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.

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Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood test for efficacy of antidepressants in the future?

Scientists have found that a biomarker for depression could show whether a person's antidepressant is working. The discovery could lead to something everyone in the psych world has been waiting for: a blood test of some kind.

The researchers looked at the interaction of neurotransmitters and a protein called Gs alpha. In brain cells, the protein acts like a kind of butler, passing messages from neurotransmitters on the outside and amplifying their messages, [study co-author Mark] Rasenick explained.

When the protein is working properly, it's like a butler whose "hands are just flying, cooking and cleaning at the same time," he said. But when the brain is depressed, "it just sits there in the corner."

That's an interesting observation. This might finally explain the difference between "depressed" brain activity and normal brain activity on an MRI. (By the way, has anyone had an MRI performed for depression?)

Researchers compared the proteins in the brains of people who committed suicide as a result of depression to those who did not. "They found the protein would have worked less effectively in the brain cells of the suicide victims."

Dr. Gregory Simon conceded that doctors cannot determine which antidepressant will work for which person.

"There's a long history of research using patterns of symptoms or biological measures — chemicals measured in blood or spinal fluid — to predict response to a particular antidepressant. None of those hoped-for predictors have significant value.

[Genetic tests] would not eliminate trial-and-error, but it would reduce the waiting time with each trial. But it's a long way from a study like this one to a test that's useful to patients and doctors."

Good news for the skeptics about this research study: It was funded by the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But a test simply to see if an antidepressant is working has the smell of pharma somewhere on it.

(Hat tip: Ephphatha)

Loose Screws Mental Health News Rises From the Ashes

It’s good to be back.


A study for the U of Vermont concludes that anorexics have the highest rates of suicide. Researchers previously thought that their deaths resulted from their emaciated states. The actual article can be read at Time.com.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. But psychologists previously believed that those high rates of death were due to patients’ already deteriorated physical state. The hypothesis was that these are people already on the verge of death — they were so malnourished and underweight that even the slightest suicide attempt could easily lead to death.

Anorexia is usually seen as an illness rather than a psychiatric disorder. It’s good to see Time shedding some light on the link between anorexia and suicide. Making this kind of information widespread will definitely save  some lives that otherwise would have been lost.


On the topic of suicides, an 18-year-old high school student in Mobile, Alabama walked into a high school gym and shot himself in front of classmates on Thursday. There’s not much information surrounding this story but it just saddened me to read that a young man, perhaps with a good life ahead of him, took his own life away. While he didn’t shoot his classmates – he fired one shot up at the ceiling before shooting himself, I continue to remain dismayed at the trend of school shootings. No one is ever happy about suicides or homicides of any age but I think there’s something about school shootings that really speaks to adults. We like to think of kids – wow, I’m no longer a kid in comparison to them – as innocent and with a bright future ahead of them. There’s something about a school shooting that strikes a chord within all of us. The idea of school is equated with the notion of learning, growth, and development. It implies that students (for the most part) are not quite adults yet. JaJuan Holmes may have been a legal adult, but it seems that his unresolved issues were still viewed through a minor’s eyes.


laughterSeoul National University Hospital in South Korea is providing sessions on laughing your depression away. Many of the patients – if not all – suffer with depression stemming from their bout with cancer. For Americans and maybe even the British, the concept of laughing depression away seems ridiculous. However in South Korea’s culture, laughter outside of the home is deemed inappropriate, mainly for women.

“It was awkward at first. Yes, smiling is a good thing, but you know, I’m a little conservative. I sometimes still think laughing out loud is a bit low class,” [Jung-Oak Lee] said.

I’ve taken laughter for granted. I don’t know what I’d do if I was looked down upon for laughing out loud in public. That’s the last thing I want to worry about in a social atmosphere.

(Image courtesy Olson Center For Wellness)

A classic case of twisting the words of someone who supposedly shot the messenger

The subject title is long, but – I think – apropos.

The Treatment Advocacy Center’s post, “A classic case of shooting the messenger,” has been bothering me all day. I’ve been wanting to do further research on their claim that “patients with schizophrenia were 10 times more likely to engage in violent behavior than the general public.” Funny thing is, I didn’t have to look far.

The TAC links to a summary of the CATIE violence study and surprisingly, it contradicts the TAC’s post. I couldn’t help but chuckle once I realized I could easily debunk their claims from what they considered supporting evidence.

USPRA: “Violence is no more prevalent among individuals with mental illness than the general public”
Fact: The CATIE violence study found that patients with schizophrenia were 10 times more likely to engage in violent behavior than the general public (19.1% vs. 2% in the general population).

