Loose Screws Mental Health News

An antipsychotic inhalation powder has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of agitation in adults with schizophrenia or bipolar I disorder. While loxapine (brand name: Adasuve) by Alexza Pharmaceuticals acts rapidly, the side effects include “bronchospasm and increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis,” according to Medscape. In case you don’t know, bronchospasm can lead to acute respiratory problems in people with lung disease, asthma, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Plans are for the drug to only be accessible through a medical facility with the ability to treat bronchospasms.

In related and somewhat interesting news, the Medscape article also notes that 3.2 million people in the U.S. are being treated for schizophrenia or bipolar I. “Of these, approximately 90% will develop agitation during the course of their illness.”

That’s an incredibly high number of people who develop agitation. Just sayin’.


According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, patients in a study dealing with depression seemed to have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for increased risk of heart and inflammatory disease. The lead researcher notes that “people with increased CRP have a two- to threefold risk of depression.” It is not clear whether CRP causes depression or is simply a sign of it. Increased levels of CRP tend to be seen in obese patients and those with chronic diseases.

“More than 21 million Americans suffer from depression, a leading cause of disability, according to Mental Health America.”

Note: the 2011 estimate of those residing in the U.S. stands at more than 311 million.


Depression is increasing among Japan’s public school teachers.

“A report by the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology shows that in 2011, around 5,200 public school teachers had to go on sick leave due to various mental illnesses, including severe depression.”

The Japan Daily Press article also notes:

“The study also highlights the fact that the main reason for the increasing depression is a school environment that puts too much workload and pressure on the teachers that they cannot have a healthy work-life balance anymore, much less deal with students, their guardians and the paper work that comes with all of these. (emphasis mine)

I recently finished a book by actor Tony Danza called I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had in which he chronicles his yearlong stint in Philadelphia’s inner city public school system. He echoes some of these sentiments as well. After trying to teach his students, he notes that it is difficult not to get involved in their personal lives as well. In the Epilogue, Danza writes:

“…I can only do so much. Where does teaching stop, and start? Where should it? I don’t really know. To engage my students, I found that I had to become engaged in their lives, their problems, and their futures. That connection was what made the job the most rewarding. Yet it was also the intensity of that involvement that, by the end of the year, had made the job of teaching so much tougher than I’d ever expected.”

It seems that Japan’s public school teachers are no different from American public school teachers.


Although 38 states require mental health background checks, only a quarter of states actually report their statistics to the federal NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).


And surprise, according to a recent study, pot could lead to psychosis in teens or teens who smoke pot can later develop psychosis. I find it interesting that teens were actually evaluated after smoking pot.

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Loose Screws Mental Health News

In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre called for a national registry of those who are mentally ill. According to the Washington Post, the federal government does not possess the constitutional authority “to require state agencies to report data.” All the federal government can do is either offer or withhold funding, as it did in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting when it provided additional funding for state governments that shared 90 percent of their mental health records. But it seems that 38 states already maintain an active database that “require or authorize the use of” mental health records during gun background checks. And the Gun Control Act of 1968 does not allow sales of firearms to people who have been institutionalized or considered to be mentally “defective.”

For the purpose of firearms sales, I support the idea of maintaining a database of people who have been institutionalized. This could prevent a person from being a harm to himself or to others. I speak as a person who has been institutionalized for being a harm to herself more than once. If I’d had access to a firearm, I wouldn’t be here right now. There may be many others who are in the same boat.


The New York Times reported on mental health coverage through insurance. In any given year, 26 percent of adults have a mental disorder, and 6 percent of adults have a mental illness that prevents them from functioning, according to the NIMH. In addition, 21 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 undergo a “severe emotional disturbance.” But it seems as though 85 percent of employers offer some kind of mental health coverage through insurance, and 84 percent of employers with more than 500 employees allowed access to in-network and out-of-network mental health treatment. Beginning in 2014, insurance plans will be required to cover mental health disorders as part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times notes that many psychiatrists, however, don’t accept insurance:

Plenty of psychiatrists in private practice accept no insurance at all, though it is not clear how many; their professional organizations claim to have no recent or decent data on the percentage of people in private practice who take cash on the barrelhead, write people a receipt and send them off to their insurance company to request out-of-network reimbursement if they have any at all.

My psychiatrist does not accept insurance. He writes me a receipt, and I am to seek out-of-network reimbursement, a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by my insurance. The NYT is right on the money in this instance. But I am happy with my psychiatrist and would rather pay out of pocket for him without reimbursement than to find another psychiatrist who is in network.


According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California is ahead of every other state in covering mental health services with public money. But as always, there are critics who say California does not go far enough, even though in 2004, California voters approved Proposition 63 that funnels $1 billion annually for mental health services by taxing the state’s highest earners. But funding is being cut, not just in California but also nationally, according to NAMI.

Overall, California cut $768 million from its state mental health services outlay during the past three fiscal years, according to a November 2011 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. California’s 21 percent reduction in mental health funding over that period is the seventh-highest among all states.

Nationally, states cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets for mental health services since 2009, according to the 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I’m not sure what can be done to stop funding cuts of mental health services when state budgets are slashing services across the board.


And finally, according to NY1 News, New York City Mayor Bloomberg has announced an initiative to get mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment facilities. The mayor’s office estimates that 36 percent of inmates suffer from some kind of mental disorder. The city initiative will attempt to “reduce incarceration rates, improve jail safety, and lower crime.”

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.)

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.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones & Demi Lovato

Image from people.com

Catherine Zeta-Jones has bravely put her face on the cover People magazine—and on the face of bipolar disorder. And in a less publicized interview, 18-year-old Demi Lovato of teen Disney fame admitted last month to People that she too also suffers from bipolar disorder.

“This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” the [Zeta-Jones], 41, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement in this week’s cover story. “If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”

Last month, Lovato said:

“I never found out until I went into treatment that I was bipolar. Looking back it makes sense,” she says of her diagnosis. “There were times when I was so manic, I was writing seven songs in one night and I’d be up until 5:30 in the morning.”

I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of mental illness fads, but bipolar disorder has such a stigma attached to it that celebrities who seriously suffer from the disorder have a chance to put a face on and say “There’s no shame in getting help.” And while psychotropic drugs certainly aren’t a cure-all in conjunction with talk and behavioral therapy, bipolar disorder can be managed—not just for these celebs but also for anyone who suffers from the disorder.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones

Image from people.com

Of all the celebrities I would have pegged with some kind of mental health disorder, Ms. Zeta-Jones would have never made the list. After supporting her husband Michael Douglas through his cancer treatment, she remained quiet about herself only outspoken on issues pertaining to how upbeat and positive the couple was on Douglas’s treatment.

