Loose Screws Mental Health News

Ebselen, an experimental bipolar disorder drug, has been found by British researchers to work like lithium but without lithium’s side effects. In mice. In testing, mice that were somehow made manic with “small doses of amphetamine” were placated with ebselen. Researchers are now moving on to testing on healthy human volunteers before studying those suffering with bipolar disorder.


A study, published in JAMA Neurology, discovered that retired NFL players were more likely to suffer from depression and brain impairment. The study comes on the heels of the suicides of Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, and Junior Seau. Researchers suspect a link between “hard hits to the head and depression.” These problems have also been noted in NHL players and combat soldiers who have suffered a brain injury. Many of the retired NFL players developed a type of brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Duerson and Easterling were found to have CTE during autopsy. In related sports news, the UK’s Telegraph reports that depression is a problem for soccer players in England and Scotland.


According to Time magazine, ketamine—a drug that induces hallucinations and other trippy effects—may hold potential as an antidepressant.

And now scientists report on two formulations of drugs with ketamine’s benefits, but without its consciousness-altering risks, that could advance the drug even further toward a possible treatment for depression.

Ketamine is seen as a fast-acting antidepressant for those at high risk for suicide. GLYX-13, mentioned here previously, is a ketamine-like antidepressant currently in clinical trials. AstraZeneca has AZD6765, a “ketamine mimic” that does not appear to be as effective as actual ketamine.

New research has discovered that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Even though the study evaluated men and women, the results for women were overwhelmingly striking.

It finds that women with symptoms of depression were 2.5 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their lifetimes than those in the general population, while those with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times more likely to have suffered domestic abuse. The extra risk grew to seven times more likely among those with post-traumatic stress disorder.


An analysis of more than 1 million Scandinavian women has shown that taking SSRIs during pregnancy may not increase the risk of stillbirth. This study could help revolutionize treating depression in pregnant women.

“From our study, we don’t find any reason to stop taking your medication, because untreated depression may be harmful for the pregnancy and the baby,” [Dr. Olof Stephansson, the lead author of the new report] told Reuters Health.


Finally, “gender identity disorder” has been removed from the DSM-V and has been replaced by “gender dysphoria,” a condition in which people are concerned about their gender identity. “Gender identity disorder” seemed to stigmatize gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. The continuing inclusion of “gender dysphoria,” however, ensures that people suffering with gender identity disorder still have access to health care treatment. (In my opinion, the renaming of “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” is really a politically correct change. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM back in 1973.)

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Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal Thoughts.

Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. They are all rolled up in one.

I am anxious about a lot of things these days. From something as mundane as sitting here typing on the computer to driving to cold calling a prospective client (which may never pan out because I’m too anxious to call right now). My anxiety has been debilitating in the past where I didn’t want to leave my home, and I fear it’s getting to the point of debilitation again on some days.

My anxiety depresses me. It keeps me from doing things that no one would think twice about. But here I sit, a prisoner in my own body, freaking out about nearly everything. To escape this, combined with my severe lethargy, I crawl into bed and sleep, hoping that when I wake up, things will be better. But they usually are not.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have a life many people would envy: a loving husband, a supportive family, and a steady job. I am thankful for the good things in my life. But this attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness doesn’t take away the depression inside of me.

I do not want to go back to the hospital. If I fear anything worse than death, it may be going back to a psych hospital. I have passing suicidal thoughts about hanging myself, but I haven’t been able to act upon it. I can’t determine whether I am a harm to myself in which case I would need to go to the hospital. The point of the hospital (for me) is to get me away from things that would cause immediate harm to myself. But I can’t be locked up in a hospital forever. (I guess I could in a state institution but that would be a nightmare.)

Somehow, existing in this jumbled mix is me. Somewhere inside, I am bubbly, wonderfully wacky, and beautifully strange. The depression and anxiety fuzz all of that. I am only some of what I used to be. I go to sleep, hoping for some kind of reprieve from this dark cloud that hangs over me.

Don Cornelius Died . . . So What?

Image from washingtonpost.com

On February 1, 2012, Los Angeles police declared “Soul Train” legend Don Cornelius dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. As my Facebook feed filled up with R.I.P. Don Cornelius, I thought to myself, We’re not addressing the larger issue here: how he died.

It got me thinking about suicide rates among the black community. Suicide is something largely not spoken of among black people. No one likes to discuss suicide after someone’s self-inflicted death, but I think it’s important to address the issue. A study released in 2006 showed that each year 70,000 black people try to kill themselves and about 1.4 million or 4 percent attempt suicide at least once in their lives. From an article in the Associated Press:

While depression is strongly tied to suicidal behavior in whites, anxiety disorders were more common than depression in blacks who attempted suicide in the study. That is an important racial difference that could alert doctors to black patients who might be contemplating suicide, said [Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatry professor and race relations specialist].

According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Black Psychology:

Historically, suicidal behaviors among African Americans received scant attention because of the belief that very few African Americans completed suicide; it was also assumed that they did not experience depression. Blacks were historically viewed as a psychologically unsophisticated race that were naturally high spirited and unburdened with a sense of responsibility.

Suicide rates among black men are growing. A 2007 statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 percent of them are likely to kill themselves. Mr. Cornelius was 75.

There’s no indication that Mr. Cornelius let anything on to family or friends. In a Washington Post article, Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Mr. Cornelius did not seem upset when they spoke a few days prior to Mr. Cornelius’s death. Police say that Mr. Cornelius left no suicide note and are investigating his mental state. They have ruled out a homicide.

A quick snapshot toward the end of Mr. Cornelius’s life shows that he had serious health issues and may have endured a bitter divorce with his second wife. This information doesn’t provide definitive proof that Mr. Cornelius was contemplating suicide, however, it may give us a peek at what may have contributed to his suicide.

Significant health issues are often overlooked in regard to a person’s mental state. Sometimes, a person won’t let on how much pain he or she may be in even though the pain may be unbearable. Mr. Cornelius may have been very lonely and in a lot of physical pain. Those two factors combined may have led him to take his life. But I am speculating—no one knows that for sure.

People will wonder how this unfortunate act could have been prevented. Unfortunately, it couldn’t. Mr. Cornelius did not tell anyone that he was depressed (as far as the media and police know), suffering, or contemplating taking his life. Generally, people most determined to take their own lives will not speak of it to anyone.

But there is a lesson to be learned here. We can encourage people of all races to speak to someone when life gets to be overwhelming and too burdensome. We don’t need anyone else who is blessed with gifts and talents to commit suicide because he or she feels as though no one will listen and no one cares. 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE are good resources with people who will listen and genuinely care. May we all learn from Mr. Cornelius’s lesson and get help when we truly need it.

My Dark Passenger: The Suicide Side

Image from zazzle.com

Although I’m not a fan of the Dexter books or TV series, I’ve been introduced to both by way of my husband who enjoys both forms of Dexter media.

The other day I flipped through Jeff Lindsay’s latest, Dexter Is Delicious, and read a little bit about the part of Dexter that he calls his “Dark Passenger,” the voice inside of him that compels him to kill. (But he justifies this by killing murderers. An interesting twist on the anti-hero.)

I ruminated on this as I’ve been dealing with a lot of suicidal thoughts lately. And really, there’s nothing wrong in my life that would cause these suicidal thoughts to arise. It’s just something in me gone haywire. It’s like a part of me that’s not really a part of me that I can kind of talk back to. It sounds otherworldly and crazy.

It is.

So I’ve taken to calling the suicidal voice (unlike Dexter’s homicidal one) in my head the “Dark Passenger.” My husband kind of likes this too as it identifies something that’s not really me although it’s a part of me.

