Adam Lanza, Violence, and Mental Illness

Much has been made of the Newtown shooting. After many inaccuracies by the media, the truth finally emerged that 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother then proceeded to his old school to murder 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself. Then another detail emerged that he may have struggled with Asperger’s syndromeThinking the Unthinkable (also now known as the infamous “I Am Adam Lanza’s mother” post) at the Anarchist Soccer Mom’s blog has gone viral about violent people who struggle with mental illness. (Or rather, a mentally ill person who struggles with being violent.)

I want you to know that you don’t need to be mentally ill to do what Adam Lanza did. His plan to kill was not merely cold but also very calculated. That is not the rash act of a mentally ill person; that is the meticulous act of a mastermind. He destroyed his hard drive beforehand so people would not be able to figure out why he did what he did, and according to the Daily Telegraph, rigged “his semi-automatic rifle… to fire with maximum efficiency.”

Now, autism groups and moms who have children with Asperger’s are scrambling to defend autistic people from the stigma that already comes with mental illness. The truth is while mentally ill people have moments of violence—I have kicked and punched my own mother in the throes of bipolar disorder—they are never planned acts of violence. Psych Central addressed the issue of mental illness and violence back in 1998:

Unless drugs or alcohol are involved, people with mental disorders do not pose any more threat to the community than anyone else.

It’s high time that people stop blaming cold, calculated acts of murder on mental illness.

(From a Christian perspective, sin, or an evil heart, is the real reason why things turned out the way they did.)

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Welcome to Philadelphia: where our judges like to jail kids in return for money

This isn't mental health related but it's a story despicable enough that I had to put it here. As if the Philly area didn't have enough murders and stuff going on, we've got judges who would rather get rich than be concerned with children's welfare.

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Two judges pleaded guilty on Thursday to
accepting more than $2.6 million from a private youth detention center
in Pennsylvania in return for giving hundreds of youths and teenagers
long sentences.

–snip–

When someone is sent to a detention center, the company running the
facility receives money from the county government to defray the cost
of incarceration. So as more children were sentenced to the detention
center, PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare received more money from
the government, prosecutors said.

–snip–

One 17-year-old boy was sentenced to three months' detention for being in the company of another minor caught shoplifting.

Others were given similar sentences for "simple assault" resulting
from a schoolyard scuffle that would normally draw a warning, a
spokeswoman for the Juvenile Law Center said.

The Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation in
U.S. courts. But many of the juveniles appeared before Ciavarella
without an attorney because they were told by the probation service
that their minor offenses didn't require one.

Read the entire article.

Happy Valentine's Day (for real this time)

I get so negative on this blog with negative stories and negative anecdotes that sometimes we all just need to think about the positive things in the world. Instead of me focusing on suicide for a day, how about I focus on life?

Check out this story from the Boston Globe of a white firefighter who saved a black baby girl 40 years ago during the a time when racial tensions were still high. It's good to read of a story that reminds me of life rather than death. Maybe I can use this story to celebrate life on Valentine's Day rather than… death.

(H/T: No Quarter)

Done deal: Pfizer buys Wyeth for $68 billion

Pfizer-Wyeth merger

The New York Times puts it this way:

The deal, if completed, would not only create a pharmaceutical behemoth but would be a rarity in the current financial tumult: a big acquisition that is not a desperate merger of two banks orchestrated by the government. [emphasis mine]

Funny the writers decided to add that. A year ago, that clause would have never been considered yet alone thought of.

Pfizer isn’t doing badly; in fact, despite the credit crunch, they’ve been able to snag $22.5 billion in loans since they also have $26 billion cash on hand. The NYTimes also reports that this merger would be the biggest since AT&T and BellSouth merged back in March 2006. But of course, with mergers always come layoffs. And what a time to have layoffs. Pfizer today announced that they’ll be cutting 8,000 jobs.

But as I said in a previous post, Pfizer’s biggest challenge is get some pipeline products out to market soon since some of the patents on their big names (ie, Lipitor) are expiring soon. Don’t hold me to this but I think Wyeth has a bit more sitting in their pipeline, hence why the merger would make sense. But I hope Wyeth can produce a new blockbuster drug for Pfizer otherwise Pfizer’s really going to be hurting for money. Especially since Wyeth’s best-selling drug, Effexor, is now generic and Pristiq isn’t completely cutting it.

Emotional depression along with economic recession?

suicide rates compared to employment ratesCNN has a story looking into whether suicides increase as the economy falls into a recession and investors begin to lose thousands of dollars in the stock market. According to a chart by the NIH & Bureau of Labor Statistics, there seems to be a correlation. Here are the latest high-profile suicides that seem to have been prompted by the economic downturn:

  • Steven Good, a chairman and CEO of Sheldon Good & Co., a major U.S. real estate auction company, may have shot himself, according to police.
  • Adolf Merckle, a 74-year-old German billionaire who was ranked the 94th richest person in the world by Forbes magazine, killed himself by walking in front of a train. According to the CNN article, “in recent months his empire had been near collapse.”
  • Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, a 65-year-old French investor, killed himself after losing $1.4 billion in the Ponzi scheme that Bernard Madoff ran.
  • Kirk Stephenson, 47-year-old English financier  and COO of Olivant Ltd., jumped in front of a train in September (the real climax in the economic collapse).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 32,000 people commit suicide each year but public health experts expect an increase upwards to an additional 1200 suicides because of the economic climate. Here are a few more stats that are worth reading:

  • Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline went from 412,768 in 2007 up to 540,041 in 2008.
  • Unemployed people are two to four times more likely to kill themselves than those who are employed.

I have to admit, I found that following paragraph interesting:

So what about these wealthy and powerful men who have recently killed themselves? Mental health experts say it’s impossible to say why they did it, but they say that people who kill themselves have an underlying psychological issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder, so it’s not only about the money.

So I pose a question: Do all those who commit suicide have a mental illness? Or is it possible to kill oneself without being mentally ill?

Study shows atypical antipsychotics pose a higher risk for cardiac arrest

The New York Times has reported that a recent study found atypical antipsychotics, which include the friendly family of Clozaril, Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa, and Seroquel (maybe Saphris soon), can increase a patient’s risk of dying from cardiac arrest twofold.

The study published in The New England Journal of Medicine also concluded that the risk of death from the psychotropic medications isn’t high. However, an editorial also published in the same issue “urged doctors to limit their prescribing of antipsychotic drugs, especially to children and elderly patients, who can be highly susceptible to the drugs’ side effects.”

A U.S. News & World Report article linked to the FDA’s atypical antipsychotics page for further patient information. If you’re on an atypical, I’d recommend reading each word in the patient safety info that applies to you. Proofreaders like me shouldn’t be the only ones tortured with reading all the fine print. *winks*

Eli Lilly settles with U.S. Gov't for $1.42 billion over illegal Zyprexa off-label marketing

payoutYes, you read that right. Eli Lilly has reached a settlement for $1.42 billion with the U.S. government over the illegal off-label marketing of Zyprexa. The company also pleaded guilty to criminal misdemeanor charges. Basically this is how I see it:

U.S. Gov’t: Eli Lilly, you did a bad, bad thing by doing illegal things. Pay a fine, please, and then you can go.

Eli Lilly: Okayyyy. [reluctantly hands over $1.42 billion to the government]

U.S. Gov’t: [slaps Eli Lilly on the hand] Now, don’t you ever, ever do this again!

It’s a record settlement for a whistleblowing case. According to Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons, Eli Lilly has paid over $2.7 billion in settlement payouts so far. (With certainly more to come.)

US Airways jet falls into Hudson shortly after takeoff; all onboard survive

Praise the Lord! Seriously. God is so merciful. Tragedy averted. A lot of people were spared grief, heartache, and—of course—depression.

US Airways jet
From The New York Times:

A US Airways jetliner with 148 passengers and 5 crew members plunged into the icy Hudson River on Thursday afternoon five minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, and a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said everyone on board escaped safely.

Moments after the plane, a twin jet Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., landed on the river near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, at least a half-dozen small craft rushed to aircraft to rescue the freezing passengers and crew.

I’m sure more details will be released in the following hours, days, and weeks but I’m so happy to hear that everyone on board the plane was okay. Here’s my favorite quote from the Times article:

“The plane was totally intact,” Mr. Duckworth said. “Everybody thought it was a sea plane. I kept trying to tell them no.”

Actually it looked like everybody was really calm, like on the subway platform when it’s really, really crowded, and everyone’s standing shoulder to shoulder,” he said. “Everyone was standing right up against each other on the wings.”

