Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back to school - it's never too late

Returning to the halls of learning is something I've considered on & off for years but never followed through with. Over the years I've even signed on for a few courses but the steam quickly ran out and they fell by the wayside. It's pretty hard to keep going with depression continually pulling you down. I would get a lot done in the first few weeks while the energy was up, but when it was gone, nothing.

I think a lot of the problem was I was trying to do it all by distance education so I wouldn't have to face sitting in a classroom situation with a whole lot of strangers. The problem for me was that there was no structured learning. What I was doing was easy for me but I couldn't keep myself grounded with the need to get things completed & sent in for assessment. I also had no-one around to encourage & support me

So this time I'm biting the bullet & trying a return to the classroom if possible. In my mind I'm a lot better now than at any time I've tried studying previously and I also have some great support close at hand. I'm also hoping the more structured environment will assist in keeping me motivated, or at least to get things done for fear of failing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Talk yourself up: Self Affirmation

A couple of weeks ago I posted Mind Over Matter, about a press release suggesting what a person thinks about an illness plays an important role in their health outcomes. With mental illness, could this be even more important? What is self affirmation and how can it be used by a sufferer to help improve their life?

Self affirmation is nothing new, it's been around for decades and is a major part of many self-help books. Dr Norman Vincent Peale called it 'The Power of Positive Thinking', one of the most famous books on the subject. It's not a complicated procedure & you don't really need a book to tell you how to do it. All that's involved is telling yourself, usually at least once a day (the more the better), something good & positive about yourself. It's something anyone can do.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Computers to identify the at risk?

The other day I posted an article about the possibility that a blood test could help identify those with depression, a great step forward. Now it looks like the researchers are getting computers involved in identifying those at risk of mental illness.

A press release by the Welcome Trust suggests that a computer programme may be able to identify those at risk of mood disorders & anxiety. According to research published in PLoS ONE, an open access journal, computers can be 'taught' to differentiate between brain scans of adolescents to identify those most at risk of psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.

With most mental illnesses typically manifesting themselves during the adolescent years & early adulthood, the earlier that those at risk can be identified the better. Early intervention could result in a delay or even prevent the illness appearing in those at risk.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mental Illness: How Prepared is Your GP?

A tweet from Black Dog Tribe today led me to this video by Professor Lewis Wolpert where he mentions that he doesn't think most GP's are prepared enough to deal with patients with mental illness. Additionally, he voices something that I totally agree with - that unless you have experienced a mental illness you can never really understand what it's all about.

Friends, people I've worked with & even anonymous posters on a number of forums I frequent have all said the same thing. A lot complain about GP's who try & look at other causes, or don't have an understanding how bad it really is. Or those that give a prescription for some form of mild anti-depressant with absolutely no follow-up at a later date. Sadly a lot of people with mental illness find, after working up the courage to initially mention their problem, that doing anything more themselves is just too hard. They just won't go back and seek further assistance.

I know for myself it was talking to other sufferers that started making it easier for me to deal with my illness. Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists & other mental health workers just didn't seem to understand just what it's like. No offence at all to those working in the mental health field, they do what their training & experience tells them to do. But sometimes this just isn't enough, and the sufferer feels let down by the system or just fall through the cracks.

My old family GP was a good doctor, I liked going to him & he was the first one I opened up to about my problem. He tried to help, arranged anti-depressants, got me to see a psychiatrist and try and get me going in the right direction. Only problem was that I really didn't enjoy my sessions with my psychiatrist (for some reason he thought going for a walk or getting a job to occupy my mind was the solution - for someone who couldn't leave the house!). Additionally, my initial (and incorrect) diagnosis of severe depression was the one that stuck for the next 11 years.

After I was diagnosed I did a lot of research on the subject and it wasn't long before I realised I wasn't just depressed, I was more likely bipolar. But no-one seemed to listen. Everything was directed at trying to fix my depression and it wasn't working. They seemed to go deaf when I mentioned my periods of mania - they were very short compared to my long periods of depression - and it just slipped by. And some of the medications I tried during this period are great for treating depression, but were some of the worst for treating bipolar, making things even drastic.

