Sunday, December 19, 2010

Can You Tell Just by Looking?

The New York Post ran the following story:

"NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, 'Police responded to a 911 call of an emotionally disturbed person at the location. When police arrived, they observed the male sitting on the ledge talking erratically. Police Emergency Service officers were called, and the person was removed to the hospital for observation.'"

The "disturbed" individual, a trial lawyer named Mark Moody, is suing the city for $400,000, saying he was just taking a smoke break sitting on a window ledge, only 12 feet off the ground.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crisis Residential Facilities Cheaper, More Effective, than Psychiatric Hospitals

A Medical News Today article describes how "...the [new] study's authors found that participants in a consumer-managed crisis residential program (CRP) experienced significantly greater improvement on several interviewer-rated and self-reported psychopathology measures than did participants assigned to a locked, inpatient psychiatric facility (LIPF). They also found that service satisfaction was dramatically higher among patients at the CRP."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Now We Know: You Don't Slap a "Hysterical" Person has an article that brings up the fact that when Mel Gibson slapped Oksana Grigorieva for being "hysterical," that was not only inappropriate, but could do more harm than good.

Is it wise to slap a hysterical person? Absolutely not. Most psychiatrists avoid the word hysteria, because it's loaded with sexist baggage from the 19th century....

Slapping was a common response to so-called hysterical episodes in the 19th century. At that time, almost all women suffering from psychological problems like hallucinations, convulsions, sleep-walking, unexplained pains, or amnesia were diagnosed with some form of "hysteria," but researchers couldn't agree on what caused it. Some blamed syphilitic parents, others pointed to imbalances in the blood, and many just thought the women were faking illness to avoid their domestic obligations....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just in Time for Thanksgiving

They say that laughter is the best medicine, but the health benefits of gratitude are quite impressive. According to this Wall Street Journal/FOX News article:

"A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections...."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Over Half of Patients with Depression Give Up

Science Blog reports on a European study that reveals some depressing statistics: Out of a sample of 7,525 patients, the Catalan Institute of Health says 56% stop taking their medications within the first 4 months, less than 25% continue their treatment for more than 11 months, and only 22% complete their course of treatment.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gene Therapy Being Explored as a Treatment for Depression

A Reuters-MSNBC article describes a technique, which we are careful to mention is still in the experimental phase, offers hope for counteracting a gene (p11) that is linked to depression. We avoid using the "C-word" (cure) because depression may not have a singular cause, but anything that contributes to progress is good in our book.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Don't Tell Me What Kind of Day to Have!

Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking on The bottom line: beware of groupthink!

UPDATE: Dr. David Van Nuys explains the difference between positive thinking and the positive psychology movement pioneered by Martin Seligman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Congressman Patrick Kennedy Speaks Out for Mental Health

On the Today Show, Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, talked about his future life's work: mobilizing public support for research and destigmatization of diseases of the brain.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Blood Test Offers Hope of Detecting Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI, which affects 1.4 million Americans every year, has always been a challenge for doctors to correctly identify, as X-rays and MRIs often do not detect the damage. Now a blood test has been developed that claims to have an accuracy rate of over 90% for mild traumatic brain injury. This is such a new discovery that it may not be available everywhere, but we expect to hear more about it in the near future.

UPDATE: The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is doing cutting-edge research on a concussion blood test that can help identify closed-head brain injuries at a fraction of the cost of a CT scan.

"A team of Cleveland Clinic researchers, led by Damir Janigro, Ph.D., are developing a blood test that can help predict the seriousness of brain injury by detecting the status of the blood-brain barrier.

"If a protein (S100B) present only in the brain appears in serum, then the BBB is breached and the patient should be further evaluated.

"If measured within four hours of the injury, the S100B test accurately predicts which head injury patients will have a traumatic abnormality on a head CT scan...."

GlaxoSmithKline to Pay $750 Million Penalty!

MSNBC reports that this major pharmaceutical company is paying a high price for substandard practices at their Cidra, Puerto Rico plant (no longer in operation). One of the products of this plant was Paxil CR (extended-release antidepressant).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"It's a Lie to Think You're Not Good Enough!"