FDA: No link between Singulair and suicidal behavior

On Tuesday, the FDA announced that an investigation into Merck’s clinical trial data did not discover a link between Singulair (montelukast) and suicidal behavior. The investigation, which began 9 months ago, was prompted by a number of reported suicides, especially that of 15-year-old Cody Miller who took the drug and appeared to have no history of mood or behavioral problems. (It is worth noting here that Singulair “is the top-selling drug for people under 17 years old” and Merck’s biggest seller with annual sales of close to $4.5 billion.)

In attempt to assess Merck’s data better, the FDA also investigated AstraZeneca’s Accolate (zafirlukast) and Cornerstone Therapeutics’s Zyflo (zileuton). Although the FDA did imply that “the data were inadequate to draw a firm conclusion” and said that the clinical trials were not set up to observe any psychiatric behavior. Here are the data the FDA discovered during their review of these trials:

SingulairSingulair: 41 placebo-controlled trials that included 9,929 patients

  • Reports of suicidal thoughts: 1 (treated with Singulair)
  • Attempted suicides: None reported
  • Completed suicides: None reported

AccolateAccolate: 45 placebo-controlled trials that included 7,540 patients

  • Reports of suicidal thoughts: 1 (placebo group)
  • Attempted suicides: 1 (placebo group)
  • Completed suicides: None reported

ZyfloZyflo: 11 placebo-controlled trials (number of patients unknown)

  • Reports of suicidal thoughts: None reported
  • Attempted suicides: None reported
  • Completed suicides: None reported

Forgive me for being cynical but the data sounds fishy. I can’t pinpoint why but it does. The suicide numbers and patient involvement data seem to deviate some from the numbers listed in Merck’s PR issued last March. (I’m seeing 11,000+ patients vs. 9,929 patients.) Regardless of the clinical trial data, it appears that the FDA as of yet have not reviewed post-marketing data.

Scott Korn, a senior safety surveillance executive for Merck said in an article for Reuters:

“‘At the time we did not believe, and we still don’t think a link has been established’ between Singulair and the suicides.”

In the same article, Sanford Berstein analyst Tim Anderson had this to say about the possibility of the FDA finding a link:

“If the… safety review leads to a stern warning about behavioral changes in the Singulair label, this could frighten users of the drug or their parents and give Merck’s competitors ammunition to attack the brand.”

The Washington Post has Dr. David Weldon, director of the Allergy and Pulmonary Lab Services at Scott & White in College Station, Texas, on record saying that he had not “seen any increase in psychiatric problems with the drug but that some patients had complained of nightmares after starting on Singulair.” (Note: It appears that the closest conflict of interest Weldon would have here is that he served as a consultant and is honoraria for AstraZeneca.)

Dr. Rauno Joks, head of the SUNY Downstate division of allergy and immunology, made an interesting point in the Washington Post article:

“The physician really needs to review whether there are symptoms that have developed since patients started taking the medication, if there’s an underlying depression that was there before medication started.

Also, seasonal allergies in and of themselves can cause fatigue and lethargy, which makes it harder to assess, because those are some of the symptoms you have with depression.”

The FDA says they’ve completed analyses of submitted clinical trial data but their “safety review will continue” for several more months before they come to a concrete conclusion. For customer testimonials, check out medications.com that has over 2,300 people reporting side effects and askapatient.com that has an average 2.3 rating from 524 reviewers. The most commonly reported mood-related side effect on both of the sites is irritability.

FDA: Doctors don't disclose conflicts of interest? We don't really care

According to a NYTimes article, government investigators have reported that the FDA doesn’t seem to care much about the financial disclosure of doctors who participated in clinical trials of medication and diagnostic devices. Then get this:

Moreover, the investigators say, agency officials told them that trying to protect patients from such conflicts was not worth the effort. (Despite the fact that the FDA’s rules require it.)

Doctor making moneyThe article goes on to say that in 42 percent of clinical trials, the FDA did not receive financial disclosure forms that might report conflicts of interest and never followed up on them. In 31 percent of the trials in which the forms were received, “agency reviewers did not document that they looked at the information.” And then, in 20 percent of the cases in which doctors disclosed significant financial conflicts—”neither the FDA nor the sponsoring companies took any action to deal with the conflicts.”

Apparently, the NIH has been investigated for the same thing and government investigators came to the same conclusion as in the FDA case.

September 11, 2001

Always remember, never forget.

World Trade Center

Please say a prayer today or have a moment of silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives on that fateful day and for those left behind in the wake of this tragedy.

Staffers at a Brooklyn mental hospital allow a woman to die

I’m quite surprised there’s video footage of a woman in a mental hospital (of all places) dying on the facility’s floor. Let alone, the outrage of the fact that none of the staffers did anything about it even when alerted by a patient. I really hope this incident sheds light on the treatment of patients in mental health facilities and effects change in these facilities. Read the story and watch the video here. (Hat tip: PsychCentral)

Lexapro maintains status as first-line antidepressant therapy

Lexapro vs. Pristiq According to a Decision Resources (DR) press release, Lexapro (escitalopram), a SSRI, “retains leadership among first-line therapies in the treatment of major depression” despite the fact that physicians have increasingly moved toward the use of SNRIs, eg, Effexor (venlafaxine). However, the reason why SSRIs still retain their first-line status is due to

  • cost
  • efficacy
  • familiarity

SSRIs have been out on the market for much longer than SNRIs so it’s what physicians are more comfortable with. As far as I know, there currently aren’t any generic SNRIs in the U.S.

As a result, SNRIs are likely pricier.

DR’s survey of psychiatrists found that the majority believe SNRIs work better in treating clinical depression than SSRIs and about 44 percent believe they have fewer sexual side effects. PCPs were also included in this survey and it seems that the majority of them believed the opposite despite DR’s spin that a lot of PCPs are on board with psychiatrists. From personal experience, four SSRIs were prescribed to me before I was shifted to a SNRI.

In the up-and-coming SNRI department, DR forecasts a bright future for Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

Physicians are expected to move patients from Effexor to Pristiq-a newly approved SNRI- over the next two years. … Pristiq will begin to replace Wyeth’s Effexor XR and Lilly’s Cymbalta, especially in
psychiatrists’ practices.

This is an interesting analysis from DR considering that psychiatrists, health insurers, and even some investors seem less than impressed with the slight advantages the “me-too” drug has over Effexor.

(logos from Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Wyeth)

The Bipolar Child, Part II: Childhood bipolar disorder criteria

CLPsych wrote a post on the "Growing Up Bipolar" Newsweek cover story. I agree with most of his points. Especially:

1. Max's problems are described by the journalist as "incurable" and as "a life sentence." It is true that the kid is likely in for a life of trouble. But stating that such difficulties are a certainty for the rest of his life? That's a little too certain and it's not based on any evidence. Show me one study that indicates that 100% of children like Max will always have a high level of psychological difficulties and essentially be unable to function independently.

The article even mentions that "Max will never truly be OK." Apparently, I just learned from my recent viewing of Depression: Out of the Shadows that diagnoses are not static.

Miracles have happened but to say that Max's future doesn't have a grim tint to it is unrealistic. Not because of his diagnoses but because of all 38 different medications that he's already been on.

By 7½, Max was on so many different drugs that Frazier and his
parents could no longer tell if they were helping or hurting him. He
was suffering from tics, blinking his eyes, clearing his throat and
"pulling his clothes like he wanted to get out of his skin
," says
Richie.

By the time Max had reached 8 years old, he was already showing the symptoms of side effects that can occur long-term. Tardive dyskinesia, hyperglycemia, diabetes, akathisia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome are all very real side effects that could develop in Max's teenage years and stick with him permanently. "Max will never truly be OK." Not because of his disorders but because these medications have given him a different "life sentence" — a life sentence of physical, visible afflictions in addition to the emotional and mental disorders he already struggles with.

I haven't really gotten into the child bipolar disorder conversation on this blog because

  • it's such a controversial diagnosis that would require lengthy posts that I didn't have time for
  • I found the entire diagnosis to be a bunch of hooey

But I will now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Former Fox News employee suffers from PTSD as a result of bedbugs in the office

This story is sort of sad and wacky at the same time:

A Fox News employee who says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being bitten by bedbugs at work filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the owner of the Manhattan office tower where she worked.

Jane Clark, 37, a 12-year veteran of Fox News, a unit of News Corp, said she complained to human resources after being bitten three times between October 2007 and April 2008. She said she was ridiculed and the office was not treated for months.

