The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

A story about Peer Specialists

The use of Peer Specialists is controversial at best, but studies are finding that using peer specialists in patient  care gives hope and a message of possibilities.  The fact that there are real mental health consumers who have lives and are productive is a very powerful message.  Too often, the messages we send to our patients is that they are “broken” and cannot be fixed.  We don’t do that on purpose, but we still do that.  When you introduce a peer specialist into your program, you get someone who relates to your patients in a completely different way and who understands what they face daily.  You get  someone who inspires and brings hope back into their lives.

Peer Specialists must undergo significant training and certification to be allowed onto mental health units, but even that is not enough to prevent these wonderful people from “giving back” and staying healthy.

Please read this article entirely at the site, The New York Times.  You won’t regret reading it and you will learn quite a bit about who a peer specialist is.
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After Drugs and Dark Times, Helping Others to Stand Back Up

Dual Diagnosis: Antonio Lambert, diagnosed with a mood disorder and addiction, manages through faith, medication and companionship – leaning the same “peer specialist” skills he teaches.

By
Published: December 19, 2011

SMYRNA, Del. — The taste of cocaine and the slow-motion sensation of breaking the law were all too familiar, but the thrill was long gone.

Antonio Lambert was not a young hoodlum anymore but a family man with a career, and here he was last fall, high as any street user, sneaking into his workplace at 9 o’clock at night, looking for — what, exactly? He didn’t really know.

He left the building with a few cellphones (which he threw away) and a feeling that he was slipping, falling back down into a hole. He walked in the darkness, walked with no place to go, and then he began to do what he has taught others in similar circumstances to do: turn, face the problem, and stand back up.

“I started talking to myself, out loud; that’s one of my coping strategies, and one reason I relapsed is I had forgotten to use those,” said Mr. Lambert, 41, a mental health educator who has a combined diagnosis — mood disorder with drug addiction — that is among the scariest in psychiatry.

He texted a friend, someone who knew his history and could help talk him back down. And he checked himself into a hospital. “I know when it’s time to reach out for help.”

The mental health care system has long made use of former patients as counselors and the practice has been controversial, in part because doctors and caseworkers have questioned their effectiveness. But recent research suggests that peer support can reduce costs, and in 2007, federal health officials ruled that states could bill for the services under Medicaid — if the state had a system in place to train and certify peer providers.

In the years since, “peer support has just exploded; I have been in this field for 25 years, and I have never seen anything happen so quickly,” said Larry Davidson, a mental health researcher at Yale. “Peers are living, breathing proof that recovery is possible, that it is real.”

Exhibit A is Mr. Lambert, a self-taught ex-convict who is becoming a prominent peer trainer, giving classes in Delaware and across the country. He is one of a small number of people who have chosen to describe publicly how difficult it is to manage such a severe dual diagnosis, including the sudden setbacks that often come with it.

“He is an extreme example of how much difference passion and commitment can make, given where he’s come from,” said Steve Harrington, the chief executive of the National Association of Peer Specialists, a group devoted to promoting peer support in mental health care.

Mr. Lambert, who has climbed out of a deep hole with the help of religious faith, medication and his own forms of self-expression, puts it this way: “There are a lot of people dealing with mental illness, drugs, abandonment, abuse, and they don’t think there’s a way out. I didn’t. I didn’t.”

Bean Bean in Spider City

His grandmother was the first person to call him Bean Bean, and the boy was so skinny that he couldn’t shake it.

He couldn’t avoid the older toughs in the Brighton section of Portsmouth, Va., either, and he spent some of his school-age years taking beatings. That was Brighton back in the day, and at least those fights taught survival skills. Not everything did: He remembers being sexually abused at age 6, by an older boy in the neighborhood — brutally.

He had no one to tell, even if he had known what to say. His mother and father were split, living blocks apart, each a fixture in the neighborhood’s social swirl of house parties, moonshine “shot shops,” card games and other attractions. His mother, called Chucky, was often out, sometimes leaving the boy at a friend’s house for “a few hours” that turned into an entire weekend. For much of that time, he waited on the porch.