Nicholas Vujicic (pronounced Voy-a-chich) has become quite a motivational speaker because he refused to let a circumstance such as being born without arms or legs stop him from making the most of his abilities. He is far from being a wimp, but his video appears on You can learn more about him on his Web site, Attitude is Altitude.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ketamine Can Be Used to Treat Depression

EurekAlert reports that ketamine, also known by the nickname "Special K," is a quick and effective antidepressant that "restores connections between brain cells damaged by chronic stress." This medication for people and domestic animals, often administered intravenously, has been around since 1962. FuturePundit adds that this drug can be used to treat bipolar disorder.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When Understanding Is Not Enough

Michael Bader, D.M.H. has written a column in Psychology Today entitled "We Need a Practical Psychoanalysis." Here are the first few paragraphs:

I'm a psychoanalyst. So it was with great interest that I read Daphne Merkin's New York Times Magazine article about her forty-year history of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Merkin is a terrific writer, a brave observer of her inner life, and a lively critic of the professional cultures devoted to studying and healing inner lives. She found the New York psychoanalytic culture reassuring, even if not always helpful. She says:

"...aside from the fact that the unconscious plays strange tricks and that the past stalks the present.....[there is] a certain language, a certain style of thinking that, in its capacity to reframe your life story, becomes--how should I put this?--addictive....Whether [it does] so rightly or wrongly is almost besides the point."

For decades I've heard that it doesn't matter what theory a therapist holds, what his or her formulation about the patient might be. What matters, the cliché goes, is simply the presence of an attentive relationship. Merkin's variation on this theme is that her idealization of her analysts' wisdom and the rhythms and imagery of a psychoanalytic conversation have been more comforting than anything she's been offered in the way of interpretation and insight. The process, in other words, was more important than the content or outcome.

Now, my psychoanalyst colleagues certainly don't think this is true. It's important to them -- to us -- that our very extensive training (6 - 8 years after we get our professional degrees) has given us access to a special knowledge (transference, unconscious conflict, defenses, primitive mental states, etc.) about the human psyche that is vital to the success of our treatment. Unfortunately, psychoanalysis has unwittingly colluded with the caricature that its practitioners don't really help their patients, but instead foster 40-year treatments more akin to addictions than cures. I thought that Merkin's essay hoisted us on our own petard. And this petard is a big reason why I left organized psychoanalysis....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

John McManamy Dares to Ask: Why Not Wellness?

In his "Knowledge Is Necessity" blog, John McManamy, with his usual wit and perceptiveness, raises the bar as to what patients with mental disorders should be asking for.

"My last three blog pieces covered the main points I gave in a grand rounds to clinicians at a psychiatric facility two years ago in Princeton. There, I was accorded the same reception as Bill Gates at an Apple convention. Really, it went almost that well...."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"One Out of Five Californians Say They Need Mental Health Care"

According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 5 million adults in California say they need help with a mental or emotional problem, and 1 million are believed to be in "severe psychological distress."

These findings are based on the 2005 California Health Interview Survey; now it is believed that more people are in distress because of the current recession.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"They Were Expendable"

A New York Times-MSNBC article says that the Kreitchman PET Center, on West 168th Street in Manhattan, had to close down because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found out that this center for positron emission tomography (PET) scan research had given mental patients injected medications with unacceptable amounts of impurities.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Record Number of Army Suicides; Other Services Affected

An NBC News article by Jim Miklaszewski reports that the suicide rate among active duty, Guard and Reserve troops went up 12% in June (for a monthly total of 32), despite an aggressive suicide prevention campaign.

"The problem is not isolated to the Army. In 2009, 52 Marines and 48 Sailors took their own lives in 2009, according to a report by the American Forces Press Service. Air Force officials reported 41 active-duty suicides, a 12.5 per 100,000 ratio, in 2009...."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"20 Secret Signs of Addiction" has an article about the telltale signs of alcohol and drug abuse that should raise red flags if a family member or friend is doing the following:

Building up a tolerance
Hiding bottles around the house
Valuables disappearing
Being unreliable and secretive

Learn about these and more by reading the full article.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Free Online Book: "How to Find a Good Therapist"

Psych Central has a helpful guide by Ben Butina which starts out by stating: "Therapy works. It seems like such a simple statement, but it’s taken several decades of research to confirm that most people do, in fact, benefit from therapy. Some of this research has also addressed the trickier question of how therapy works. As it turns out, the relationship between the therapist and the client plays a huge role...."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pregnant Women Warned About Depakote

Psych Central News reports this disturbing finding about the commonly-prescribed anticonvulsant, which is also used as a mood stabilizer.

