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

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

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

–snip–

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

–snip–

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

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

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

Read the entire article.

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.

Mental illness trend on the rise among troops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose Screws Mental Health News

In Deutsches Arzteblatt International, a medical health online journal, two researchers contend that depression in children can be manifested through “weeping, irritability, or defiance.” Professor Claudia Mehler-Wex and Dr. Michael Kolch point out the ways to spot depression in children of various ages:

The signs of depression in infants are often screaming, restlessness, and weeping attacks for no clear reason. Preschool children may behave irritably and aggressively, while schoolchildren may be listless and apathetic. The symptoms in adolescents become similar to those in adults.

I’m no professor, doctor, researcher, scientist or expert but here’s what I can tell you: Much of this behavior is normal for children. Infants scream, become restless, and weep because they want attention. Preschoolers can be irritable and aggressive because they didn’t get their nap time. Schoolchildren may be “listless and apathetic” because they don’t like school or they don’t get to play as often. Adolescents are a bit trickier – they’re basically young adults at this point and it’s difficult to tell whether they’re enduring teenage angst or true depression.

But the point of the article is how depression in children is different than that of adults. It is estimated that nearly “3.5% of children and 9% of adolescents in industrial countries are depressive.” It’s scary to think that INFANTS are included in the 3.5% figure.


Golden Gate Bridge Phone: Out of ServiceA man jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in a suicide attempt and survived. Apparently, the GGB is a popular place for people to commit suicide:

Last summer, Marin County Coroner Ken Holmes released findings from a 10-year study on suicide trends from the Golden Gate Bridge. In his report, Holmes found that 206 people plunged to their deaths from 1997 to 2007, including 59 San Francisco residents, a group that formed the largest percentage — 29.6 — of the jumpers.

Check out the photo to the left. I think it’s incredibly helpful how the government keeps things running these days.

(Image from SFist)

Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Depression: Theory or fact?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogs vs. Mainstream Media

“Mr. [James B.] Gottstein, [a lawyer from Alaska, who was pursuing unrelated litigation for mentally ill patients in his state], sends [Dr. David Egilman, a consulting witness in ongoing litigation against Lilly] a subpoena for copies. Hell begins breaking loose.” – Tom Zeller, Jr. in The New York Times

I think Furious Seasons originally linked to this (I can’t remember the source of the post), but I read this on the NYT and had a few thoughts, regarding brick-and-mortar courts vs. “teh Internets.”

Warning: Rant ahead.

I can’t help but think back to the 2004 showdown between Dan Rather and CBS (endearingly named Rathergate) vs. political blogs regarding a memo about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. From NewsMax:

“Added [Matthew] Sheffield [of RatherBiased.com]: A virtual think-tank was born… Forty-seven posts later, a person who called himself ‘Buckhead’ offered the proposition that he thought the documents were forgeries.’

Sheffield and his Web site jumped on the bandwagon, searching the Web for experts on 1970’s typewriters. Another blogger site, PowerlineBlog.com, raised the question of forgery. ‘Matt Drudge and his DrudgeReport.com then linked to the Powerline piece, and the story took off,’ recounted Sheffield.”

Someone please tell Drudge about Zyprexa, Risperdal, Cymbalta, Seroquel, Abilify, and blah blah blah, psych med, blah blah blah.

“Some media observers now contend the “Blogosphere” is rapidly replacing CBS and the rest of the mainstream media.

“You’ll note that several blogs rank higher than mid-size daily newspapers and some are pushing the sites of papers in the top 50 (by daily circulation). The data suggest that the question isn’t “When will blogs arrive?” but rather “Blogs HAVE arrived, what now?” [said Kevin Aylward of Wizbangblog.]”

I’ll probably have a string of quotes from the newsmax article, but I will eventually get to my point.

I quoted this previously, but it’s worth requoting:

“It’s great that [Philip] Dawdy [of Furious Seasons] has stepped up for a huge, mainly voiceless population, but on the other hand, it’s weird to see citizen journalists so responsible for watchdogging our mental health industry. When we hear newspapers complain about declining readership, we can’t help but think it’s mainly because — gosh, this is awkward — the shit they’re reporting on isn’t newsworthy. And this shit is.” – Seattlest

Read the rest of this entry »

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Yeah – the copy editor in me wants to try “Loose Screws News.” For now.

Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry is among many of my favorite blogs to read. In this particular post, he rips on Eli Lilly’s zyprexafacts.com, which was set up in response to NYT articles that alleged Lilly drug reps pushed Zyprexa to physicians for off-label uses. I hope to just have a stupid ol’ time and rip on each Eli Lilly press release in response to each NYT article, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve already got one lined up with notes scribbled on the printout; I just need to transfer it into electronic form. (Oh, the joys of being a transit commuter.)

Liz Spikol linked to an article originally published in bp magazine about how difficult marriages are when one spouse suffers from bipolar disorder. The saddest statistic I’ve ever read:

“In the United States and Canada, at least 40 percent of all marriages fail. But the statistics for marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder are especially sobering—an estimated 90 percent of these end in divorce, according to a November 2003 article, ‘Managing Bipolar Disorder,’ in Psychology Today.”

Um, joy considering that I’m I suffer from bipolar and have been married for just over a year now. This strikes incredible fear in my heart. It’s not that we don’t love and care for each other, but I can only imagine how much a spouse who doesn’t suffer from bipd can take. I hate to say it, but I keep waiting for my husband to walk out on me. Not because I’m pessimistic (OK, I am, but that’s beside the point), but because I fear that he’ll reach a point where he’ll say, “I can’t take anymore of this! I’ve dealt with this for 10 years and nothing’s changed, nothing’s getting better. I’m sorry, but I can’t be married to you and deal with this anymore.” Just waiting.

Kelly Osborne Retarded celebrity story of the day: Kelly Osborne suffers from depression because she’s so privileged. But hey! — she’ll pose for Playboy and get photoshopped so she can feel better. *gags*

If you’re mentally ill and fired for it, don’t bother suing. It looks like the mentally ill don’t have a case unless there’s a physical illness to somehow “prove” it:

“Sixteen years after Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with psychiatric disabilities are faring worse in court cases against employers for discrimination than are people with physical disabilities, researchers have found in a national study.

‘People with psychiatric disabilities were less likely to receive a monetary award or job-related benefit, more likely to feel as though they were not treated fairly during the legal proceedings and more likely to believe they received less respect in court,’ said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., a study investigator and an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.”

I’m not sure how to solve this problem. Psychiatric disabilities are less tangible and harder to prove than a physical disability. It’s easier to wage war against a company if you suffer from a bad back vs. if you suffer from depression. (Whether or not the bad back is a fictional illness is up to you.)

Another oy moment. (The Long Islander in me is coming back full force.) Got a pet that’s misbehaving? Put him or her on an antidepressant. Double oy.

New Zealand is being introduced to lamotrigine (trade name Lamictal in the U.S.). Good luck, bipolar New Zealanders. Best wishes.

And finally, a study has discovered that about half of patients who suffer from some kind of severe burn suffer from clinical depression. (Shouldn’t someone diagnose this as PTSD? That’s pretty traumatic, if you ask me.) While the finding isn’t surprising, the study highlights the need not only to treat the physical ailment, but also to address the mental healing necessary to overcome stress from the injury.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I need a new subject header for “Mental health news.” It’s so blah. I need something snazzy. Perhaps “Loose Screws News”? Okay, nevermind… That’s what I get for being a former copy editor. Renamed as of 2/16/2009.

A new study, published in the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology has found that women who experience chronic headaches, namely migraines, are four times as likely to report symptoms of major depressive disorder. Of the 1,000 women surveyed, “593 reported episodic headache (fewer than 15 headaches per month) and 439 had chronic headache (more than 15 headaches per month).” Migraines were diagnosed in 90 percent of the women. Author of the study Dr. Gretchen Tietjen said that more studies are being done to discover whether the a serotonin imbalance in the central nervous system is the cause of chronic headaches, severe physical problems, and major depressive disorder. (source: The Trouble With Spikol)

According to businesswire.com, the non-profit organization Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) will provide up to $9 million to fund Omeros Corporation’s schizophrenia program, which will help the completion of
Phase 1 clinical trials. Business Wire basically listed SMRI’s press release so I’m curious to do some research on SMRI and how this non-profit was able to obtain $9 million. I don’t know much about this organization but a non-profit organization funding a biopharmaceutical company’s program seems out of the ordinary to me. (This may be something normal, but I’m not aware of this.) According to SMRI’s “about us” blurb at the bottom of the PR, they state:

“The Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) is a nonprofit organization that supports research on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), both through work carried out in its own laboratories and through support of researchers worldwide who are working on these diseases. SMRI has provided over $200 million in funding since 1989.”

