilitated suicide. Over 43 of the websites studied contained personal accounts of suicide methods. In contrast, only 13% focused on suicide prevention or offered support, while another 12% actively discouraged suicide.

The article mentions that the three highest ranked sites were pro-suicide. The top four sites gave detailed information on various ways to commit suicide. Most of these pro-suicide hits were found via Google and Yahoo. MSN had the highest hits of prevention and support sites.

As I resist the urge not to investigate the data further, I think of a Web site I was introduced to recently called everyminute.org. According to the site, about 30,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. annually. Suicide also is the second highest cause of death of those in the 25–34 age range. Untreated mental illness tends to play a big role in suicides. This statistic makes me glad that my mental illness is being treated, however, I still struggle with suicidal thoughts (I have lately). The silver lining in this is that I have a higher chance of overcoming my suicidal actions and behavior thanks to my counseling, medication, and self-education via this blog and the blogs of others.

26-Week-Old Fetus Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

Yes, it’s a parody, but an awesome one at that. Wish I’d thought of it myself.

Pittman, Zoloft, and akathisia revisited

Christopher PittmanI’ve written about Christopher Pittman, now 19, who confessed to shooting and killing his grandparents when he was on psych meds at the age of 12. He appealed for a Supreme Court hearing but was denied, CNN reported today. He — and his defenders — appealed on the grounds that his 30-year sentence was “excessive for someone that age” and that the dosage of his antidepressants at the time (200 mg) “sent his mind spinning out of control.” Pittman was tried as an adult and, his lawyers argue, “no other inmate in the United States is serving so severe a sentence for a crime committed at such an early age.”

In previous posts here and here, I’ve questioned the link between Zoloft and violence/rage. Pittman, in 2001, had been switched to Zoloft a few days before the murder of his grandparents. However, it sounds like there had been some emotional problems in Pittman’s life that may have given prosecutors a solid case:

At the time of the crime, the boy had bounced around homes for years, experiencing a half dozen family splits and divorces after his mother had twice abandoned him as a child. She has not been in Pittman’s life for years.

Joe Pittman, the boy’s father, raised Christopher Pittman and his sister for much of their lives, but the relationship between father and son deteriorated. A state psychologist later testified this was a “young man who’d had difficulty with the adults in his life.”

On November 28, 2001, Pittman was sent home early for fighting in school and sent to bed by the grandparents. The boy claimed his “Pop-Pop” also beat him with a belt as punishment.

South Carolina prosecutors may easily have set Pittman up as a disturbed young man, which he very well may have been. But there are indications that this disturbance transcended his emotional state into his mental health:

After threatening to harm himself and suffering other emotional incidents, the boy was diagnosed as clinically depressed. His lawyers said Pittman was then given Paxil, a mild antidepressant no longer recommended for those under 18.

Just days before [shooting his grandparents], a doctor had begun prescribing Zoloft, another antidepressant. The family contends the abrupt substitution of drugs caused a bad chemical reaction, triggering violent outbursts.

At trial, a parade of psychiatrists offered conflicting testimony on whether the boy’s emotional problems excused his criminal behavior. Prosecutors called the Zoloft defense a “smokescreen.”

Juror Steven Platt later told CNN the crime appeared deliberate. “It always seemed like the defense was grasping at straws,” he said. “Just because you take prescription medicine doesn’t mean you can’t be held accountable for your actions.”

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Obligatory post

stressedI’ve been quite tired and haven’t been much in the mood for blogging. I’ve been feeling bogged down by all the preliminary crap (see expenses, accountant, and IRS) that I have to do to begin freelance writing. I’m not particularly enjoying the administrative side of life.

On the other hand, I’d like to thank everyone for the kind words on my last post. The issue has been bugging me all week and I wanted to put the matter to rest so I e-mailed the ed-in-chief again on a whim:

Hi Joe,

I figured I probably wouldn’t hear back from you after my last e-mail. If you’re not willing to provide me with the $75 for my submission, at the very least, I’d appreciate having a copy sent to my home address. Thanks.