The Dark Passenger is pretty random these days. Even if I have a slight mood crash, he’ll—because my sinister voice is clearly not a seductive she, maybe androgynous—tell me that life is not worth living and to go kill myself.

Me: What?
Dark Passenger: Go kill yourself. Life isn’t worth living anyway. You’re a total failure and you know you can’t do anything right.
Me: Um, why are you bugging me? I’m not even depressed right now.
Dark Passenger: [silence]

Yeah, that’s pretty much how our conversations go. It probably sounds a bit schizophrenic or something but that’s basically my stupid battle to stay alive. You can probably imagine how terrible our conversations are when I am depressed.

My Dark Passenger’s a bit starved, you see, because I haven’t tried to kill myself in a while and he’s getting antsy. I was last hospitalized for a suicide attempt in 2006 and even though I’ve had a few half-hearted attempts since or serious thoughts about an attempt, I haven’t had a serious attempt that has required me to be locked away for a good bit of time. I still get freaked out about my near-sexual assault encounter and that’s done a good job of keeping me in check for now.

So the Dark Passenger tries to get me whenever he thinks he’s got an opening:

No one signed up for your class. You’re a loser. Go kill yourself.

She never called you back. See? No one likes you. Go kill yourself.

You can’t get pregnant or do anything right. You’re not cut out to be a mother. In fact, you weren’t meant to be one because you need to go kill yourself.

And on and on and on. It’s easy to tell him to shut up when I’m not deeply depressed. Not so much otherwise.

Maybe there’s something to that “Get behind me, Satan” stuff after all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a famous British preacher, once suggested in his book Spiritual Depression to “talk back” to one’s negative voices. While it doesn’t work in the most severe of cases for me, it works. . . for the most part.

National Suicide Survivors Day

Today is National Suicide Survivors Day. If you know someone who has struggled with suicide or has lost a loved one to suicide, please show them your love today or this coming week.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a 90-minute webcast featuring a panel of mental health professionals and suicide survivors. Here's a bit of background:

What is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

National Survivors of Suicide Day was created by U.S. Senate resolution, through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.

AFSP's National Survivors of Suicide Day links simultaneous survivor conferences throughout the country and internationally — each local conference site is organized independently, but they're all connected through a 90-minute broadcast. This unique network of healing conferences helps survivors connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss, and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.

When is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

It's always the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The 11th annual conference will be held on Nov. 21, 2009. The broadcast runs from 1-2:30 p.m. EST. Some conference sites also choose to add local programming before and/or after the broadcast.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Commemorating World Suicide Prevention Day by living yet another day. There was a time when I didn’t want to live so this is a big accomplishment for me. Now, the script:

Learn more about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide through the “It’s On My Mind” page: http://www.facebook.com/itsonmymind.

Check out other World Suicide Prevention Day activities at http://www.iasp.info.

To learn more about mental health conditions and suicide, visit one of The Jed Foundation’s sites at http://www.jedfoundation.org, http://www.ulifeline.org or http://www.halfofus.com. You’ll find links to many other resources through these sites. If you or someone you know needs help immediately, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

In Suicide’s Shadow

Me, my daughter and Sylvia Plath

Piggybacking on the sad story of Sylvia Plath's son's suicide, Christine Stapleton—a blogger at PsychCentral and columnist for the Palm Beach Postwrote something interesting that caught my attention addressing whether suicide can run in genes:

Suicide is not hereditary – at least geneticists have not proved it. However, studies have shown that  children whose mothers committed suicide are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than children whose mothers do not. That statistic is why I am alive.

Maybe that statistic would help keep me alive too if I have kids.

Now, three generations of suicide in the Plath lineage

This is incredibly sad. This shows that suicidal struggles can be passed down in families. Food for thought.

Sylvia PlathFAIRBANKS, Alaska – Nicholas Hughes, the son of poet Sylvia Plath, has killed himself, 46 years after his mother committed suicide and almost 40 years to the day after his stepmother, Assia Wevill, did the same. He was 47.

Hughes, who was not married and had no children, hanged himself at his home March 16, Alaska State Troopers said. An evolutionary biologist, he spent more than a decade on the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Marmian Grimes, the university’s senior public information officer, said he left about a year ago.

Hughes’ older sister, poet Frieda Hughes, issued a statement through the Times of London, expressing her “profound sorrow” and saying that he “had been battling depression for some time.”

My heart goes out to the Hughes family.

Drug-induced suicidal ideation

This is a great post from Ana on how she struggled with suicidal thoughts while tapering off of Effexor. She was a lot better about identifying this stuff than I’ve ever been. I’m linking to this because I want people to know that suicidal thoughts CAN be drug-induced. I’m well aware of that now coming off of Lamictal. No problems so far but I have struggled with it in the past when I tried to jump down from 200 mg to 150 mg.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Portland, Oregon has been recently declared the most depressed city in the country. BusinessWeek determined this based on “antidepressant sales, suicide rates, unemployment, divorce, and crappy weather.” Philly didn’t make the top 20 list. That’s because we’re too busy enjoying the highest suicide rate in the country.


smokingA great way to avoid depression, however, is to simply stop breathing. Yes, that’s right. Just stop breathing. A new study presented at an American Psychological Society meeting shows people who are consistently exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to suffer from depression. So that’s my recommendation to you: STOP BREATHING. I guarantee you won’t be depressed after a while. (By the way, that’s a joke so you can go ahead and take a deep breath now.)


Apparently all this talk of an economic depression is causing people to be depressed enough to buy more antidepressants. I don’t get how it works but it seems as though antidepressant prescriptions (along with sleeping aid prescriptions) are rising alongside the unemployment rate in this country. Big Pharma isn’t filing for bankruptcy anytime soon. And if they do, it’s their own freakin’ fault.


In what appears to be a landmark ruling (correct me if I’m wrong), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that pharmaceutical companies are still liable for injuries cause by FDA-approved drugs and devices and juries can legitimately award damages. The buzzword I’ve learned for this case is preemption.

A woman who was injected with an antinausea drug (Phenergan, if you’re wondering) brought a damage suit against Wyeth after her arm had to be amputated. After a jury awarded her with $6.7 million, Wyeth took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, expecting a cool victory after the court sided with Medtronic in last year’s Riegel v. Medtronic case. Wyeth, the defendant in the case, hoped the Supreme Court would rule in their favor since the FDA had already evaluated their product for safety—a preemptive act. However, this time the court ruled 6-3 in favor of allowing the woman to keep her award money. The decision also sets a precedent for pharmaceutical consumers to sue pharmaceutical companies for injuries despite FDA approval—striking down preemption. For further information, check out Doug Bremner’s and Philip Dawdy’s blogs that have already covered this. In the meantime, I leave you with this:

Ronald Rogers, a spokesman for Merck, said, “We believe state courts should not be second-guessing the doctors and scientists at the F.D.A.”Merck was hit with several huge damage awards over its painkiller Vioxx before agreeing to a $4.85 billion settlement in 2007. Allowing juries to make determinations about drug risks, Mr. Rogers said, would cause “mass confusion.”

Hm. Make of that what you will.

Soldier suicide rate continues to climb

soldierI’ve been wanting to devote some time to blogging about this but I fear that I can’t. But I just read on CBS News that soldier suicides are still rising at an alarming rate. An estimated 128 troops killed themselves in 2008 and apparently February has seen 18 soldier suicides. (That figure may increase because some suicides are suspected but not immediately confirmed.) The Army released announced in February that at least 24 soldier deaths had been ruled as suicides.

The Army normally releases figures on self-inflicted deaths only once a year. But due to the large number of 24 suspected in January, officials decided to announce monthly figures to focus attention on the problem and on prevention programs available.