It was only after moving to another area a couple of years ago that anything really changed, and even that took a more than a year of seeing my new GP. But eventually I had a few things go badly wrong for me and early last year I went to my doctor hell bent on getting help. I booked a long appointment and we spent the time really going through everything & at last he really listened, He seemed to understand. My diagnosis was changed & added to, booked in with a new counsellor and, probably most importantly, was changed to more suitable medications.

The last 12 months have been totally different for me, after an initial period of switching meds and tweaking them to meet my needs. Probably still some changes to be made there, but it has been a much better year than I had experienced in a long time. Still a long way to go, just heading in the right direction. But it was my actions that brought about this change. I was still being treated as just suffering depression until the time I just about forced my GP to listen. I was lucky & he did really try to understand & for that I'm grateful. Sadly a lot of sufferers just can't bring themselves to make the sort of stand I did.

With up to 10% of the population suffering from a mental illness at some stage it is probably something that needs to be looked into. This feeling of not being listened to or understood by others is a big reason why only about 1 in 5 sufferers will seek professional help, and it's very likely there are many more who don't follow through after an initial treatment or two.

So what is your experience with GP's and mental health workers? Good? Bad? Indifferent? What can be done to improve the situation? I have no idea myself, though if I think about it during my next manic period I'm sure I'll find a solution, I just need to be able to hold onto it. ;)

Let me know your thoughts.


The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Current Happenings: I'm Keeping it All Together

A few of you may have noticed that lately I've been posting mainly news & information rather than anything about what's been going on in my own world. Part of this is because of the new direction the blog has taken, almost on it's own, to report happenings from around the world in regards to mostly mental health issues & to help raise awareness of the subject, hoping to help ease the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The other reason is that I've been going through a really good period lately, including a short run of mania, that has made it hard to get my own thoughts in any real order. But right now things are quite good so hopefully I'll be able to get a bit more done. I have a few more articles of my own in the works, as well as doing a guest post on another blog in the near future - more on that later.

So while I haven't been overly active, emotionally I'm in a good place right now & have been interacting better with those in my life. Maybe it's the fact it's summer here & the extra sunlight is doing me good, or perhaps it's good things happening in my personal life that has me feeling this way. I don't really care what the cause is, I'm just going to ride this wave while it lasts. Everyone deserves some happiness in their lives so I will not be denying mine!

So here are my ratings which covers the last couple of weeks, it's looking good:

Emotional: 8.0
Interactions: 7.0
Activity: 5.0 (need more exercise, think I'm putting on weight again....)


The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More than words

An interesting article about how to approach mental illness in a relationship fro the Time to Change website.

Time to Change blogger Shea and her partner
When I met my boyfriend, I had been diagnosed with bipolar for about four years, and in that four years, I had refused to date or even get close to anyone. I initially saw my bipolar as a death sentence, something that would repel everyone around me. So when I met A online, I was initially scared to get close to him. Luckily, we had many many miles between us, so I felt safe that I could be open with him, and if he rejected me (like I knew he would), it wouldn't hurt as much. I showed him my blog that had been charting my life with bipolar. I told him how bad it could be. I warned him, in no uncertain terms, what I could be like when my synapses weren't firing correctly. And weirdly, he was okay. He didn't run away. He asked questions. He tried to understand. He told me he accepted me for who I was, bad and good.

Read the full post:
The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Concerns over use of Depakote by Children with Bipolar Disorder

 February 14, 2012

The Consumer Justice Foundation, a for-profit corporation whose staff of professional consumer advocates provide free online educational resources to the public regarding the potential dangers of using certain prescription medications, hereby alert the public of a recent study performed that reviewed the effectiveness of Depakote when compared to other common medications prescribed to treat bipolar disorder in children.
Specifically, this study, which was performed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and that was published in the January 2012 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, reviewed the progress of 290 children who took part in the study for up to eight weeks. The children subjects were broken down into three groups, and each was given a certain medication: one group was given lithium, one was given risperidone, which is commonly referred to as Risperdal and one group was given divalproex sodium, which is commonly known as Depakote to measure the progress regarding their manic episodes.
Over the course of the eight-week study that was led by BarbaraGeller, M.D., 68.5 percent of the children taking risperidone showed improvements in their manic symptoms, compared with only 35.6 percent of the children taking lithium and 24 percent of those taking divalproexsodium. In addition, some of the subjects experienced Depakote side effects that included weight gain that averaged 3.7 pounds. Throughout the study, 26 percent of the children taking Depakote discontinued their participation.
This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and was designed to provide an analysis of which prescription medications that were commonly prescribed would generally perform the best for children who were between the ages of 6 and 15 years old. The study concluded that those using Risperdal showed the most improvement with their symptoms.
About the Consumer Justice Foundation
The Consumer Justice Foundation, whose Web site is located at, is a public resource that's been built and maintained by a group of concerned professionals who want to provide general information for consumers regarding the potential dangers involved with the use of Depakote while pregnant. This resource is not to be considered as medical or legal advice, which should only be dispensed by a licensed medical doctor or a Depakote lawyer.
(Sorce: PRWeb)