MY TAKE:Overall, the amount of violence committed by people with schizophrenia is small, and only 1 percent of the U.S. population has schizophrenia. Of the 1,140 participants in this analysis, 80.9 percent reported no violence, while 3.6 percent reported engaging in serious violence in the past six months. Serious violence was defined as assault resulting in injury, use of a lethal weapon, or sexual assault. During the same period, 15.5 percent of participants reported engaging in minor violence, such as simple assault without injury or weapon. By comparison, about 2 percent of the general population without psychiatric disorder engages in any violent behavior in a one-year period, according to the NIMH-funded Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study.”

This data is a little skewed here. (CLPsych or Philip Dawdy could do a better job at clarifying this for me.) First of all, “about 2 percent of the general population without psychiatric disorder engages in any violent behavior in a one-year period.” How many people does this constitute? The sentence doesn’t specify ‘without schizophrenia’; it says “without psychiatric disorder.” That means Americans who do not suffer at any given time from depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, and the list goes on and on. Can anyone compile complete data of Americans who suffer from a psychiatric disorder? (Why do I have the funny feeling that Americans without psychiatric disorders are becoming the minority?)

In the January 1994 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, results of the National Comorbidity Study were released. Diagnoses from the DSM-III were applied to the participants ranging from ages 15-54. The study found that 50 percent of participants reported “one lifetime disorder” and 30 percent said they had “at least one 12-month disorder.”

That was January 1994. The American population has grown significantly since then, so I have a hunch that there's an increase in diagnosing people with psychiatric illnesses. But like I said, that’s, uh, just a hunch. (Keep in mind that the study does not include children ranging from ages 4-14 who are likely to receive ADHD and/or bipolar diagnoses.)

Humor me: Let’s take the NC study’s findings and apply it to the current estimated U.S. population (assuming that the percentage of those with a lifetime disorder has remained the same). Out of nearly 300 million Americans (July ’06 estimate), that means about 150 million Americans have at least some form of a psychiatric disorder. If 1 percent of the general population suffers from schizophrenia, that comes out to 3 million people. If we apply CATIE’s violence percentages, TAC’s right; 19.1 percent of schizophrenic patients engage in violent behavior of any kind. However, the CATIE study also says that two percent of the general population without psychiatric disorder engages in violent behavior. That means out of the remaining 150 million, 2 percent of that would be —*drumroll please* — 3 million Americans! Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t seem 10 times likely. I could always be wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hypomanic Watch

Brainstorm Your Way Out of a Bad Mood

Feeling down? Think fast – literally. A recent study from Princeton and Harvard found that when people were made to brainstorm rapidly, they felt happier, more energized, and more creative. "It’s like taking your mind for a run," saus Emily Pronin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton. Test it yourself: Quickly come up with 20 ways to improve your health, or speed-read the newspaper and watch your mood soar. – Shape, February 2007

Sounds like a plan for hypomanics.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

A new Canadian study has found that most workers who struggled with depression had job performances were affected. (Nothing new here, right?)

“On average, the study says, depressed workers reported 32 days in the past year during which symptoms had resulted in ‘their being totally unable to work or carry out normal activities.’”

Seems like people really are taking ‘mental health’ days these days.


Bahrain is having a problem with Indians committing suicide in the country. In January, so far, three Indians have killed themselves. Triggers leading up to the suicides are theorized to be “mental or economic depression, stressful working conditions, low wages and poor housing.”


According to Dr. Brian Doyle, people with ADHD are at a higher risk for mood disorders such as major depressive disorder.

“In a recent study, 38.3% of individuals with a primary diagnosis of ADHD during the previous 12 months also had a mood disorder, compared with 5% of subjects who didn’t have ADHD.   The reverse is also true; individuals who have major depression are likelier to have ADHD than other persons.   In a Massachusetts General Hospital survey, 16% of adults with a primary diagnosis of major depressive disorder had a lifetime history of ADHD.”

Maybe I’m tired right now, but I couldn’t wrap my head around those statistics. Basically, if you’ve got a primary diagnosis of ADHD, you’re likely to have a mood disorder; if you’ve got MDD, you’re likely to also have ADHD; and if you’ve got a primary diagnosis of MDD, you probably have had ADHD for pretty much your whole life. That’s a lot to swallow.

“I am trying to screen more of my depressed patients for ADHD — especially if the patient’s depression is not responding well to treatment. The standard ADHD rating scales are a good place to start.”