But clearly, being a bedrock for her husband has taken its toll on her. Last week, she checked into a mental health facility seeking treatment for her bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is characterized by frequent depressive episodes rather than a constant swing of manic-depressive ones. While only Ms. Zeta-Jones knows what’s been going on inside her mind and her heart, I can only imagine that she’s been suffering with some depression for a while but quietly put it aside as her husband struggled to become healthy again.

In the past, I’ve used the Celebrity Sensitivity feature of this blog to mock celebrities who seem to be diagnosed with nearly any mental illness fad that goes around (normally, depression), but this time my heart goes out to Ms. Zeta-Jones who decided to seek treatment for herself instead of putting on a face like everything’s okay and toughing it out.

Trying to conceive with mental illness

I’m now in a new phase of my life. Last August, I came off of my bipolar disorder medication and have tried to regulate my mood through natural remedies such as taking 1000 mg of fish oil and multivitamins and by exercising regularly.

I’m also trying to get pregnant.

I haven’t wanted to discuss this particular phase of my life as I think it’s a very personal and private time. However, the emotional and mental toll that TTC (trying to conceive) brings upon someone who struggles with mental illness, I think, is worth discussion.

I wrongly assumed that when I decided that I wanted to have a child, I’d automatically be able to get pregnant. (Bristol Palin had no problem, right?) Several cycles later, I find myself still childless and even more desperately yearning for a child than the month before.

The mental anguish of TTC month after month is tough for any normal woman. During this phase of life, women may experience the following feelings:

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Marital problems

In a woman who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness, those feelings can become so intensely extreme that they can be debilitating.

I can’t even begin to explain the psychology behind the agony a women endures when she desperately hopes for a child, only to be disappointed by a negative pregnancy test or the monthly visitation from a visitor commonly known as Aunt Flo. Month after month and year after year, the pendulum of emotions range from anger to despair. How is it possible to want and love someone so much whom you’ve never met?

For me, I’ve found that I am relatively sane and able to go on with life for about a week after trying. When I am a day or two away from my expected period, I am thrown into such emotional turmoil that I am nearly inconsolable. Part of it has to do with the sadness that accompanies my body preparing itself for the beginning of a new cycle; the other part of it is the emotional roller coaster that comes along with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Throw in a dash of bipolar disorder and there’s no limit to how despondent I can be. I can only imagine the same would be true for women who suffer from other mental illnesses.

During those times, I’ve tried turning my eyes toward God and attempting to put my faith in His wisdom for my life, but I feel so isolated and so alone that I wonder if even God could comfort me. The pain of hoping for a child each month then discovering that it is not to be brings a sense of abandonment (for some reason). Negative thoughts creep into your mind at a furtive pace:

  • I’m not meant to be a mother because I’m already suffering from a mental illness and God is doing any kids I’d have a favor by not bringing them into this world through me.
  • I’d be a terrible mother anyway.
  • What is wrong with my body? Why can’t I conceive?
  • There’s no point in me living if I can’t have a child. I want a child of my own so desperately that I just don’t want to live anymore if I can’t have one.

Each month, a woman trying to conceive goes through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial (The pregnancy test must be wrong; I’m pregnant for sure. Maybe my hormones haven’t been detected yet.)
  2. Anger (Why is this happening to me? What’s wrong with me?)
  3. Bargaining (I’ll do anything be pregnant. Please, just give me a baby.)
  4. Depression (I’ll never get pregnant. What’s the point? I’ll be a terrible mother anyway.)
  5. Acceptance (I’m not pregnant. [Some women can also say: But at least we can try again in the next cycle.])

I usually go through all that in the course of, oh, about 2 days.

I haven’t been trying for an extremely long period of time so I’m not classified as infertile but the internal and external pressure of trying to conceive can be stressful nonetheless:

  • Family members ask when a little one will arrive in your family
  • Friends and family members will have conceived (and even given birth) to a child within the time you’ve been attempting to conceive
  • Well-meaning people offer advice to simply “relax” and go on vacation to get pregnant
  • Pregnant women you know will complain about all the awful symptoms of pregnancy
  • Mothers you know will complain about all the downsides of parenting and rarely offer the upsides

I haven’t fully figured out how to deal with the uncomfortable situations I find myself in with others or the drained energy that comes from learning of a barren womb. This site provides coping techniques for normal women dealing with infertility, but I want to go a step farther in specifically addressing women TTC who suffer with some kind of mental issue:

  • Talk to a trusted doctor or counselor. Determine this is the path that you want to be on and discuss how to develop strategies in the face of another disappointing month.
  • Determine whether you need to take medication (if you’re not already on it). I tapered off of my mood stabilizer in the hopes of being able to have a natural birth and breastfeed. I’m altering those dreams. It’s not the end of the world if I have to have a baby in the hospital and a child won’t die if I feed it formula. (Although I’ll probably catch flak in the Christian community because what self-respecting mother doesn’t breastfeed?! [sarcasm])
  • Determine whether you need an adjustment in medication if you are taking something. Is the medication you are on relatively safe for pregnancy? Will you need to switch? Is the medication you’re currently on affecting your ability to adequately deal with the emotional pendulum that accompanies TTC?
  • Consider using natural mood-boosting remedies to bolster your mood. I know it’s cliche to mention this, but for some women suffering from mental illness, natural remedies actually do help. (For some women, natural remedies have little to no effect.) Here are a few to try:
    • Take at least 1000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids daily. BEWARE: 1200 mg of fish oil does not equal 1200 mg of Omega-3s! I take 900 mg capsules of fish oil that only contain 450 mg of Omega-3s each. I need to take at least 3 capsules to get more than 1000 mg of Omega-3s. You can also get the weekly required amount of Omega-3s by eating fish twice a week. (Science Daily)
    • Take daily multivitamins with at least 400 mcg of folic acid. Folic acid helps lower the risk of birth defects in a baby. For me, I need the iron supplement to help me fight fatigue as I don’t eat many foods rich in iron.
    • Exercise regularly. I’ve been exercising about 3-4 times a week for about 30 minutes. Exercising temporarily boosts my mood although that’s only been a recent occurrence (within the past year).
    • Try to steer clear of mood-altering substances. The depression that accompanies not having a child can drive a woman to smoke, drink too much alcohol, or engage in the use of illegal drugs. (I’m guilty of having a bit too much wine.) Although we all know to avoid this stuff when TTC, it’s sometimes hard to resist. But try.