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Asperger's Syndrome: Parents Blamed In Irish Article

An article by Dr Tony Humphreys, a clinical psychologist, appeared in the print edition of the Irish Examiner on the 3rd Feb 2012 where he suggests that Aspergers syndromean autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is NOT a neurological condition, but the result of 'cold parents' who are unable to give their children the love & attention they need. Since publication the Irish Examiner has been in damage control & Dr Humphreys forced on the defensive as a result of the backlash the article created.

As this article is yet to appear in the online version of the paper, I reproduce it here in full:

"A team of researchers at Cambridge University is currently exploring the connection between high-achieving parents, such as engineers, scientists and computer programmers and the development of their children. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the director of the Autism Research Centre at the university, says there are indications that adults who have careers in areas of science and math are more likely to have autistic children.

In studies in 1997 and 2001 it was found that the children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be autistic and that mathematicians had higher rates of autism than other professions. What is shocking is that Dr Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are one: assuming that autism is a scientific fact and, two: missing the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominanently in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.

After all, the deepest need of every child is to be unconditionally loved and the absence of it results in children shutting down emotionally themselves because to continue to spontaneously reach out for love would be far too painful.

Children's wellbeing mostly depends on emotional security - a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings. To say that these children have a genetic and/or neurobiological disorder called autism or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) only adds further to their misery and condemns them to a relationship history where their every thought and action is interpreted as arising from their autism.

It is frequently the case that it is when these children go to school that their emotional and social withdrawal of eccentricities are noticed, mainly by teachers, who themselves can struggle with how best to respond to these children. An unconscious collusion can emerge between parents and teachers to have these children psychiatrically assessed so that the spotlight is put on the children and not their adult carers' own emotional and social struggles. Regretfully, the relationship contexts of the childrens' lives are not examined and their mature development is often sacrificed on the fires of the unresolved emotiuonal defences of those adults who are responsible for their care.

It is important to hold to the fact that these carers do not consciously block their children's wellbeing, but the unconscious hope of children is that other adults (teachers, relatives, educational psychologists, care workers) that when they are emotionally and socially troubled, it is their adult carers who often need more help than they do.

Indeed, my experience in my own psychological practice is that when parents and teachers resolve their own fears and insecurities, children begin to express what they dare not express before their guardians resolved their own emotional turmoil.

A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger's syndrome). The former 'condition' was an attempt to understand severely emotionally withdrawn children, the latter concept, which is being used in an alarmingly and rapidly increasing way, is an attempt to explain children's more moderate emotional and social difficulties. Curiously - and not at all explained by those health and educational professionals who believe that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological disorders - is the gender bias of being more diagnosed in boys (a ratio of four to one). This bias is also found with ADHD. Surely that gender phenomenon indicates the probability that boys are reared differently to girls and that due to social and cultural factors boys respond to the troubling behaviours of their adult carers in ways that are radically different to girls.

What is equally distressing is that, as for ADHD, a whole industry involving research, assessment, screening, education and treatment has been developed, despite the absence of any scientific basis or test for either the originally 'detected' autism or for the broader construct of ASD.

Sami Timimi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and two colleagues rigorously examined over 5000 research articles on autism and ASD and found no scientific basis for what they now refer to as mythical disorders. They outline their findings in their book 'The Myth of Autism' (2011). The conclusion of their indepty studies is that "there is no such thing as autism and the label should be abolished".

The authors are not saying that the children are not emotionally and socially troubled. What they are saying is - and I concur with them - that focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children's livews, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.