Whoa. $200 million since 1989 is not a whole lot. Where in the world did this $9 million come from? Do non-profit organizations actually save up money to blow on a worthy future project? (The cynical patient in me wonders if there’s a drug company like GSK or Wyeth slipping money through SMRI’s back door.)

Liz Spikol usually blogs headlines before I can even get to ‘em so I credit her with discovering the following three links:

According to the Delhi Newsline, yoga can help with cases of severe depression and schizophrenia. (Hm, interesting.) Patients who took yoga classes in addition to meds improved more rapidly than patients only on meds. The connection with yoga seems to be the relaxation component — outdoing counseling and “talk therapy,” which can aid treatment in a mentally ill individual.

Oy. UPI has reported that Swedish researchers have discovered that those who struggle with suicidal ideation have problems with nightmares and sleep problems. Of the 165 patients surveyed, 89 percent of them reported a sleep problem. Nightmares proved to be the highest indicators of those with a high suicide risk. However, lead author Nisse Sjostrom is quick to note,

“Our finding of an association between nightmares and suicidality does not imply causality.”

But

“Our findings should inspire clinicians to include questions concerning sleep disturbance and especially nightmares in the clinical assessment of suicidal patients.”

CPAPMy husband thinks I suffer from sleep apnea – he claims I stop breathing sometimes in the middle of the night. I’m going for a sleep assessment sometime in February so I’ll let you know if I come back with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.

I’ve had increased dreams (or nightmares, what have you) on these psych meds. I haven’t been excessively suicidal and I hope it’s no indication of more suicide attempts on the way. *sigh* Were any of the surveyed patients on meds like Effexor and Lamictal?

(ASIDE: Dang working in a medical industry! I’m becoming more familiar with unfamiliar medical acronyms.)

And finally, News 24 reports that children who suffered from neglect and abuse are more likely to develop severe depression as adults. The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, says the data specifically shows that “depression is a consequence of… abuse.” Um, who wouldn’t be depressed after such a traumatic experience? How do physicians differentiate between major depressive disorder (DSM-IV term for clinical depression) and post-traumatic stress disorder? Ah, once we get the answer, we can use it as a Jeopardy! question.

Docs don't prescribe enough antid's: Part II

I finally watched the MSN video that I talked about here.

MSNBC

As I predicted, it was extremely lame. It was a pitch to get on depressed people on antidepressants. The 1 minute 18 second video from Today stated the following:

  • doctors prescribe smaller doses of antidepressants than they should
  • depression is the most common cause of disability America
  • the “groundbreaking new study” says antid’s aren’t prescribed enough to be effective
  • medication and therapy can help 70 percent of patients recover IF they find the right combination
  • Casey Thompson – the lady above featured in the video taking pills (hooray!) – feels amazingly better after getting antid’s

The accompanying article also states that 13 percent of the 123 study participants who did not get better on the first three drugs they tried were helped by a fourth. If I’m correct, essentially 16 people were helped after trying four different antid’s. The article says 37 percent went into remission after starting Celexa (citalopram), made by Forest Laboratories. That would mean about 46 people saw immediate remission of symptoms. The rest – 77 people now – “switched to another antidepressant or continued with Celexa and added a second treatment.” The second round on the merry-go-round helped 31 percent of the remaining group: 24 people. Ok, so we’re now down to 53 people who haven’t been helped. The third attempt – whatever that was, the article doesn’t say – had a 14 percent success rate: 7 people. And the fourth attempt had a success rate of 13 percent of the leftovers: 6 people. That means 40 people were NOT helped by antidepressants are these combination of treatments. Therefore, “67 percent of the total group had been helped by one or more drugs.” Nice pitch.