I hope this post can be of some help to women who are trying to conceive but also suffer from mental illness. We may be a small minority but we’re not alone. Feel to offer feedback on this post by leaving a comment.

The psychology behind sabotaging a mildly successful blog

There’s no other way to say it: I choked.

Depression Introspection, originally hosted on Typepad, was a mildly successful blog within its niche community. I updated the blog regularly and within a year, watched my stats rocket and was named one of PsychCentral’s Top 10 Depression blogs. I enjoyed researching and learning information then providing analysis for the world to see. I wasn’t the first (or second or third) mental health blog but I was part of the early game.

After claiming the #1 spot for PsychCentral’s Top 10 blogs of 2007, I freaked. I averaged 5,000 page views a day. For a nobody like me, I found that nothing to sneeze at.

Then the pressure was on. The pressure came from no one but myself.

I regularly received emails asking for advice or comments on older posts. But the pressure to keep and satisfy an audience became overwhelming. It was all self-created. I wanted to compete. And when the competition loomed large and appeared daunting, I cracked and walked away from it altogether. Updating the blog was no longer fun, I hated doing research, learning about mental health became a chore.

From 2006-2008, my entire life surrounded my mental health and learning about it. Within 2 years, I grew and changed. I no longer wanted to write about mental health on a daily basis. Nor did I want to put so much time and effort into generating content that earned me very little money. But I have a bit of a historian in me: I can sit back and appreciate the hard work I put into this blog. In an effort to preserve the content, I spent a good bit of time and energy into moving this blog from Typepad to WordPress. Even without updating this site new information, my old posts (especially on Lamictal) still get regular hits and comments. Simply that amazes me and makes me realize how valuable some of the information is within this blog.

With the exception of the Quotes of the Day, which are scheduled to update through March 2010, this blog is basically defunct. It’s up as a resource for people to browse through and glean some kind of knowledge on various psychotropics (however outdated the information may be). There is always the possibility I could update regularly again but I doubt it. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve grown beyond simply mental health writing and update a personal blog titled This Journey is My Own where I blog about various topics from introspection to politics to religion (mainly Christianity) to race relations/identity. I run quite the gamut than what I used to write here. And I purposely do not mix the content because I serve two different audiences with each.

So there you have it. I’ve since learned that I’d rather never succeed than watch myself hopelessly fail. Not that I was failing with my blog. Far from it—I was succeeding, succeeding beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And when I saw that I had to work to maintain that success (after having achieved it so effortlessly and carelessly), I choked, sputtered, and stalled.

And walked away.

I know a lot of people were sad to see the regular updates disappear. I fell off the blog scene and keep up with people mostly through Twitter. But I did what I had to do for me. To maintain my sanity. The joy and the love for writing the blog were gone. Once those things go, it’s time to end it, which is what I did.

My other blog has a regular audience of about maybe 5-10 people max. And that’s okay. Any more “success” and I think I’d choke.  Besides, I’m really just trying to write for “an audience of one” now.

So if you’re new to the site and visiting, feel free to take a look around, there’s some good information to be found. If you’ve been a regular reader, thanks for your loyalty in showing me that I’ve got what it takes to be mildly successful.

God bless,
Kass

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.

The local church fails in assisting those with mental illness

Baylor University performed a study on how the churches help those who suffer from mental illness and found that they are not the most helpful places. PsychCentral notes:

churchBaylor University researchers built upon a 2008 study that found nearly a third of those who approached their local church in response to a personal or family member’s previously-diagnosed mental illness were told they really did not have mental illness.

In the new study, investigators discovered individuals experiencing depression and anxiety were dismissed the most often.

It seems that the local church has a long way to go in assisting those who suffer from mental illness. I am very thankful for CCEF that intends to “restore Christ to counseling and counseling to the church.” Here’s a blog post from Tim Lane, executive director of CCEF, in which he provides “four reasons to incorporate counseling into the local church.” And here’s another post by Mr. Lane on guidance for churches seeking outside help for counseling.

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.

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.

Loose Screws Mental Health News (the ODD version)

I came across an article in my Google Alerts titled, “Harvard study: Under-treatment of mental illness contributes to crime.” Intrigued, I clicked on the link to read more of the article. Turns out the lede is:

Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off treatment at the time of their arrest, according to a new study by Harvard researchers that suggests under-treatment of mental illness
contributes to crime and incarceration.

The article is poorly titled. The headline was designed to be alarming: “Watch out for those crazy people! They’re violent!” It’s not “under-treatment of mental illness” that “contributes to crime” so much as it is “two-thirds of inmates with mental illness are off medication.” There’s nothing in the article that asserts people with mental illness contribute to the crime rate in America. An interesting read but an inaccurate head.


shoppingThe New York Times had an article a few weeks ago on compulsive shopping eventually becoming a legitimate disorder. I’d been wanting to write about this for a while but Gianna at Beyond Meds beat me to it. She aptly titles her post, “It’s called poor impulse control, people .” She writes:

It’s a psychological problem. But let’s relegate out of control shopping to a brain disorder too, so people can have one less thing to take responsibility for. This is really getting ridiculous. Pretty soon we won’t be responsible for any of our bad behavior as it all becomes pathologized and out of our hands. And you can be sure they’ll be a drug for it, too. Since their calling it OCD related it’s a good bet they’ll try out SSRIs.

The DSM-V is currently being crafted in secret but everyone in the medical field fully expects new disorders (such as subthreshold bipolar disorder and Internet addiction) to pop up. Don’t be surprised if CSD (compulsive shopping disorder) pops up in it too. (pic via pro.corbis.com)


In related let’s-give-everything-a-diagnosis news, some mental health experts are assigning a new label to women obsessed with having children: baby addiction.

baby…Sometimes the desire to keep having children can be rooted in complex psychological issues dating as far back as one’s childhood. In certain cases, experts say, it can become a compulsion, an obsession or even a “baby addiction.”

While the current book of psychiatric diagnoses, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” has no entry on baby addiction, mental-health professionals say they see patients, mostly women, who desperately want to keep having newborns, even when they already have several children and aren’t managing their family situation well. That, they say, is a big red flag, no matter what term is used to describe it.

“It can be an addiction,” says Gayle Peterson, a family therapist in the San Francisco area and author of “Making Healthy Families.”