Dr Tony Humphreys is a consultant clinical psychologist, author and national and international speaker. His book 'All About Children" is relevant to todays article." 
As expected, the response from both parents & other professionals was fast & furious, with the vast majority outraged by the article. The debate has moved from the Examiner to other print media, television, radio & of course, the internet. Here are just a few of the responses:

"WHAT Dr Tony Humphreys is describing is not a new theory. In fact, he is returning to an idea popular 70 years ago, known as the Refrigerator Mother theory. The problem with that theory is that it assumed parents were universally cold and unconnected with their children, and it was wrong.

It was wrong and it was abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence collected by psychologists, neurologists, epidemiologists and academic researchers.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a clearly defined condition with a common set of symptoms that are differentiated by their severity. That’s why it is known as a "spectrum disorder" because it covers a spectrum of severity. (Dr Humphreys’ comment that "autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome" is simply incorrect. Asperger’s syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder, not a name for it.)

At least, that’s how our scientific advisers explain it to us. What we see is a little different.

We see children who are unconditionally loved by their parents. We see parents who are warm and caring, but whose emotional temperature rises whenever those children are threatened or dismissed.
We have seen them fight and cry and despair. And we have seen them get back up and keep going under pressures that would break most of us. We have seen them take on authority, ignorance, and prejudice — and triumph.
Slowly, we have seen our country catching up with what those parents know: That ASD is no emotional withdrawal. The Department of Health fully acknowledges the condition and a method of diagnosing it.
The EU is so concerned that it is funding research to determine how widespread the condition is. Irish Autism Action is part of that project and its initial figures show that roughly one in every 100 children born here has ASD.
It is true that the causes of ASD are unclear. There is clearly a strong genetic element, though how precisely it operates is not understood. There seem to be environmental elements though they are yet to be fully examined.
What people with autism and their parents need is more research that specifically addresses how the condition occurs — not the defrosting of an assumption over half a century old."
Kevin Whelan, Chief Executive, Irish Autism Action (Irish Examiner 07/02/2012)
"The article by Tony Humphreys claiming that autism is caused by "cold" or emotionally distant parents, displays such willful ignorance, lack of understanding and density of inaccurate and offensive statements that it is shocking that the Irish Examiner would publish it.
This kind of psycho-babble has been discredited for decades.
Autism is a biological, brain-based disorder. It is also a genetic disorder. The scientific evidence for these statements is overwhelming. We now know of more than 100 distinct genetic conditions that can result in autistic symptoms.
These conditions affect early development of the brain and researchers are making progress in understanding how that results in the specific symptoms seen in autism, which may range widely in severity.
In contrast, the claims by Mr Humphreys are a throwback to psycho-analytic theories that are completely unsupported by any evidence, as well as being actively damaging and hurtful.
In publishing this waffle, your paper does a disservice to responsible journalism and to all the patients, parents and teachers struggling to cope with the real disabilities caused by this condition."
 Kevin Mitchell PhD, Associate professor of genetics and neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin (Irish Examiner 07/02/2012) 

"It is at a minimum the responsibility of a newspaper editor to ensure that the content of the paper he edits provides balance and accuracy.

I was dismayed to read the offensive article published by the Irish Examiner written by Tony Humphreys (Feelgood, Feb 3), which demonstrated that neither balance nor accuracy were considered. The tone of the article dismisses the direct experiences of the parents and relatives of more than 30,000 Irish citizens who have an autistic spectrum disorder.
Here are the facts:

* Autism is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder associated with significant burden of care on parents and relatives and the people affected.
* Brain development is atypical from an early age.
* Children with autism need an early diagnosis to ensure appropriate treatment and interventions.
* Early interventions have a demonstrable impact in limiting the impact of the disability. The only thing accurate that Mr Humphreys had to say was “children’s well-being mostly depends on emotional security” advocating for a nurturing style of parenting.
What Mr Humphreys fails to recognise or acknowledge is the extent with which the parents of the hundreds of children with autism that I have encountered manage their children’s challenges on a daily basis with love, humour, patience, nurturing and devotion.
They sacrifice careers and financial security to ensure that their children receive everything possible to realise their potential. A parent can simply do no more than this. Through this entirely one-sided representation of a 1950s hypothesis on the causes of autism, your paper has caused unnecessary distress to thousands of people in this country. It is simply unacceptable to state that the piece is an opinion piece.
It requires an immediate retraction and apology to all those affected by autism everywhere." 
Professor Louise Gallagher, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin (Irish Examiner 08/02/2012)