–snip–

Speaking by telephone to a group of bloggers, Chiarelli noted that officials already have bolstered suicide prevention programs and are having special training sessions this month and next, but he said no one thing can solve the problem.

The military has added mental health staff, operates hotlines for troops to call, and has programs to counter stress on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no breakdown on how many of the suicides happened at the warfront.

It’s a shame that so many troops had to lose their lives for the Army to get a wake up call on bolstering suicide prevention and mental health programs. My guess is suffering from PTSD also plays a part in pushing soldiers over the edge.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

As reported by The New York Times, people with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of suffering from fatal illness according to a study (that reviewed 17 other studies involving more than 331,000 people) reported in the February issue of Psychiatric Services.

In the larger studies, almost every cause of death was higher among bipolar patients: cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular (including strokes), and endocrine (like diabetes). In the smaller studies, mortality from cerebrovascular disease was higher among those with bipolar illness, but they showed inconsistent results, probably because they used smaller samples or less representative populations.

Gianna at Beyond Meds provides here take here.


Some crazy nurse in Minnesota convinced a Canadian college student to kill herself and walked her through the process of appropriately hanging herself. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air calls the nurse "the first serial suicide-inciter of the modern age." Couldn't have said it better myself.


Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons is on a roll, holding AstraZeneca accountable for its actions regarding hidden information about Seroquel and now he hosts the Seroquel documents — alongside Lilly's Zyprexa documents — that indicate buried studies. Dawdy's also running a spring fundraiser and I suggest you get your butt in gear and donate to him if it's important to you that someone holds pharmaceutical companies accountable for their actions. I've already done my part.


Sorry this post isn't filled with my normal snark and cynicism. I'm behind on a lot personally — still trying to get the hang of this self-employment thing — and this is what I can throw out for now.

20% of American children suffer from mental illness

The new SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) law that President Obama signed significantly increases health coverage for children, which also includes mental health parity. According to Nancy Shute of U.S. News & World Report, health coverage is expanded to:

“4 million more children beyond the 6 million already covered but also brings mental-health parity to the state programs that provide insurance for children in low-income families, requiring that they get the same access to treatment for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other serious disorders as they do for physical ailments.”

Then I stumble across this:

Depressed child“Mental-health needs are nowhere near being met,” says Jay E. Berkelhamer, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chief academic officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “At least 20 percent of all visits to pediatricians’ offices are related to mental-health problems.

Normally, though, overworked pediatricians may not ask if a child has a mental-health problem—and may not know where to refer him or her if they do. About 20 percent of children and teenagers have a mental-health problem at any given time, or about 8 million to 13 million people. Two thirds of them are not getting the help they need.

That means out of roughly 40-65 million kids, we have 8-13 million who are “mentally ill.” And then about 5-8 million who aren’t getting proper mental help.

Color me cynical but I think 20 percent is a disproportionately high number to classify children as mentally ill. I think the percentage of adults being classified as mentally ill is exorbitant enough, let alone children who are going through stages in their lives where they’re simply developing, encountering mood swings, being disobedient, and perhaps, being — perish the thought! — normal children.

But let’s address something else here: I don’t think it’s impossible for children to suffer from mental illness but the incidence should be significantly lower.

According to Dr. Louis Kraus, the chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, suicide ranks as the sixth-leading cause of death among ages 5-14 — “although rare.” From ages 15-24, it jumps to number three.

The key word in that last paragraph is suicide is “rare.” The rate of mental illness in children should reflect that somehow. While I’m very happy SCHIP includes widespread mental health parity for low-income families, I’m also concerned children will be overdiagnosed with a “mental illness” when they may simply be dealing with the normal challenges of a difficult life.

“I used to care, but now I take a pill for that.” — Author unknown

Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons has some great posts on the bipolar child paradigm that further explore the murky world of psychiatry pushing psychiatric illnesses and psychotropic drugs on kids. I’d also recommend reading Soulful Sepulcher as Stephany recounts her and her daughter’s experiences in and out of the mental health system.

(pic from save.org)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I could’ve been a statistic right here in this area.

suicides in PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia now boasts the sharpest increase in suicides in the country. Despite all the homicides in Philadelphia making the news, the 196 people who killed themselves in 2008 were quietly buried in the obit pages (if they made it there at all).

In light of this news, I’ve decided to place a suicide hotline web banner in the upper right-hand corner of my right sidebar. Susan of If You’re Going Through Hell Keep Going has one in her sidebar and I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’ve had a couple of people comment or send me emails about how they feel they’re on the brink of losing it so hopefully the banner — one of the first things to be seen on this page — will draw some attention and prompt someone to call for help. When I was a teen, I called 1.800.SUICIDE. I can’t remember what happened exactly but I called the hotline and someone talked me into why life was still worth living. People who are suicidal don’t really want to die; they want an escape from the pain they’re feeling and they feel the only way to alleviate that pain is through inflicting death upon themselves. I hope someone who is suicidal would be willing to pick up the phone and come to the same realization that I did at the time.


Speaking of suicide, researchers from the World Health Organization and the University of Verona, Italy have discovered that SSRIs (a class of antidepressants) may significantly reduce the risk for suicide in adults. SSRIs — which include such medications as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft — are not be confused with SNRIs such as Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta. PsychCentral notes:

SSRIPrevious studies, including a 2007 study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found the risk of suicide in adults was neutral, elevated in those under 25 and reduced in people older than 65. A subsequent black box warning was added to all antidepressants regarding increased risk of suicidal symptoms in people under 25 years of age.

Basically, this study just means antidepressants help those who are 25 years and older and hurt those 24 years and younger. I’m sure a new study will come out within the next year or so that contradicts this one. Especially since numerous previous studies on SSRIs found the risk of suicide to be neutral in ages 25-65.


Young adultAccording to the Boston Globe, a (really pathetic) new study shows that nearly half of young adults between the ages of 19 to 25 “meet the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder.”

Whether in college or not, almost half of this country’s 19-to-25-year-olds meet standard criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder, although some of the disorders, such as phobias, are relatively mild, according to a government-funded survey of more than 5,000 young adults, published in December in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study, done at Columbia University and called the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions, found more alcohol use disorders among college students, while their noncollege peers were more likely to have a drug use disorder.

But, beyond that, misery is largely an equal-opportunity affliction: Across the social spectrum, young people in America are depressed. They’re anxious. They regularly break one another’s hearts. And, all too often, they don’t get the help they need as they face life’s questions…

According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey, the population for adults ages 18-24 is gauged to be around 30 million. Therefore if we’re going to take the study at its word, let’s chop the number by half (even though the number is just under half). That will put us at about 15 million young adults. The NIMH, however, estimates 57.7 million adults in the U.S. “suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.” If this is the case, those 15 million young adults make up nearly 26 percent of the NIMH’s “diagnosable mental disorder” statistic. The inclusion of alcohol and drug addictions might explain why this figure might be a little high.

Coming off of Lamictal (lamotrigine)

Medication

I am officially joining the ranks of those who are facing the challenge of Lamictal withdrawal.

On Wednesday, I went to see my psychiatrist with a plan to come off of Lamictal:

  • 150 mg for 3 months
  • 100 mg for 3 months
  • 75 mg for 3 months
  • 50 mg for 3 months
  • 25 mg for 3 months
  • 12.5 mg (depending on whether my side effects on the 25 mg are bad)

I told him that my husband and I were looking to have a child sometime next year and that I’d like to taper off of Lamictal but was open to the possibility of getting back on it should I encounter severe suicidal ideation and mixed episodes. He warned me against it and thought it was a bad idea.