Peterson has seen several women in her practice who’ve been overwhelmed with four or five children, including those with special needs. Some of the women were suffering with depression or panic attacks and yet when their youngest child became a toddler, they wanted another baby. These women can be driven to have more children in an effort to make up for some sort of void or loss, usually from their own unhappy childhood, explains Peterson.

“If you’re just having babies to complete something in yourself that never got completed, you really are talking about an addiction,” she says.

While it might be an addiction, it’s not DSM-V diagnosis-worthy and it definitely doesn’t need medicinal treatment. Get some psychotherapy and call it a day. An addiction like this is behavioral more than anything else. (pic via sodahead.com)


And last but not least, we’ve also got a new case of “climate change delusion.” (Ha!)

Last year, an anxious, depressed 17-year-old boy was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. He was refusing to drink water. Worried about drought related to climate change, the young man was convinced that if he drank, millions of people would die. The Australian doctors wrote the case up as the first known instance of “climate change delusion.”Robert Salo, the psychiatrist who runs the inpatient unit where the boy was treated, has now seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change, as well as children who are having nightmares about global-warming-related natural disasters.

–snip–

Of course, no one can predict what effect warming will have on our psyches. The links between mental illness and the weather can be tenuous or even downright contradictory. Depending on which studies you read, suicide is more common, less common, or equally common in hot weather. Ditto dry weather.

It looks like my post just turned into an ODD (OverDiagnosis Disorder) case. I’ll get back to you once I’m free of my concern for the environment, my desire for multiple children, and my penchant for window shopping.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ReadWriteWeb reports Stony Brook University researchers discovered too much exposure to “texting, instant messaging, and social networking” can make teenage girls more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. This landmark discovery sampled a whopping 83 teenage girls.

computer useThe results of their tests, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, showed that the girls who excessively talked with their friends about their issues had significantly higher levels of depression. Today’s online tools provide even more ways for this to occur. Says Dr. Davila, “Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression.”

The problem with these electronic tools du jour is that they allowed the girls to discuss the same problems over and over again. This caused them to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.

–snip–

It’s not necessarily the medium through which the chatter tasks place that’s the issue – it’s the amount of discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. Said Dr. Davila, “[The girls] often don’t realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse.”

So we can conclude then that keeping your teenage daughter from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, and texting will help improve her mental health so she’s less likely to be depressed. Back in the day, I just wrote morbid poetry in a sad, lonely marble notebook. Alas, those days are gone. (pic via reviews-for-you.com)

On a related note, another study has discovered that teens who watch TV for long periods of time are more likely to be depressed. (Does nearly everything cause an increased risk of depression these days?) The study tracked over 4,000 teenagers and their TV-watching habits. The conclusion? Seven years later, participants were more likely to be depressed and the risk increase with each hour of television exposure. Perhaps it’s because TV creates an unrealistic perception of how a person should look and act and how life should be. Although researchers of the study did note that exposure to electronic media yielded the same result.

PregnantOn the Christian tip, I need to once again dispel this nasty rumor that the MOTHERS Act is intent on drugging pregnant women (and thereby the baby) to oblivion. (I addressed this issue around this time last year once again from Christians who think some left-wing liberal nuts are out to “indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of mothers into taking dangerous psych drugs.”) Once again, I need to repost the goal of the MOTHERS Act as stated in the original bill:

To ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services, and to increase research at the National Institutes of Health on postpartum depression.

The legislation is only intended to increase the resources for screening of mental issues in women. Women will NOT be forced to take medication if they do not want it.

In the Congressional findings, medication is mentioned only as a form of treating PPD. That’s not directly encouraging new moms to take drugs; it’s encouraging them to seek treatment, whether it be therapy or some other course. Not every new mom will need therapy, hospitalization, or medication, and this bill is far from attempting to “indoctrinate” moms with psych drugs. Also, the bill only mentions “medication” once. It does not even use the word “drug.”

It’s unfortunate to hear stories of women who suffered miscarriages or acted erratically as a result of medication. However, postpartum depression has become such a prevalent issue that proper screening — not necessarily medication — is needed. And the mother in conjunction with her doctor must make an informed and appropriate decision on how to proceed with treating her mental health. A great resource on the MOTHERS Act can be found at Postpartum Progress where blogger Katherine Stone vigilantly monitors the progress of this bill and clearly lays out what the bill entails:

  • Encouraging Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate and continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum conditions.
  • Encouraging a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness and knowledge of postpartum depression and psychosis.
  • Requiring the Secretary of HHS to conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  • Creating a grant program to public or nonprofit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.  Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Although a vote on the act was blocked in the Senate in September, Sen. Robert Menendez of NJ has reintroduced the bill, championing the cause for PPD awareness at the federal level.

And on a humorous note, if you are single and mentally ill, you can go to TrueAcceptance.com and find someone who suffers from mental illness just like you. That’s right, TrueAcceptance matches the mentally ill with… the mentally ill. The premise is based on the idea that matching people who both suffer from mental illness are more likely to understand and support each other. The idea amuses me but I’d be too afraid that being with someone else who suffers from mental illness would end up being an enabler. (via Fox News)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I decided to publish a “Loose Screws Mental Health News” post even though I said a few weeks back I wouldn’t do it anymore. Eh, can I change my mind? “Yes I can.”


newbornAccording to the Journal of Psychiatric Research and the British Journal of Psychiatry, women who had abortions suffered from more mental problems than women who did not. However, a report from the American Psychological Association asserts that there is no connection between abortion and mental health issues. (via CBN News; photo from solarnavigator.net)

I can’t imagine that there is no connection. Considering an abortion is stressful enough. I would think actually following through with it would induce a whole new set of problems.

I’m sure Liz Spikol has probably linked to this article already but the Philadelphia Weekly had a great cover story about a man’s struggle to take care of his mentally ill older brother who has bipolar disorder with psychosis. It’s a long read but well worth it and very touching. It reminded me a little bit of what my mother and I went through with my father which made me very empathetic.

An article in the Daily Mail reports that some scientists think depression can be good for people:

There are, they say, more benefits from the blues. Being sad can leave victims stronger, better able to cope with life’s challenges, and can lead to great achievements.

And their claims may stack up historically with Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Isaac Newton and Beethoven all suffering from some form of depression.

A growing number of psychiatrists are now questioning whether doctors and drug companies are too keen to treat the condition with pills that may have side effects and also harm the evolution of human emotion.