"CLAIMS BY a prominent psychologist that parents were in some way responsible for their children’s autism by exhibiting a lack of love have been described as “outrageous” by Minister for Health and Children Dr James Reilly.Dr Reilly, who has a 25-year-old autistic son, said Dr Tony Humphreys’s remarks were a slur on parents with autistic children.

“It was utterly outrageous. The hurt that he caused people is absolutely astonishing,” he said.

Dr Humphreys drew an angry response from many parents of autistic children in a column in the Irish Examiner last week. He referred to a study purporting to show higher levels of autism in the children of parents involved in mathematics and science.

He said the researchers had missed the “glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity”.

Dr Reilly said Dr Humphreys compounded his original offence by going on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ radio and stating that parents need not worry that autism had a genetic component.

“Another utter insult to parents. I say this to parents, let nobody set a limit on your child’s horizon,” the Minister said in an interview on TV3 News. “If one of your children has a problem with autism and the others don’t, it is not your parenting skills that are the issue.”

Dr Reilly’s son Jamie is now 25 and recently graduated from TCD with an honours degree in genetics. Both father and son spoke at a recent international conference on autism in Galway.

Dr Humphreys could not be contacted last night. He told TV3 that he regretted causing any offence, but did not regret speaking what he believed was the truth."
Dr James Reilly, Irish Minister for Health and Children ( 14/02/2012)

This is just a few replies from professionals, the responses from the general public are everywhere. A visit to the Autism in the Media page from the Irish Autism Action website will link you with many more responses if you want to read them, very few of them supporting Dr Humphreys position.

So what are your thoughts on the issue, are the parents to blame? Me, I don't think so. The environment surrounding a child may have some effect, but to dismiss Aspergers as totally the parents fault, as if they are emotional sink-holes is an insult to sufferers & their parents alike.

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mental Illness & Violence

Last week I posted an article about the stigma of mental illness and a list of myths associated with the mentally ill. It appears someone took offence at the suggestion given in ONE of the listed myths that media helped fuel the myth that the mentally ill are dangerous. is a website that seems dedicated to proving that the mentally ill are more violent, more dangerous & more homicidal than society in general. They were even nice enough to send me a link on Twitter to a page on the site detailing studies on the links between mental illness & violent crime. Julian Hendy is a veteran documentary maker & investigative journalist who started investigating links between mental illness & violent crime after his father was killed by someone with a mental illness in 2007.

Hendy's site is built around his investigation that seems to show that in the UK, around 100 families a year will lose someone in a homicide committed by someone with a mental illness. He also produces scientific evidence that shows that the rate of mental illness among those convicted of homicide is higher than is found in the general public. I truly believe that Hendy has tried to be objective in his research & the presentation of the data, but has he succeeded? Is there other research into the subject that conflicts with his findings?

The answer is yes. Here a few other statistics to be considered:
(see the end of this article for links to more information)

  • Between 6% and 10% of the population aged 16 years & over will have a significant mental illness at any one time.

  • Out of 1,564 people convicted of homicide in England & Wales between April 1996 & April 1999, a total of 164 (around 10%) were found to show signs of mental illness at the time of the offence.
    (Department of Health 2001, Safety First,  Report of the National Confidential Inquiry (NCI) Into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness  – Annual report: England and Wales. Department of Health)
  • A later study of 5,189 homicides between January 1997 & December 2005 showed that the same percentage (510 or around 10%) were committed by people known to have had mental health problems at the time of the offence.
    (Large M, et al., 2008, ‘Homicide due to mental disorder in England in Wales over 50 years’,  British Journal of Psychiatry , vol. 193, pp. 130–133.)
  • 95% of homicides are committed by people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
    ( Kings College London, Institute of Psychiatry, 2006,  Risk of violence to other people)
  • 47% of violent crime victims believe their attacker was under the influence of alcohol and abut 17% believed they were under the influence of drugs.
    (Home Office, 2009, Crime in England and Wales 2008/09, Vol. 1, Findings from the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime, Statistical Bulletin, 11/09, vol. 1)
  • 30% of victims believed they were attacked BECAUSE the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, compared to only 1% who attributed the attack to mental illness.
    (Coleman K, Hird C, Povey D. 2006, ‘Violent Crime Overview, Homicide and Gun Crime 2004/2005’,  Home Office Statistical Bulletin)
So what do these figures show us? Not much really, just that you are able to find statistics that can support either view. But I have to admit there is a lot more information available on studies showing the rate of mental illness varies little between those convicted of homicide & the general population. A simple web search will show that.