He proceeded to say that it’s a maintenance medication, I have a lifelong disorder, it won’t just go away, my symptoms would probably return, I have a higher risk of attempting suicide, blah blah blah — am I aware of all these risks?

He explained people with bipolar depression after coming off of meds can actually be worse, undergo severe depressive episodes, have more suicide attempts, and yadda yadda yadda. To sum it all up, I was risking my life just to get off of Lamictal.

My pdoc was trying to scare me into staying medicated.

He then added if I really wanted to come off of my meds, I could “just stop.”

WHAT?! My eyes flew open.

He stated he’d had patients who had stopped cold turkey without a problem. According to him, anticonvulsants don’t have severe withdrawal effects.

WHAT?! His advice just flies in the face of what most doctors recommend. In fact, quitting Lamictal immediately increases the risk of seizures, which is exactly what I’m afraid of.

Philip’s experience and Gianna’s experience along with the comments on each blog are proof that many people have experienced tremendous withdrawal effects from decreasing Lamictal’s dosage. In the past, I’ve quit Paxil and Lexapro cold turkey — both with not-so-good results to put it mildly.

I insisted that I wanted to come off of it slowly so he said I could just cut my 200 mg pills in half and jump down to 100 mg and stop after 2 weeks.

For real? Two weeks, doc? I had a plan that would take me over a year and you’re reducing it to a mere two weeks? On 100 mg dosage?

Again, I insisted that I wanted to take more time. He reluctantly wrote me a 30-day prescription for 100 mg and said since I was off the medication, I had no need to see him anymore. “Good luck,” he flatly told me.

When I came home after the appointment (and a bitching session to my husband), I remembered that I’d stashed a few 150 mg pills away sometime ago after I jumped back up to 200. So as of Wednesday, my arsenal included:

  • A bottle of six 150 mg pills
  • A bottle twenty-five 200 mg pills
  • A prescription for thirty 100 mg pills

I dropped down to the 150 mg on Wednesday and have been doing all right so far. I intend to keep myself at 150 mg (cutting the 200 mg and the 100 mg in half) for at least 2 weeks, then drop down to 75 mg for 2 weeks and then 50 mg for 2 weeks. I’m most worried about coming off of the 25 mg. This is a way more accelerated plan that I hoped for but I’ve got to work with the cards that I’m dealt.

We’ll see what happens.

Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

congregationA new study from the University of Manitoba shows people who regularly attend some kind of religious service are less likely to attempt suicide. The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, surveyed 37,000 Canadians and their connection with spirituality, religious worship, and suicidal behavior. Those who simply said they were spiritual but didn’t attend religious services did not show a reduced risk of suicide attempts. However, I was dismayed to read that researchers didn’t investigate why regular church attendance decreases the risk of suicide attempts. (Note to self: Go to church each Sunday!) (pic via www.assumpta.fr)

Alison Go of U.S. News & World Report cites a study from Academic Medicine (originally reported by Inside Higher Ed) which suggests depression affects 21.2 percent of medical students. The rates is 11.2 percent higher than that of the general population. And unfortunately, 13 percent of black medical student reported suicidal ideation in the survey, suggesting that the demographic is more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts.

And yet another study about suicide… The University of Gothenberg in Sweden performed a study on people who had nightmares following a suicide attempt and found out that they were five times more likely to try committing suicide again. The conclusion is based on a meager sample size of 165 patients but I suppose it’s a start.

While it appears that other sleeping obstacles do not raise the risk of multiple suicide attempts, patients who have attempted suicide seem to battle sleeping problems on a regular basis.

It is normal for patients that have attempted suicide to suffer from sleeping difficulties. Some 89 percent of the patients examined reported some kind of sleep disturbance. The most common problems were difficulty initiating sleep, followed by difficulty maintaining sleep, nightmares and early morning awakening.

Interesting observation considering that I have pretty much all of the common problems with the exception of early morning awakening.

Finally in a semi-cool story, a 22-year-old New Jersey guy who was friends with an 18-year-old Californian over the Internet called California police when he found out the 18-year-old said he would attempt suicide. Although it sounds like the teen (his name was not disclosed) is pretty upset about being saved (I know the feeling), it’s a (somewhat) happy ending compared to what happened in November when a Florida teenager streamed a webcast of him committing suicide by dying of a drug overdose. The Florida teen died before police arrived.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Lily Allen

Lily AllenFor those of us not hip-to-the-jive, Lily Allen is a British pop singer who allegedly attempted suicide when she was a teen. Celebrity blog Pop Crunch reports:

The 24-year-old singer was committed after she was left so distraught by the breakdown of her first romance that she tried to “slit her wrists,” the 24-year-old singing star’s half-sister has revealed to a British tabloid.

“Aged 18, she tried to slit her wrists when her first relationship ended and she ended up in The Priory rehab clinic for four weeks,” Sarah Owen, 29, who shares the same mother with Lily said in an interview with Grazia Magazine this week.

“I had a big gang of friends but Lily was more of a loner. She had no-one to talk to about getting her first period or breaking up with her first boyfriend.

“Would it have been different if we’d been closer? Probably,” Sarah says.

As you can tell, Sarah was a caring big sister, really looking out for her little Lily. However, it seems like the incident was only a shadow of mental health struggles to come as she became famous. Lily has publicly said that she sees a therapist for depression ranging from constant attacks in the media to a miscarriage. An excerpt from Billboard magazine notes:

And does she ever worry the attention might push her down the self-destructive path that’s been trod by Spears and Winehouse?

“No,” she says. “I know myself well enough. As soon as I feel remotely depressed I’m checked into a clinic and having intensive therapy. I’ve seen enough people fall apart to know that’s not going to happen to me.”

It’s about time we had some smart celebrities who know when to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

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?

The Art of Distraction

I babysat the 21-month-old son of a friend on Thursday. He's an adorable, sweet little kid. Very affable and social. With the addition of a new brother, he's been craving the attention that he used to have as an only child so he's always happy when someone takes the time to sit and play with him.

His mother had to go to court to contest a traffic ticket and she took the baby with her so I offered my (free) babysitting services. I'm not a babysitter and I normally don't offer to babysit kids alone because I'm not very good with them and most young children don't like me much. However, I've really grown to love my friend's son—we'll call him Danny—and felt like I could take care of him without too many problems.

We were upstairs on the second floor in his bedroom and I talked to his mother about a few logistics before she left. Finally, she kissed Danny goodbye and headed down the stairs. Since Danny's only 21 months, he needs to be carried down the stairs. When he saw his mother disappear, he began crying (much to my surprise and much to my dismay). My first thought was, Oh great. Now, he's crying for his mommy. This isn't going to be as easy as I thought.

I tried to sit down with him on my lap in the bedroom but he was extremely fidgety and got up and began running to the edge of the steps. Fearful of a fall (remember I don't have much babysitting experience!), I grabbed him, picked him up, and shut the door to the bedroom. Realizing this meant mommy wasn't coming back right away, he cried even harder. Now I was really at a loss of what to do.

I saw a little toy helicopter that he had been playing with earlier. The helicopter made noises and I tried to hand it to him and pressed all sorts of buttons to amuse him. He wasn't fazed. Danny kept right on crying.

Suddenly feeling desperate, my next thought was, I can't have this kid crying until his mother comes back. She's going to think I hurt the poor child. I searched around the room and found a teddy bear and handed it to him. He wasn't interested in that either. Finally, my eyes fell upon a toy set up like a two-level parking lot with a car ramp that twisted around to the ground. Several small cars sat on top of the lot. Remembering Danny loved to pick up cars and hand them to people one by one, I tried the tactic as a last-ditch effort.