He idolized his father, a truck driver and warehouse worker who lived nearby but spent his free time out, too, drinking and playing cards.

“During that time I was an alcoholic, but I would go out and try to find him when I heard he was out,” said his father, Edward Lambert, in a recent interview at his house in Brighton. He gave up drinking years ago for God, and father and son would eventually become close…[read more]

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December 20, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

Americans’ Mental Health Disabilities on the Rise

It seems that the need for mental health services is on the rise at a time that these same services are suffering severe cutbacks in services.  Does this seem like it is correct?

There is a crisis going on in our country that involves mental health and police/fire/EMS.  Hospitals are receiving more and more violent psychiatric patients due to the cutbacks at local jails and prisons; EMS is tied up on calls to psychiatric patients who simply have no other way to get to the hospital.

There needs to be an overhaul of the mental health system–the needs of the mentally ill need to be better served.

This is an article from Psych Central that I hope you enjoy.  Please visit that site to find many more fine articles that address the needs and issues for mentally ill persons.

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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 26, 2011

A new study discovers American adults are reporting an increase in mental health disability compared to prior decades.

Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also found that the prevalence of disability attributed to other chronic conditions decreased while the prevalence of significant mental distress remained unchanged.

“These findings highlight the need for improved access to mental health services in our communities and for better integration of these services with primary care delivery,” said Mojtabai.

“While the trend in self-reported mental health disability is clear, the causes of this trend are not well-understood.”

For the study, Mojtabai reviewed data from the U.S. National Health Interview from 1997 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2009. He discovered nearly 2 million more disabled adults self-reported mental health disability in the current decade.

Mojtabai noted the increase in the prevalence of mental health disability was mainly among individuals with significant psychological distress who did not use mental health services in the past year.

Findings showed that 3.2 percent of participants reported not receiving mental health care for financial reasons between 2007 and 2009, compared to 2.0 percent from 1997 to 1999.

The findings will appear in the November edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

 

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September 28, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

Stigma Influences Seeking Mental Health Care

Here is an article I found on BrainBlogger that I thought was a good article and so I am reposting it here.  Please visit the original site because I found many really great articles there about mental health issues.  Leave them a comment and tell them I sent you when you go.  Won’t you leave me a comment, too, and tell me what your thoughts are on this topic?

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By | Editor Shaheen E Lakhan

Stigmatization of mental health disorders leads to a decreased quality of life, missed opportunities, and lost independence for the affected individual. A new study reports that stigmatization also determines if and when people will seek mental health care for themselves.

A large population-based survey in Finland evaluated the stigmatizing attitudes about mental illness and the use of mental health services. The study used a questionnaire to explore participant’s beliefs about mental illness. They were asked to respond “yes” or “no” to a variety of statements, including “Depression is a sign of failure,” “Mental health problems are a sign of weakness and sensitivity,” and “Depression is not a real disorder.” Other questions reflected participant’s desire for social distance from others affected by mental illness, as well as attitudes toward antidepressant medication. Respondents also reported their own experiences with depression. In total, nearly 5200 people aged 15 to 80 years old completed the survey.

Stigma is a complex concept that can be divided into three main categories: perceived public stigma (the general belief that people with mental illness are stigmatized by society), personal stigma (an individual belief about mental illness), and self-stigma (an individual’s view of his own mental illness). These attitudes and beliefs are closely related to people’s knowledge and education about mental health and treatments and services for mental illnesses.

Overall, people with depression reported more social tolerance of mental illness and held more positive beliefs about antidepressant medications compared to people without depression. People with more severe depression were more likely to seek healthcare compared to those with mild to moderate cases of depression. The study showed that stigmatizing attitudes do not prevent care-seeking behavior among people with depression, but the depression must be severe enough to overcome the social and self-stigmatization…[read more here]

 

 

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two articles about the budget and its effect on mental health care

Mark Dayton

Image by grassroots solutions via Flickr

Today, I am posting two very different articles.  The first is from the NAMI Executive Director in Minnesota about the fight to maintain services for the vulnerable, mentally ill in  Minnesota.  I repost this here from the Winona Daily News.