I think there’s some truth to that and I wholeheartedly agree with the third paragraph. However, I wonder if they’re simply addressing normal depression aka “the blues” rather than clinical or chronic depression.

Happiness Flash!

From Self magazine, May 2001:

Startling suicide news Wealthy people with a history of mental illness are more likely to kill themselves than those is lower income brackets, says a study in the British Medical Journal. Greater stigma about mental health problems may lead to the higher suicide rate among the well-to-do. [emphases not mine]

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.

Do I have bipolar disorder because my father had schizophrenia?

According to researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may have common genetic causes. Researchers studied 9 million Swedish people during a 30-year period and discovered that "relatives of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder had an increased risk of both disorders." The study may also suggest that "the two conditions may simply be different manifestations of the same disease."

The article from Reuters also points out that Seroquel and Zyprexa are used to treat both disorders, which may lead people in the psychiatric industry to further investigate the link between the two illnesses. Here are some interesting discoveries from the study:

 *  First-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or offspring) of people with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were at increased risk for both of these conditions.

 * If a sibling had schizophrenia, full siblings were nine times more likely than the general population to have schizophrenia and four times more likely to have bipolar disorder.

 * If a sibling had bipolar disorder, they were eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder and four times more likely to have schizophrenia.

 * Half siblings who shared the same mother were 3.6 times more likely to have schizophrenia if their half sibling had schizophrenia and 4.5 times more likely to have bipolar disorder if their half sibling had bipolar disorder. Half siblings who shared the same father had a 2.7-fold increase in schizophrenia risk and a 2.4-fold increase in bipolar disorder.

 * Adopted children with a biological parent with one of the disorders had a significant increase in risk for the other.

Creepy. My father's schizophrenia didn't begin to manifest itself until he was in his 40s. The same is true for my two other aunts as well. It may be silly but I live in fear that I may have the same problem. I'll eventually get a psychiatric advance directive in place just in case that day ever comes. After seeing three family members with debilitating schizophrenia/paranoia, sometimes it gets to the point where the benefits of being drugged up outweigh the risks.

Mood rating: 6

Loose Screws Mental Health News No More

For the past 2+ years, I've had a feature called Loose Screws Mental Health News (LSMHN) in which I compiled various news and events relating to mental health and provided my take on it. Since I'm working on a professional website where I hope to do something similar (under a different title, different name, and much less snarkiness), I'm discontinuing the publication of it here.

While I still intend to comment on some of these stories (like an upcoming post on how the FDA refutes the Singulair-suicide link), they'll likely be limited to one post at a time.

Update as of 2/16/09: It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind.

This Girl’s Biblical View: Introduction

During my conversation with Natalie two nights ago, she emphasized infusing her brain with Bible verses and Scriptural passages and encouraged me to do the same. Finally, a thought came to me that a good way of constantly keeping myself in step with the Bible would be to meditate on God’s word. I know all about creating 3 x 5 index cards to help memorize Bible verses but I think a great way for me to really absorb some of the principles that I read would be to post a Bible verse and reflect on:

    1. What I think it means
    2. What it means to me
    3. How it has impacted or can impact my life

      Open BibleWhile the Bible is no cure-all (nothing currently in this world is!), I believe God’s word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

      I plan on trying to make this a weekly thing, hopefully for publication each Wednesday. I don’t promise to be perfect but I think doing this over the coming weeks (maybe even months!) will deepen and strengthen my relationship with God and others and will help me to overcome some associated behavioral issues (ie, fear, anxiety, etc.).

      Emotional eating, Part 3

      Now getting back to my current issue…

      I am currently bouncing between 152 and 157 these days — a range I’m not particularly satisfied with. While my long-shot goal is 130-140 lbs, my current (and realistic) goal is 140-145 lbs. All I need is to fit in my pants. I don’t have money to buy new ones and the current ones I have in rotation are either uncomfortable or too dressy (read: formerly a corporate America drone).

      Why am I having such a hard time? Well, other than the fact that I don’t get much cardio in, I’m also terrible about controlling my diet. (I’ve been playing the Wii religiously for about 30-60+ mins each day but it doesn’t seem to be doing much for the scale.)

      dessertI indulge myself in anything I want: cupcakes; cake batter ice cream; pound cake topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries laden in syrup, drizzled with caramel and decorated with whipped cream on the sides. I’m trying to teach myself discipline, but an undisciplined person trying to teach herself discipline is a recipe for failure.

      But I’m trying.

      I’ve been successful at times. For a while I was addicted to cinnamon buns sold at UPenn bookstore’s cafe. They were (and probably still are) absolutely delicious. Somehow — and I don’t know how I talked myself into this — I looked at them one day and said, “You know, those are disgusting. They’re topped with all that icing. That huge bun underneath the icing is nothing but carbs and does you no good. You don’t like it anymore. Don’t eat it.”

      I haven’t touched a cinnamon bun since.

      It’s strange how I’ve been able to use that psychology on some food items but not on others. Let me tell you, how I’d love to give up my addiction to cakes and cupcakes. I can’t eat chocolate but I find  plenty of other things to take its place: strawberry shortcakes, strawberry sundaes, the Strawberry-Banana Rendezvous with cake batter ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery, carrot cakes, and Krispy Kreme donuts drenched in its original glaze icing. You can probably tell now why I can’t seem to dip below 150 lbs.

      I want to stop. But each night, the ice cream place down the street beckons my name. Every morning, the bakery’s aroma wafts across the street and into the windows of my apartment, taunting me to defy the scale one more time for a temporary delight. There’s a diner that has dessert that is so good, I need to avoid eating there or else it becomes a requirement to indulge in after my entreé.

      I’ve tried eating strawberries and grapes — natural sweets that should satisfy my sweet tooth. Grapes seem to make me hungrier and strawberries alone just don’t seem to cut it. I have tiny dessert cups used for individual shortcake servings but I’ve decided recently to cut them out to save calories.

      I guess that it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to calorie-counting.

      Goya riceI’m also trying to rid myself of my carb addiction. People from the Caribbean are notorious for their staples of rice and beans. As a product of Caribbean parents, I simply cannot live without rice. I can easily forgo meat if I can get my hands on some good rice and beans.

      I don’t mind most veggies but trying to incorporate them into every single meal is incredibly difficult for me. And a house salad for lunch satisfies my hunger like a sip of water… that is to say, not at all.