When I first saw that, I thought to myself, give me a break. Then I read:

Clark says she suffers nightmares and keeps a flashlight at her bedside so she can check for bugs during the night.

Suddenly, sympathy hit me. I’m incredibly scared of bugs in general so the thought of bedbugs crawling around in an office and then bringing it home would scare me like crazy. I had enough of a brief PTSD stint after some guy crept into my psych hospital room and began masturbating while he thought I was asleep. Thank God he didn’t rape me.

After coming home from the hospital, I couldn’t sleep with the lights off. My husband, who doesn’t sleep well with the light on, was kind enough to let me leave them on for about a week or so while I slowly got over the whole ordeal. But it took about a month or two before I could get up in the middle of the night by myself before I was convinced that a dark figure making grunting noises wouldn’t be standing next to my side of the bed or lurking in the bathroom or dark hallways of the apartment. For a few weeks, I made my husband escort me to the restroom — I was that scared.

So instead of my initial reaction of rolling my eyes to this story, my heart goes out to Ms. Clark. I always do a spot check of beds anytime I stay at a hotel. I can’t imagine the thought of bringing them home. I get freaked out enough as it is when I find one spider or stinkbug in the apartment.

I’d sleep with the lights on all over again.

The Bipolar Child, Part I: Reactions

Newsweek If you haven’t been reading the news recently, Newsweek magazine published a feature article on Max, a 10-year-old who struggles mainly with bipolar and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders among other mental illnesses. I read the article and was astounded at what Amy and Richie Blake, Max’s parents, have to contend with. I’m astounded at what Max suffers with.

The article was educational but for all the 8 computer pages that I printed, I didn’t read about Max; I read about his diagnoses:

Max Blake was 7 the first time he tried to kill himself. He wrote a four-page will bequeathing his toys to his friends and jumped out his ground-floor bedroom window, falling six feet into his backyard, bruised but in one piece.

He cried for hours at a time. He banged his head against his crib and screamed until his face burned red. Nursing, cuddling, pacifiers—none of them helped.

Richie carried his son to the backyard and tried to put him down, but Max shrank back in his father’s arms; he hated the feel of the grass beneath his small bare feet. Amy gave Max a bath and turned on the exhaust fan; he put his hands over his ears and screamed. At 13 months, he lined up dozens of Hot Wheels in the same direction, and when Amy nudged one out of order, he shrieked “like you’d just cut his arm off.” At day care, he terrorized his teachers and playmates. He wasn’t the biggest kid in the class, but he attacked without provocation or warning, biting hard enough to leave teeth marks. Every day, he hit and kicked and spat.

By 7½, Max was on so many different drugs that Frazier and his parents could no longer tell if they were helping or hurting him. He was suffering from tics, blinking his eyes, clearing his throat and “pulling his clothes like he wanted to get out of his skin,” says Richie. In February 2005, under Frazier’s supervision, the Blakes took Max off all his meds. With the chemicals out of his system, Max was not the same child he had been at 2. He was worse. … Off his meds, Max became delusional and paranoid. He imagined Amy was poisoning him and refused to eat anything she cooked. He talked about death constantly and slept little more than two hours a night.

During a recent appointment at Frazier’s office, he went into full-fledged mania. Laughing wildly, he rolled on the floor, then crawled over to his parents and grabbed an empty medication bottle, yelling, “Drugs! I’ve got drugs! It’s child safety!” Richie grabbed it back, Max screamed, Richie threw the bottle across the room, as if playing fetch. Max squealed and dove for it, then began to sing into the neck of the bottle: “Booorn to be wiiiiild …” Amy rolled her eyes: “Two kids.” And then: “It’s hard not to laugh.” (I’m not the only one who doesn’t think this is mania.)

All throughout the article, I couldn’t help but think to myself: Who is Max? Max without meds — does he have a personality? What does like to do for fun, even for short periods of time? Karate is mentioned — does he read? He has trouble writing for long stretches. He’s got a friend. What makes Max so charming other than the fact that he’s 10 years old?

(Image from Newsweek)

Read the rest of this entry »

Breggin takes on Newsweek's "Growing Up Bipolar" article

Breggin’s post on Newsweek‘s "Growing Up Bipolar" article makes good points but steers clear into wackiness throughout. My only wish is that instead of pointing out the problems of the psychiatric industry, he would have offered some suggested solutions.

Oh, and he flat-out gets some things wrong:

Newsweek makes clear that Max’s parents have serious conflicts over how to raise their son, but they have not pursued therapy, marriage counseling or, apparently, not even parenting classes.

The article DID mention that they tried to pursue marriage counseling but dropped out.

He says he has never been to therapy. But late last year, Amy demanded that the two of them see a marriage counselor. Richie agreed. They went a few times, but there were "scheduling issues," says Richie, and they haven’t gone back. For the moment, they are getting help from the same people who help Max. Anything that makes his life easier makes theirs easier, too.

Then he applies a broad brush from the cases of "out-of-control" children that he’s seen:

In every case of an out-of-control child I have seen in my psychiatric practice, either the parents were unable to reach agreement on a consistent approach to disciplining their child, or a single working mom was trying to raise a young boy without the aid of a male adult in the child’s life.

I like Peter Breggin’s approach to psychotropic drugs for the most part, but sometimes he just gets a little off-base for me.

This time, I'm NOT walking

While surfing through my Google News Alerts, I stumbled upon a Newsday article about a man from the Long Island town on Freeport who participated in the NAMI’s Queens/Long Island chapter "Walk for the Mind" on Sunday.

I was curious to see if the walk was an annual event for each local NAMI chapter. Turns out it is.

NAMI Pennsylvania’s 3K walk takes place on Saturday, September 20 in Harrisburg
. I don’t plan on participating this year but wonder if I should ever participate in the future. (Again, my cynical lens shines through.)

Speaking of NAMI, I went to the local library and saw a whole set-up of literature atop one of those big glass cases that usually house small scale models of towns, art, and such. (When I get a chance, I’ll post a picture.)

The ENTIRE top of the case was littered with NAMI literature. My reaction was joy. I was really happy that the PA chapter of NAMI was really canvassing and getting information out to the public to raise awareness about mental illness. As a person suffering from mental illness, I want to decrease stigma around it by (almost) whatever means necessary.

I was also happy to see a variety of resources: support groups, hotlines, and even a 5 x 7 card listing "famous people" who suffered from mental illness. By the way, 90 percent of them suffered from the overdiagnosed disorder, depression.

Will the MySpace suicide case affect U.S. Internet users' free speech rights, privacy, and due process?

Last week, Lori Drew, a 49-year-old mother, was federally indicted on charges connected to 13-year-old Megan Meier’s suicide. Drew allegedly created a fake MySpace user by the name of Josh to manipulate Meier with intent to cause her emotional harm because Drew didn’t like Meier (for whatever reason).

Megan hanged herself at home in October 2006, allegedly after receiving a dozen or more cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.

I’d have killed myself too if I saw that. By whatever means necessary.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mo. woman indicted for role in MySpace teen's suicide

I’ve got something to say about this but I don’t know if I’ll have time to get around to it before I leave for NY this weekend. I worked until after 7 tonight.

Note to self: Don’t sign up for a 10K the weekend after a 5K. Especially in another state.

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 »

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.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Mental health parity bill

I haven’t posted anything on legislation that relates to mental health care so it’s about time I did.

On March 6, the House approved the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, a mental health parity bill that will require most medical insurance companies to provide better treatment for mental illnesses akin to what they do for physical illnesses. This is a significant move considering that insurers who cover mental health treatment can currently do one of two things: make patients pay for the bulk of the cost or place limits on treatment. The Senate also passed a similar bill in September 2007. Here’s what both pieces of legislation would do:

Both bills would outlaw health insurance practices that set lower
limits on treatment or higher co-payments for mental health services
than for other medical care.

Typical annual limits include 30 visits to a doctor or 30 days of
hospital care for treatment of a mental disorder. Such limits would no
longer be allowed if the insurer had no limits on treatment of
conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

As a result, the cost of group health insurance premiums likely will go up. However, the bills do not apply to businesses with 50 employees or less or individual insurance.

According to the NYTimes, President Bush initially endorsed mental health parity but came out opposing the current bill because it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.” Technically, he’s right.

Under the bill, if an insurer chooses to provide mental health
coverage, it must “include benefits” for any mental health condition
listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The protections of the House bill apply to people who need treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental illness.