The second article is from The New York Times.  This article is about the shut-down of the Minnesota government due to political stalemate.

Please take the time to read both articles, as both are pertinent to the plight of the mentally ill in our nation.  After reading them, won’t you also leave me a comment here?

This issue is one that our national government is about to take on and ultimately will affect each and every American residing in the continental United States of America.  This issue is huge and growing daily.  Please be informed and vocal about your desires to your congressmen and women.  This is not the time for party politics.  This about taking care of all Americans alike.

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SUE ABDERHOLDEN: Mental health cuts cost state money 

By SUE ABDERHOLDEN | Executive director, NAMI Minnesota winonadailynews.com |

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.winonadailynews.com/news/opinion/article_b0710f1c-963f-11e0-8375-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1Qs49a6d2

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton are trying to reach a deal to avoid a government shut-down.

For people in the mental health community – children and adults who live with a mental illness, family members and providers – their decisions will have a huge impact.

The omnibus health and human services bill that was vetoed by the governor contains huge cuts to mental health grants – some were cut as much as 50 percent.

During the past few years we’ve seen how these services keep people out of the hospital and save money.

Negative changes were also proposed to key Minnesota health care programs such as MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance that help people with mental illnesses obtain needed treatment and medications.

A government shutdown presents huge problems to providers who

are already facing a payment delay for the month of June thanks to legislation passed last year, and if a shutdown occurs some might close their doors due to serious cash flow issues. Nearly everyone knows someone who has a mental illness. Is denying access to care and dismantling the mental health system truly the road we want to take?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness asks legislative leaders to recognize the needs of people with mental illnesses and support revenue increases. It’s not only the right thing to do, it will save us money in the long run.

Read more: http://www.winonadailynews.com/news/opinion/article_b0710f1c-963f-11e0-8375-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1Qs555Nmk
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Budget Fight Shuts Down Minnesota Government

By

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota began what is expected to become the broadest shutdown of state services in its history on Friday, after Republicans and Democrats here failed to agree on how to solve the state’s budget woes in time for the new fiscal year.

And so, as the holiday weekend opened, residents and visitors were finding the state’s parks, historical sites and the Minnesota Zoo closed, new hunting and fishing licenses unavailable, and the state lottery and racetracks shuttered. Most rest areas along highways were closed. Tens of thousands of state employees were being sent home without pay, and contractors were told to walk away from hundreds of road construction projects already under way during Minnesota’s often brief summer building season.

Since early this year, politicians in St. Paul have been locked in a battle over how to solve an expected $5 billion budget deficit under a divided government. Republicans, who took control of both chambers of the Legislature after last year’s elections for the first time in almost four decades, called for limiting spending to the $34 billion that the state expected to take in over the next two years. But Gov. Mark Dayton, who was also elected in 2010, becoming the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years, called for collecting more in income taxes from the very highest earners to spare cuts in services to Minnesota’s most vulnerable residents.

While intense, private negotiations went on, day after day, as the July 1 deadline approached, it seemed that the argument never really shifted much at all.

“This is a night of deep sorrow for me because I don’t want to see this shutdown occur,” Mr. Dayton told reporters shortly before midnight on Thursday, after a long, especially hot day of on-and-off negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans. “But I think there are basic principles and the well-being of millions of people in Minnesota that would be damaged not just for the next week or whatever long it takes, but the next two years and beyond with these kind of permanent cuts in personal care attendants and home health services and college tuition increases.”

Late into the night, both sides sought to sway public opinion on the shutdown, even as hundreds of protesters demanding a solution to the impasse gathered outside the Capitol. Republican lawmakers, describing themselves as discouraged and disheartened, held what some described as a “sit-in” in their chambers urging the governor to call a special session so some state services might be temporarily kept running, even if negotiations took a bit longer.