I figure I had nothing to lose since I’d already lost time spent on the article and the money he’d promised. A copy of the issue is the least he could do for me. (insert not-so-nice thoughts here) He wrote back about an hour ago:

i’ll be sure to make both happen at once. hope you’re well.

I’m not holding my breath. I’d rather be “pleasantly” surprised.

In other news, the ad/marketing agency I have been freelancing for has offered me a part-time contract position. I’ll be able
to do some writing on the side while I have a steady job doing some
proofreading and editing. That makes me incredibly happy.

Otherwise, I hope everyone reading this is getting along decently. It’s been a day. For those in the Northeast, enjoy the beautiful weather!

Your word's as good as nothing

In early February, I went to an interview in the hopes of obtaining an associate editor position at a trade magazine. The editor-in-chief—we’ll call him Joe—met with me in an interview for an hour and a half, maybe even close to two hours. He gave me an assignment to turn around in a week to determine whether he’d want to hire me. He said that if any of the articles I turned in were published, he’d pay me $75 for each of them. Of course, it sounded like a good deal so I agreed to it. I asked him if I could ask him for help if I ran into any trouble. He said, “Sure.”

I also asked Joe how soon I’d find out if I was selected for the position. He hemmed and hawed, hesitating to give me
any estimated time. (This made me uneasy.) I asked him, “Two weeks? A month?” His blue eyes lit up and he enthusiastically said, “Yeah! A month!” I looked at him quizzically and asked him, “Wouldn’t you know whether you would want to hire me after I write those articles for you?” He hemmed and hawed some more then responded, “Let’s see what happens after you write.”

moneyAt the end of my interview, he walks me out of the office building. It was a nice day so I figured he’d stand outside and get some fresh air or just take a smoke break. (Writers and editors have one or two vices: coffee drinking and/or smoking.) I again give my thanks and farewell and proceed to walk down the sidewalk to my car. I feel his eyes watch me as I move toward the parking lot. As soon as I begin to fade from his sight, out of the corner of my eye, I notice he turns around and walks back inside. I stepped inside the car feeling a little nervous now. During the interview, he gave me no reason to feel uncomfortable but at that moment, I realized that it didn’t seem like a job I’d be thrilled to have. Even though I decided I wouldn’t take the position, I forged ahead with my assignment. I didn’t want to take the chance of working for another trade magazine and enduring an uncomfortable run-in with him at a trade conference for not completing an assignment, but I mainly liked the idea of scoring a cool $75!

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Assisting those who are suicidal

I attend biweekly counseling sessions at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). I've been going there for close to two years and had the privilege to attend their last conference that focused on overcoming fear. Since then, I've been receiving their perodical newsletters. David Powlison, one of the people who teach Biblical counseling at the foundation, wrote an article on Help for the Suicidal that I found helpful. It mainly speaks to those who are Christians and puts great emphasis on reliance on God. He doesn't say that God will suddenly "deliver" you from all of your troubles or take away your suicidal feelings, rather he identifies triggers that might bring about suicidal thinking such as personal failure, failed dreams, and false hopes. While suicidal behavior can stem from depression, much of the triggers lie in cognitive behavior.

Ed Welch, also a counselor at the foundation and an author on Biblical counseling, has an article on Loving Those Who Are Depressed (PDF). I enjoy Ed Welch's writing. He doesn't dole out pity on depressed people but at the same time, he's not heavy handed with his advice. He finds the right balance in dealing with the sensitive subject of depression even when it comes to the tricky area of the "chemical imbalance," normally a touchy subject among evangelicals. Then there's this random article on procrastination (PDF) that I have yet to read but I can always have time to procrastinate by reading an article on how not to procrastinate. 🙂

Not on hiatus

I’m currently freelancing on-site for a company as an editor/proofreader so posting will be minimal this week through Tuesday. And yes, I finally am enjoying what I’m doing. It’s a nice feeling after having been at a job for two years "just to pay the bills."