Personally I think anyone who commits homicide has to have some form of mental illness (it is far from what would be considered a 'normal' act) & adding substance abuse just makes things worse. Are we, the mentally ill, any more dangerous than anyone else? With proper treatment & support, no. The issue becomes undiagnosed/untreated mental illness & often substance abuse. Does this make the mentally ill any more dangerous. Possibly.

I do know that I was subject to violent mood swings & alcohol abuse before I was diagnosed. Could I have killed someone back then? Hmmmm, tough to answer but I do remember one incident from my late teens when I woke up one day and realised I could have killed my then girlfriend the night before if my anger hadn't been redirected at a wall - and that was almost 20 years before I was diagnosed. I actually spent a week in hospital after that, when I broke down at the thought - would have been nice if someone had talked to me about what was going on then. I live with the regrets those 20 years bring, it's cost me family & friends, the life I once dreamed of.

Now I'm treated, probably over medicated even, the world is different. So I can agree with Hendy on one point, one big point. We need to provide more services for those with mental illness, not continue cutting them. Making it easier for people to recognise mental illness within themselves & others then make it easier to get the help needed.

Sadly, despite changes in the mental health field & the amount of information & knowledge available, the media still seems to focus on the bad side of the problem - the violence and damage. This maintains the stigma, making it hard for those that need it to seek help. More needs to be made of the positives of correct treatment & open discussion of mental health issues. is a good idea, but because of the reason behind it's creation, it comes across as just another outlet focussing on the negative side of mental health issues, feeding the stigma surrounding those dealing with mental illness. Instead of focusing on what can be done to help sufferers, it is almost nothing but the most negative information that could be found. It would be nice if it could focus more on solutions than statistics that seem to confirm that the mentally ill are dangerous to society.

This in not a personal attack on Julian Hendy or an attack on the website. It is just the impression I get when I visit the site. It just seems to support the continuation of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Solutions are needed, not statistics.

Articles on the relationship between mental illness & violence:
Better Health Channel: Mental Illness & Violence
SANE Australia: Violence & Mental Illness
Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia: Understanding Mental Illness & Violence (pdf)
World Psychiatry: Violence & Mental Illness: An Overview
The New England Journal of Medicine: Violence & Mental Illness - How Strong Is The Link?
Response Ability: Mental Illness & Violence
Mind: Dangerousness & Mental Health: The Facts
The Guardian: Substance abuse, not mental illness, causes violent crime
Psych Central: Dispelling the Myth of Mental Illness & Violence

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blood test accurately distinguishes depressed patients from healthy controls

The initial assessment of a blood test to help diagnose major depressive disorder indicates it may become a useful clinical tool.  In a paper published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, a team including Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers reports that a test analyzing levels of nine biomarkers accurately distinguished patients diagnosed with depression from control participants without significant false-positive results.   

"Traditionally, diagnosis of major depression and other mental disorders has been made based on patients' reported symptoms, but the accuracy of that process varies a great deal, often depending on the experience and resources of the clinician conducting the assessment," says George Papakostas, MD, of the MGH Department of Psychiatry, lead and corresponding author of the report.  "Adding an objective biological test could improve diagnostic accuracy and may also help us track individual patients' response to treatment." 

The study authors note that previous efforts to develop tests based on a single blood or urinary biomarker did not produce results of sufficient sensitivity, the ability to detect the tested-for condition, or specificity, the ability to rule out that condition.  "The biology of depression suggests that a highly complex series of interactions exists between the brain and biomarkers in the peripheral circulation," says study co-author John Bilello, PhD, chief scientific officer of Ridge Diagnostics, which sponsored the current study.  "Given the complexity and variability of these types of disorders and the associated biomarkers in an individual, it is easy to understand why approaches measuring a single factor would not have sufficient clinical utility." 