Children born to women who took the epilepsy drug valproic acid (Depakote or Depakene) during the first trimester of pregnancy are much more likely to have serious births defects affecting the brain, heart and limbs, a new study finds.

The review is published in the June 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the review, researchers first looked at eight studies that included nearly 1,600 births and identified some 14 birth defects that seemed to be much more common among the children of women who took valproic acid early in pregnancy.

Researchers then took that information and analyzed data from a large European study that included nearly 4 million births and 98,000 birth defects. They found women who took valproic acid in early pregnancy had two to 12 times the risk of having a baby with one of six specific birth defects compared to women who took no epilepsy drugs. The findings were similar when birth defect rates among those taking valproic acid were compared to the rates for women who took other epilepsy drugs, leading researchers to conclude it was the valproic acid, not some other epilepsy drug, that was to blame.

NOTE: The absolute statistics are not quite as alarming: the chances of having a baby with any of these defects is less than one percent, but women in the first trimester are advised to avoid valproic acid as a precaution.

Thought for the Day, Part 4

"The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions." - Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Real Men Do Seek Out Mental Health Support

This just in from American Forces Press Service:

"Twenty-eight Medal of Honor recipients recently launched the “Medal of Honor – Speak Out” campaign to encourage troops struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other health problems to take advantage of services to help them...."

UPDATE: To go directly to where the Medal of Honor warriors have recorded their statements on video, visit

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Americans Prefer Antidepressants Over Talk Therapy

An intriguing MSNBC-Reuters article describes how Consumer Reports conducted a survey of 1,500 readers, only to find out that 80% of patients were prescribed antidepressants, and that SSRIs (such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) were preferred over SNRIs such as Effexor [and its newer brother, Pristiq] and Cymbalta because of side effects.

NOTE: DBSA's position can be compared to a three-legged stool - we recommend that any person with a mood disorder should consult a psychiatrist for a diagnosis and prescriptions, use a therapist for discussing personal problems and working out coping strategies, and frequent support groups to be around people who understand your situation and can speak from personal experience.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Web Page with Heart

SAMHSA has come up with a new feature, "What a Difference a Friend Makes," which offers tools to help people with mental illness & their friends, a chat room, and links to other sites (including Spanish-language sources).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Humor Break

One of my Facebook friends, Chato B. Stewart, gets a glowing report on another blog, "Sugar Filled Emotions." Here's a sample of one of his cartoons:

Thought for the Day, Part 3

"The essence of true forgiveness Is the giving up of all hope of having a better past." – Gerald Jampolsky

Keeping Track of Things

One coping strategy that can be helpful to consumers, doctors, and therapists alike is creating a record, to include journals and mood charts.

David Oliver of recommends the following mood-charting system for persons with bipolar disorder at It's part of a research study, and the only personal information they have on you is your e-mail address, which is encyrypted.

DBSA also has a mood-tracking tool, which they call the Wellness Tracker.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Putting Your Poster Child on Display Doesn't Always Work

Dr. Danit Ein-Gar (right)

This may sound counter-intuitive, but an Israeli researcher says that the audience's psychological distance to the object of a charity needs to be taken into consideration.

"While the Sally Struthers approach — such as using a starving African child to personify the aims of the organization — may elicit an effective emotional response, this kind of 'victim highlighting' isn't always right when givers are geographically distant from the victim, the researchers found. And in some cases, says Dr. [Danit] Ein-Gar, it's not always appropriate. Child abuse and battered women's charities, for instance, need to protect the victims' identities. And in environmental NGOs, there are often no human victims — the victim is the world itself."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Federal Government Slaps $520 Million Fine on AstraZeneca!

A Swedish news source called "The Local" reports that AstraZeneca, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, has agreed to pay $510 million for illegally marketing off-label uses of the antipsychotic Seroquel.

"US authorities contended that AstraZeneca illegally marketed Seroquel for uses never approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as aggression, Alzheimer's disease, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar maintenance, dementia, depression, mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness." It was approved originally for the short-term treatment of schizophrenia.

