Archive for May, 2010

May 31, 2010

the end of Mental Health Month

It’s May 31, and the end to Mental Health Month has come. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but not even NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has anything about it on the front of their web site.  For a month that was designated in 1949, there’s little coverage about it in the mainstream media….or anywhere else. I just kind of find that annoying because I honestly think the advocacy groups could do a better job at spreading awareness. When millions of Americans take antidepressants, it’s pretty obvious there is an audience that will listen to some message about mental health. I hate to criticize these organizations, but why don’t we all know the color of ribbon for mental health month (green)  when we all know what it means when we see a pink-colored ribbon?

May 27, 2010

at a loss

It’s been at least a week since I last wrote in this journal, which is probably the longest span of time I’ve lapsed in my writing since I started this journal. My parents are in the country, and I’ve been out of town most of the week. So I suppose I have some sort of an excuse for not getting to write recently.

The main reason why my parents came over is because there was a memorial for Dr. Sam,  the person pretty much responsible for my family’s moving to the United States in 1990. Dr. Sam was about 50 and died of leukemia. The memorial wasn’t necessarily sad—good stories and songs. It’s not like I knew the man well. But I was tearing up the entire time. The handkerchief that my mother lent me was completely soaked.  I’m not quite sure if I was sad about this particular death, but perhaps I just have some issues with dealing with death in general. It’s just odd since I haven’t been at all emotional about his passing until this memorial. As I found myself full of tears during the memorial, I kind of wondered why I would have such an emotional reaction to death when I personally have tried to reach my own death several times. Shouldn’t death not be such a sad occasion for someone who doesn’t seem to have a problem taking her own life?

I am still not sure why I cried that much. One thing I really did feel sad about was for Dr. Sam’s wife. I can’t imagine being in her position of losing her love.

May 18, 2010

“They let the crazies out”

I work a retail job at a cookware store in the mall, and it’s always interesting to see how customers interact with the salespeople. Usually, I work in the back room, so I don’t have to deal with people, but I certainly hear the comments that my fellow sales associates make about the customers as they come to the back room.

There are certainly days when all the customers seem to be particularly demanding, and we had one of those days this past weekend. As some of the associates came back to the area where I work to take a break, they’d often make comments like, “These people must be on something,” or “They let the crazies out today.” The way most people choose to explain the customers’ actions is by using words that have something to do with ‘crazy people.’ I totally understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, it makes me think about what it really means–especially to someone like me, who is, well, ‘crazy.’ I also know what it’s like to come out of a psych hospital, and I wonder whether the associates know what their words really mean.

I know I’m being a bit picky, and sometimes people say ‘they don’t really mean anything by it’ about what they just said.  But it’s strange how we’re somehow able to choose when our words are supposed to mean something and when they do not, according to our own preferences at a given time. I’m not offended or anything, but at the same time, their words about the ‘crazies’ does make me a bit uncomfortable because I wonder how they would view me if they knew more about me.

I will say, though, that there really are interesting people that come into the store, and we store associates sometimes need to let off some steam as we take our break. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to equate those interesting people to be people who are mentally ill.

May 16, 2010

Weekend wrap up

I feel like I haven’t written much about what’s going on in my life lately, so here’s my attempt to do so.

My moods have been holding steady since the maintenance ECT. Perhaps it’s easier to be in a better mood when you are on a break from classes. But it’s nice to be feeling fine.

My friend Joan moved away this week. I know we can still communicate via e-mail and the blog comments pages, but I lost a great friend with a big heart. Support systems are important to people like me, and I certainly lost a part of that system. I”m tearing up just thinking about the fact that we won’t be having our random banters in the back room of our workplace. I wish Joan and her family well at her new location.

I actually had contact with people. On Friday night, I went to eat Indian food with my friends J and @.

Recently, I’ve become addicted to using the Zoku popsicle making machine. It’s so easy to use, and so entertaining. If you like popsicles, this is the machine for you.

May 15, 2010

State of our union

Thanks to my friend J, who sent me a link to this lovely infographic. It’s easier to look at when you click on the image.

Yay for having internet again…

May 11, 2010

candy dish

I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. One container of the pills I picked up was fluexetine, AKA prozac. I just find their color to be pretty enough to take a picture of them. They really kind of remind me of some sort of candy.

May 10, 2010

Dr. F: the nicest psychiatrist

I got this note in the mail and read it. This is quite honestly one of the nicest notes I’ve ever received! No other doctor would even think to do something like this for their patients!! I really, really appreciate Dr. F!