Here’s where the Today video fails to educate its viewers:

Read the rest of this entry »

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Surprise, surprise — the likelihood of suicide attempts increases with antidepressants.

     “Suicidal patients taking antidepressants have a ‘markedly increased’ risk of additional suicide attempts but a "markedly decreased" risk of dying from suicide, a large Finnish study has found.
     “The research into nearly 15,400 patients hospitalized for suicide attempts between 1997 and 2003 showed that ‘current antidepressant use was associated with a 39 percent increase in risk of attempted suicide, but a 32 percent decrease in risk of completed suicide and a 49 percent reduced risk of death from any cause,’ the authors wrote in a report published in the Dec. 4 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
      “The Finnish study analyzed 15,390 suicidal patients of all ages for an average of 3.4 years. The authors said they did this ‘because previous suicide attempts are the most important risk factor for predicting suicide.’”

I think 15,390 patients is a sizeable, significant study that could probably yield semi-accurate statistics.

      “Among the 7,466 males and 7,924 females examined, there were 602 suicides, 7,136 suicide attempts requiring hospitalization and 1,583 deaths recorded during follow-up. The risk of completed suicide was 9 percent lower among those taking any antidepressants than among those not taking antidepressants.
     “But the picture was not so bright for all those who took SSRIs. It was for those taking fluoxetine (Prozac), who had a 48 percent lower risk of suicide than those not taking medication. But the study found that those taking another SSRI, venlafaxine hydrochloride (Effexor XR), had a 61 percent increased risk.”

So Prozac is better than Effexor XR in terms of suicidal risk. Nice, considering that I've had a 10-year history of suicidal attempts and this study seems to show that venlafaxine increases the risk of suicide attempts. Perhaps Effexor should be prescribed to those who aren't/have never been suicidal?

Read the rest of this entry »

Docs don't prescribe enough antid's

MSNBC antidepressants

What? Doctors don’t prescribe enough drugs? You have GOT to be kidding me. [I didn’t watch the report (work blocks access to this kind of stuff), but it’s probably way off regardless.] On a semi-rant, though, if 22 million Americans are suffering from clinical depression at any given day, do all 22 million REALLY need to be on antid’s? Seriously. It’s like pharma companies are in the poor house and need this NBC report to boost sales. (Ugh, who paid Today for this “free” ad spot?) (article source: Uncomfortably Numb)

Desperately Seeking Spikol

Liz Spikol found an article that says Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) could have been schizo. I diagnose him as bipolar with symptoms of psychosis. Really, this many years later, what does it matter? What could we do for him now?
Also from Liz Spikol, she mentions an article that now says ECT (electroshock therapy) is possibly bad for depression. Spikol has mentioned going through ECT in the past and has complained that it has impaired her cognitive functioning and memory. Looks like she’s no longer alone.

Supposedly, the hallucenogenic in magic mushrooms can help stave off severe OCD for four hours up to a full day with reports of effects lasting up to a few days. But there’s no definitive proof since the clinical trial was only used with 9 people.

I guess ya’ll should just head on over to Spikol’s blog because I think I found the last three articles from her. Here: The Trouble With Spikol

83-year-old man plunges to his death

An 83-year-old man in India committed suicide after reportedly telling his family that he was tired of dealing with his medical illnesses and "wanted to get it all over with." Babulal Shah suffered from severe depression stemming from failing eyesight, failing kidneys, and diabetes. Shah did not leave a suicide note and Indian police are treating it as an accidental death.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that Indian and Australian news are much more willing to report suicides of citizens much more readily than American news. Trolling through Google News with the search term "suicide" returns many reports of Indian farmers committing suicide over failing crops and money problems (aside from the suicide bombings occuring in the Middle East and Afghanistan). It’s interesting to see the difference among Indian, Australian, and American societies and why reporting suicides of normal people doesn’t induce copycat stories unlike America.

Alternative remedies

alternative remediesAustralian researchers are reporting what we’ve already heard before: diet and nutrition can help with depression. BIG NEWS! [sarcasm]

A number of nutrients, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, St. John’s Wort and several B vitamins, have the potential to influence mood by increasing the absorption of chemical messengers in the brain, Dr. Dianne Volker of the University of Sydney in Chippendale and Jade Ng of Goodman Fielder Commercian in North Ryde, New South Wales note in the journal Nutrition and Dietetics.