Still, the philosophical rift — between holding the line on spending and raising taxes to maintain services for those most in need — seemed only to grow. And both sides pointed to the results of the 2010 election as evidence that voters had demanded their particular approach.

“We’re talking about runaway spending that we can’t afford,” Kurt Zellers, the Republican House speaker, said late Thursday of Mr. Dayton’s ideas. “And we will not saddle our children and grandchildren with mounds of debts with promises for funding levels that will not be there in the future.”

Amy Koch, the Republican Senate majority leader, defended the Republicans’ hold-the-line plans. “This was a balanced budget that did not raise taxes,” she said. “It was good for Minnesota. It was good for Minnesota taxpayers, and it was what the people asked us for way back in November when they elected us in overwhelming historic majorities to the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate.”

Under Mr. Dayton’s plan — which he laid out during last fall’s campaign in what some saw then as a politically risky move — the top earners in the state would be asked to pay more in income tax.

“I cannot accept a Minnesota where elderly widows are denied the at-home services that permit them to remain healthy and able to live in their own homes or a Minnesota where local governments have to further slash their firefighters and police forces or a Minnesota where special education is being cut so that millionaires do not have to pay one more dollar in taxes,” said Mr. Dayton, who is a former United States senator and an heir to department stores founded by his family. “That is not Minnesota.”

Numerous states’ new budget years began on Friday, but Minnesota now finds itself in an unwanted spot: the rare state in shutdown, a prospect certain to bring political fallout even as state lawmakers face elections next year.

The only other such budget standoff in Minnesota history came in 2005 under an entirely different set of leaders, including Tim Pawlenty, a former governor who is now seeking the Republican nomination for president. But it involved the shutdown of far fewer services and lasted a matter of days.

That impasse ended after both sides agreed to a new fee for cigarettes. But observers here on Friday said they had trouble envisioning a way that this standoff, in which both sides seem dug in and the size of the financial gap is large, will similarly melt away.

“It’s a very sad day for Minnesota,” said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, which will not close. “It’s a state that had a well-earned reputation for being well governed, where, at the end of the day, politics were done in a fair and efficient manner. And it’s now on the cusp of ungovernability. There’s a new ethic here that compromise is weakness.”

The list of state services singled out for closing is long: all sorts of state offices, including licensing agencies and dispatchers in the Twin Cities who monitor traffic jams and accidents and try to keep rush hours moving along. More than 20,000 state employees were expected to be out of work. Certain crucial services will stay open, such as state patrol work, prison operations, courts, and schools.

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July 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mental Health Effects of Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

Iraq operation 3 soldiers

Image via Wikipedia

Today is memorial day, a day to remember those who sacrificed all so we could continue to enjoy the freedoms we have.

We are currently at war in the Middle East; with many men and women stationed far from home.  They are in harm’s way daily and suffer severe emotional distress.  These men and women have families back home who also suffer from the constant worry about their soldier.

Let us take just a moment today to remember those who have died, yes; but also to remember those who continue the fight and give all for us.  These are the modern day heroes.

This article is from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.

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The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the longest combat operations since Vietnam. Many stressors face these Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) troops.

Stressors

OEF/OIF service members are at risk for death or injury. They may see others hurt or killed. They may have to kill or wound others. They are on alert around the clock. These and other factors can increase their chances of having PTSD or other mental health problems.

For many service members, being away from home for long periods of time can cause problems at home or work. These problems can add to the stress. This may be even more so for National Guard and Reserve troops who had not expected to be away for so long. Almost half of those who have served in the current wars have been Guard and Reservists.

Another cause of stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurs in the military. It can happen to men and women. MST can occur during peacetime, training, or war.