UPDATE: A CNN article says the fine was $520 million, not $510 million, as previously reported. We are shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that the pharmaceutical firm was "...accused of violating anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to refer the drug to patients, while at the same time bringing in money from government health care programs."

Validation at Last, for Something You May Have Suspected

An Associated Press-Petside poll disclosed that 18% of pet-owning married men and ONE-THIRD of pet-owning married women said their pets are better listeners than their spouses! The article went on to say that most people believe their pets are mentally stable and rarely suffer from depression.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top 25 List of Psychotropic Drugs

Are the medications you take among the top 25? Check out this Psych Central article and find out. Here are the top 5:

1. Xanax
2. Lexapro
3. Ativan
4. Zoloft
5. Prozac

Food for thought: "The biggest declines we see are drugs that have gone off-patent, including Wellbutrin (a decline of 73 percent in prescriptions) and Paxil (which didn’t even make it on this year’s list). Strattera — prescribed for ADHD — lost 42 percent of the prescriptions it had in 2005. And despite Zoloft’s strong showing in 4th place — down from 2nd place four years ago — it also lost 28 percent of its previous prescriptions."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Are Your Complaints About Side Effects Being Made Part of the Record?

Science Blog has this startling report that starts with this paragraph:

PROVIDENCE, RI -- A study from Rhode Island Hospital shows that patients report side effects from medication for the treatment of depression [up to] 20 times more than psychiatrists have recorded in the charts. The researchers recommend the use of a self-administered patient questionnaire in clinical practice to improve the recognition of side effects for patients in treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Volume 71, No. 4, now available online ahead of print...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do Antidepressants Work - Or Don't They?

The following is the beginning of an article in Psychiatric Times, commenting on the Newsweek article of 8 February 2010:

Imagine, as a psychiatrist, hearing this story from a beloved friend or relative:

“I’ve been terribly depressed for the last month—can’t focus, can’t get out of bed, and I’m barely eating. Nothing really gives me pleasure anymore. I haven’t showered in 2 weeks. Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead. I asked my family doctor if an antidepressant might help. She said I’d do just as well taking a sugar pill, and it’s a lot cheaper!”

I hope you would be both alarmed and outraged by this doctor’s dismissive attitude. Yet if the doctor—or your loved one—had read the article on antidepressants in the February 8 Newsweek (The Depressing News About Antidepressants), she might well have concluded that antidepressants are largely worthless....

And here is Psych Central's rejoinder.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This may be dismissed as anecdotal, but I have seen how antidepressants have been life-savers for many people, and many failures can be attributed to lack of faith in the doctor or treatment, inadequate dosages, rapid changes in prescriptions (making it impossible to determine what effect a medication has on a person), or bipolar disorder (the antidepressant can trigger a manic attack).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Podcast on ADD/ADHD Available

Dr. David Van Nuys in the Wise Counsel podcast interviewed an expert on ADD/ADHD, Dr. Ari Tuckman, author of the book and podcast, More Attention, Less Deficit. He says that attention deficit (and/or) hyperactivity disorder is not limited to children and can complicate the treatment of other mental disorders.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Article on Mind-Boggling Psychiatric Treatments

Neatorama has some neat (in other words exotic to strange) psychiatric treatments that went in and out of style over the years: insulin-coma therapy, trepanation, rotational therapy, hydrotherapy, mesmerism, malaria therapy, chemically induced seizures, hysteria therapy, phrenology, and lobotomy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Often Victory Comes to Those Who Hold Out a Little While Longer

“We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” - Helen Keller

Although we are painfully aware of the limitations of motivational literature, this article in "World of Psychology" stands out because of the rather lengthy reader comment by "Allison" at the end.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Next to Normal" Awarded Pulitzer Prize

"Next to Normal," a Broadway musical about a typical American family trying to deal with a mother who has bipolar disorder, can now add a Pulitzer Prize to the three Tony Awards it has received, according to this BBC News article. Our sister blog, "Bloodthirsty Warmonger," jumped on the bandwagon early with this coverage, dated 13 October 2009. Or you can eliminate the middleman and proceed directly to the "Next to Normal" Web site.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Highly Sensitive People Have a Different Thought Process

Brain scan (left) - Highly sensitive (compared to less highly sensitive) individuals show greater brain activation in visual attention areas of the brain when making judgments of subtle changes in scenes.

SATURDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Because their brains process the world around them in a different way, introverted or shy people respond differently to physical and emotional stimuli than other people, according to a new study.

About 20 percent of people are "highly sensitive," an inborn trait that can be seen in children who are reserved, need little disciplining, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, explained Elaine and Arthur Aron and colleagues from Stony Brook University in New York and in China....

UPDATE1: Dr. David Van Nuys interviews a leading expert on highly sensitive people, Dr. Ted Zeff, on Shrink Rap Radio.

UPDATE2: Our main interest in focusing on highly sensitive people is that their characteristics frequently overlap with the symptoms of depression.

Note to Holocaust Deniers: Have You Talked With These Survivors?

MSNBC ran this story set in Shaar Menashe Mental Health Center in northern Israel. It has patients suffering from PTSD and mental illness caused by their experiences in the Nazi concentration camps.

Today about 220,000 survivors are still alive in Israel. About 200 are in Shaar Menashe and the other two homes.

"These are the forgotten people. These are the ones who have been left behind, the people who have fallen between the cracks," said Rachel Tiram, the facility's longtime social worker.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Enemy Is Closer Than You Think

Health Day reminds the public that we have paid much attention to the threat posed to children by strangers - but not to relatives and friends of the family, who are more likely to rape, molest, or otherwise take advantage of your kids.

"At least 85 percent of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by relatives, or by individuals who are known -- but not related -- to the child," study lead author Esther Deblinger, co-director of the Child Abuse Research Education and Services Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey -- School of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a university new release.

"But more than 90 percent of parents in our survey identified strangers as the biggest danger when talking to their children about sexual abuse," Deblinger said. "More than a third of parents failed to identify adults the child knows and more than 55 percent did not mention relatives as potential abusers. These are essentially the same mistakes parents were making 25 years ago."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Simple Facts on Panhandling

NOTE: These words of wisdom were written by a representative of a faith-based nonprofit in Colorado Springs; nevertheless, most of the advice applies to how to handle homeless people in general, many of whom suffer from mental illness. I could add from personal observation that most panhandlers are genuinely surprised when you offer them a chance to do some work or buy them a meal instead of handing them some money. Don't be startled or offended if they turn you down.

"The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems." - Gandhi

Focus – On what matters most

Execution – Making it happen

Lyn Harwell
Springs Rescue Mission

What do you do when you see someone holding up a sign, "Will Work for Food"? Do you roll down your window and give them money? Do you pretend you didn't see them? Most people don’t like to be confronted by the homeless - their needs often seem too overwhelming - but we all want to treat them fairly and justly. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:

1. Never give cash to a homeless person
Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol - even when the "hard luck" stories they tell are true. If the person is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage.

2. Talk to the person with respect
Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.

3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same
The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills...the list goes on.

4. Share God's love whenever you can
If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him. Jesus instructs us all in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.

5. Pray for the homeless
Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person's life. God can use your prayers and the brutality and the futility of life of the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.

6. Take precautions for your own safety
Some living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don't take unnecessary chances.

7. Encourage the homeless to get help through your local Rescue Mission
Springs Rescue Mission offers immediate food, clothing and shelter referrals to the homeless. We offer free year-long rehabilitation programs that deal with the root causes of homeless. Marion House, and Salvation Army are other local providers that can help the homeless. Also, in El Paso county, you can simply dial “211” to receive a complete local listing of agencies offering services to those in crisis.

8. Print out and carry this Free Meal coupon [distributed by Springs Rescue Mission and other nonprofits] to give away
This coupon can be given to homeless people and can be exchanged at the Mission for a nutritious meal and a safe place to get out of the weather and to talk with counselors about further help and assistance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

FAA Allows Pilots to Fly on Antidepressants!

A Wall Street Journal article announced:

"The Federal Aviation Administration will let some pilots who take four popular antidepressants [Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro] return to the skies, saying Friday that it is easing its long-standing ban on psychiatric medications.

"The old policy stemmed in part from concerns over possible side effects of psychiatric drugs, including sedation. But newer medications have fewer side effects, and pilots' associations have pressured the agency to reconsider the ban...."