Covering a broad range of conditions is a step forward, but I realize if group insurers are forced to pay for all conditions listed in the DSM, I can see why premiums would go up. It wouldn’t surprise me if costs increased significantly. No one likes to hear this but if people want better mental health coverage, they need to be willing to pay for it. For those who suffer with mental illnesses, it’s certainly worth the cost.

(By the way, only 47 Republicans joined the 221 Democrats in helping to pass the measure. It has nothing to do with the overall importance of the bill but it was a little annoyance that I had to throw in here. Grr.)

Politics

Politics is a dangerous territory to discuss. Especially since there’s much emotion and fervor regarding this presidential race. I don’t normally discuss politics on this blog but this is something that has been bugging me as of late. I’d like to share my view with my readers so people can get a black woman’s perspective on this issue. By the way, I said “black” intentionally.

At this time, Senator John McCain is (pretty much) the Republican nominee. The Democratic nomination could go to either Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama. (I personally think Obama will end up winning the Democratic nomination, but that’s beside my point.)

This post addresses the highly popularized contest for the Democratic nomination between Clinton and Obama. In recent news, Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to ever run for vice president, said the following:

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Here’s my brief disclaimer: If you are so passionate about politics that my opinion might cause you to stop reading this blog, I suggest you don’t read any further. I also don’t plan on engaging in long debates about politics either; it’s too much of a merry-go-round. But, since you’re human, you’re probably going to click the link below anyway.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clarification on Mobile, Alabama high school suicide

Prester John left this comment:

"an 18-year-old high school student in Mobile, Alabama walked into a high school gym and shot himself in front of classmates on Thursday" The kid had some problems. He’d been suspended from school the day before, but they won’t say why. He had been arrested recently for his part in three armed robberies. (Incidentally, one of his accomplices is the son of a prominent local judge.) He was also homeless, which may very well explain the robberies. (Maybe even the other kid’s part in them. Helping out his bud, so to speak. Kids are so dumb, or at least I was.) Anyway, it’s a terrible tragedy. I’m not sure what it says about this town, state, and country that an 18 year old kid can be homeless but I am sure it’s not good.

The circumstances surrounding this suicide have just made me sadder.

Depression: Theory or fact?

UPI has an article on a study which finds that the media presents depression's "chemical imbalance" as a fact instead of a theory. According to Jeffrey Lacasse and Jonathan Leo, the DSM says "the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown." Lacasse and Leo asked members of the media to submit evidence that supports chemical imbalance as a fact but no one did. This finding comes after the near-damning U of Hull study that asserts antidepressants don't work much better than a placebo on the majority of depressed patients. If the efficacy of antidepressants are this dubious, how much more are antipsychotics?

This article gets me thinking about the idea of media responsibility. I feel like what we call "news" has reverted to the days of yellow journalism. Sometimes, even worse than that. While the majority of publications strive to adhere to ethical practices and accuracy, many major publications will resort to printing anything that sells — even if it's libelous. But I'm getting off track here.

I can't wholly blame the media for sensationalism on certain topics like depression.  Most of them aren't scientists or research experts – they only report what they're told. Take NIMH's explanation of the way medication works for depression:

Antidepressants work to normalize naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, notably serotonin and norepinephrine. Other antidepressants work on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Scientists studying depression have found that these particular chemicals are involved in regulating mood, but they are unsure of the exact ways in which they work.

NIMH isn't presenting the way antidepressants work as a theory. It's an authoritative paragraph that sounds as though it's fact. If the chemical imbalance that causes depression is only theory then one must conclude the way antidepressants work as a theory as well, no? The NIMH has a section that explains what causes depression:

There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely
results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and
psychological factors.

"Likely results" leaves the door open to interpret the sentence as "maybe it's a combination of…" However, most people aren't scrutinizing words that carefully. Most people see this: "Rather, it results from a combination of…" Yes, I'm being nitpicky but the word "likely" still strikes me with a more authoritative connotation than maybe or perhaps. Here's a quote from a recent report from a local news station News 8 Austin:

Depression is more than just a negative state of mind. There are physical changes that occur in the brain that disrupt that natural balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters. (emphasis mine)

There is no single factor that causes depression. In fact, many experts believe most cases
[sic] of depression are a result of several sources. (emphasis mine)  

Again, I'm being nitpicky. "There are" is an authoritative phrase. People are unlikely to argue with a statement that includes the verb "are." Take for example, "There are people outside" or "There are five cats at the door." There's no question in the speaker's mind about whether people exist outside or the number of cats at the door. With subjects like depression that involve psychiatry and neuroscience, the majority of people aren't going to question these assertions either. I'm surprised that second paragraph didn't read, "many experts say …" Unless you're an expert yourself, you'd be unlikely to argue on what an expert says versus what the expert believes.

While I appreciate Lacasse and Leo's study on the inaccurate way depression is presented in the media, the "authoritative" sources on the issue would be loathe to correct it. Right now,  the big picture of raising awareness about depression is more important than to correct a trivial thing about the chemical imbalance being a theory. Pharmaceutical companies don't like correcting minor nuisances like theories.

To sum it up, I think the idea of a chemical imbalance causing depression is a theory. That's not a dubious statement. Unless it depends on your definition of what is is. 

College shooting: Part 45,656

I don’t like this idea of college shootings becoming commonplace. I think there have been three or four major college shootings since the Virginia Tech incident.

Steve Kazmierczak, an alumnus of Northern Illinois University, went ballistic shooting up a geology class and killed five students before killing himself. The AP article sums up Kazmierczak’s demeanor:

Unlike Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui — a sullen misfit who could barely look anyone in the eye, much less carry on a conversation — Kazmierczak appeared to fit in just fine.

The AP article cites that he "stopped taking [his] medication." It appears that he had no record of mental illness at all. He applied for and legally obtained a gun after a background check.

The issue of mental illness in these school shootings is constantly brought up. While I don’t dismiss the unstable mental health of Cho or Kazmierczak, I can’t help but wonder what this means for the rest of us who struggle with mental illness. If I tell someone that I have bipolar disorder, does that mean I’m likely to commit homicide and suicide despite the fact that I have a bubbly, outgoing, and talkative personality?

The link between mental illness and these school shootings will only continue to fuel the stigma relating to mental illness. Despite the fact that the majority of people who suffer from mental health problems are nonviolent, the minority who are violent will get the press coverage and become poster evidence for people like the TAC.

I'm honored

Out of nowhere, I recently discovered that I’d won a top depression blog award from PsychCentral. This goes to show how delusional I am. I figured that I’d been on a nice blogging streak and now that it kind of died (as work and life picked up), my readership had too. I haven’t checked any of my personal e-mails for the past three or four months now so many of the comments or e-mails I may have received are still unread.

I’ve been very out of touch with the psych industry for the past few months. As many of you know, my place of employment – yes, I am STILL at the same job I’ve been wanting to get out of – has blocked access to blog hosting sites such as blogspot and wordpress. (They are now blocking typepad as well so I can’t even access the front page of my own site.) There are a few sites I can still get to, i.e. furiousseasons.com or trouble.philadelphiaweekly.com, but there are many others which I can’t access and/or comment on.

I hope to continue blogging again. I’ve put a lot of work and research into many of my posts in the past. It got to a point where my brain just fizzed out. I cannot promise frequent updates – daily or weekly – as I have done in the past. (Although if someone paid me to blog…) As of this post, I have not checked my personal e-mail. I will try to do so. Please be patient with me if you’ve e-mailed me several months ago and have not received a reply.
I’ve recently begun lugging my (personal) laptop to work with me, so I hope get up to speed with my blogroll and perhaps any new blogs people may recommend.

Thanks so much for the award. The past few months have been challenging in many ways and I feel fortunate to know that I have been able to touch the lives of the people who read this.

P.S. I’m working on something called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, for the month of November. I’m working on reaching a 50,000 word count and so far I’m a little more than halfway there. My time in the month of November will be devoted to completing the novel so I can win another award. (The award of patting myself on the back for a job well done.) I’ll play catch up in December.

Read it. It speaks for itself.

ECT: Pros vs. Cons

I haven’t had any experience with ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), but unfortunately, many others have – and not voluntarily. One reader of Furious Seasons, SS, details her traumatic experience with the treatment. Another reader, Crazy Tracy, explains how ECT saved her sanity.