The test developed by Ridge Diagnostics measures levels of nine biomarkers associated with factors such as inflammation, the development and maintenance of neurons, and the interaction between brain structures involved with stress response and other key functions.  Those measurements are combined using a specific formula to produce a figure called the MDDScore – a number from 1 to 100 indicating the percentage likelihood that the individual has major depression.  In clinical use the MDDScore would range from 1 to 10.   

The initial pilot phase of the study enrolled 36 adults who had been diagnosed with major depression at the MGH, Vanderbilt University or Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Mass., along with 43 control participants from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton, Mass.  MDDScores for 33 of the 36 patients indicated the presence of depression, while only 8 of the 43 controls had a positive test result.  The average score for patients was 85, while the average for controls was 33.  A second replication phase enrolled an additional 34 patients from the MGH and Vanderbilt, 31 of whom had a positive MDDScore result.  Combining both groups indicated that the test could accurately diagnose major depression with a sensitivity of about 90 percent and a specificity of 80 percent. 

"It can be difficult to convince patients of the need for treatment based on the sort of questionnaire now used to rank their reported symptoms," says Bilello.  "We expect that the biological basis of this test may provide patients with insight into their depression as a treatable disease rather than a source of self-doubt and stigma. As we accumulate additional data on the MDDScore and perform further studies, we hope it will be useful for predicting treatment response and helping to select the best therapies." 

Papakostas adds, "Determining the true utility of this test will require following this small research study with larger trials in clinical settings.  But these results are already providing us with intriguing new hints on how powerfully factors such as inflammation – which we are learning has a major role in many serious medical issues – contribute to depression."  Papakostas is an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Additional co-authors of the Molecular Psychiatry report are Brianna Bakow and Samuel Lipkin, MGH Psychiatry; Richard Shelton, MD, Vanderbilt University; Gustavo Kinrys, MD, Cambridge Health Alliance; Michael Henry, MD, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center; and Linda Thurmond, PhD, Ridge Diagnostics. 

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $750 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Time To Change: Make a pledge!

Time To Change is an organisation dedicated to ending mental health discrimination & the stigma surrounding mental illness. They are currently running a Time to Talk campaign to encourage people from all walks of life to speak out on mental health issues.

I have made my pledge to discuss my experience with mental illness & encourage you to add your voice to the thousands already speaking out. Make a pledge today to help end the stigma & discrimination associated with mental illness!


The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Facebook: Is this any place for the not-so-self-assured to make friends?

From the Los Angeles Times:

Facebook, the social networking giant that connects 845 million people to one another, may be a jolly gabfest for the self-assured. But for those who suffer from low self-esteem, it appears to be a rather nasty trap, luring such people into self-disclosures that prompt many a Facebook friend to agree with their low opinion of themselves.

A new study, set to be published in the journal Psychological Science, explored the dynamics of friendship on Facebook to see what benefits or pitfalls the site might offer to a population that could use the propping up of a few new friends: those who think poorly of themselves, fear judgment by others and are prone to social isolation and depression.

Enlisting a slew of undergraduates for three separate studies, they found that those with low self-esteem are encouraged and emboldened by Facebook's capacity to provide a forum for social interaction that doesn't risk awkward face-to-face communication. They established that, given the opportunity for such social interaction, those with low-esteem do engage in the kind of self-disclosure that is thought essential for friendships to take hold and deepen.

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Traumatic experience, silence linked

London, Feb 5 (IANS) People who suffer a traumatic experience often don't talk about it, and many forget it over time.
"There's this idea, with silence, that if we don't talk about something, it starts fading," says Charles B. Stone of Belgium's Universite Catholique de Louvain, the co-author of a study on the subject.
But that belief isn't necessarily backed up by psychological research-a lot of it comes from a Freudian belief that everyone has deep-seated issues we're repressing and ought to talk about, the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science reports.
The real relationship between silence and memory is much more complicated, Stone says, according to a university statement.
"We are trying to understand how people remember the past in a very basic way," Stone says. He co-authored the study with Alin Coman, Adam D. Brown, Jonathan Koppel of the universities of Pittsburgh, New York and Aarhus (Denmark) and William Hirst of the New School for Social Research.
The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Mind Over Matter

Patients’ Perceptions of Illness Make a Difference

A recent press release by the Association of Psychological Science has suggested that what the sufferer thinks of their illness (ANY illness)  plays a large roll in determining their health outcomes. Research of existing literature on patients' perception of illness by Keith Petrie (University of Aukland) & John Weinman (Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College) indicates that a persons perception of their illness has a direct relationship to several key health outcomes.