Gene Mutation May be Linked to Schizophrenia

A Reuters/MSNBC article began with the words:

"A genetic mutation linked to schizophrenia appears to rupture communication between the two areas of the brain believed to be responsible for memory and may be an underlying cause of the brain disorder, U.S. researchers suggested in a study published on Wednesday...."

The connection with mood disorders: Persons affected by schizoaffective disorder have bipolar and schizophrenic symptoms, and this finding could affect the direction of research and treatment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where I Stand

Where I Stand, An Editorial
By Charles M. Sakai

You may be wondering, how can someone who’s a political conservative and can talk about the need for a strong defense all day long be a mental health advocate?

The explanation is quite simple: I am, above all, a pragmatist, more interested in what works than in any particular ideology. Both depression and bipolar disorder run in my family, and I myself have survived the agony and isolation of depressive episodes that lasted weeks or months at a time. That leaves two possibilities: I can either deny that there is anything wrong, meaning that those of my relatives who suffered and died because of these disorders did so in vain – or I can ask myself, “What lesson can we learn from our experience?” and try to make life better for people in similar situations as well as myself.

The fiscal conservative in me rankles at the waste of resources one finds whenever mental illness is criminalized. It takes more money to feed, clothe, guard, and medicate ONE inmate with a mental disorder than it does to fund the operations of DBSA [Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance] Colorado Springs for an entire year! And yet we have the potential to bless hundreds, even thousands of lives, so our operation is highly cost-effective.

I am not yoked to any single school of thought when it comes to treating mental illness. Unlike Freud, I don’t think it’s all about sex, and don’t always see the need to pry into the deep, dark secrets of an individual in order to help him or her. I do believe in treating the whole person, not the symptom, and that one must look at the patient as a human being with a genetic heritage, unique life experiences (usually of the dysfunctional variety), capacity for spiritual regeneration, and a propensity to suffer from chemical imbalances and/or defects in brain structure. I see a lot of merit in holistic medicine, as there is a definite mind-body connection that has been arbitrarily dismembered by traditional western medicine. So whatever works is fine with me.

My faith has instilled in me a strong sense of stewardship, not only for obvious responsibilities such as work, family, and friends, but also for the well-being of society. When I see someone who is poor, homeless, and struggling, my first impulse is to lend a helping hand rather than a kick in the teeth, thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I’m convinced that we are obligated to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves, and will be accountable to our Maker for any sins of omission.

On the other hand, I am skeptical of government programs. Even when they’re well-funded, they have a one-size-fits-all mentality and lack the flexibility to respond to individual needs. Any program that promotes dependency rather than self-reliance is bad for the patient. Furthermore, it is the nature of government programs to perpetuate themselves and grow indefinitely, unless action is taken to prune away the excess. And we all know that politicians are fickle, more interested in which direction the winds of public opinion are blowing than in providing support and direction to the cause of mental health for all. It will not do for these programs to go through alternating periods of feast or famine, because the problem of mental illness is with us every day!

It should come as no surprise that I am friendly to therapies and programs that encourage people to become independent, contributing members of society. But if there is no other way, I will urge people who need government assistance to persevere in applying for SSI/SSDI and medical coverage from Social Security, as they usually decline applications the first time around, no matter how impressive the documentation, to discourage parasites trying to game the system. Sometimes one may need to call in a lawyer to expedite the process

There is much we can do as individuals to further the cause. The basic building block of progress is strengthening the family. A history of abuse and lack of coping skills are common denominators for many “mental” cases. Also, a thorough physical is a standard procedure in any well-run hospital; your mental problem may not be all “in your head,” and could well have a physical cause. Be prepared to educate all those who are willing to hear and enlist their cooperation in your own recovery. I know, this is easier said than done, but this has to be our starting point. We also need to continue teaching, encouraging, and empowering individuals to where they can start rebuilding their lives. A greater challenge is educating members of the news media and even the medical field, as they are usually the ones with the most entrenched prejudices against people with mental disorders. It may sound like a harsh judgment to charge them with perpetuating the stigma against mental illness, but they hold the keys to changing public perceptions, and I have not heard them turning in our behalf.

Although I accept the wisdom of DBSA choosing to limit its involvement in the political process (leaving advocacy mainly to NAMI and other organizations), we can still act as individuals. So much attention has been paid to bad politics, corruption, and general sleaziness that we often forget that there is a positive side. By getting involved, we can see to it that the strong do not prey on the weak, and that our elected officials do not sell themselves to the highest bidder. These two undesirable situations seem to be the default position whenever the public slips into apathy.