      So I’m currently faced with a dilemma. I need to stop eating so much and eat the right kind of food so I can lose weight. Because I lack discipline and feel hopeless and discouraged, I continue to overeat (American portions are larger than necessary) and indulge in dessert each night, continuing my slow trend toward weight gain.

      My mental health suffered much less when I was 140 lbs. I looked good and felt good. There’s something to the saying that the physical contributes to the spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. Mind, body, and soul — they truly are all connected.

      Celebrity Sensitivity: Joe Pantoliano & Blake Fielder-Civil

      Actor Joe Pantoliano, best known for his roles in The Goonies and The Sopranos, has recently admitted to struggling with depression. He didn’t tell anyone up until 3 years ago. When a close friend committed suicide, the event prompted him to seek help. He has begun the site No Kidding, Me Too to help fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage others to get help.

      Blake Fielder-CivilAlso in depression news, Amy Winehouse’s troubled husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, has been receiving counseling in prison due to worry that Winehouse is still abusing drugs.

      “Blake is on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” a prison insider told The Sun. “He has stopped his mopping job, which may sound funny, but it gave him something to do. Instead he mopes around his cell.

      Something tells me that Fielder-Civil is not taking drugs — antidepressants, of course — in prison.

      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?

      Celebrity Sensitivity: Juliana Hatfield & George Michael

      Juliana HatfieldJuliana Hatfield, a singer who enjoyed great success in the 1990s, expressed frustration with the PR machine that covered up her bout with severe depression. So severe that she canceled a European tour. Her publicist spread word that she was suffering from “nervous exhaustion.” However, Hatfield reveals:

      [My depression was] so unbearable that I was going to jump out of a window to get away from it . . . I needed to check myself into some kind of psychiatric-treatment facility.

      I wondered why my publicist hadn’t simply told everyone the plain truth . . . instead of issuing such a vague, all-purpose ‘nervous exhaustion’ line, which . . . as far as I know isn’t even a real diagnosis.

      Hatfield, who has an album due out in mid-August, appears to have sacrificed long-term mainstream success in exchange for her mental well-being. Given the choice she had to make, I’m sure she couldn’t be happier.

      (Hat tip: Powerline A.D.)

      On another note, George Michael (who is currently on tour) recently divulged his 20-year battle with depression on Good Morning America. He attributed his music to helping him cope with such events as the deaths of his boyfriend and his mother.

      A thought on Mad Pride

      Maybe I’ve got the whole Mad Pride thing all wrong but I’m not proud of anything I’m dealing with. I just hope I can share my experience and knowledge to help others. Perhaps Mad Pride means being proud to be an activist on this issue?

      More Famous People With Mental Illness

      The local NAMI chapter has literature all over a counter at my local library. One of the pieces of literature actually was a 5×7 index card with a list of famous people who struggled with mental illness. It was kind of interesting so I figured I’d share it. Some I’d already known about; others were a bit of a surprise. How did they figure out who had bipolar disorder back in the 1800s?

      Read the rest of this entry »

      2-Year Anniversary: The Long and Winding Road

      I’m aware that my blog has taken a significantly dark turn.  This may alienate some of my readers who seek happier, brighter topics. I don’t think my posts have been negative; on the contrary, I think they’ve been positive. Positive and educational.

      I’ve been exploring the topic of suicide recently because it’s a subject that’s quite near and dear to me, now more than ever before.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      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?

      Read the rest of this entry »

      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.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      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.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      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:

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Celebrity Sensitivity: 135 Famous Celebrities and Their Mental Health

      The Pop-Crunch Show has a list of 135 Famous People Who Struggled with Depression. I sit on the fence and think that it should probably be retitled "135 Famous People Who Struggled with Mental Health Issues."

      But then again, we could throw nearly every celebrity in there, huh? I’m bummed that Tom Cruise isn’t on the list.

      Staffers at a Brooklyn mental hospital allow a woman to die

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

      Anonymity

      anonymous When it comes to blogging about mental illness, that’s something that I don’t want my name connected with. Sure, I’d like stigma surrounding the illness to be reduced but it still exists and I don’t want it to affect my chances of working at a decent company that would hire me if not for my bipolar disorder and history of depression and suicide attempts. I think of some mental health bloggers — Liz Spikol especially comes to mind — who are brave enough to post their struggles
      with their real names and pictures for everyone to know and see. And I’m jealous.

      Jealous that while Liz still probably suffers from MH stigma from idiots, she has the opportunity to be hailed as a hero in the MH community. I completely admire Liz because she’s been able to talk about her experience having through
      hell and back, especially on ECT. Her name out there raises awareness about theses issues and her presence in the MH community brings comfort to many people who are struggling with similar issues.

      Then there’s me, having to adopt the name Marissa Miller in the hopes that no one finds out who I am. (My real name is so unique that if it was Googled, all of my articles would pop up on the first page.)

      If you’ve started reading this blog recently, you haven’t read some of the 600 posts here. Many of them are pretty personal.

      • Being Brave: “I have much to say / And there’s much I haven’t done / But what does it matter / When death’s got all the fun?”
      • Identification: “Now, if I have enough fearlessness to face death, why can I not have enough fearlessness to face life?”
      • Suicide and Baseball: “[T]he truth remains the same. Not just for me but for all suicidal people: We don’t really want to kill ourselves, we just want to end our pain.”
      • You can do this:  “I sat in my car this morning with the ignition turned on, ready to drive my car over the bridge into the Schuylkill River. I was ready to run home, make the stupid “goodbye world” post on this blog, text my husband “I love you. Goodbye” and then ram my car into a divider on I-76. It’s the worst suicidal thought I’ve had since I ended up in the hospital in October 2006.”

      I wouldn’t hire me if I saw blog posts like that. Perhaps some people don’t get frustrated by the anonymity; I do. I don’t know if there will ever come a day when I can come clean about my identity and let the world know who this person is and what she really struggles with. God bless all of you who can put a real face to a name and still talk about deeply personal issues.

      Current Mood Rating: 5.9

      Light posting again

      POSTING
      Posting may be light through Friday as I’m proofing an ENTIRE website — medication-related, actually — and making all the web copy is correct, the links work, and that the design/layout isn’t funky. Since it’s a website, it’s a huge job and it may take me until Friday. Here’s an example (not the real site I’m working on) of the monstrosity of the kind of work I’m doing.  I’m proofing every single piece of text on every page.  Funny thing is, I don’t mind. I love what I do.