These key outcomes include their level of functioning and ability, utilization of health care, adherence to treatment plans laid out by health care professionals, and even overall mortality. Further  research suggests that how a person views their illness may play a bigger role in determining  their health outcomes than the actual severity of  their disease.

Read the full press release on the Association of Psychological Science website.

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fight Stigma

Stamping Out the Stigma of Mental Illness

It is an undisputed fact that individuals who experience mental health issues are often faced with discrimination that results from misconceptions of their illness. As a result, many people who would benefit from mental health services often do not seek treatment for fear that they will be viewed in a negative way. The World Health Organization agrees and says that in the 400 million people worldwide who are affected by mental illness, about twenty percent reach out for treatment . The World Psychiatry Association began an international program to fight the stigma and discrimination many people hold toward individuals who have mental health issues.
It is the 21st century, and though evidence-based research has shown us that mental illness is a real medical disorder, stigma is on the rise instead of on the decline. David Satcher, US Attorney General writes, “Stigma was expected to abate with increased knowledge of mental illness, but just the opposite occurred: stigma in some ways intensified over the past 40 years even though understanding improved. Knowledge of mental illness appears by itself insufficient to dispel stigma.”

Mental illness: myth versus fact

Here are some common myths that may be used to justify negative feelings about people with mental illness:
Mental illness is fairly rare and doesn't affect average people.
Mental illness is quite common. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in five Americans suffer from a mental disorder in any given year. Mental illness can strike people of any age, race, religion or income status.
People with mental illnesses are dangerous.
This powerful myth has been fed by the media. In fact, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not dangerous. They are much more likely to be the victims of violence and crime than the perpetrators.
If you have a mental illness, you can will it away. Being treated for a psychiatric disorder means an individual has in some way "failed" or is weak.
A serious mental illness cannot be willed away. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away, either. It takes courage to seek professional help.
Depression and other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, do not affect children or adolescents. Any problems they have are just a part of growing up.
Children and adolescents can develop mental illnesses. One in ten children or adolescents has a disorder severe enough to cause impairment.
Most people with a mental illness are receiving treatment.
Only 1 in 5 persons affected with a mental illness seeks treatment.
Mental illness is more like a weakness than a real illness.
Mental illnesses are as real as other diseases like diabetes or cancer. Some mental illnesses are inherited, just as some physical illnesses are. They are not the result of a weak will or a character flaw.
People with mental illnesses can never be normal.
Science has made great strides in the treatment of mental illness in recent decades. With proper treatment, many people with mental illnesses live normal, productive lives.
How you can fight stigma
We can all do our part to reduce stigma and make life easier for the millions of people who struggle with mental illness. Here are some ideas:
  1. Educate yourself about mental illness. Having the facts can help you challenge the misinformation that leads to stigma.
  2. Be aware of words. Don't reduce people to a diagnosis. Instead of "a schizophrenic," say "a person with schizophrenia." Correct people who use hurtful language to describe people with mental illness, such as "psycho" or "crazy."
  3. Challenge media stereotypes. Write letters to any newspapers, TV or radio stations that promote negative portrayals of people with mental illness.
  4. Support those with mental health issues. Treat them with respect. Help them find jobs or housing. Encourage them to get or stick with treatment.
  5. Share your story. If you or someone in your family has had a mental illness, speak up about it. Your example could help someone else.
"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."
Bill Clinton

The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

Is There Anybody Out There?

I came across this song on YouTube, Is There Anybody Out There? by Secondhand Serenade. It just seemed to click with me, describing how I've felt at times when in a deep depression. You just seem to wonder - is there anybody out there?

A bit of a 'down' sort of song, but one I'm sure to listen too in my blue times.


The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.