For those who don’t know ECT – informally dubbed "electroshock" therapy – "involves the application of electrical stimulation to the brain using two electrodes attached to the scalp, resulting in a seizure." (ect.org) While there are many people who have benefited from ECT, there are just as many who haven’t. ECT’s reported side effects include memory loss (the biggest complaint) and the loss of some physical and cognitive functioning. Juli Lawrence, owner of ect.org, describes the controversy surrounding ECT:

"Since that time, the ECT industry has repudiated the complaints of ECT patients. Instead of trying to listen to the patients and find a solution to the problems, the industry has been on the attack, attempting to discredit those who speak out. They have taken a wide range of people and categorized them into one group of people: antipsychiatry and Scientologists. If that doesn’t deflect the attention away from those speaking out, they tell the public and media that they are too mentally ill to understand what’s going on.

Cancer patients are very aware – and told upfront – what the results may be with chemotherapy. ECT patients are not.

Instead, the industry bristles at any criticism, and points to a badly-designed study that concluded the majority of patients were happy with their ECT treatment. They do not mention that nearly half of the original participants either dropped out after treatment, or refused to participate."

The main issue about ECT is not so much whether it should be used or not (I’m not a fan of it), but rather letting patients make informed decisions about using that form of therapy. There are instances of forced ECT, which all patients seem to be against. Unfortunately, mental health professionals don’t seem to see it the same way, which is a shame. Furious Seasons linked to MindFreedom.org that has a campaign running to prevent NY State from forcing ECT on a patient who repeatedly refuses it. Perhaps VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulator) would be a better option. I haven’t heard as many side effect complaints from that – if any at all.

NICS the anti-depressants

In my Google alerts, I came upon a link to The Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology. John Horgan, a professor on the blog, received an e-mail from a former student commenting on the future of anti-depressant therapy:

Introducing “pharmacogenomics,” the latest and greatest addition to the ever-growing collection of pseudoscientific portmanteaus. According to a recent article in the New York Times written by Richard A. Friedman, M.D., there will soon be psychological medication that is custom-tailored to a patient’s DNA and genetic structure to ensure maximum effectiveness.

He makes his case with an example: his patient Laura. Laura was depressed, so Friedman gave her Lexapro, a common selective seratonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant. But Laura was still depressed, so he switched her to Zoloft, another SSRI. Still depressed, Laura switched to Wellbutrin, a non-SSRI anti-depressant. No dice. Dr. Friedman was frustrated; after three months he still couldn’t find an effective treatment for Laura. Then, Laura decided that since Prozac (also an SSRI) had helped her father with depression, she wanted to give it a shot. And voila, it worked!

If only Laura’s genes were able to reveal that Dr. Friedman should have prescribed Prozac, arguably the most well-known anti-depressant in America, from the very beginning, that would have saved a lot of hard, aggravating diagnosis work on everybody’s part.

But wait! There might be salvation on the horizon; according to Friedman it will soon be possible for doctors to analyze a patient’s unique genetic profile and prescribe the appropriate medicine so that time and money would no longer be wasted on the circuitous trial-and-error process of expert diagnoses.

No, what “melted away” Laura’s depression was good, old fashioned SSRI Prozac. But Friedman doesn’t see the contradiction. Instead, he claims that this new process of genetic-based medical treatments, “pharmacogenomics” will revolutionize the medicine, allow doctors to enhance their already astute diagnosing skills, and reduce the pharmaceutical industry to a withering dinosaur.

But what about Laura? What about the Prozac? Could it be that she was genetically predisposed to a specific brand of medicine? Are we all designed to respond to one drug label instead of another? If indeed that’s the case, there is only one logical conclusion to draw: God exists and He’s a Big Pharma shareholder.

Somehow, I’m not so convinced. — Suhas Sreedhar

I'm with Suhas. I skimmed Dr. Friedman's article and the whole process sounds weird. I think Laura probably – haha – psyched herself into thinking that Prozac would work since it worked for her dad.

While genes play a role in generational and familial health, I'm not completely convinced that psych meds would affect a father in the same way as it would affect his son or daughter across the board. Even if it really did work for Laura, I am skeptical that the method could be applied to any psychiatric patient. If a patient doesn't have any family, there we go with trial-and-error. Or we could just search our future FBI DNA mental health database and see if the patient matches up with anyone currently on meds.


Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called upon the remaining 27 states who don't report mental health files to the  NICS to do so. (That was an awful sentence.)

Speaking during a meeting of the nation's state attorneys general, Gonzales urged [states] to participate in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, more popularly known as "NICS."

Then the article (linked to above) jumped to protecting the public from sex offenders:.

Gonzales also called for ideas on how to protect the public from convicted sex offenders.

Mental health experts, however, say Gonzales is overreacting. Sex offenders are less likely to repeat the same type of crime than other criminals, only about 13 percent within the first five years, said Dr. James Stark, former president of the Georgia Psychological Association.

"The whole country is in a predator panic. They've gone crazy," said Stark, who treats sexual disorders at the Marietta and Ellijay clinics of Psychological Forensic Associates.

"There are very few sex offenders who are actually dangerous," he said, adding that most of the 13,000 people on Georgia's registry of sex offenders are there for flashing, being a peeping Tom or having consensual sex with an underage girlfriend.

Maybe I'm overreacting. If a sex offender isn't dangerous, why is he or she a sex offender to begin with? Yup, peeping Toms don't ever turn into psychos. On that matter, try watching Alfred Hitchcock's movie, Psycho. (Please don't watch the remake. You'll be better off for it.)

Mentally ill? Expect to die sooner

In the midst of the Virginia Tech shootings and the Rebecca Riley case, the media have finally shone a spotlight on mental illness. Some good, some bad (see TAC’s lock ’em and throw away the key).

Marilyn Elias’ article in USAToday, "Mental illness linked to short life," points to obesity and antipsychotics as two of the main factors. (They’re inextricably linked.)

"Obesity is a serious problem. These patients often get little exercise, and many take a newer type of anti-psychotic, on the market for 18 years, that can cause drastic weight gains, promoting diabetes and heart disease, Parks says. He thinks these drugs are contributing to deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Recent studies question the advantage of the newer drugs. "Many could be switched to safer medicines," Parks says. Schizophrenics are thought to have a higher risk for diabetes already, he says."

The article specifically mentions that people with mental illness tend to die at the age of 51 as opposed to the national average of 76. The odds of dying are as follows:

  • 3.4 for heart disease and diabetes, respectively
  • 3.8 for accidents
  • 5.0 for respiratory disease
  • 6.6 for pneumonia and the flu

The staggering fact here is "three out of five" people die from diseases that can either be prevented or easily treated. This combats the widespread myth that the mentally ill die mostly by accidents and suicide.

My hope here is that as the NY Times and USAT pick up on the issues of mental illness, the public can become less callous to those who are – ahem – "crazy" and try to reach out to them. Despite the TAC’s point of view, most of us are NOT violence and benefit from the help of a caring few.

What a shame that 32 lives had to be taken to spark this discussion.

USAToday has a great list of related articles. I recommend "New antipsychotic drugs carry risks for children."

PERSPECTIVES: One family’s success story
PERSPECTIVES: Mom feels betrayed by doctors, FDA
Adult antipsychotics can worsen troubles
For foster kids, oversight of prescriptions is scarce
A rush to overprescribe?
Opinion: An outraged journalist and father discovers the mental health system is in ‘shambles’
Welcome to the club.

The overreaction begins

A few days ago, I wrote about whether violent writing could predict who could become a murderer. Well, 18-year-old Allen Lee of Cary-Grove High School in Chicago, has been charged with disorderly conduct because his essay in his creative writing class was "violently disturbing."

"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said the teen's father, Albert Lee, referring to last week's massacre of 32 students by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. "I understand the situation."

But he added: "I don't see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions."

Experts say the charge against Lee is troubling because it was over an essay that even police say contained no direct threats against anyone at the school. However, Virginia Tech's actions toward Cho came under heavy scrutiny after the killings because of the "disturbing" plays and essays teachers say he had written for classes.

This is a roll-your-eyes kind of story, but it angers me beyond belief. A student who appeared to be a straight-A student and apparently didn't freak anyone out like Cho did may spend 30 days in jail and pay a $1,500 fine.

Today, Cary-Grove students rallied behind the arrested teen by organizing a petition drive to let him back in their school. They posted on walls quotes from the English teacher in which she had encouraged students to express their emotions through writing.

"I'm not going to lie. I signed the petition," said senior James Gitzinger. "But I can understand where the administration is coming from. I think I would react the same way if I was a teacher."

