Loose Screws Mental Health News

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

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

Gianna at Beyond Meds provides here take here.


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Furious Seasons's Spring Fundraiser

Since its September 2005 inception, Furious Seasons (www.furiousseasons.com) has been a resource for many people who may struggle with mental illness or know someone who deals with mental illness. Author Philip Dawdy has shed light on the dealings of pharmaceutical companies and provided keen insight on today’s psychiatric practices. His investigative journalism skills have helped educate thousands of people. As a result of his blog, I am aware of the negative effects that antipsychotics – namely Zyprexa and Seroquel — can have on people. Upon learning of his experience of Lamictal withdrawal and from the comments of others, I am much more aware of the potential side effects I may endure should I choose to taper off of the drug.

In keeping with the title of his blog, Dawdy has begun to host seasonal fundraisers to help maintain his site and support the extensive research he performs for the blog. His site is read by thousands on a regular basis and he needs all the support he can to keep his work going and the site functioning.

If you don’t read his site (and you should), please go to his blog (link above) and read some of his posts. After you’re done, I’m pretty sure you’ll realize what an asset he is for the mental health community.

Then, donate. It doesn’t matter how much — $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 — whatever you can give! He’s got a PayPal button on his site (just like I do, ahem) that you can click on to support his work. If you’re not comfortable with putting your credit card info on a Web site, he also accepts checks, money orders… whatever will clear in the bank.

By the way, Dawdy has helped me out in the past (yep, he too clicked on my PayPal button and helped me out when I needed it) and I intend to return the favor. A donation to his site helps this mental health patient — and many others — in return.

Vote for Furious Seasons!

I nominated Philip Dawdy’s Furious Seasons site for Best Health Blog and Best Blog of All Time for the 2008 Blogger’s Choice Awards. I know many of you read his site and really appreciate his contribution to writing about mental health issues so please go vote for him! Voting requires registration but it’s entirely worth it.

It’s about time I voted for a candidate I wholeheartedly like.

Alaska's "clinical" trial of Eli Lilly over Zyprexa

Since I've been gone, a trial has begun in Alaska against Eli Lilly because of its off-label drug marketing of Zyprexa. Then, Connecticut recently decided to join a growing list of states going after Lilly as a result of the Zyprexa deal. There is so much going on with this case I can't even keep up.

But that's what we keep Philip Dawdy around for. 🙂

Today's lesson: Paxil and Lexapro are not great antidepressants

Dawdy at Furious Seasons wrote a post on an editorial in the LA Times by Summer Beretsky’s experience with Paxil. After reading her editorial, I’m reminded that my own experience with one antidepressant wasn’t all that unique. Her drug was Paxil for panic attacks; mine was Lexapro for depression following a 3-month (on-and-off) stint with Paxil. I’m struck by the similarity of our experiences; not only did the same thing happened to me but I was also a communications major in college as well.

Paxil had one pretty undesirable effect on me: I started to lose interest in just about everything. I stopped initiating social activities (who needs that sort of thing?) and was no longer motivated to perform well academically.

My emotions had flat-lined: I hadn’t cried in months, nor had I proverbially jumped for joy. I felt — nothing.

I can still remember sleeping in bed at home on a weekday when I should have been at class. It was 2 in the afternoon, around the time my copy editing class was to begin. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) lived in Kentucky while I attended college in New York. He planned to visit me that weekend but was getting fed up with my depression and listlessness. He called from work to tell me to get up and go to class. I mumbled on the phone, half-confused, and said no. He demanded, “Why not?” I said quite plainly, “Because I don’t care.” He said, “If you don’t get up and go to class, I won’t visit you this weekend.”

I replied, “I don’t care.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogs around the way

I’m catching up on reading my fellow bloggers’ posts (see Blogroll to the right), so if you’re not reading their site already, I’d encourage you to do so. Below  are some posts that caught my attention. Some might be a little dated.

Gianna at Bipolar Blast: Has a video up of Gwen Olsen, an ex-pharma rep who says that pharmaceutical companies aren’t in the  business of curing but in the business of "disease maintenance and symptom management." It’s nothing new but here are two quotes that caught my attention:

"And what I’m saying is provable is that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want to cure people. You need to understand specifically when we’re talking about psychiatric drugs in particular that these are drugs that encourage people to remain customers of the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, you will be told if you’re given a drug such as an anxiolytic, or an antidepressant, or an antipsychotic drug, that you may be on the drug for the rest of your life. And very frequently, people find that they are on the drug for a very long period of time, if not permanently, because they’re almost impossible to get off of. Some of them can have very serious withdrawal symptoms – most of them can have extremely serious withdrawal symptoms if they’re stopped cold turkey – but some people experience even withdrawal symptoms when they try to titrate or they try to eliminate the drug little by little, day after day."