      PSYCHIATRIST APPOINTMENT
      I have my psychiatrist appointment at 3:30 pm so I might be able to get a quick post in to let you know what happens. He’ll probably be concerned that I didn’t take my Abilify, but I just stopped taking fexofenadine (Allegra’s generic equivalent) and have begun to drop weight. I don’t need Abilify to help me pack it back on it again. I can do it quite easily with the help of the amazing bakery across the street.

      COUNSELING
      I had counseling last night but will be going again next week. I usually go once every two weeks, but my counselor is concerned since I’m having a consistent reoccurrence of suicidal thoughts. Even when I’m in a good mood, I still think of finding a way to kill myself. That’s not depression so much as it is my negative way of thinking. However, it’s still cause for concern considering that dwelling on the idea could actually lead to another attempt.

      RISPERDAL WITHDRAWAL
      I’ve read a few blogs in which people are enduring Risperdal withdrawal. I have a friend who’s currently coming off of Risperdal because her blood sugar is so high. She’s been on it for years. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to take an antipsychotic. Doctors put patients on it for long-term maintenance when most of the clinical trials have only studied short-term effects.

      LAYOUT
      I’ve become dissatisfied with how narrow the layout is on my blog so it’s possible that if you visit the site, it’ll look funky every now and then as I play around with it and decide on one I like. I’m not an expert with CSS so I tinker with it until I’m satisfied. I’d like my text area wide enough to post YouTube videos and pictures without them getting cut off. Just letting you know so you don’t wonder what happened to your browser.

      FURIOUS SEASONS
      Last but not least, if you like this blog, then please go to this one and donate $1, $2, or $5. If you know me in person, please donate as well. (I made a plea about this last week.) That blog provides me with inspiration to keep on going.  You can donate to Philip Dawdy via PayPal, check, or money order. (I guess you could send cash too but that’s never recommended.) Philip’s blog, Furious Seasons, has helped many people in the mental health community including myself.

      The Bipolar Child, Part II: Childhood bipolar disorder criteria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      But I will now.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      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.

      This time, I'm NOT walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Analysis of "Depression: Out of the Shadows"


      The show is essentially Depression 101 – for those new to learning
      about the illness.
      As someone who struggles with depression (within
      bipolar disorder), I found a lot of the two hours pretty boring (90
      minutes on personal stories and about 22 minutes for "candid
      conversation"). The "a lot" comes from the stuff that I've either heard before or flies over my head, eg, how depression affects the brain, prefrontal cortex, neurotransmitters, synapses, etc. The personal stories were powerful: depressingly heartwarming. (Yes, I mean that.)

      My heart sank as I heard the stories of Emma and Hart, teenagers who were diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, respectively. Both were such extreme cases that they needed to be sent away for special psychiatric care. They are on medications for their disorders; the specific drugs are never mentioned.

      While watching Deana's story of treatment-resistant depression, I instantly thought of Herb of VNSDepression.com whose wife suffers from the same malady.

      I tried to listen attentively for the antidepressant that Ellie, who suffered from PPD after the birth of her first child, would be taking during her next pregnancy. It was never mentioned.

      My jaw nearly dropped to the carpet as Andrew Solomon, carefully plucked brightly colored pills from his pillbox that he takes every morning for his unipolar depression: Remeron, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Wellbutrin, Namenda, Ranitidine, and two kinds of fish oil. He might have even mentioned Prozac. He takes Namenda, an Alzheimer's drug to combat the effects of an adverse interaction between Wellbutrin and one of the other drugs that I can't remember. Solomon says he's happy. I'm happy for him and I'm happy that his drug cocktail works for him but I couldn't help but sit there and wonder, "Isn't there a better way?"

      While I thought the stories covered the gamut, in retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't interview a veteran or U.S. soldier to discuss PTSD. If the producers were able to fit in dysthymia, I'm sure they might have been able to throw in a story about a soldier who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts stemming out of PTSD. Considering all the stories coming out of the VA, it's rather relevant. It would have been more interesting than the Jane Pauley segment. But I'll get to that in a minute.

      As I listened to the narrator, I couldn't help but wonder what alternate perspectives could have popped up. For what it was, I fear none. This was a Depression 101 show — a program designed to either get people to fight against fear and stigma and get help or to open the eyes of loved ones to this debilitating disorder. I'm not sure how to slip in an opposing view on medication from a doctor without confusing or scaring people away. What would Healy or Breggin say that would encourage people to seek appropriate care?

      Holistic or natural treatment was not mentioned. It's not mainstream and it's not recommended by most doctors as first-line therapy. I would have been surprised had something been said about it.

      The depression portion of bipolar disorder was briefly discussed in Hart's story then Pauley added commentary about her personal experience in the remaining 22 minutes of the program.

      Pauley appears at the end of the show promising a "candid conversation" on the topic. The three experts: Drs. Charney, Duckworth, and Primm sit and smile politely as Pauley rattles on occasionally about herself. Some people might find her exchange endearing and personal. After the first 3 minutes, I found it annoying. As a journalist, I wish she would have taken the impartial observer approach rather than the "intimate discussion" approach. In my opinion, she seemed to have dominated the "discussion."

      It ended up being a Q&A with each doctor. Her questions were focused and direct. I expected a little bit of an exchange between doctors, talking not only about the pros of medication and treatment like ECT and VNS but also the cons. (Should I apologize for being optimistic?) Charney interjected into the conversation maybe once or twice but was only to offer an assenting opinion. Primm spoke least of everyone on the panel. I think she was placed on the show solely to represent diversity.

      There were no "a recent study said…" or "critics say such-and-such, how do you address that?" It was a straightforward emphasis on encouraging people to get help or for those suffering to get treatment. Pauley's segment didn't discuss any negatives (not with the medical director of NAMI there!). The closest the entire 2 hours gets to any cons is with ECT shock treatment and giving medication to growing children. The childhood medication thing isn't dwelt on. The basic gist is: Doctors don't understand how medication works in children but are working on trying to understand it and improve its efficacy.

      Forgive me for being negative. The point of the program was designed to give hope to those suffering. Instead, it just made me feel even worse. Thoughts raced through my head: "Well, if this doesn't work, then it's on to that. And if that medication doesn't work then I'll probably be prescribed this therapy, and if that doesn't work, then I'm treatment-resistant at which point, I'll have to do…"

      I hope the program does what it's designed to do and that's to get those suffering with depression to seek appropriate care. The one upside is that talk therapy was stressed. I'm a huge proponent of talk therapy myself. Let me know what you thought of the show if you were able to catch it.