May 10, 2010

It’s also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

I’ve been posting lots of mental health facts since it is Mental Health Month, but I thought I should note that May is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I’m not quite sure what I need to do in order to celebrate this heritage month. Well, I should point out that there are over 15 million people of Asian descent living in the United States, which makes up about 5% of the population. 5 million of those live in California. More facts can be found here.

Perhaps I should say something that ties in the two commemorative months together….

I know there are only 5% of us in this country. But I think it’s important that those in the psych and medical profession in general have an idea about how to treat people of Asian descent—especially the fact that ‘we’ (I guess I’ll use the term here since I am Asian) are not used to telling pretty much anyone about ourselves. It’s easy to think that we just might be shy or fine, but Asian kids have issues, too. I think it takes patience on the clinician’s part until s/he may be able to make some sort of a diagnosis.  It’s hard to admit you’re depressed in a community that expect only the best from you at all times. There’s already a lot of guilt for having even sought out treatment such as this. The last thing we need is for our concerns to be ignored by someone we finally were able to reach out to.

While I could put the responsibility on the doctors, I also think the Asian American community needs to pay attention to the mental health needs of their own community. The culture should foster a more open stance toward those with mental illness and not act as if the problem didn’t exist. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of Asian American girls 15-24. And it’s the highest suicide rate among women of any race or ethnicity for that age group.Obviously, there’s a problem here. I’ve read some people say that we just need more Asian American clinicians who can serve the same community, but I totally disagree. I honestly think that the Asian community willingly plays a role in keeping up with the stereotype that Asian kids are harder working (and maybe smarter) in school. And I remember that I internalized that pressure not simply from other people but from my family. There’s a saying that “Kids sometimes just need to be kids,” and I think Asian kids lose out on being able to be a kid. This problem can’t be solved by putting people of the same ethnicity in the therapist’s chair.

I really hope that someone would take a look at the mental health of Asian Americans since they share this month together.

May 9, 2010

A mental illness epidemic?

There’s a new book out called “Anatomy of an epidemic: Magic bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker.

Here’s the product description:

In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation’s children. What is going on?

Anatomy of an Epidemic challenges readers to think through that question themselves. First, Whitaker investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Readers will be startled—and dismayed—to discover what was reported in the scientific journals.

Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past fifty years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected longterm outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?

This is the first book to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. Are long-term recovery rates higher for medicated or unmedicated schizophrenia patients? Does taking an antidepressant decrease or increase the risk that a depressed person will become disabled by the disorder? Do bipolar patients fare better today than they did forty years ago, or much worse? When the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studied the long-term outcomes of children with ADHD, did they determine that stimulants provide any benefit?

By the end of this review of the outcomes literature, readers are certain to have a haunting question of their own: Why have the results from these long-term studies—all of which point to the same startling conclusion—been kept from the public?

In this compelling history, Whitaker also tells the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. Finally, he reports on innovative programs of psychiatric care in Europe and the United States that are producing good long-term outcomes. Our nation has been hit by an epidemic of disabling mental illness, and yet, as Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, the medical blueprints for curbing that epidemic have already been drawn up.


Bruce E. Levine of the Huffington Post also had a review about this book.

May 8, 2010

Mental Health Month: Facts of the Day

Stats on Suicide/NIMH:

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2006, it was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 33,300 deaths.1 The overall rate was 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.1 An estimated 12 to 25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.1

Suicidal behavior is complex. Some risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may occur in combination or change over time.

What are the risk factors for suicide?

Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:

  • depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.2
  • prior suicide attempt
  • family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
  • family history of suicide
  • family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • firearms in the home,3 the method used in more than half of suicides
  • incarceration
  • exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.2

However, suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal. Research also shows that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims. 4

Are women or men at higher risk?

  • Suicide was the seventh leading cause of death for males and the sixteenth leading cause of death for females in 2006.1
  • Almost four times as many males as females die by suicide.1
  • Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by far the most common methods of suicide, overall. However, men and women differ in the method used, as shown below.1
Suicide by: Males (%) Females (%)
Firearms 56 31
Suffocation 23 19
Poisoning 13 40

If you are in a crisis and need help right away:

Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

May 7, 2010

ECT #29 (my 14th maintenance treatment)

Today was day for another ECT. Nothing exciting to report, but I am very appreciative of my ECT psychiatrist. Dr. F saw that my insurance wasn’t covering the treatments because it’s a ‘pre-existing condition,’ so he cut his fees in half. That’s awfully nice of him to do.