Normally, according to the article, disorderly conduct charges apply to pranks gone awry like pulling a fire alarm or dialing 911, but also "when someone's writings can disturb an individual."

There will probably be mixed reactions to this incident. I am a complete proponent of free speech. (I'll probably get a little political here, but you'll deal with it.) I'm black, but I totally support the Ku Klux Klan's right to say whatever racist things they want. Imus can call a basketball team "nappy-headed hos," but not get arrested. That's OK. Of course, the public tends to self-censor themselves on the issue of free speech so he was forced out of a job. People are free to use the "N" word if they'd like, even if I hate it. The only limit on free speech should be if it clearly endangers the welfare of others or incite violence. For example, "Saying I'm going to kill so-and-so" is NOT free speech and can get a person arrested.

I  mentioned in another post that writing can be a safe outlet for people to get their frustrations out. I also said that I tried being creative when writing an essay for Health class that highlighted the positive aspects of suicide instead of the negative ones. (In fairness, I was told to write three negative aspects of suicide and decided to try and be different.) I was sent to a school district counselor for evalution. You can read the entire post for the rest of the story.

I should probably also mention that I took a theater class in which we all had to write a one-act play. Mine clearly disturbed my classmates the most: It was a parallel world in which everyone was gay and anyone who was straight was ostracized. This wasn't revealed until the very end of the one-act. My classmates were horrified and my teacher was cool enough to see it for what it was – creative writing.

Now, for devil's advocate, Lee should have used better judgment in light of the VTech incident and written something else. My main issue is that he didn't specify a person, date, or location in what he wrote. The teacher felt "alarmed and distubed by the content" so she reported it to the correct authorities.

The difference between Lee and Cho is that Cho's behavior gave credence to people worrying about his mental state. If Lee has students rallying around him to return to school, I don't think he's scaring anyone. I'll stand corrected if I hear any stories about him stalking women.

P.S. If the Chicago Tribune tries to get you to register to read the story, here's some log-in info to use (not mine):

Can violent and disturbed writing predict a would-be murderer?

Deranged (and beloved) novelist Stephen King lends his thoughts on whether Cho’s disturbing and violent writing could have predicted a mentally ill psychopathic serial killer. (I guess I was being redundant, huh?)

"For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do (James Patterson, for instance, a nice man who has all too often worked the street that my old friend George used to work). Cho doesn’t strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, ”just mean.” Essentially there’s no story here, except for a paranoid a–hole who went DEFCON-1. He may have been inspired by Columbine, but only because he was too dim to think up such a scenario on his own.

On the whole, I don’t think you can pick these guys out based on their work, unless you look for violence unenlivened by any real talent."

This links up with what I’d written a couple of days ago. Creative writing that seems disturbing may not be disturbing at all, but a release for those who have imaginations run wild. Most of us keep our fantasies as just that – fantasies. Stephen King hasn’t harmed anyone and he’s got some pretty effed up books out there. Don’t judge a book – haha – by its contents.

Thanks to Bob T. for the story.

Dead people are mentally ill

Cho Seung-HuiThe New York Times published an article on a mental illness Cho Seung-Hui may or may not have had. The article cites experts who say Cho could have suffered from psychotic depression, avoidant personality disorder, or schizophrenia-paranoid type. The videos show, according to Dr. Michael Stone, “a paranoid person with sadistic traits, possibly psychotic.”

What’s the use of dissecting the mental illness of a dead man? Sure, it’d be great to understand what drove Cho to do what he did, but in the end, what does it matter? How will it prevent such future attacks? The better we understand the characteristics of a person behind this, the better we can medicate them?

News articles are going nuts (ha ha) expounding on Cho’s mental state. Do killers/murderers all have a mental illness to commit such heinous acts? Perhaps some of these people were just plain stupid? Was Kurt Cobain mentally ill because he took his own life?

Cho’s issues have shed light on mental illness, although in the most negative way imaginable. While Koreans (and likely many Asians) fear backlash from this incident, I have a funny feeling those diagnosed with a mental illness will too.

“You’re depressed? Bipolar? Ohmigod, are you going to go on a killing spree?”

Don’t be surprised if you ever hear that.

The Most Controversial Post You'll Ever Read Today

I’m going to take a risk here and hope that I don’t end up having the cops investigate me for something that I only imagined.


"Professors and classmates were alarmed by [Cho Seung-Hui ‘s] class writings — pages filled with twisted, violence-drenched writing.

"It was not bad poetry. It was intimidating," poet Nikki Giovanni, one of his professors, told CNN Wednesday. "At first I thought, OK, he’s trying to see what the parameters are. Kids curse and talk about a lot of different things. He stayed in that spot. I said, ‘You can’t do that.’ He said, ‘Yes, I can.’ I said, ‘No, not in my class.’""Associated Press

The summer before my junior year of high school, I took a Health class. (The reason why eludes me.) One of my assignments – I will never forget this – was to write three reasons why suicide was bad.

Ha, ha, ha. I tried to be "creative" and wrote three reasons why suicide was good. First reason: It’s a very noble way to die as exemplified by the Japanese Kamikazes and the Romans during Julius Caesar’s time. I think my second reason had something to do with maintaining a legacy and protecting a family from shame.  I can’t remember my third reason, but by that point, I was reaching.

We read our responses aloud in class. My health teacher was NOT amused and my classmates found me a little more than disturbing at that point. She pulled me out of class to determine if I was suicidal. Apparently, I wasn’t convincing so my parents were contacted and I was referred to a school district counselor. The whole situation amused me. I was 75% joking, 25% serious. I was trying to convince myself why suicide was a good thing and in the end, realized I could barely provide three reasons why. My counselor interrogated me to gauge how suicidal I was.

"Yeah, I have a history of suicide attempts," I said. "But I was only trying to be creative. I wasn’t really serious."

"Do you have any suicidal thoughts?" she asked repeatedly.

"Nope," I countered.

"You sure?" she asks.

"Yup. I’m fine. Life is great." (Of all the times in my life, I was in a good place at that moment.)

When I was a junior in high school, the Columbine school shooting took place. While my classmates found themselves scared and horrified, I sat smirking in my seat. I thought to myself, "It’s about time us weirdos defended ourselves! All you stupid assholes who pick on us are totally getting your just desserts!" Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were nonconformists, and thusly, picked on, bullied around, and teased. As a junior going through what I considered hell in high school, I could totally relate.  I found myself in the same position that year – without access to guns, where to find them, and the like – wanting to commit homicide on a mass scale at that school.

I had a hit list. I listed every teacher I hated and every classmate who tormented me. And I wanted to be the one to take their lives away.

I made a map of the school. The places I could enter, do enough damage, and where I could get out and escape with the highest possibility of escaping surrounding police. (In retrospect, there wasn’t anywhere really.) The hit list and maps are all gone. A lot of my anger has died too. I still carry some of it around with me because it’s been there so long, but the farther I get from my senior year of high school, the more I begin to heal and forgive. (I’ve also become a born-again Christian since then.)

Adults are oblivious to the angst, anger, and rage that builds up inside adolescents. If a someone grows up getting teased, parents often say, "Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re saying. Just ignore them."

Do you know HOW many times I heard the words "Just ignore them"??? When I went to school and heard the same things day after day after day after day, it’s impossible to just "ignore them." Try being schizophrenic and ignoring the voices in your head. Go ahead – I dare you; it’s nigh unto impossible.

Everybody damn well knows now that Harris and Klebold didn’t ignore "them." And despite the murder-suicide, at the time, I badly envied Harris and Klebold. I wanted to show my classmates and teachers who was boss. That I wasn’t some stupid pussy they could shove around and make fun of.

So I sat in the back corner of classrooms, trying to be the girl that everyone thought would do a school shooting. I had my poetry journal that I scribbled in all day. My poetry was angry spewing nothing but hate for some of my classmates and teachers. I made Alanis Morissette’s first mainstream U.S. album look like butterflies and sunshine. I hid in dark classrooms and in the bathroom pouring my rage out on paper. My words were bullets that could harm whoever I wanted without the result leading to my arrest.

Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui’s motives for the shooting spree are still unclear. It is widely speculated that he was spurred on by a recent breakup. The preparation that went into the shooting, however, seems like it may have taken a while. I don’t know how long ago his relationship may have ended. After my second relationship went sour, I was pretty angry, but not enough to kill my ex or other innocent people.