Volker and Ng go on to say that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid helps prevent depression. Sucks for me considering that I don’t like fish at all. Tryptophan, an amino acid found most commonly in turkey, is also suggested as an aid against depression. Once digested, tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which also may help fight depression. (Hooray for Thanksgiving!)

In a random stumble upon a new blog, I came across an article titled, “Natural Remedies for Depression.” The raging debate continues, of course. Nothing’s been completely proven in favor of anything. In addition to some of the items mentioned above, this article adds a few alternative remedies for depression:

Latest mental health news

Bebe Moore CampbellMalachi RitscherBebe Moore Campbell, an African-American novelist who was involved in mental health issues, has passed away. The NYTimes has a write-up about her and Liz Spikol has written a post in her memory.

Also, an interesting article: Malachi Ritscher, an activist who was vehemently against the war in Iraq, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire on a bridge to make a statement. Debate surrounding his death rages as people attempt to determine whether this was a man who was seriously mentally ill or extremely passionate about the war. Apparently, he’s popular enough now to get his own entry in Wikipedia.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ProzacIn a stunning turn of medication use, Australia hopes to prescribe Prozac to pedophiles like its European sister, the UK. Prozac suppresses sexual libido and in turn, will supposedly keep pedos in check.

Suicide prompts fundraising walk – According to Wylie Tene, public relations manager for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone in the United States dies by suicide every 18 minutes.

“I couldn’t make myself happy, and I couldn’t understand why,” said Rachel O’Connell, of Benicia. O’Connell, 18, knows that pain [of depression] well, but it was her own close call that drives her to walk and raise funds to help prevent suicide from claiming another life.  “I’m just happy,” O’Connell said. “It’s weird to think how I could feel that. It’s scary to think that I wouldn’t be here. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way again.”

Stephen FryBritish actor Stephen Fry admits he has bipolar disorder:

Fry hopes to raise awareness of manic depression and break some of the taboos surrounding the condition.

“I went into my garage, sealed the door with a duvet I brought, and got into my car … Sat there for at least, I think, two hours in the car, my hands on the ignition key. It was a … suicide attempt, not a cry for help.”

In a Lansing, Michigan paper, a family is using their experience with suicide to get anti-suicide plans into action. The end of the article cites some important, but frequently overlooked tips about how to tell whether someone is suicidal:

According to the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide created by the University of South Florida:

  • Early warning signs are withdrawal from friends, preoccupation with death, marked personality change and serious mood changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulties in school, change in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, frequent complaints of headache, stomachache and fatigue, persistent boredom and loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Late warning signs are actually talking about suicide, impulsiveness such as violence, rebellion or running away, refusing help or feeling “beyond help,” complaining of being a bad person and making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness. Other signs are a person who suddenly becomes cheerful after a period of depression or who gives away favorite possessions or who makes a last will and testament and says things such as “I wish I were dead.”

Lindsey LohanSomething I initially heard of on The Trouble with Spikol, I learned that Lindsay Lohan beats depression by slipping into stiletto heels and going shopping! Of course! Who needs anti-depressants when you’ve got shopping therapy?

Suicides in the Indian community in Malaysia are three times higher than the national average. Dr. T. Maniam, a university professor in Malaysia, cited poverty, high school dropout rates, alcoholism and physical abuse as reasons for the staggering number. It is estimated that for every 100,000 people, the national average rate of suicide is 10-12 people. That figure jumps to 30-35 in the Malaysian Indian community.

Philadelphia EaglesThe Philly Eagles’ J.R. Reed battled depression after suffering a leg injury that threatened to end his career.

“When I found out what actually happened I didn’t get out of bed for months. I was depressed. I didn’t even want to live sometimes. I had to go through a lot of stuff to get where I am now.”

And finally, Utah ranks seventh in the nation in prescribed antidepressants. But Utah’s patrons also seem more likely to seek medical attention, not just for mental illness, but for a variety of health reasons.