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.)

Chronic Mononucleosis

In May, I was diagnosed with chronic mono due to a high Epstein-Barr virus count and constant complaints of feeling tired. (According to my doctor, there are many doctors who don’t believe that chronic mono exists.) Chronic mono is a gateway illness that can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). (Although CFS can have other triggers unrelated to EBV.) There’s not much information about chronic mono, but here’s what I’ve found:

According to Livestrong.com, mononucleosis is caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr Virus, or EBV. Apparently, close to 95 percent of adults between ages 35 and 40 carry an inactive form of this virus. While many people may never experience symptoms, those who do experience symptoms may see a resolution within 2 months. Those who experience symptoms for 6 months or more are likely to have chronic mono.

What are the symptoms of mono?

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Liver and/or spleen enlargement

While I haven’t had swollen lymph nodes or fever, I have had recurring sore throats (not lately since I’ve been on a supplement) and severe fatigue. As far as I know, I don’t have an enlarged liver or spleen.

There’s not much reliable information on the Internet about chronic mono so please feel free to chime in if you know anything about the illness or virus.

It’s Official: I’m on Abilify and Prozac

A cursory search on Google for Abilify + Prozac didn’t yield too many helpful results. I suppose it’s not a common drug combination. So far, I haven’t had any real side effects. I take Prozac in the morning and Abilify at night. I’ve also started taking my vitamins again after shirking them for quite a while: Fish Oil with Omega-3s, Iron (for slight anemia), Vitamin B-Complex with Vitamin C, and a women’s multivitamin.

I am a little nervous about taking an SSRI again because the last SSRI I was on (Effexor/venlafaxine) produced some nasty side effects (mania, night sweats, vivid dreams, brain shivers) along with the one I liked (significant weight loss). When I last blogged about Prozac, my only side effect was somnolence—a side effect I don’t appear to be experiencing this time around.

Are you on a drug combination? If so, what and is it working for you? If you used to be on a drug combination, what was it and did it help?

Quote of the Week

As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself. — Adelle Davis

Quote of the Week

Health is not valued till sickness comes. — Dr. Thomas Fuller

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)

Seven Things I'm Thankful For

ThankfulThanksgiving is several days over and I know I’m late on this but I still thought it would helpful for me to list seven things I’m thankful for this year. (I tried to list ten but I couldn’t think of anything beyond seven.)

1. My secured salvation through Jesus Christ
2. My husband
3. My family (that includes in-laws!)
4. My friends (“real” and “virtual”)
5. My health (For the most part, I’m doing well right now)
6. My wealth (No, I’m not rich but like Gianna at Beyond Meds said: If I have a computer, I’m likely well off.)
7. My job (somewhat self-employed)

I’m not much of a chatterbox today because I have a really bad cold and feel absolutely wiped. Tea with lemon and honey and chicken soup has kept me going this week. I have a Tina Turner concert to go to in NY tomorrow so I hope I’m on the mend by tomorrow morning.

(Image from sarahheidt.mennonite.net)

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.)

Blogging bad for mental health?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hat tip: Six Until Me)

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

From one of Furious Seasons’s latest posts:

Mental Health Blogs Going Bye-Bye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

I’ll tell you what I think.

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Hypochondriacitis?

“You’re not a hypochondriac if you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re a hypochondriac.”

For the past month, I’ve been feeling fatigued, shaky, dizzy and have had bouts of vertigo. I’ve been going home after work, then crashing into bed for the rest of the night. I went to the doctor and she said nothing’s wrong except that my physical symptoms are being caused by depression. I’m not depressed at the moment and I’ve never had vertigo when I was in my severest depression so I think that’s a load of crap. However, I had a blood test that also checked my Lamictal levels and everything came back A-OK with an unusually high cholesterol level for a 25-year-old. (High cholesterol runs in my family so I’m at higher risk for heart disease, blah blah blah.) Despite the fact that science says I’m currently healthy, the way I feel says I’m not.

Anyway, I saw the Q&A below from the May 2007 issue of Shape magazine and related to it somewhat. I’m still not quite sure that my physical symptoms are manifesting through my depression when I haven’t been depressed for the past month.

“I’ve been tired and spacey lately and also started experiencing chronic headaches. My doctor says nothing’s wrong. Is it all in my head?”

No, there may be more going on than you or your doctor realizes. Headaches aren’t just caused by physical problems; they may also be a sign of depression. A new study at the University of Toledo found that women with chronic headaches, especially migraines, are 25 times more likely than other women to report symptoms of clinical depression. (emphasis not mine) Some other common signs include being unable to concentrate, gaining or losing weight suddenly, difficulty sleeping, or feeling fatigued, or losing interest in the things you usually love to do. But these symptoms may be overlooked during a medical 4evaluation, especially since many women don’t realize they should bring them up with their doctors. Twice as many women as men suffer from depression, yet nearly half of all cases go undiagnosed. If this sounds like you, make a doctor’s appointment to discuss any stressors in your life and their effects on your health.

Gina CuylerGina Cuyler, M.D., FACP, is a board-certified internist, instructor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians.

Patient Responsibility

“An article on brain shocks from about.com linked to a statement at socialaudit.org.uk on venlafaxine withdrawal. It seems that when coming off of venlafaxine, it is best to use fluoxetine (Prozac) in conjunction with it. Somehow, Prozac’s effects can minimize or negate the side effects of Effexor allowing for an uneventful withdrawal. I’m seeing my psychiatrist later today and I might bring up the idea with him. He might think one of two things: a) I’m crazy (pun not intended) or b) I don’t know what I’m talking about. My guess is he’ll choose the latter of the two.

Unlike most patients, I know more about meds than ‘the average bear.’”

UPDATE: I asked my doctor about going on fluoxetine to offset the effect of venlafaxine withdrawal. He looked up, somewhat shocked, and said, “Yeah.” So then I pushed and said, “Well, I’d like 10 mg then.” lol. He wrote out a prescription for 10 mg of Prozac in addition to bumping me up from 150 mg to 200 mg of Lamictal. I took the fluoxetine (Prozac is now a generic drug) last night and it has offset the intensity of the brain shocks. I experience them but they are much more mild compared to yesterday when they were moderate to severe. Yesterday, I was barely able to drive; today, I drove nearly an hour to work on a somewhat urban road with good reflexes and almost normal cognitive functioning. I can only hope that the Prozac continues to aid my withdrawal issues. And I was happy to wake up this morning without wondering why I dreamt that I was in a department store with parrots singing Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up” and swinging like moneys instead of flying.

You get the idea: Effexor causes some strange dreams.

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