It also seems as though he may have been on medication for depression. His "increasingly violent and erratic behavior" also seemed to coincide with taking the medication. Hah – I wonder he’ll be counted as suicide and homicide data for whatever medication he was taking.

What’s the difference between Columbine and VTech for me? I’m past my rage and angst. In 1998, I found my weapons and ammunition through my poetry. I held myself hostage and eventually was able to free myself. Now, in 2007, I can find compassion and sympathy for victims and their families. I’m saddened to see the faces of the bright flames that were snuffed out in an instant. But I can also find compassion for the shooter as well – quotes from the media have streamed in about how bizarre and odd Cho was. His roommate even noticed strange and unusual behavior. The only person who seemed to have taken preventive action was his former creative writing teacher, famed poet Nikki Giovanni. No one else tried to get Cho help. No one attempted to reach out to him – no Caucasian, African America, Muslim, South Korean, Christian, what have you. Everyone allowed Cho to build a cocoon and live inside himself until he burst out taking 33 people down with him.

Those who knew Cho and did not attempt to find him help are responsible for the shooting that day just as much as Cho himself. Society can’t continue to pin an individual or gun-control laws down as the reason for these events. We all gossip about the person who could go nuts and shoot a place up. Instead, we could try to reach out to that person to prevent that from happening.

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The "Black Dog"

Newsweek had an article on men and depression last week and the full text is now up on their Web site. I have a few – well, more than a few – comments on the article.

"Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment. … the facts suggest that, well, men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness.

Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male identities."

I don’t need to say it, but I will anyway: This is common. My husband is a prime example.

My husband refused to admit that he suffered from depression for a long time. He would chalk it up to a "bad day" or "feeling crappy," but depressed? Never. After my most recent swing of suicidal attempts, it triggered his depression into a full-blown episode. He currently suffers from depression and chronic anxiety. (The anxiety is basically excessive worry.) For years, he never allowed his parents to see him cry. He’d refrain from tears around me when I told him I had an overly sensitive ex who cried at the drop of a hat. When speaking to others, he acted like everything was OK. Considering that he’s an even-tempered man (no highs, no lows), no one could detect everything. He kept it all inside.

His point of weakness? Allowing his father to see him cry. It was bad enough that his mother saw him crying, but his dad? That was a huge blow to his ego. Not only was it "an admission of weakness," it was "a betrayal of" his male identity. He’d always prided himself on seeming like he had his life all together. Breaking down and hysterically crying was like tearing his manhood apart. Besides, isn’t it "girly" for a man to cry? They’re supposed to keep it all inside and act like nothing’s wrong.

"Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming workaholics."

I’d rather have my husband cry and vent instead of doing any of the previously mentioned.

"The Gary Cooper model of manhood … is so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some men would rather kill themselves than confront the fact that they feel despondent, inadequate or helpless.

‘Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not include being depressed, down or sad,’ says Michael Addis, chair of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts. ‘In many ways it’s the exact opposite. A successful man is always up, positive, in charge and in control of his emotions.’"

I’m sure in my husband’s mind, he wasn’t successful. In fact, he’s admitted to being a "failure" many times. He’ll use the fact that he suffers from anxiety, gets depressed, and cries a lot as the reason that he’s "failed" me. I tell him it’s not true, but at times, he’s intent on not believing me. If he’s not always "up, positive, in charge and in control of his emotions" then he’s a failure. This is a common misconception, one of which my husband has fallen prey to.

"For decades, psychologists believed that men experienced depression at only a fraction of the rate of women. But this overly rosy view, doctors now recognize, was due to the fact that men were better at hiding their feelings."

Men don’t talk about their feelings. They talk about sports; they talk about the weather; they talk about cars; they talk about girls; they talk about drinking; they’ll talk briefly about their families.

Men don’t talk about how they feel. Men with feelings are either sissies or gay. See where I’m going?

"Depression-screening tests are so effective at early detection and may prevent so many future problems (and expenses) that the U.S. Army is rolling out a new, enhanced screening program for soldiers returning from Iraq."

And when they’ve recovered or their illness is "in remission," the Army has no problem sending the same troops back into combat. Something in this article that concerned me, however:

"In clinical trials, scientists found that a single, IV-administered dose of ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, reduced the symptoms of depression in just two to three hours and had long-lasting effects. Because of its hallucinogenic side effects, ketamine can never be used out of controlled environments. But the success of the trial is giving scientists new ideas about drugs and methods of administering them."

OK, ketamine. Isn’t this the "Special K" drug that can be addictive? I have a friend who worked in a vet hospital and she would steal ketamine and get high off of that crap. While ketamine can reduce the symptoms of depression, it can also induce hallucinogenic effects. Therefore, while a person is depressed while receiving ketamine treatment, he can possibly hallucinate. If he’s hallucinating – oh no – now he’s got psychosis which leads to a new diagnosis. Now, the doc’s got to put him on an antipsychotic in addition to his ketamine treatment. Am I the only one who finds administering an animal tranquilizers to humans disturbing?

"The most effective remedy remains a combination of medication and therapy, but finding the right drug and dosage is still more art than science. The nation’s largest depression-treatment study, STAR*D, a three-year NIMH-funded project, found that 67 percent of patients who complete from one to four treatment steps, such as trying a different medication or seeking counseling, can reach remission."

I’m still trying to figure out what STAR*D is, but I know that therapy is the best route before considering medication. I go on rants about how America suffers from what I’ve deemed OOPS (Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated Patient Syndrome), but it’s unbelievable what doctors will do to a patient who’s normally depressed over a loved one’s death. "Here, take Zoloft," the doc says. "You can take it for a short period of time until your symptoms go away."

What happened to GRIEVING? Are people not allowed to have emotions anymore? Is it wrong to be sad over saddening events? If a woman is depressed during a messy divorce battle, why is she immediately thrown on meds? So she can feel better once the court proceedings are over? Maybe she could have dealt with the situation without antidepressants. We’re suffering from a widespread OOPS epidemic. Doctors dole out antidepressants for depression like antibiotics for colds. And doctors dole out stimulation medication (i.e. Ritalin) to kids like people hand out candy on Halloween. (Alas, another story for another day.) 

"Taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally—maybe that’s the real definition of what it means to be a man."

I can only hope and pray that this country learns that lesson in the coming century.

For the next couple of days, I’ll have a series on my husband Bob’s depression. I do detour into my experience with psych drugs and suicide but then hop on track in the end. Remember, I’m also suffering from a version of OOPS – Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

*sigh* I can’t help but wonder whether depression, anxiety, and 75 % of other mental illnesses are just a fabrication  and patients are mere pawns in the wild game of  pharmaceutical chess.

Neuronetics TMS at the mercy of FDA's PMS

Today just wasn’t a good day for Neuronetics.

After the long-awaited hearing date for FDA approval, Neuronetics’ TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) device got shut down. Hard.

As I’d previously mentioned, CLPsych immediately reported the outcome of the FDA hearing. A juicy quote from a report he linked to:

"The majority of the panel—made up of an engineer, several psychiatrists and neurologists, and a statistician—had no problem with rTMS’s risks. There are almost none. The biggest worry with it is that it might accidentally spark a seizure, but that did not happen even once out of the 155 patients treated. The problem was that Neuronetics couldn’t prove any benefit. Treated patients got a little better, but so did those patients that underwent a sham treatment."

Cool. Placebos work just as well as the cure.

Pessimists get heart disease while Lexapro's "better" than Cymbalta

If view the glass as half-empty, you may be at increased risk for heart disease. An essay, published via the NYT, explains the findings of a study.

"A study by researchers in the Netherlands has found that people who are temperamentally pessimistic are more likely to die of heart disease and other causes than those who are by nature optimistic."

While people with depression are at a higher risk for poor health, pessimists apparently are too.

"Dr. [Eric J.] Giltay and his colleagues found that subjects with the highest level of optimism were 45 percent less likely than those with the highest level of pessimism to die of all causes during the study.

For people who already have well-documented heart disease, depression increases the risk of death about threefold."

Dr. Richard A. Friedman, author of the essay, get to the heart (npi) of the matter: screen pessimists for depression.


CL Psych wrote about how Lexapro’s data beat Cymbalta’s data but in a semi-shady manner. My mind can’t comprehend all the scientific math and data behind this so feel free to read his post and ask him your questions.

Awaiting FDA approval for TMS treatment

Neuronetics will find out today whether the FDA will approve its TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) device to treat depression. If I haven’t got the time, I’m sure CLPsych will get on this. I’d like to delve into this a bit more considering I live relatively close to the Malvern, Pa.-based company… (The journalist in me gets her hopes up for probably nothing.)

