Archive for January, 2010

January 31, 2010

Study: Workers fear stigma of seeking mental health care

I actually found this article in the Executive Health section of BusinessWeek. I”m glad publications like BusinessWeek is choosing to cover issues about mental health.

Workers Fear Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Care

Among employees, 76 percent believed their work status would be damaged by seeking treatment for drug addiction, 73 percent for alcoholism, and 62 percent for depression, compared with 55 percent who thought seeking care for diabetes would affect their work status and 54 percent for heart disease.

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January 30, 2010

A new step toward mental health parity

I can’t believe it! Yesterday, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was finally implemented, prohibiting group health insurance plans from restricting access to care by limiting benefits and requiring higher patient costs for mental health and substance abuse disorders compared with those costs that apply to general medical or surgical benefits.

The new rules were jointly issued yesterday by the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury. This act was originally passed by the House in 2008 but never became law until now.

The act expands on the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which required parity in lifetime benefits for mental and physical disorders and was not applicable to substance use disorder benefits. According to the Department of Health and Human Services release, the new law applies to out-of-pocket costs, benefit limits, and practices such as prior authorization and use review.

Beginning on or after July 1, 2010, the Act will apply to group coverage provided by employers with 50 or more workers whose group health plans offer mental health or substance use disorder benefits.

January 29, 2010

A Doctor’s Case for Antidepressants

From Newsweek-
A Doctor Disagrees: Antidepressants have helped not only my patients, but myself.

My own sense, based in part on my own personal experience, as well as that of patients I have treated, is that antidepressants can definitely work for milder depression—not for everyone, but for many. Why, then, the debate and apparently contradictory findings?

January 29, 2010

There, I said it

“I’m having shock therapy,” I said to her, after I hesitated for a moment to think just what other story I could make up. “And I’m writing about my experience of going through it.”

It was an odd moment, since we were in class, and other people were around us when she asked me the question, “What are you writing your research on?”

I’ve never said to anyone what I have been going through unless I had a need and/or wanted to tell them about ECT. So, in a way, it was a moment of nervousness, and then again, a moment of release. I realized that I can tell others about ECT (and by extension, about bipolar disorder/mental illness) without feeling embarrassed about it. And that I also shouldn’t assume that other people will be shocked by it or don’t want to hear about it. I shouldn’t have to apologize for what’s happened in my life, because it’s what it is.

As for the research, my professor recommended that I write an autoethnography for my qualitative methods assignment (I’ll talk about it some more later). What this is going to mean is that I will have to present my project in front of the entire class at the end of the semester. But now I know that I will be fine when I stand up and say, “I have bipolar disorder and I am going through electroconvulsive therapy.”

“There, I said it (part 2)”

January 28, 2010

How do sleeping pills work?

Just found a column on Huffington Post about the effect of sleeping pills and how they work.

Here’s the entire article. and below’s a portion of that post:

1) Benzos cut down on your rapid eye movement sleep. That’s when you rehearse your daily activities, like how to tie your shoelaces if you are a toddler, how to drive with a stick shift if you are a teenager, or how to hit the ball out of the park if you are Babe Ruth. Being on benzos means you will most likely strike out.

2) Benzos reduce slow wave sleep which is really deep sleep. Since slow wave sleep is important for the consolidation of facts and events, those of you on benzos are going to be less likely to ace that exam or make the right calls on the trading floor.

3) The good news for drug companies is that the more you use benzos, the more you will use benzos. You will need larger doses of them and more often. You may even get to the point (and many people do) where you cannot sleep without them. Addiction and dependence are good for selling drugs on and off the street.

4) Benzos exacerbate sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Sadly, all the increased snoring will bode poorly for your spouse or partner who may then need to go on benzos themselves.

5) Being on benzos long-term can produce memory loss that mimics dementia. True.

6) Chronic benzo use causes daytime sleepiness, reduced concentration, irritability and anxiety. These symptoms occur regardless of dosage.

January 26, 2010

I’m on my way, I’m taking my time and I don’t know where

I have to be honest it hasn’t been the greatest last few days. In addition to that (or because of that), I ran into an absolute dearth of ideas for a post. It’s odd; I’ve been busy before, but it’s the first time in a while where I couldn’t write at all for days. Perhaps the way this post reads still reflects that state of mind, but I have to get back to it, or I’ll lose my habit of writing on a regular basis.