I’ve heard it’s hard to screen adults for ADHD; on the flip side, I’ve also been told that it’s more difficult to find ADHD in women than in men. Dr. Doyle’s definitely on the right track here in keeping his eyes open for better ADHD screening. Perhaps I really do have ADHD.


While many celebrities are “outing” themselves on their depressive episodes, Dr. Deborah Serani’s got a list of other well-known people who have either admitted to or speculated to have experienced depression.


I’m late on the bandwagon with this but a study released in December shows that displaced women in Darfur suffer from severe depression. According to an article in Ms. Magazine:

“The International Medical Corps (IMC) posits that women’s multiple roles in society, along with constant stressors like low socioeconomic status, domestic violence, and the threat of rape when venturing outside, may account for the poor mental health of these displaced women. Women’s restricted access to education may also affect their ability to access proper care and make informed decisions about their own physical and mental health.”

And to think those of us in developed countries have problems.

“Almost one-third (31 percent) of women surveyed met the criteria for major depressive disorder while 63 percent reported suffering the emotional symptoms of depression. Five percent reported suicidal thoughts, 2 percent had attempted suicide, and another 2 percent of households had a member commit suicide in the past year. Nearly all of the respondents (98 percent) felt that counseling provided by humanitarian agencies would be the most helpful way of dealing with these feelings.”

It’s good to see that an overwhelming majority of women feel that counseling would help them. Sometimes, people in Western/developed countries take therapy for granted.

“Though depression rates are comparable to, or even lower than, those of other populations displaced by similar conflicts, the rates of suicide and suicidal ideation are ‘alarmingly high in contrast to general rates worldwide,’ according to the report.”

This, unfortunately, makes sense. Suicide is a reaction to ending constant pain. I admire women in Darfur who choose to live despite never-ending pain.  This article puts me to shame somewhat. I am incredibly blessed to have all the amenities of this country and encouragement and love from family and friends. However, I feel pretty stupid when I fall apart over minor things compared to the women in Darfur. It’s an awful cliché, but “I really do have a lot going for me; why am I depressed?”


ViagraFor men: Are you depressed and can’t get an erection? Don’t worry – Viagra can kill two birds with one stone!

A Canadian study (yes, another one) says that Viagra (sildenafil) can help improve mild depression and, of course, aid impotence in men.

“Dr. Sidney Kennedy and his team studied 184 men who had had erection problems for about four years and also met the criteria for minor, but not major, depression.

[After six weeks of treatment], the 98 men who received sildenafil had a 47 per cent reduction in their depression scores, indicating a change from mild to minimal depression. In comparison, men taking placebos had only a 26 per cent decrease in their scores, which remained in the range of mild depression.”

Pfizer’s getting their sales reps started on this one. Expect to see reps carrying Viagra brochures and info to psychiatrists eventually.

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.

Lots of studying to do

I don’t know much about the CATIE study (haven’t researched it yet) but feel free to go to the FREE CATIE breakfast symposium near you.

From the site:

Objectives:
At the end of these educational activities, participants should be able to:

  • Differentiate the clinical outcomes among patients prescribed the various treatment modalities in the CATIE study.
  • Choose an efficacious medication that improves symptoms in patients with schizophrenia who have failed on previous treatments.
  • Choose a tolerable medication to improve compliance in patients with schizophrenia who have discontinued previous treatments.
  • Individualize treatment for patients with schizophrenia based on history of symptoms, ability to tolerate adverse effects, and comorbid illnesses.
  • Discuss the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia in terms of efficacy, tolerability, and cost.

I’ve heard about the CATIE study from sites like Furious Seasons and Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, but now that I know it deals with schizophrenia, I’m interested in learning more about it.

CashIn other news, I attended a Bipolar and Depression Support Group tonight and received a presentation from UPenn on a genetics study they are doing to study bipolar disorder. They need 4,000 volunteers with bipolar disorder to help and they currently only have 2,000. If a person qualifies for the study, he or she will receive a $100 compensation. The study closes in December 2007. The following is some more information:

  • Individuals 16 and older with Bipolar I Disorder or Schizo-affective Diorder, Bipolar Type, are eligible to join this study.
  • Participation involves the following:
  1. Completion of questions
  2. A 1-2 hour interview (in person or over the phone)
  3. Small blood sample (drawn at UPenn’s expense)
  4. $100 compensation
  • The study does not change your treatment.
  • No travel required.

I can’t stress enough that people will bipolar disorder should participate in the study. Again, people do NOT need to live in the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania area to participate. People with bipolar disorder who live ANYWHERE in the United States can participate in the study. Please, let’s help make this study a success to improve treatment – not only for ourselves but also for future generations.