One early study looked at the mental health of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study asked Soldiers and Marines about war-zone experiences and about their symptoms of distress. Soldiers and Marines in Iraq reported more combat stressors than Soldiers in Afghanistan. This table describes the kinds of stressors faced in each combat theater in 2003:

 

Combat Stressors Seeing dead bodies Being shot at Being attacked/ ambushed Receiving rocket or mortar fire Know someone killed/ seriously injured
Iraq Army 95% 93% 89% 86% 86%
Iraq Marines 94% 97% 95% 92% 87%
Afghanistan Army 39% 66% 58% 84% 43%

 

Soldiers and Marines who had more combat stressors had more mental health problems. Those who served in Iraq had higher rates of PTSD than those who served in Afghanistan.

Later research has confirmed that to date, troops who served in Iraq are more likely to report mental health problems than troops who served in Afghanistan. A body of research shows a strong link between level of combat stress and PTSD.

How does serving in OEF/OIF affect mental health?

Research on OEF/OIF Veterans (1) suggests that 10-18% of OEF/OIF troops are likely to have PTSD after they return. In addition to PTSD, OEF/OIF service members are at risk for other mental health problems. Although studies vary widely in terms of methods used, estimates of depression in returning troops range from 3% to 25%. Excessive drinking and use of tobacco among OEF/OIF Veterans may also be problematic. Service members also report concerns over conflicts with others.

Some research has looked at how the response to war stressors changes over time. PTSD symptoms are more likely to show up in returning OEF/OIF service members after a delay of several months. Using a brief PTSD screen, service members were assessed at their return and then again six months later. Service members were more likely to have a positive screen – that is, they showed more PTSD symptoms — at the later time.

On the other hand, many service members who screened positive (had more PTSD symptoms) at their return showed fewer PTSD symptoms after six months. Overall, it should be noted that most returning service members screened negative for PTSD at both time points.

What increases the risk of PTSD in OEF/OIF service members?

Research studies have found that certain factors make it more likely that OEF/OIF service members will develop PTSD. These factors include:

  • Longer deployment time
  • More severe combat exposure, such as:
    • deployment to “forward” areas close to the enemy
    • seeing others wounded or killed
  • More severe physical injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Lower rank
  • Lower level of schooling
  • Low morale and poor social support within the unit
  • Not being married
  • Family problems
  • Member of the National Guard or Reserves
  • Prior trauma exposure
  • Female gender
  • Hispanic ethnic group

Are service members getting mental health care?

Our recent Veterans are seeking care at VA more than ever before. VA data show that from 2002 to 2009, 1 million troops left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and became eligible for VA care. Of those troops, 46% came in for VA services. Of those Veterans who used VA care, 48% were diagnosed with a mental health problem (2).

However, many Veterans with mental health problems have not come in for services. Reasons that some Veterans have given for not getting treatment include:

  • Concern over being seen as weak
  • Concern about being treated differently
  • Concern that others would lose confidence in them
  • Concerns about privacy
  • They prefer to rely on family and friends
  • They don’t believe treatment is effective
  • Concerns about side effects of treatments
  • Problems with access, such as cost or location of treatment

To address these concerns, VA is reaching out to OEF/OIF Veterans. It is vital to let Veterans know that effective treatments exist for PTSD.

Many resources are available to OEF/OIF Veterans. You can find a list under Military Resources. Our Returning from the War Zone guides also provide help and support to returning service members and their families.

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May 30, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Tool Aims to Improve Measurement of Primary Care Depression Outcomes

Werner Erhard and Associates v. Christopher Co...

Image via Wikipedia

There is a lot of information available about tools to determine stages of depression, or mental illness.  This is an article that discusses the development of another, new, tool that is designed to compliment the existing tools and augment the chances of accuracy.   This is from one of my favorite sites, Science Daily, where you can find a wealth of articles about mental health and mental health issues.  I like to read the articles because they usually showcase the newest research that is available.

Please read the article below and then let me know what you think, won’t you?

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ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011) — Primary care doctors have long been on the front lines of depression treatment. Depression is listed as a diagnosis for 1 in 10 office visits and primary care doctors prescribe more than half of all antidepressants.