Anyway, with a little bump in med dosage and some exercise, I feel a little better. But what lifted my spirits up a little more this morning as I drove around to do some errands? Paul Simon. I sang along to his classics, like “You can call me Al,” “Graceland,” and my favorite “me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” The line “I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m going” always makes me pause and think for a second. Where am I? Do I know where I’m going? Do I need to know where I’m going? To me, the song reminds us that as long as you’re moving in life, it’s okay to not be so clear about the goal. By the way, it also reminds me why I named my cat Simon in the first place (I play this CD every time he’s in the car).

So, maybe I haven’t felt good recently. But even if I don’t know exactly where I’m going in life,  I know I’m still on my way to getting better. I’m just taking my time…

January 25, 2010

Study: Stressed? Eat chocolate.

According to a clinical trial published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, it found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Chocolate also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances. Read more

January 22, 2010

water, water everywhere

The last two days have reminded me of depression.

The sky is gray, and the rain is pounding on my car as I drive to school. The roads are slick, and the rain makes it nearly impossible to see the lines painted on the pavement. I set my windshield wipers to the fastest speed possible, but that barely helps; it looks like the water is being poured right onto my car. The other cars seem unconcerned by all of this. They are moving at the usual pace, with every vehicle passing me by on the lanes next to me. I try to push on the accelerator pedal as hard as I can, but the car will not go any faster. I feel as if I am getting left behind and that I will never get to my destination.

It is still raining hard when I eventually get to the parking lot. I am already dreading having to drive back.

January 20, 2010

Emotional Training Helps Kids Fight Depression: NPR

listen to the story

If a person tends to see small disappointments as catastrophes or failures, they can become depressed or anxious. It’s a common trick our minds can play on us, as children and as adults. But once thoughts are more aligned with reality, emotional responses can change for the better.

Gillham and her colleagues have developed a curriculum aimed at teaching middle-school students specific strategies to challenge these thought patterns and manage stress. It’s backed by 15 years of research that shows the benefits of this strategy. It’s called resilience training, and it can be as powerful as taking antidepressant medicines. Read the rest of the story

January 19, 2010

ECT One Year Later

It was a year ago today that I underwent my first electroconvulsive therapy.Though I don’t remember everything, I can still recall the nervousness I felt throughout my body as I was first led to the ECT room. It was supposed to be a six-to-twelve time event, but it somehow stretched to fifteen, and now, to twenty-five. A year ago I was really scared about how things were going change after these treatments. What I find now is that it’s not so much that things have changed as much as the fact that I can now realize that things are okay as they are.

So, where am I now? I’m currently in school studying sociology and have a part-time job. I haven’t spent too many days hidden under the covers, and I’ve been pretty good about taking care of my body, whether by bathing or otherwise. All these little things matter, but the biggest change from last year is that I’m actually alive. I mean, last January, my body may not have been dead but I had stopped living a life and had planned on really dying by the following month. For months, that was my only plan. Though I do not have concrete goals and plans at the moment, I don’t find myself considering suicide as a logical option.

I do give much credit to ECT for getting me to where I am today, but I must acknowledge that without support from my family, I would have never been able to go through this procedure. (My mother left the country, with my father left at home, and stayed with me for three months so that she can take me every other day to these treatments.) Also, I thank everyone, whom I know and don’t know, who sent me notes of encouragement throughout the year. It is so easy to think that only you exist in your journey, but I am constantly reminded that I am not alone. And then, there’s my “Dr. Melfi.” She is the one who advised that I give ECT a try, and without her guidance, I doubt I would be alive.

I am thankful, but am I no longer depressed? I don’t know. I am not sure at what point I am declared “normal.” I still have my ups and downs, though they occur as fleeting moments rather than debilitating crises. I am often in a state of self-reflection, and I wonder to what extent such is connected to an illness and what’s just who I am. What I can say for myself is that I think I’m doing okay, which doesn’t sound all that great, but to me, it’s a huge accomplishment. I still don’t know what it means to be ‘happy,’ but perhaps I’m on that road to find out.

I suppose there’s more to say, but I can save it for later entries because I plan on being around to write them.

My house is still messy, but I guess that’s just me being me. Maybe I’ll learn to clean as I learn to live one day at a time.

January 18, 2010

On Medication

Everyday I take bupropion SR (Wellbutrin), Concerta, fluoxetine (Prozac), Abilify and zolpidem tartrate (Ambien).