"We have got to start making the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their actions and for the defective products they’re putting on the market. It won’t be long before every American is affected by this disaster and we need to be aware of what the differences are between diseases between disorders and between syndromes. Because if it doesn’t have to be scientifically proven, if there are no tests, if there are no blood tests, CAT scans, urine tests, MRIs – if there is nothing to document that you have disease, then you in fact, do not have a disease, you have a disorder and it has been given and has been diagnosed pretentiously and you need to get yourself educated and understand that there are options and those options are much more effective than drugs."

I’ve always wondered why doctors don’t run tests to diagnose any psychiatric disorders. From NIMH:

Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters–chemicals that brain cells use to communicate–appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.

If MRIs have shown that the people with depression have a part of the brain that functions abnormally then why isn’t it standard for all people diagnosed with depression to have an MRI done to confirm this? I have one of two hypotheses:  it’s too expensive to get an MRI done for each person and that insurance won’t pay for it or the abnormal functioning cannot be detected in the brain of every depressed person.  Therefore, is major depressive disorder really a made-up diagnosis?

Read the rest of this entry »

Bloggers are mental health watchdogs

Seattlest wrote a piece on Philip Dawdy and how he’s been tracking the story of a cop who was fired for being bipolar despite several years of stellar service on the force. I can’t investigate things to the depth that he can, but Seattlest has an awesome quote that I had to use here:

"It’s great that Dawdy 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." [emphasis all mine]

With the exception of the NYT, no one else IS monitoring the mental health industry for abuse of power. It’s pretty sad that organizations like NIH and NIMH, which are supposed to be helping patients, can be bought out. Can the mental health bloggers take down Big Pharma like the political bloggers took down, uh, well… Dan Rather?

Furious Updates

Furious Seasons linked to this article about an internist who forgot about an incident with an Eli Lilly rep — until recently. Great excerpts:

     "I was reminded of the incident last week when news reports emerged that Eli Lilly had reportedly urged primary care doctors to use the drug for elderly patients with symptoms of dementia. The company has denied promoting the drug for off-label uses.
     The reports highlighted for me the crucial role that internists and other primary care doctors play in screening for psychiatric illnesses but also in knowing when to refer these patients for proper treatment. Although psychiatrists are not always available and not all patients are willing to see them, doctors must carve out our areas of expertise in keeping with our training and experience, and depression and psychosis are simply not my areas as an internist.
     I tell [patients] that this cost-benefit decision [of prescribing medicines] should be made in conjunction with the patient's psychiatrist, not solely by an internist placed under pressure by a salesperson."

To read this article, you must register with the LA Times' Web site. If you don't want to do that, just type in the following to get to the article:
          E-mail: bugmenot@bmn.com
          Password: dontbugme

Read the rest of this entry »

Drugging of the Bipolar Mind

From Philip Dawdy's article, "The Drugging of the American Mind," originally published in the Seattle Weekly:

"Classically, the disorder is treated with a mood stabilizer. Lithium was long the gold standard. In recent years, there has been a shift to anticonvulsants like Depakote or Lamictal. Often, bipolars are also given an antidepressant like Paxil or Effexor to deal with bouts of depression. Until 2000, the mood stabilizer plus antidepressant approach was essentially the state-of-the-art treatment. It just doesn't knock down symptoms forever.

Bipolars can "break through" these meds and wind up having acute episodes of rage or suicidal depression."

Wow. The article was published just over a year ago and it describes me to a T today. Well done, Mr. Dawdy, for seeing my future.

"This is an awkward time for mental- health experts, researchers, and advocates. This month, a peer-reviewed academic paper was published on the Public Library of Science Web site pointing out that researchers still have not proved the serotonin-imbalance-in-the-brain hypothesis of depression. What proof there is, the authors claim, is mostly circumstantial. Two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article covering the same points in relation to antidepressants."

That was in November 2005. It's good to know that I'm not the only one that sees the neurotransmitter link to mental illness as merely a hypothesis and NOT fact. Many people don't know that at the bottom of each psych med Web site and in the important safety information sheet that comes with a psych med basically says, "We're not exactly sure how this works." Well, gee, thanks for allowing me to take a risk about something you're not even sure about!

Praise to Dawdy, amazing blogger for Furious Seaons,  for uncovering much of this information that most people in America don't want to cover or are too lazy to educate themselves about.

Identification

I identify with Dawdy’s article on a variety of grounds and many of his words have me thinking.