I picked up the first car and held it open in the palm of my hand. He kept crying but looked down at it. I grabbed a second car. His crying began to die down and he began to look at the two cars with curiosity. I snatched another car. He stopped crying and simply looked at me with a blank stare, wondering what I'd do next. I picked up another car and held them flat out on my hands for a few moments, letting him take in the number of growing vehicles. Finally, he gave me a little smile. I started rolling a car up and down his belly and he began giggling.

Problem solved. We stayed busy until his mother came home. I expected him to run and cling to his mother after she got home but he gave her a quick glance and wanted me to keep playing with him because he was having so much fun. That was pretty satisfying and felt like my first solo babysitting gig had been a success.

Just like I'd distracted Danny from the sadness of his mother's disappearance, I'm finding that a lot of people in my life have been trying to distract me from the sadness and emotional pain that have been plaguing me lately.

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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.

Christian counseling: Nouthetic vs. Biblical

Last night, I spent some time on the phone with my husband’s friend’s sister (aka my former pastor’s sister). We’ll call her Natalie.

Natalie was very sweet and kind, really encouraging and strengthening me by sharing her testimony of faith in God. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, which has led her to take Paxil (on and off) for the past 7 years. She says the drug has helped her tremendously and who am I to knock the drug (knowing what I know about Paxil/Seroxat) when she has seen the wonders that it has worked in her life?

I briefly explained my story of depression, history of suicide, and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Although she couldn’t fully relate, she was very sympathetic and understanding. In fact, our conversation was so fruitful, I ended up taking notes!

Jay AdamsWe briefly touched on the issue of Nouthetic counseling (NC). She has undergone the course and simply needs to be certified. The counselor I currently see is associated with the Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF), which has roots in NC and was founded by the man—Jay Adams—who developed the method. However, CCEF is now known for what is called biblical counseling. The organization has since moved away from pure Nouthetic methods and become more a bit more varied, taking bits and pieces of psychology (and perhaps psychiatry) that line up with the Bible. Adams, disagreeing with the organization’s approach, founded the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and uses the Bible as the sole counseling textbook. According to the wiki entry on Nouthetic counseling, Adams developed the word Nouthetic based on the “New Testament Greek word noutheteō (νουθετέω), which can be variously translated as ‘admonish,’ ‘warn,’ ‘correct,’ ‘exhort,’ or ‘instruct.'”

NC was developed back in the ’70s as a response to the popularity of psychology/psychiatry. Many Christians reject some of the teachings of such popular psychologists as Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, etc. Adams’ highly successful book, Competent to Counsel, criticizes the psychology industry and counters its teaching with a Nouthetic approach.

But NC has its Christian critics.

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Rolex watches helped Owen Wilson overcome suicide

Wow. If this isn’t a blatant advertisement for Rolex watches, I don’t know what is:

Owen WilsonAfter a frightening suicide attempt in 2007, Rolex watches and benefits appeared to play an essential role in actor Owen Wilson’s recovery. On August 29, 2007, Time magazine reported: “speculation about his drug use, depression over his May break-up from Hudson and a recent fight with a friend have peppered the coverage of Wilson’s hospitalization. A People magazine cover story out Friday quotes a friend as saying: “Owen was very despondent. He slit his wrists. He almost did not make it.” It was a dark period in Wilson life, and Rolex played a key role in helping Owen regain his bearings and his success.

RolexAlthough Owen Wilson has worn a Rolex GMT Master in the popular films Wedding Crashers and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, he chooses to wear a Rolex Submariner in his everyday life. It is not surprising that he would make such a choice. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner originally was designed for diving and known for their resistance to water. The first Submariner was introduced to the public in 1954 at the Swiss Watch Fair. Copied by other watchmakers, the Rolex Submariner is recognized as a classic, and one of the most widely recognized luxury products in the world. The Rolex Submariner is part of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Professional line. After returning home from the hospital, Owen was captured by a photographer walking on the beach, wearing his Rolex Submariner. Later, he was seen riding his mountain bike in Santa Monica with the Rolex Submariner on his wrist. Obviously, the quality of a Rolex watch helped Owen realize and appreciate the quality of his own life.

If I had known that the answer to overcoming suicide was this easy, I could have avoided myself years of trouble.

Lamictal in consideration of pregnancy

My husband and I are talking about expanding our family. While that sounds all well and good, I just have one issue:

Lamictal.

For most women, they think, “Well, I want a kid” and the most they have to do is probably get off birth control. Just finish off their contraceptives, maybe feel a little nauseous, and move forward with their plans.

(sigh) Not me. If I want to do this right, it might be a good 6 months or so before I can consider trying.

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Goal for 2009: Staying Alive

I’m being hit by suicidal thoughts again. Hard.

I’m not going to the hospital but if these thoughts keep pummeling me, it’ll become a consideration again. I’m walking a fine line here because my husband’s family has had a suicide hit close to home earlier this year and they don’t need to experience another loss. I try to keep in mind how important I am to many people that I know: my husband, my in-laws, my mom (I’m her only child). I try to visualize the grief my mother would experience losing her only kid. It’s worked so far. I can only pray that it lasts.

In the meantime, I’ve had my husband hide my belts. I ended up in the hospital in October 2006 after my husband woke up just in time to find me kicking a chair away in an attempt to hang myself from an air vent.

After what now seems like a short reprieve, I constantly glance up at the ceiling air vent in our bedroom thinking about trying the hanging thing again. I’m sure I could find something else to use if I really wanted to but I’m trying not to dwell on the idea too much.

The lies that used to convince me to try killing myself, oh say, three years ago, don’t work as well anymore. I can fight off most of them:

Lie #1: Nobody cares about you.
Answer: I have a husband, a big family, and wonderful friends who love and care for me. I’d be missed.

Lie #2: You don’t make a difference in this world.
Answer: I have a 98-year-old grandmother who loves me to pieces, I have a mother who I bring so much joy to, I have a husband who tells me I’m the best thing that’s happened to him, and I have a mother-in-law who thinks that I’m so cool, she wants to spend time with me. I do make a difference.

Lie #3: You’re worthless.
Answer: My husband tells me all the time that I’m worth something to him and that he’d be lost without me. If only for him, I’m worthwhile.

So the “lies,” or challenges if you will, have changed. Here’s the new one:

“You’re such a liar. You’re just looking for attention. You want people to pity and feel bad for you while you sit there and cry wolf. So, if you’re so serious about committing suicide, why don’t you show them that you’re not kidding and prove ’em all wrong?”

Hmm. Good question.

Mood rating: 3

Beware XYZAL — allergy drug

I’m having a terrible allergy reaction that’s last 2 days. I visited my physician who gave me a few 5-mg samples of an allergy medicine, Xyzal (levocetirizine). This is supposed to be an alternative to Allegra, Zyrtec, and OTC Benadryl. I took time in the middle of the workday for this impromptu appointment so when I got back to work, I immediately took the drug. Then, I began feeling incredibly drowsy. I decided to look up the side effects on the xyzal site and found:

Patients taking XYZAL should avoid operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. … Take XYZAL at bedtime. Do not increase the dose due to increased risk of sleepiness.

Great. I wish my doctor had warned me of this before I popped one at 3:45 in the afternoon at work, 13 miles away from my home. Not only that, but after doing some more reading in the Prescribing Information, I found:

Besides these events reported under treatment with XYZAL, other potentially severe adverse events have been reported from the post-marketing experience with cetirizine. Since levocetirizine is the principal pharmacologically active component of cetirizine, one should take into account the fact that the following adverse events could also potentially occur under treatment with XYZAL: hallucinations, suicidal ideation, orofacial dyskinesia, severe hypotension, cholestasis, glomerulonephritis, and still birth.