Now doctors at the University of Michigan Health System have developed a new tool that may help family physicians better evaluate the extent to which a patient’s depression has improved.

The issue, the researchers explain, is that the official definition of when a patient’s symptoms are in remission doesn’t always match up with what doctors see in a real-world practice, especially for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. The study will be published in the upcoming issue of General Hospital Psychiatry.

“Rather than simply going down a list and checking off a patient’s lack of individual symptoms, we believe there are also positive signs that are important — a patient’s feeling that they are returning to ‘normal,’ their sense of well-being, their satisfaction with life and their ability to cope with life’s ups and downs,” says lead author Donald E. Nease Jr., M.D., who was an associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and member of the U-M Depression Center at the time of the research.

Nease and his colleagues developed a series of five questions — such as, “Over the last two weeks, did you feel in control of your emotions?” — that they hope will help doctors better understand a patient’s inner landscape.

The remission criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) doesn’t necessarily correspond to a patient’s own sense of recovery, Nease explains.

For example, a patient could meet all the criteria for full remission, but still not feel…[read more]

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May 25, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tai Chi Helps Prevent Falls, Aids Mental Health

Tai Chi in the street, China, May 2007

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a wonderful article that shows the benefit of Tai Chi, a slow and easy exercise program, on mental health.  I have always felt that the body needs to be moved to connect it with the emotions and mind.  Tai Chi, which is practiced regularly in China and other far eastern nations, does just that through a slow progression of poses over the course of the class.

We all know that exercise is good for us.  That is undisputed.  Mental health patients usually live sedentary lives and take medication that puts on weight.  It could only help to get up and move and to do so in a social setting just adds to the benefit.

Please read this article from MedPage Today.  While there, browse some of the other wonderful articles available at that site; maybe even leave a comment about this article.  Let me know, too, what you think of this topic, won’t you?

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By Nancy Walsh, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: May 16, 2011
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Doing tai chi — combining slow movements with relaxation and deep breathing — appears to help prevent falls in older people and improve their state of mind, according to recently published systematic reviews.

In four systematic reviews of trials that assessed the effects of tai chi on fall prevention, three clearly showed benefits, according to Myeong Soo Lee, PhD, of the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Daejeon, South Korea, and Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, of the University of Exeter in England.

And in five reviews looking at psychological health, four determined that tai chi was helpful for older patients, the researchers reported online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Action Points


    • Explain that the practice of tai chi — combining slow movements with relaxation and deep breathing — appears to be helpful for preventing falls and improving psychological health in older people.
  • Note that negative results were seen in studies of tai chi for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, while contradictory effects were seen for cardiovascular disease and improvement of balance.

Tai chi originated from the Buddhist and Confucian precept that health is determined by the life forces yin and yang, with illness representing an imbalance in these energies.

Numerous clinical trials in this increasingly popular practice have sought to evaluate its health benefits, but conflicting results have emerged.

To help clinicians sift through the evidence, Lee and Ernst analyzed the results of 35 systematic reviews that each included at least two controlled studies published between 2002 and 2010.

Among the conditions evaluated in these trials were general health in older people, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, muscle strength, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, psychological health, rheumatoid arthritis, and fall prevention.

Overall, the reviewers determined that 17 of the systematic reviews reflected minimal bias, while seven had moderate flaws and 11 had major deficiencies.

A total of 20 of the reviews concluded that tai chi might have benefits, eight drew the opposite conclusion, and seven found insufficient evidence for drawing conclusions.

Nine of the reviews were high quality, in the judgment of Lee and Ernst.

One of these high-quality reviews found positive effects for tai chi, five were negative, and no conclusions were made by the other three…[read more]

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May 17, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Army telebehavioral project broadens access to mental health care

Members of the U.S. Army 187th Infantry Regime...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is an article that piqued my interest.  It’s not the norm to read about the military being cutting edge in health care, especially mental health care, so this article is like a beacon of light.