“Mostly, the suicidal show no clues that they are on dangerous ground.”

This is true for me only with people I don’t know. When people at work, friends, or family see me, they think that all is right in my world. I’m the type of person who keeps a pleasant expression fixed on her face and in general, has a bubbly, cheery attitude. (Co-workers, acquaintances, and casual friends would never know how negative and pessimistic I am.) If people found out that I struggled with depression to the extent of attempting suicide on 10 different occasions, they’d all be shocked because it doesn’t seem to jive with my “personality.”

People who really know me — those closest to me — know that when I’m suicidal, it’s extremely hard for me to not show. I withdraw from social contact, refuse to make eye contact, become extremely quiet or reply with a succession of short, one-word answers to questions, or corner myself in a seat or in bed with my head hanging down, eyes spacing off into somewhere. Those who know me should and can know when I’m suicidal. It becomes so obvious that I don’t need to say anything. I usually don’t tell anyone, but my body language speaks volumes.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Suicide Matrix

"There are three kinds of people in the suicide matrix: those who succeed, those who try it and live, and those who are hounded by suicidal thoughts—ideators, as they are known in the literature." — Philip Dawdy, "One Suicide Too Many," the Seattle Weekly

I'm both a suicide survivor and an ideator. I've tried overdosing on pills many times to no avail. I've also tried jumping out of cars. Each time, the driver has caught me before I could roll out into the street. Most of my other "attempts" have been strong ideations: drinking Windex, stabbing myself, shooting myself in the head, driving my car into a wall, jumping in front of a train, jumping off a high building — TO NAME A FEW.

I'm not proud of it; the list could go on and on. I identify with Dawdy's words in his SW article:

"In each case, there was little warning. One minute I'd be muddling through a weeks-long depression—wound up, angry, and lethargic all at once—and the next I'd be on the lethal precipice."

I can't really remember planning any suicides. I don't plan suicide attempts; the ideations hit me as an impulse. I become obsessed with the thought and I can't distract my mind. It's like a train headed full speed into a wall with no reverse gear.


This is me when I am suicidal.


My Latest Obsession
My latest obsession has been shooting myself in the head with a gun despite Dawdy's stat that "It is uncommon for women to kill themselves with a gun." I've never had access to a gun but if I did, I'd be dead by now. The act of pulling a trigger is final. So much more so than any act of suicide. A person can survive a stabbing, a jump, overdosing, or self-designed accidents. But once a person sticks a gun inside the mouth and pulls the trigger… it's difficult to miss. Survival isn’t impossible but not likely.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bane Of My Existence

Suicide stuck in my mind after I watched a health video on mental illness in school. I don’t remember how old I was — I could have been 11 or 13. I vaguely remember the video but distinctly remembering my brain going, “Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s what you should do to deal with your troubles!” Suicide has since been the bane of my existence.

“[Radio host Cynthia] Doyon’s suicide was reported in both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times. Neither newspaper has tackled suicide as an issue. …In 2002, a New York Times editor had a breakdown in the newsroom and jumped, 15 floors, in front of colleagues. Not one article about suicide as a public-health problem appeared in the Times… In 2000, a Times reporter jumped to his death from a bridge in New York. Again, silence from the nation’s most influential paper on the subject of suicide.”Philip Dawdy, “One Suicide Too Many,” the Seattle Weekly

Is it really that editors don’t want to tackle suicide as an issue or is it more that they are simply afraid of it? Is this one area of mental health issues that has become increasingly taboo even though statistics continue to show that it is a deadly killer, more so than AIDS or homicide?

Raising Mental Health Awareness

“Suicide is most often the impulsive act of a desperate man. … You can get to a point of desperately wanting to stick a gun in your mouth faster than you can read this sentence.” — Philip Dawdy, Furious Seasons blogger and Seattle Weekly staff writer

AbilifyMy husband and I recently heard about Abilify and wondered why we haven’t heard about it being more widely used in regard to Bipolar I. Well, of course, Abilify has some shady appearing data. Read Dawdy’s post for more info.

Dawdy also has written about suicides occurring in Seattle. He wrote a 10-page (by my count) story for the Seattle Weekly about 2 years ago on raising suicide and mental health awareness. He stresses suicides are not widely reported because the media tend to ignore them unless they involve a public figure, i.e. Kurt Cobain, Elliot Smith. What I understand from my journalism classes is that suicides aren’t reported in the media (TV, print, etc.) because editors, who make those decisions, fear copycat attempts. Reporting about suicide treads a fine line between reporting necessary news and giving readers unnecessary ideas.