A one-time dose probably won’t affect me negatively in the ways reported above but still — it’s an allergy drug. ALLERGY drug. All this crap comes from something that’s supposed to make you feel better? Sheesh. Glad I read it. I’ll be sure to avoid regular consumption Xyzal in the future.

So now it’s 4:50 pm and I can barely keep my head up but I figured I’d make this quick post to warn anyone with mental illness who:

a) takes Xyzal or
b) thinks that allergy drugs are free from side effects triggering mental illness.

Granted, the risk is low but it exists. It also sounds like it can impair renal and hepatic functions somehow. Watch out if you’ve got kidney problems.

When work is over, I’m going straight home and making a beeline for my bed.


Mood Rating: 4

Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

A National Institute for Mental Health in England report reveals particular progress in cutting suicides among young men.

The three-year average was 8.3 suicides per 100,000 population in 2004-06, down from 8.5 in the previous three years.

The article was brief and unclear which leaves me wondering what England is doing right.

“Sure, Grandpa gets a little cranky and blue sometimes, but he’d never
do anything stupid”, you might think. Wrong.  Elderly people account
for 13% of the US population, but make up nearly 24% of completed
suicides. Older men are the most at risk with a rate of 29 per 100,000
people.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

More than you know, Dr. Chiaramonte. More than you know.

According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, the United States had about 90 firearms per 100 people – the highest ratio in the world – followed by Yemen, Finland, Switzerland and Iraq.

Over half of all suicides in the United States – 52% – were committed with firearms in 2005, according to the most recent CDC data available.

Gun control: good or bad? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Golden Gate Bridge Barrier Update

The San Francisco Chronicle’s site has an update on the GGB barrier debate. Unfortunately, most people don’t want any kind of barrier at all. However, of the design options, the net is proving to be the most popular. Likely because it doesn’t affect the aesthetics of the bridge by much and it is still considered a suicide prevention mechanism.

Golden Gate Bridge net barrierI’d initially cited concerns about how jumpers would be pulled out of the net. Rachael Gordon, the Chronicle’s staff writer, got chief engineer Denis Mulligan to provide an answer:

For starters, he said, once someone jumps over the Art Deco span’s 4-foot railing, it could take rescuers several hours to get to the scene to retrieve the person from the net, which essentially would envelop the person and make it difficult but still possible to clamber out.

“It wouldn’t be like a trampoline, that once you jump onto, it would be easy to jump off,” Mulligan said. But, he added, “If you’re very agile, very strong and focused, you may be able to climb out.”

I hope it’s as hard to climb out of as Mulligan cites. Just the wait to be rescued alone might get jumpers to think twice about trying again. But here’s the process in more detail:

During a rescue operation from the net, authorities would shut down a lane of traffic. A specialized vehicle, called a “snooper” truck, would be brought in. Outfitted with a mechanical arm similar to a cherry picker used by utility crews, two specially trained rescue workers would be lowered down to the net in a bucket to pull the person out.

Authorities said they would have to convince pranksters and daredevils that jumping into the net would not be a pleasant experience.

“It would hurt,” Mulligan said of the 20-foot drop into a net made out of marine-grade stainless steel coated in plastic.

This article also uses another bridge — a former suicide hotspot — as an example to show that suicides can be prevented.

In Switzerland, researchers found that just the presence of the net stopped people from even trying to jump off the Munster Terrace, a medieval cathedral located in the old section of Bern, from which two or three people had been leaping to their deaths every year. They also found that the net did not shift suicides to other locations.

And that the implementation of barriers in other places have also proven successful:

Other well-known jump spots, among them the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York City, were long ago outfitted with suicide barriers. Like the net attached to the Gothic cathedral in Bern, studies have shown them effective in thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.

I’m not so idealistic to think barriers will keep suicidal people from committing suicide. Rather, I think they’re worth erecting for “thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.” Who knows how many people are still alive as a result?


The general public is welcome to vote for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge and provide additional comments (ie, you don’t need to be from California or San Francisco). Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier site to make your opinion known on this issue.

Movie to avoid: The Happening

I do not watch movies often. Mainly because I think I could be doing something more useful during the time I spend watching a movie. I’m not knocking anyone who enjoys watching movies — my husband does — but they’re usually too long for me. Like an hour to an hour and a half too long.

Which is why I love the site Movies in Fifteen Minutes. It’s sort of a parody retelling mixed in with actual events of the movie that takes about 15 minutes to read. I read Cloverfield to my husband (who saw it and hated it) and he said that it was pretty close to the movie. Therefore, I figure her humorous spin on movies, while off-kilter, is slightly accurate and gets the gist across.

The HappeningSo when I saw that Cleolinda Jones, author of the blog, had a write-up of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, I was excited. It was one of the few movies I’d wanted to see since I love The Sixth Sense and heard a lot of good reviews about The Village. However, before giving her take on the movie, Jones writes:

It’s just as bad as you’ve heard. I went in hoping that people were just being harsh on Shyamalan out of habit… They really… aren’t.

(Spoiler/ending revealed under post continuation)

Read the rest of this entry »

Loose Screws Mental Health News

The mastermind behind Stavzor is Noven Pharmaceuticals (in conjunction with Banner Pharmacaps Inc.). The new “small, easy-to-swallow soft gel capsule” is available in three strengths: 125, 250, and 500 mgs. The pills are are “up to 40% smaller than han Depakote® and Depakote ER® tablets at the 500 mg dosage strength.” From Noven’s PR:

Stavzor is approved for the treatment of manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, as monotherapy and adjunctive therapy in the treatment of patients with complex partial seizures that occur either in isolation or in association with other types of seizures, and for prophylaxis of migraine headaches.

The drug will hit the market in mid to late August.

The hotline receives an average 250 calls each day from veterans that have fought in Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

The issue of soldiers with mental illness has recently come to light with studies showing that 1 in 5 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The issue of the high suicides rate has been a high priority of the VA since mental health director Ira Katz tried to hide the significant number of suicides committed by veterans.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 800-273-TALK (8255); veterans should press “1” after being connected.

“We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months,” said [Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra in Sydney].

It sounds more like the article is speaking of children who are exposed to constant physical and emotional abuse. If that’s the case, shouldn’t there rather be an increase in parenting properly classes?

Pick a number: 20 or 9,000,000

20 people annually or 9,000,000 people annually.

Golden Gate BridgeThose are the numbers that the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) Board of Directors will need to choose between in October.

GGB officials are considering a proposal to erect suicide barriers on the bridge. Public forums were held on Tuesday and Wednesday to gauge public reaction to the five options designed to deter suicides. The cost of erecting one of the barriers is estimated between $40–50 million.

Bridge officials have been culling comments about the barriers at the forums and through the site Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier. As of Wednesday, July 23, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

[O]f the more than 900 tallied so far, an overwhelming 75 percent of the respondents said they prefer that no barrier be built at all. But a small, passionate group of proponents – many of them family
members of people who jumped to their deaths from the bridge – insist a barrier is needed. Any barrier.

“Overwhelming 75 percent” prefer no barrier? That’s not good.

Opponents of the barriers say it will ruin the aesthetic view of the bridge for the yearly estimated 9 million visitors.

I stumbled upon a blog, Bookworm Room, yesterday that brought the issue to my attention. This blogger likely represents the sentiment of the “overwhelming 75 percent.”

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Gun Ownership = Suicide?

Liz Spikol on The Trouble With Spikol linked to an article in the Chicago Tribune in which author Steve Chapman discusses whether buying a gun is a suicidal act.  Chapman argues "not really." Is it?

The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Wrap-Up

I’ve always found it annoying when people say a suicide attempt is
"a cry for help." And the best one — "She’s just looking for
attention." I ran into that quite a bit in high school.