Politics is a craft like any other. Regardless of what party you’re affiliated with, there are certain things that need to be done: literature to be written, printed, and distributed, hands to shake, people to meet, and relationships to be established. Above all, we must always be aware of the needs, dreams, and aspirations of the public. Before we can run candidates for elective office who are willing to promote our cause, we should populate the political parties with foot-soldiers who mingle with so-called “normal” party members and convince them that we can be contributing members of society.

Grassroots, letter-writing campaigns are another way to get the attention of office-holders. As long as each letter is individually written (politicians have gotten wise to generic, computer-generated letters or e-mails) they are justified in believing that for each person who takes the trouble to write, there are many others who are in agreement, but didn’t get around to putting their thoughts on paper.

The choice is clear: we can either keep spinning our wheels, and leave our fate to the decisions of people who lack understanding – or we can seize destiny by the neck and fight for the dignity, respect, and opportunity that are rightfully ours. We have the talent and organizational ability – what we need is the will and energy to sustain this effort.

(This essay was originally written for a conservative publication in May 2007, but is not partisan.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thought for the Day, Part 2

“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking.” Elayne Boosler, American Comedian and Activist

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thought for the Day, Part 1

"There comes a time in everyone's life when he or she has to stop blaming parents, circumstances, genetics, or plain bad luck, and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their own destiny!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Words of Wisdom

Henry Willey in Arizona introduced me to W. Beran Wolfe, who lived to be only 35 years old, but left a lasting impression with his book, "How to Be Happy Though Human." Here are some quotes:

1. "If you observe a really happy man, you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his child, growing double dahlias or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that had rolled under the radiator, striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of each day."

2. “People are unhappy because they look inward instead of outward. They think too much about themselves instead of the things outside themselves. They worry too much about what they lack-about circumstances they cannot change-about things they feel they have or must be before they can lead full and satisfying lives.

"But happiness is not in having or being; it is in doing…Choose a movement that presents a distinct trend toward greater human happiness and align yourself with it. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow men.”

W. Beran Wolfe, 1900-1935
Author and Psychiatrist

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From the Karma Files: Is Your Child a Royal Pain?

BBC News reports a longitudinal study that indicates that what goes around, comes around.

Children with behavioural problems are twice as likely to suffer chronic pain as adults than others, say researchers.

Scientists at Aberdeen University, who followed the lives of more than 19,000 children, think faulty hormone signals in the brain may play a key role.

Bad early life experiences may harm this brain system, causing both behavioural problems in childhood and chronic widespread pain in adulthood.

The findings, spanning 45 years, are published in the journal Rheumatology....

The article goes on to say, "Other adult problems associated with childhood behavioural problems include long-term psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse."

Of Learned Helplessness and Political Caucuses

Colorado is one of a minority of states that offer caucuses as an integral part of the nomination process. In theory, it invites the involvement of the most committed and informed party members, but requires that at least some people represent each precinct.

Last night I was the only Republican to represent my precinct, and not one soul showed up for the adjoining precinct. This gave me a little time to reflect on a psychological pattern that has received much attention in recent years.

"Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter. Explanatory style is the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen. It is the great modulator of learned helplessness. An optimistic explanatory style stops helplessness, whereas a pessimistic explanatory style spreads helplessness." ~ Martin Seligman

Turnout for both parties was light, which led me to wonder, Are we so steeped in hopelessness that we cannot do the minimum necessary to maintain our present form of government?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Draft of DSM-V Sure to Stir Up Controversy

An AP/MSNBC article says that we can expect noticeable changes in terminology that could reduce the numbers of people labeled as "mentally ill." Asperger's syndrome will be lumped together with other forms of autism, and Internet addiction will not join gambling addiction as a behavioral addiction, for instance. The draft Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is soliciting input from the public as well as from professionals through the month of April at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Welcome to Up and Down Time!

The newly-established Rocky Mountain DBSA is pleased to initiate this blog, which will be a forum for mental health issues in general and mood disorders in particular. We started in Colorado Springs in 2009, and are dedicated to growing peer-led self-help groups such as DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region.