I always tend to forget random things right after the treatment. When I was wheeled back to the prep room, the nurse had to tell me what month it was and whether I went to school . It was pretty funny. We had a good laugh. Of course, it wouldn’t be too funny if that lapse in memory lasted any longer than that, but otherwise, I can laugh about it.

May 6, 2010

Mental Health Month: Facts of the Day

Mental Health and communities

  • African Americans and Latinos are up to three times more likely than whites to say that people of color are less likely to receive adequate health care. Only one in five whites agree with this assumption, however.
  • Only 33 percent of African Americans enrolled in Medicare managed care health plans receive followup care after being hospitalized for a mental illness compared with 54 percent of white Americans.
  • One-third of all Latinos (32.7 percent) lack health insurance coverage, a far higher proportion than any other ethnic group.
  • Ninety percent of African American youths who enter the mental health system live in poverty.
  • Although homicide is the second leading cause of death among all people ages 10 to 24, it is the leading cause of death for African-Americans in that age group.
  • While the suicide rate for white teenage males fell somewhat between 1986 and 1997, the rate for African American male teens increased dramatically during the same period (7.1 per 100,000 to 11.4 per 100,000).
  • American Indian and Alaskan Natives have the highest rate of suicide in the 15 to 24 age group of all American ethnic and racial groups.
  • About 70 percent of Southeast Asian immigrants in the U.S. who receive mental healthcare have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
May 5, 2010

Mental Health Month: Facts of the Day

Mental Health and the Workplace

  • One in four people report they’ve missed work as a result of work-related stress.
  • Workplace environments have a greater effect on employee stress levels than the number of hours employees work.
  • Seventy-five percent of visits to doctors’ offices concern stress-related ailments.
  • Chronic stress can double a person’s risk of having a heart attack.
  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
  • In a typical workplace with 20 employees, four will likely develop a mental illness this year.
  • Mental health conditions are the second leading cause of workplace absenteeism.
  • People who have untreated mental health issues use more general health services than those who seek mental health care when they need it.
  • More than three out of four employees who seek care for workplace issues or mental health problems see substantial improvement in work performance after treatment.
  • Untreated and mistreated mental illness costs the United States. $105 billion in lost productivity each year, and U.S. businesses foot up to $44 billion of this bill.

from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas/NMHA

May 4, 2010

Mental Health Month: Facts of the Day

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(From Mental Health Association in Greensboro)

Not Investing in Mental Health Is Expensive

  • The total yearly cost for mental illness in both the private and public sector in the United States is $205 billion – but only $92 billion of that total comes from direct treatment costs. The total cost of untreated and mistreated mental illness to American businesses, the government, and to families is $113 billion every year.
  • Employees who are depressed are twice as likely to take time off for health reasons than employees who are not depressed, and are seven times more likely to be less productive on the job than their counterparts.
  • The success rate for treating clinical depression is nearly 80 percent.
  • Treating people in communities is far less expensive than treating them in institutions. In one recent study, the total treatment cost per person per year, including the cost of housing, was $60,000 compared to $130,000 for institutional care.
  • Twenty percent of youths in juvenile justice facilities have a serious emotional disturbance and have a mental disorder that can be diagnosed. Up to an additional 30 percent of youths in these facilities have substance abuse disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.
  • On any given night, more than 600,000 people are homeless in the United States , of which one-third have a serious mental illness.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that depression and substance abuse are associated with more than 90 percent of all suicide cases.
  • According to the World Health Organization in their 1998 report, depression will be the second greatest cause of premature death and disability worldwide by the year 2020.
May 3, 2010

beauty is truth, truth beauty

Procrastination is not a good thing, but sometimes good things can come out of it (well, a really good thing would be to get done with whatever it is I’m not doing, but that’s beside the point…). Anyway, I was browsing around on the internet, and I came across a really interesting site called The owner/creator is Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and not only does she write, she draws comics! This is very exciting to a person that used to draw editorial cartoons every week.

I happened to see this illustration with a quote from Marianne Williamson, and it got me thinking about the reason why I’m writing about my experience with ECT. Yes, it( the autoethnography I’m writing) is for an assignment, but really, it is a chance for me to tell my own truth. And like the quote says, “that’s the only thing you really know about.” I think that with the pressure of deadlines,etc., I almost forgot that I do have a passion for telling this story–and that getting to tell it really is a privilege.

Now, if I can just finish the other assignments so I can work on this one….

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