Tyra Banks Fights Back

I liked Tyra Banks before because she seemed really down-to-earth, but I absolutely love her now.

Tyra BanksPeople magazine has run a cover of Banks at an awful weight of 162 lb at 5’10”. (sarcasm) She received tabloid names like “America’s Next Top Waddle” and “Tyra Porkchop.” I’m not even Tyra and that hurt me. I’m barely 5’4″ and used to weigh 162. I was on the verge of being “obese” (as opposed to “morbidly obese.”) Yeah. Even my family told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. There was only one issue that drove me nuts:

“It’s when I put on the jeans that used to fit a year ago and don’t fit now and give me the muffin top, that’s when I say, ‘Damn!’ “

The bar is raised because she’s Tyra and a former model. But she’s absolutely cool about it and not in the business of running to change her new weight:

“Still, she isn’t freaking out about wearing size 32-waist jeans or about “the fat roll” she claims to have on her back. (Her biggest source of figure angst is her size-DD breasts, which she says make it hard to find clothes that fit: “I would love for them to be a size and a half smaller.”)

But, she adds, “I’ve made millions of dollars with the body I have, so where’s the pain in that? If I was in pain, I would have dieted. The pain is not there – the pain is someone printing a picture of me and saying those (horrible) things.”

She’s also aware that the tabloids not only hurt her, but also paint a false reality for young girls and teens:

“I get so much mail from young girls who say, ‘I look up to you, you’re not as skinny as everyone else, I think you’re beautiful,’ ” she says. “So when they say that my body is ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting,’ what does that make those girls feel like?”

My brief struggle with weight — it was only from the beginning of 2004 to the end of 2006 — has taught me a lot about myself and others. I attribute much of my weight gain to Paxil and Lexapro.

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Random news from across the board

I know I blog primarily on mental health, but I can’t help but add my 2 cents on the following:
Colts

  • Times SelectHillary Clinton and health care: The plan sounds nice and feasible, but Ms. Clinton and health insurance have been a disaster in the past. We’ll see what happens the second time around.
  • Colts and Bears face off in Super Bowl: Other than making history with two black coaches facing off in the Super Bowl, I’ve been holding out hope for Peyton Manning to lead his Colts to victory over the N.E. Patriots. The Super Bowl is definitely worth watching for me now. Oh yeah, and the Saints lost. Karma certainly sucks. (photo courtesy New York Times)
  • And I found this on NYT, but I don’t have Times Select and don’t feel like registering for a 14-day free trial (it’s just not worth it to me). If anyone’s seen the regular article or can read the reader responses, please send me some text. I’d be very much obliged.

Seroquel abuse and medication weight gain

SeroquelFurious Seasons has blogged about Seroquel (quetiapine) in the past and he recently posted on Seroquel abuse in an Ohio prison. Apparently, inmates have been snorting the atypical antipsychotic, also known in slang terms as “quell” or “Susie-Q.” Excerpt from Furious Seasons:

“Second, we all know that Seroquel is regularly handed out to bipolars and depressives and people with anxiety in order to address insomnia, as opposed to the kind of underlying psychosis/mania issues you’d expect it to be used for. PCPs hand it out this way and so do psychiatrists. What I have noticed among friends who’ve been given Seroquel for sleep issues is that they end up, over a few months time, needing more and more of the drug in order to get an effect. Or, put another way, people keep complaining of problems with sleep despite taking, say, 300 mgs. of Seroquel and their doctor will keep upping the dose to get the desired effect. As a result, I have seen people with very mild bipolar disorder wind up taking 800 mgs. of Seroquel a day–that’s roughly the same that a schizophrenic in a state hospital would get–and still they get no results, aside from putting on tons of weight. I have heard this from other readers of this blog as well.”

My aunt, who works in the psych wing of a hospital, warned me that she’s seen patients on Seroquel gain weight. A man I met at my Bipolar and Depression Alliance Group last night gained 60 lbs since taking Seroquel. I can’t image that everyone who takes Seroquel overeats to a point of obesity and leads a sedentary lifestyle. I have a random theory that Seroquel signficantly slows a person’s metabolism down to the point where it is difficult for a person to lose weight.

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38 paid days of vacation

AustriaWho wants 28 days of vacation per year?

If you do, score a full-time job in Britain for the perk. If 28 days of vacay isn’t enough for you, go to Austria where they’ll give you 38 PAID days as a full-time employee.

Then I really wouldn’t have to worry about taking my literal “mental health” days.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Women who are binge drinkers are more likely to be clinically depressed, according to a joint U.S. and Canadian study. I find it funny that they’ve got a photo of a middle-aged (or senior) woman with the captions, “Binge drinking adversely affected women’s mental health, the study suggested.” It’s possible, but HIGHLY UNLIKELY that the woman in the picture is representative of a binge drinker. A picture of a female binge drinker would look more like this:

girl drinking

That’s better. (source: The Trouble With Spikol)

On a Spikol trip, she writes that she questions a bipolar diagnosis in children and young adolescents (as in 14 or 15). I wholeheartedly disagree. Once I received a bipolar diagnosis, I realized that it wasn’t something that I’d developed out of nowhere. I often thought that I began suffering from manic depressive episodes when I was 14. Looking into my childhood, I realized that there was so much more to it: the temper tantrums, the sudden happiness and instant withdrawal. Constant paranoia that no one liked me (which no one did because I was super smart as a child). My parents described me as a “happy” kid, but I remember my tumultous childhood from 6 years old and on. I was raised in Brooklyn until I was 5 and then moved to Long Island. Even though I attended kindergarten in Brooklyn, the LI school district insisted that I was too young for first grade and made me repeat kindergarten. This apparently angered me because my parents claim that the second time around, I didn’t do any of the work because I’d done it before. After an encounter with my teacher (and seeing my father cry for the first time in my life), I shaped up my act in time to move on to first grade.

So I disagree that a bipolar diagnosis in children would erroneous or inaccurate. However, it’s possible they may be misdiagnosed and find out later on in life that they really had ADHD or some other kind of mental illness. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t mentally ill at all; it simply means they weren’t diagnosed properly.

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Eli Lilly settles with 18,000 people!

Holy crap.

In a stunning move by Eli Lilly, yesterday they agreed to pay $500 milion to settle lawsuits from 18,000 people who said they'd developed diabetes among other health problem on Zyprexa.

According to the company, 1,200 lawsuits are still pending.

Furious Seasons is doing some extensive blogging on this.

More on Zyprexa

More on Zyprexa, folks. It just isn't going to go away.

NYT reporter Alex Berenson, continuing his stellar coverage of Zyprexa's risks and exposing Eli Lilly's deceitfulness, has uncovered a recent case of a man who died using Zyprexa. John Eric Kauffman has a complicated medical, which might have led to his death. However, he was a mentally ill patient on Zyprexa and as a result of his death, Eli Lilly must report his death to "federal regulators," which it is required to do under law. However, despite his heavy smoking, he gained 80 lbs. on Zyprexa – which possibly led him to develop heart disease and become sedentary after being active most of his life. His mother says that Zyprexa did help him stave off the psychosis of his bipolar disorder, but his mother wonders if the risk was worth the early death of her son. Kauffman at 41 years old weighed 259 lbs. at the time of his death. He was 5' 10".

Which leads to the question of whether mentally ill patients should choose between taking Zyprexa – which CAN help mentally ill people – and dealing with its significant side effects or risk not taking Zyprexa when other medications won't work. In light of all this, should a doctor even continue to prescribe Zyprexa after seeing its awful side effects but left with no other choice (given that a patient is treatment-resistant to most medications)?

Eli Lilly's response to this continues to be appalling:

"Zyprexa is a lifesaving drug and it has helped millions of people worldwide with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder regain control of their lives."

It may be true that it helps people "regain control of their lives," but as for being a lifesaving drug – that's unlikely. Zyprexa has been shown to induce diabetes, obesity, hyperglycemia, and now, heart disease and death. I commend Australian regulators for looking into the details of Lilly downplaying the risk of Zyprexa and hope that they will make the information public – a different course than what the U.S. federal government seems to be taking. Lilly's 2006 settlement with patients who developed diabetes and other health problems is pure evidence that despite their constant denials, Lilly's hiding something in an effort to make profits.

My prediction: The FDA will eventually slap a black-box warning on Zyprexa, warning patients that it makes them more prone to diabetes and its other ill health effects.

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