For some reason, my mother is always worried about the amount of medication I take. Today I talked to Mom and she asked me if my medication intake has been reduced since I began maintenance ECT. I had to tell her no, and that I didn’t know when that might happen.  She’s hoping that the continued ECT will lead to less medication because she thinks these psych meds are bad for the body.  It’s true that often times a patient may need less medication after ECT, and sure, I wouldn’t mind taking less medication.  But is it more important than being stable, even if it means I rely on a number of drugs? On the other hand, if the number of medication isn’t reduced as a result of ECT, does it mean that the whole treatment is a failure?

It is ultimately my personal decision to have ECT on a continued basis, and I am not questioning that decision. But my mother’s wish to see me take less medication makes me wonder if I should make that one of my eventual goals from this treatment. Now that I think about it, should I have some clear-cut goals, like less medication? What should be the eventual goal of maintenance electroconvulsive therapy?

January 18, 2010

suicide rate among soldiers rises

Pentagon has released information that a US soldier on active duty commit suicide nearly every two days. In 2009, the total number of completed suicides totaled to 160, just counting those in the Marines or infantry. On top of the suicides by active soldiers, 6,000 former military servicemen are taking their own lives each year. What do these numbers mean when compared to public at large? “Of the more than 30,000 suicides in the US each year, fully 20 per cent of them – 18 each day – are acts by veterans,” says US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

For more info:
The Defense Department December suicide report: http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=13242

The Miami Herald: Despite prevention efforts, US military suicides rise

January 17, 2010

when I grow up, I want to be like Brett Favre

It’s the weekend for NFL divisional playoff games, so I’m watching the NFC divisional game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. I know I should be doing something more productive than watching large men tackle each other, but I must admit that I enjoy watching football.

Aside from ogling at these men in skin-tight pants, I also enjoy learning something about these guys. One player of interest is Brett Favre, quarterback for the Vikings. Favre is 40 years old while his counterparts are in their 20s, which means many of these young men grew up hoping they could be Brett Favre one day (I find it almost strange that now these players have to beat up their childhood idol when they play against him). Sure, he is old by NFL standards, but I find something else that’s remarkable about him. Anytime one watches Favre on tv, he oozes enthusiasm. After being in the NFL for 19 years, one wouldn’t be surprised if Favre lost some of his love for the game. But it’s clear that he still loves what he is doing. Favre is just a great example of loving the life you have.

I wonder what it feels like to be so enthralled by what you’re doing in life.  It’s such an unfamiliar concept to me, but I’ve come to be able to appreciate how people like Favre live their lives. He just seems so excited to be where he is that I’ve come to root for him even though I have no reason to root for a team in Minnesota (Of course, my #1 support during these playoffs go to Peyton Manning).

So, I may not ever earn the salary that Brett Favre makes or make a living throwing balls, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to want to someday find that constant enthusiasm in my life, just like Brett Favre.

January 16, 2010

story time

My friend Joan handed me a present at work today. It was a picture book, titled “All in a Day,” written by Newbery medal winner Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Nikki McClure. Rather than clumsily trying to interpret the book’s message, I figured it would be best if I just posted an excerpt:

Underneath that great big sky
the earth is all a-spin.
This day will soon be over
and it won’t come back again.

So live it well, make it count,
fill it up with you.
The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now . . .
See what you can do.

I am thankful for the book’s message. But what I’m most thankful for today is Joan’s kindness.

January 15, 2010

mental health news round-up: 1/11-1/15

Reuters: According to research released in the latest Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the number of children aged 2 to 5 who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed powerful antipsychotic drugs has doubled over the past decade.

USA Today: Army wives with deployed husbands suffer higher mental health issues, according to a study released by the New England Journal of Medicine.

CNN: In Haiti, mental aftershocks could be far-reaching Feelings of confusion, fear, agitation, grief and anger that surround a large-scale traumatic event such as the Haiti earthquake give way to more pronounced psychological disorders once people’s basic human needs are taken care of, experts say.

The Seattle Times: Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a new sentencing option for mentally ill offenders Wednesday that would allow the state to punish offenders for their crimes and treat their mental illness in prison instead of in a state psychiatric hospital.

BBC News: New figures show that in the last six months the number of 18 to 24-year-olds seeking help for bipolar disorder has doubled, with calls to helplines rising from an average of 400 a day to more than 800. MDF, The BiPolar Organisation, has put the increase partly down to a storyline in EastEnders featuring the character Stacey Slater.

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