While a suicidal person may not realize it (I certainly didn’t), a suicide attempt is a cry for help. It’s  an action that says "I’ve come to my breaking point. I’ve run out of options
and I don’t know what else to do. My problems are too much for me to
handle and the only way out of them is to die." Suicide is the action
which stem from thoughts that likely were never verbalized.

The majority of people who commit or attempt suicide aren’t just
seeking to die "just because."

…[T]wo doctors who are among the most often-cited experts on suicide…readily acknowledged the high degree of impulsivity associated with [jumping], but also considered that impulsivity as simply another symptom of mental illness. “Of all the hundreds of jumping suicides I’ve looked at,” one told me, “I’ve yet to come across a case where a mentally healthy person was walking across a bridge one day and just went over the side. It just doesn’t happen. There’s almost always the presence of mental illness somewhere.”

They feel as though they truly have "run
out of options" and ending their life is the least favorite backup
plan. The common thread that runs through all suicides is hopelessness.

So to wrap this series up, is it possible to prevent someone  from committing or attempting suicide?

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The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part IV

Compilation of Statistics Regarding Suicide

Scott Anderson in his NYT article weaves the grim statistics of suicide in and out of his story. Here’s the morbid list:

General

  • mental illnessThe nation’s suicide rate (11 victims per 100,000 inhabitants) is almost precisely what it was in 1965.
  • In 2005, approximately 32,000 Americans committed suicide, or nearly twice the number of those killed by homicide.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health says that 90 percent of all suicide “completers” display some form of diagnosable mental disorder.

Demographics

  • Both elderly men living in Western states and white male adolescents from divorced families are at elevated risk.

Premeditation vs. Passion

  • [T]he person who best fits the classic definition of “being suicidal” might actually be safer than one acting in the heat of the moment — at least 40 times safer in the case of someone opting for an overdose of pills over shooting himself.
  • In a 2001 University of Houston study of 153 survivors of nearly lethal attempts between the ages of 13 and 34, only 13 percent reported having contemplated their act for eight hours or longer. To the contrary, 70 percent set the interval between deciding to kill themselves and acting at less than an hour, including an astonishing 24 percent who pegged the interval at less than five minutes.
  • “Sticking one’s head in the oven” became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation’s total. By the early 1970s, the amount of carbon monoxide
    running through domestic gas lines had been reduced to nearly zero. During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since.

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The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part III

Premeditation vs. Passion

Author Scott Anderson in his NYT magazine article, "The Urge to End It All," notes:

Just as with homicide, researchers have long recognized a premeditation-versus-passion dichotomy in suicide.

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The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part II

The British Coal-Gas Story

According to Scott Anderson’s NYT article, the little-known British coal-gas story — even among mental health professionals — is a good example of how suicides can be prevented if one takes away the means:

Coal-gas ovenFor generations, the people of Britain heated their homes and fueled their stoves with coal gas. While plentiful and cheap, coal-derived gas could also be deadly; in its unburned form, it released very high levels of carbon monoxide, and an open valve or a leak in a closed space could induce asphyxiation in a matter of minutes. This extreme toxicity also made it a preferred method of suicide. “Sticking one’s head in the oven” became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation’s total.

Those numbers began dropping over the next decade as the British government embarked on a program to phase out coal gas in favor of the much cleaner natural gas. By the early 1970s, the amount of carbon monoxide running through domestic gas lines had been reduced to nearly zero. During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since.

Experts seems to insist that committing suicide is proof of an underlying mental illness. Suicide that stems from impulsivity, among these experts, is also considered part of a mental illness. Anderson subtly argues against this, and I find myself agreeing with him:

How can this be? After all, if the impulse to suicide is primarily rooted in mental illness and that illness goes untreated, how does merely closing off one means of self-destruction have any lasting effect? At least a partial answer is that many of those Britons who asphyxiated themselves did so impulsively. In a moment of deep despair or rage or sadness, they turned to what was easy and quick and deadly — “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen,” as one psychologist described it — and that instrument allowed little time for second thoughts. Remove it, and the process slowed down; it allowed time for the dark passion to pass.

Would this mean that if people had less access to suicidal means that promoted “ease, speed, and certainty of death” (ESCOD), a number of suicides could be averted? It appears so. Anderson continues to make a case using the Ellington Bridge in Northwest Washington as an example:

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John Grohol interviews Wyeth's VP of Medical Affairs on Pristiq

Dr. Grohol interviewed Dr. Phil Ninan, Wyeth’s VP of Medical Affairs on Pristiq, its efficacy, and surrounding issues. It was quite an interesting interview (and long) but here are some highlights that I chose to comment on. I’ll be making some comments in between Dr. Ninan’s answers due to the extensive length. Some parts of the answers have been truncated.

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The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part I

“What was immediately apparent was that none of them had truly wanted to die. They had wanted their inner pain to stop; they wanted some measure of relief; and this was the only answer they could find. They were in spiritual agony, and they sought a physical solution.”Dr. David Rosen, psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst

A recent article in New York Times magazine suggests that those who exhibit suicidal behavior or have had unsuccessful attempts are least likely to die by way of suicide.

The author, Scott Anderson, delves into the psyche of what drives a person to commit suicide. And he attempts to answer the "what" question by evaluating the "how."

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Heather Locklear, Ruslana Korshunova, and Adam Duritz

Heather LocklearHeather Locklear, most famous for her roles in T.J. Hooker and Dynasty, checked into an Arizona facility for treatment of anxiety and depression on June 19. As of July 2, rumors reported that she was still checked into the facility. Her publicist issued a statement on June 24:

“Heather has been dealing with anxiety and depression. She requested an in-depth evaluation of her medication and entered into a medical facility for proper diagnosis and treatment,” says Locklear’s rep, Cece Yorke. “This is a confidential medical matter and no further statement will be released.”

It seems that her bout of depression began after her split from rocker Richie Sambora to whom she was married for about 10 years. It appears that her current partner, actor Jack Wagner, has been a strong source of support and encouragement for her.

However, in other upsetting news, 21-year-old model Ruslana Korshunova jumped from the window of her Manhattan apartment in what appears to be a suicide. No one is quite sure what caused it but the based on the poetry that she posted on a website, the New York Daily News has proposed the idea that it was over “a lost love.”

Adam DuritzFinally, Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz revealed to Men’s Health magazine that he suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID).  John Grohol of PsychCentral quoted an excerpt from the interview:

What makes my case even worse is that every night I go out on stage and have this incredible emotional connection between me, the band, and the audience. Then, just like that, it’s over. I go backstage, back to the bus, back to my hotel room, and sit there all by myself. That deep connection is yanked away in an instant. It’s like breaking up with your girlfriend over and over again, every night.

The Purple Elephant in the Room

“Every minute, a suicide is attempted.” — everyminute.org

“With over 30,000 people dying by suicide each year in the United States, averaging 82 per day, there are almost twice as many suicides as homicides each year.” — stopasuicide.org

gun82 per day. Despite the fond memories the “Thompson” family will always have of Bob’s grandfather — whom we’ll call Grandpa — he is now logged as a suicide statistic:

  • Suicide per minute
  • Suicide per hour
  • Suicide per day
  • Suicide per year
  • Suicide in the town
  • Suicide in the state
  • Suicide in the nation
  • Suicide in the world
  • Suicide by age (elderly)
  • Suicide by gender
  • Suicide by firearm

The list likely goes on.

Suicide is the purple elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. It’s never a pleasant subject, especially when it’s by someone you know. The pain of losing someone by suicide seems to surpass the pain of all other kinds of death. There’s something about suicide in which we feel that the deceased had control.

