October 11, 2010
Recently, there’s been several interesting mental health stories and features that’s popped up on the New York Times.
“Despite Army’s Prevention Efforts, Soldier Suicides Continue,” by James C. McKinley Jr., gives a vivid picture of this issue. It’s worth the read to gain further understanding and awareness.
“Medical student distress and the risk of doctor suicide,” by Dr. Pauline Chen
“Side effects may include lawsuits,” by Duff Wilson, is about pharmaceutical companies who make anti-psychotics and the prevalence of lawsuits against those drugs.
An Op-ed by Nick Kristof, “At risk from the womb,” discusses how we are shaped even before we’re born.
“Patient Voices” is an interactive section featuring videos of personal accounts of living with various illnesses, e.g. fibromyalgia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. (more than 3,000 topics described, illustrated and investigated)
Their entire health section is at http://www.nytimes.com/pages/health/index.html
For mental health news from other sources, check out http://mental-health.alltop.com/
January 10, 2010
From NYT magazine: The Americanization of Mental Illness by Ethan Watters
“Western mental-health practitioners often prefer to believe that the 844 pages of the DSM-IV prior to the inclusion of culture-bound syndromes describe real disorders of the mind, illnesses with symptomatology and outcomes relatively unaffected by shifting cultural beliefs. And, it logically follows, if these disorders are unaffected by culture, then they are surely universal to humans everywhere. In this view, the DSM is a field guide to the world’s psyche, and applying it around the world represents simply the brave march of scientific knowledge.
Of course, we can become psychologically unhinged for many reasons that are common to all, like personal traumas, social upheavals or biochemical imbalances in our brains. Modern science has begun to reveal these causes. Whatever the trigger, however, the ill individual and those around him invariably rely on cultural beliefs and stories to understand what is happening. Those stories, whether they tell of spirit possession, semen loss or serotonin depletion, predict and shape the course of the illness in dramatic and often counterintuitive ways. In the end, what cross-cultural psychiatrists and anthropologists have to tell us is that all mental illnesses, including depression, P.T.S.D. and even schizophrenia, can be every bit as influenced by cultural beliefs and expectations today as hysterical-leg paralysis or the vapors or zar or any other mental illness ever experienced in the history of human madness. This does not mean that these illnesses and the pain associated with them are not real, or that sufferers deliberately shape their symptoms to fit a certain cultural niche. It means that a mental illness is an illness of the mind and cannot be understood without understanding the ideas, habits and predispositions — the idiosyncratic cultural trappings — of the mind that is its host.”
February 20, 2009
I arrived at Parthenon Pavilion, got dressed for treatment, and entered the treatment area when Dr. J. greeted me with a smile on his face and told me that he talked to my psychiatrist, Dr. A., and that they both thought it was okay for me to stop ECT at this time and that I needed to call her to schedule a new appointment with her. (I exclaimed: this is the last one!?) Let me write the rest out later…
February 20, 2009
Another sine-wave machine day is drawn; that’s thirteenth treatments. I’m not sure it went over too well. When I woke up, I was tied up, all because I apparently flailed around during the convulsion. I will therefore be going through to the fourteenth treatment. I spoke with someone after the fact, that this could be my fifteenth and final treatment….fifteenth, as in about double the number.
February 16, 2009
Twelve treatments are done. And at least three more via sine-wave machine days are on their way. This is already a few more days than the typical number of treatment days, in fact, way more days. I am thankful for my mother for staying an extra month. She is having to change around her own doctor’s appointments so that she can hang around with me. I will not be able to drive around for two weeks after the last ECT, so Mom will have to drive me around. My cat, Simon, is curled up and licking his white paws. He’s become a bit more needy since Mom’s been giving into more of Simon’s morning calls. There’s a part of me that would like to do something a bit artsy while I am involved in this ECT deal. I wonder if I could get someone to take a picture of me getting ready to be zapped. Or they’ll just think that request is a bit odd. (yes, that’s a bit odd.)
Dr. J. told me today that in the last session I kind of got disoriented and freaked out a little. I hope I didn’t create that scene this time around. I saw the Sine-wave ECT machine and it looks very much like a Samsonite cosmetic bag. I hope it worked better than it looked.
Dr. J. also arranged for a lithium medication tapering schedule! I hope that would allow for my hands to stop with the tremors. I’ve already had to see a neurologist, both instate and out, over the tremors, and I think it’s time to look at the lithium dosage before I have to go see another neurologist.
In case anyone wondered, I believe the median number of ECT is around 8. I have a feeling I will double that number….
January 10, 2009
In Is It Me or My Meds?, Boston College Sociology professor David Karp asks his interviewees about their relationship with their psychotropic medication. He found that, though some begin their medication career with a bit of trepidation, most “had become wedded to a biomedical version of mental illness.” In the concluding chapters, he becomes skeptical of the growing acceptance of biological psychiatry that has led to an overmedicated society. The skepticism toward embracing a totally medical model of mental illness is, to an extent, understandable. Karp notes that his issues are with the “confluences of forces that lead doctors to routinely medicate for life distress.” Though my own conclusion of his assessment may not be correct, I got the impression that Professor Karp was a bit wary of wholly accepting the biological model of mood disorders.
Because this book focuses solely on the illness careers of those using pharmacological treatment, obviously it would not address ECT and its patients’ view of self. I’ve come to find that it’s the case in many of the books I’ve read. They all do not discuss beyond the typical illness career that involves wrestling with medication and having to spend time in a hospital. With only about 100,000 patients per year that undergo ECT in the US, I haven’t been able to read up to see a group study of if there’s any personal emotional (or model) transition from having a ‘typical’ illness career to adding ECT to his or her journey. I tend to think that self-identity kind of changes when ECT comes into play. With just medication and therapy, I think I have some personal ‘luxury’ of accepting or denying ‘my illness as pathology.’ In the case of ECT treatments, I’m not sure that flexibility is available anymore. It’s a clearly physical procedure, unlike the one I have experienced through the medication buffet. The thought process about ECT, at least for me, has been very different from how I’ve felt about medication. Anyway, the point is that how can one not embrace the medical model of illness and biological psychology when one has consented him/herself to a treatment that directly affects the brain chemistry? I don’t know if I have a choice. What will be interesting to see is if I hold the same self-identity oncethe treatments are underway.
The hospital’s finally settled on my physical exam date of Tuesday, 01.13. There better not be anything that would delay my procedure. Thank goodness the next two days will be occupied by watching copious amounts of football. My little-known love of NFL and certain sports commentators just might help sustain me through the weekend.