      In the meantime, this depressed girl is going to cure herself for the night by going to bed.

      P.S. Is it really fact that depression is a disease?

      Depression: Out of the Shadows: Live Blogging

      I’m on EST so I’m watching the Depression PBS show. I’ll be live blogging about it because I have nothing better to do with my life. Probably no interesting observations but, like I said, I have nothing better to do right now.

      UPDATE: Jane Pauley doesn’t appear until 10.25.

      9.07 pm – Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon is sharing his story about his bout of depression. It doesn’t help that his mother, who suffered from a terminal illness, chose to end her life.

      9.09 – Dr. Myrna Weissman says that depression "is a biological disorder. It’s not all in your head."

      9.12 – The show highlights an adolescent named Emma who’s been struggling with depression since 5th grade. She began "acting out" as a form of self-medication. She ended up going to to an out-of-state psychiatric hospital.

      9.15 – Cut to an adolescent male, Hart, who has been suffering from depression since 6th grade. After going to a hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

      9.19 – Jed, a 20-year-old college student killed himself supposedly from undiagnosed depression. Dr. Thomas Insel says that suicide is almost twice as common as homicide in the United States.

      9.21 – Drs. Geed(?) and Casey at NAMI are using MRI to further research in adolescent depression. An explanation on the neurochemical brain functions in adolescent depression follows.

      9.25 – A narrative on postpartum depression begins. Ellie’s husband videotaped Ellie with the baby, Graham, shortly after his birth, and you could see the unhappiness of postpartum of depression on her face. In the homemade video, she holds her child while saying that she had suicidal thoughts the day before and wanted to die because she "couldn’t do this" anymore.

      9.29 – Cut to Shep Nuland, author of Lost In America, and explains the circumstances that led to his depression.

      9.32 – Dashaun, a member of the Bloods gang, suffered from early life trauma that led to his bouts of depression.

      This probably goes without saying but so far, the program is replete with different doctors, none of which appear in segments other than the first one they were featured in.

      9.37 – "When you gang bang, it’s just a form of suicide."

      9.38 – Segue to Terrie Williams who not only helped Dashaun write his story and helped him recover from his depression, but also suffers from a mild form of depression, dysthymia. Dysthymia is estimated to affect 10-15 million Americans. One of the symptoms is overeating.

      9.40 – Williams mentions that stigma of mental illness in the African American community prevents African Americans from seeking treatment.

      9.41 – Philip Burguieres(?), a former CEO, suffers from depression and discusses the stigma of mental illness in corporate America.

      They’re really covering the whole gamut.

      The hubby is getting frustrated because the segments are really just that – segments and they never fully finish anyone’s story but jump back and forth.

      9.45 – Back to Andrew Solomon from the beginning of the show. He’s currently taking Remeron, Zoloft, ZYprexa, Wellbutrin, Nemenda(? an alzheimer’s drug), Ranantadine(?), two kinds of fish oil. HOLY CRAP. (I think he’s also on Prozac but don’t hold me to that.)

      9.47 – We’re being walked through the neurotransmitter explanation.

      9.48 – Poor Andrew thinks he wouldn’t be on as many medications today if he had been on medication a long time ago.

      9.48 – Ooh, look! It’s Richard Friedman, the psychologist/psychiatrist from the NYTimes.

      9.52 – Back to adolescent Hart Lipton, who is in a special
      school that gives him specialized attention. He has bipolar II. He is
      on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

      9.52 – Emma takes one antidepressant and engages in talk therapy. She tried several different ones before she found one that worked.

      9.53  – The Narrator admits that meds in young people isn’t
      fully researched and may be a problem. He mentions the black box
      warning on antid’s.

      9.55 – NIMH docs are working on faster-acting meds for depression – as in 1 to 2-hour relief. Guinea pig patients were administered intravenous ketamine for depression. (WTF???) One of the patients, Carl, says he felt instantly better.

      9.58 – Back to Shep. Doctors suggested performing a lobotomy but a resident intervened and suggested ECT. They cut to a scene from One Bird Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which Jack Nicholson got ECT. Shep says it was worth it and that he began to feel better by the 11th treatment.

      10.00 – ECT especially works well on the elderly. A woman, Sue, who developed late onset depression at age 65 comes back for her 9th treatment of ECT. It helps her. Her husband says, "She’s back to her old self."

      The next hour of the show under the cut…

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Never seen a psychotic episode? Here's your chance.

      I came across The Happy Go Lucky Bachelor blog and found a very sad video of a woman suffering from a psychotic episode on a MARTA train (the rail system in Atlanta). I’ll post the YouTube video here but if the layout makes it look funky, go to the HGLB’s site or the youtube site.

      She is currently in jail awaiting transfer to a mental health treatment facility. The video reminds me that while there’s overawareness about depression, there’s little awareness, help, or treatment in inner city minority communities.

      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.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part I

      I finally sat down and read all those posts that I linked to about Bipolar Overawareness Week. I mentioned in my previous post that I feel like I had a contrarian view. Well, I do. Somewhat. Although it’s probably not as contrarian as I’d think.

      Let’s take my experience, for example.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Tardy Bipolar Overdiagnosis Week Post

      Ok, so I’m incredibly late on this bipolar overdiagnosis week thing (one week, of course) but a bunch of blogs that I know of have already blogged about it. In fact, there have been so many posts on it that I haven’t been able to read and keep up on them all. All I know is that a recent study came out saying bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed. In the meantime, read blogs that have commentary on the matter (most of the links from Furious Seasons):

      Furious Seasons — Study: Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed

      Furious Seasons — Making Sense of Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosis

      Furious Seasons — Major Researchers Support Bipolar Overdiagnosis Study

      Furious Seasons — Mental Health Month Meet Bipolar Overdiagnosis Awareness Week

      PsychCentral — Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed

      Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Recovery — Celebrating Bipolar Overawareness Week

      Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry: A Closer Look — Bipolar Overawareness Week Starts on Monday

      I’ll give many of these posts a read before I say anything about it. But as of right now, I’m sitting here with a contrarian view, believe it or not.

      The Last Psychiatrist—and my thoughts—on suicide

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

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

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

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

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

      Current mood rating: 6

      Calls for VA's top official to resign

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

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

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Loose Screws Mental Health News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Loose Screws Mental Health News

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

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

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

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

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

      Talk about stigma

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

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

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

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

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

      Explains why mental health news is so unpopular.

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