  • “It didn’t have to be that way.”
  • “If he’d just gotten help.”

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Insight into the Mind of a Depressed Person

I posted a couple of months ago on The Last Psychiatrist’s post on suicide, which is still being hotly debated, and to be honest, is rather depressing. I gather that the majority of people commenting on the post have a general agreement that life has no purpose and as one commenter said, "just *is*." If there are people who think differently, I wish they’d leave comments. It appears that most people seem to think that life is rather wasteful.

A commenter named Jack posted his controversial thoughts. His entire post echoes what I’ve thought in the past (and currently struggle with) and what I’m sure others who attempted or committed suicide have thought too.

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How does it feel?

My husband’s 77-year-old grandfather killed himself yesterday. The day after his birthday

He left no note.

I’d be stupid if I didn’t take something away from this.

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)

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Loose Screws Mental Health News

ABC News covers the potential legal wrangling that might occur for Internet users as a result of the MySpace suicide case. I mentioned this in a recent post.

In some sad news after this Memorial Day weekend, Greg Mitchell at the Daily Kos reports that Chad Oligschlaeger, a 21-year-old Marine suffering from PTSD, committed suicide. According to family members, he was taking 8 different kinds of medication to control the disorder. Mitchell has an update on the story.

In some (somewhat) good news, mental health specialists from across the board are offering free services to current troops in an effort to help out with the shortage of mental health assistance in the military.

My Chemical RomanceAlso in a recent post, I also mentioned how people (namely in the UK) have been in an uproar over the fact that some people are equating “emo” music with the glorification of suicide, cutting, and death. My Chemical Romance (MCR), the band seen at the forefront of the emo music scene, has released a statement concerning the uproar and 13-year-old Hannah Bond’s death:

We have recently learned of the suicide and tragic loss of Hannah Bond. We’d like to send our condolences to her family during this time of mourning. Our hearts and thoughts are with them.

My Chemical Romance are and always have been vocally anti-violence and anti-suicide. As a band, we have always made it one of our missions through our actions to provide comfort, support, and solace to our fans. The message and theme of our album “The Black Parade” is hope and courage. Our lyrics are about finding the strength to keep living through pain and hard times. The last song on our album states: “I am not afraid to keep on living” – a sentiment that embodies the band’s position on hardships we all face as human beings. If you or anyone that you know have feelings of depression or suicide, we urge you to find your way and your voice to deal with these feelings positively.

I blame MCR for Hannah’s death about as much as I blame Nirvana and “grunge” music for making me suicidal. (I don’t blame Mr. Cobain at all.) Granted, Nirvana’s music put me in a mental state where I was much more open to depression but I can’t blame a band for my actions. Besides, every generation has the band that every parent feels the need to hate. Nirvana and “grunge” music were “it” for the 90s. MCR and “emo” will soon be out for the 00s. We’ll see what the next band and music genre will influence teenagers in the next decade.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

John Grohol at PsychCentral reports that the fate of the mental health parity bill is uncertain as its main champion, Sen. Ted Kennedy, takes a leave of absence to focus on treatment of his brain tumor. I echo John’s thoughts in hoping to see that other senators are willing to carry the torch and pass this important piece of legislation.


I came across a post from Kalea Chapman at pasadena therapist in which she linked to a WSJ article on whether veterans suffering from PTSD should be awarded the Purple Heart.

Supporters of awarding the Purple Heart to veterans with PTSD believe the move would reduce the stigma that surrounds the disorder and spur more soldiers and Marines to seek help without fear of limiting their careers.

Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932.

I side with the opponents. The Purple Heart should be awarded to be people who have visible evidence of bravery. With the rising number of PTSD prevalence, I’m afraid that the award would be handed out like candy. The rising number of veterans with PTSD on disability has caused enough of an issue that a Texas VA facility wanted mental health officials to stop diagnosing veterans with the condition.


Jordan Burnham, an 18-year-old student who survived a nine-story jump from a building, plans on walking at his graduation with the assistance of two canes. A family who used to attend my church knows this family and put him on my church’s prayer list. It’s a small world, after all.


Finally, it looks like expecting moms should have no fear of causing birth defects in their baby while taking antidepressants, according to a study being published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

A research team from Montreal University studied more than 2000 pregnant women on antidepressants and discovered the drugs did not present any adverse effects. However, it sounds like they only oversaw the women while they were pregnant in their first trimester. I haven’t seen the actual study but it doesn’t seem to mention whether the women discontinued the antidepressants after the first trimester.

Emo + Music = Suicide?

Here’s an interesting post from Lightning’s Girl on the matter.

How is this for a startling number when you put in emo + suicide in google?
1 – 10 of about 4,010,000 for emo suicide

UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald has an article about how young emo listeners are fighting back. Apparently, the Daily Mail in England went a tad bit too far and called emo music a "sinister teenage craze that romanticises death." Emo fans in England are planning a peaceful march to protest the Daily Mail’s – in what they call – an unfair characterization.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Call me old-fashioned (I am 26 after all; that's 62 in technology years) but I don't like the idea of putting my personal health records online. Google Health has just launched in an attempt to rival Microsoft's Revolution Health. GH's site appears way more personalized than RH and the idea of uploading medical records doesn't thrill me. GH has features where you can put in the "general" information people don't mind giving out (ie, height, weight) and personalize the diseases, disorders, or conditions you might suffer from (somewhat like WebMD). This is about as far as I would go in using the site. No way would I upload a PDF from my doctor with my name, address, social security number, and health insurance information on the a site — I don't care HOW secure. Medical identity theft is a reality now and the last thing I need to worry about is some idiot hacker stealing people's medical records online. We already have enough problems with people stealing VA SSNs.

On the topic of health, the AP is reporting that an estimated 300 to 400 doctors commit suicide every year — a rate that rivals that of the general population. (Hat tip: GP Essentials)

As for the VA, the news keeps on getting better and better. The Washington Post reports that psychologists at VA facilities are being told to keep their PTSD diagnoses to a minimum so the VA can stem the tide of veterans seeking disability payments for the condition. Depending on the severity of the disorder, veterans can receive up to a little more than $2500 per month. Norma Perez, PTSD coordinator for a Texas VA facility, sent an internal e-mail to mental health and social workers saying:

Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out."

Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

The Post quotes psychiatrist Dr. Anthony T. Ng who says that "adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months." This means less payout for the VA.

After the e-mail went public, VA Secretary Jim Peake issued a statement saying that Perez "has been counseled" and "is extremely apologetic." Of course. She has to be. She still has a job. (Credit to Kevin M.D.)

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.

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Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part II

Here are some things that have occurred in my life:

  • racing thoughts
  • spending sprees when I have no money
  • cleaning at odd hours of the night
  • thinking that I’m the most amazing job interviewer ever
  • worrying that people are watching me through video cameras or the wall in public bathroom stalls
  • afraid that a video camera exists in our bedroom (I know it doesn’t. I think?)
  • talking to "friends" who don’t really exist
  • disobeyed parents
  • talked back to authority
  • suicide attempts
  • rage/anger/hostility/irritability
  • temper tantrums
  • violent outbursts
  • socially awkward
  • extreme mood swings (happy to sad or angry in the same day)
  • doing things and barely remembering them
  • memory loss/forgetfulness
  • chronic fatigue
  • indecisiveness
  • no interest in sleep
  • inability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time/lack of concentration
  • anxious about being around people I don’t know/don’t like
  • anxious to go out and spend time with friends and/or family
  • impulsiveness
  • overeating
  • persistent, negative thoughts

All right. So those are some things that have occurred over the course of my life. Let’s see what I diagnoses I can pigeonhole myself into.

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