I’m glad to see that our government is finally showing some support to the troops and addressing the possibility that being at war for so long a time could have an effect on a person’s mental health.

This is from NextGov, which is a government site.  Please read this article and then let me know what you think about this topic.

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By Bob Brewin 04/21/2011

A pilot telebehavioral mental health project the Army is running in Afghanistan has widened access to treatment, with both patients and providers reporting satisfaction with the system, according to Maj. Sebastian Schnellbacher, the 101st Airborne Division’s psychiatrist, who spoke in March at the Armed Forces Public Health Conference in Hampton, Va.

Schnellbacher said in his presentation that the majority of soldiers who tried the telebehavioral health system felt comfortable using it to discuss their mental health issues with a remote provider, though they said an in-person encounter would improve understanding.

The mental health counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists participating in the pilot project also expressed overall satisfaction with the system, though they would have been more comfortable if the patient were in the same room, Schnellbacher said.

The telebehavioral health system dramatically increased access to care for remotely deployed soldiers, Schnellbacher said, estimating that 70 percent of the consultations would not have occurred without the system, and that it saved one to three days of travel to forward operating bases.

In November 2009, Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, said the Army needed to find ways to use technology to provide mental health services to deployed troops. The service then kicked off the pilot telebehavioral health project with equipment provided by its Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) organization, according to Col. Ron Poropatich, deputy director of the Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center , who spoke at a conference in September 2010.

Schnellbacher said the telebehavioral health system in Afghanistan consists of a support operation at Bagram Air Force Base and four central nodes, each serving 14 peripheral nodes. Each node is equipped with a laptop computer, webcam, headset and a connection over the classified CENTRIX network used by U.S. forces and allies.

Nodes close to Bagram used terrestrial network connections, Schnellbacher said, adding that the telebehavioral health sessions did not exhaust bandwidth. But, he added, connections to more remote forward operating bases used satellite links, and the sessions in those cases could degrade bandwidth needed for feeds from unmanned aircraft.

Consultation over a video system requires mental health providers to modify their behavior from what they’re accustomed to in face-to-face treatment, Schnellbacher said. “Small talk” is a powerful tool when using the system, he said, and helps patients realize that the providers understand them and their world.

Providers need to demonstrate an awareness of the geography and recent events at the faraway base, and providers should engage in conversation about seemingly inconsequential but relevant topics to draw the patient into the session, he said.

Providers need to speak deliberately, using slower and broadened movements, and use head nods and verbal cues to indicate they understand what patients are trying to convey, Schnellbacher said.

Only five of 23 soldiers surveyed said they had difficulty understanding providers in the remote sessions. The providers said the sessions did not interfere with establishing a rapport with patients or detecting nuances in their voices or body language, Schnellbacher said.

The Army’s experience thus far with the Afghanistan project in many ways reflects results of a three-year program run by Peter Tuerk, a psychologist at the Charleston, S.C., VA Medical Center, who has used videoconferencing systems to conduct prolonged exposure therapy sessions with veterans who cannot make it to the hospital for face-to-face counseling.

Tuerk said, “The technology fades into the background” as treatment progresses and the patients become comfortable with the system, at which point “the machine is not a big deal.”

Schnellbacher said the Army plans to expand telebehavioral health care in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he recommended formal training on the system for providers slated for combat deployment. He also recommended inclusion of telebehavioral health care into military behavioral health training programs

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April 28, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

England cricket ace’s positive spin on mental health

Here is an article from the Sun out of the UK.  I like this article because it does put a different spin on being a person who is suffering from a mental health affliction.  It’s really good to see so many famous faces and see their comments posted on a public forum.  People need to know that depression can be dealt with in a postive way.  People need to see that others are fighting the fight, just like they are.

So here is the article.  Please read it and let me know what you think.  I applaud all of the people mentioned here and wish that others in the limelight would make a positive statement about mental health issues.  Not everyone with a mental health diagnosis  fits the collective picture.

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MICHAEL YARDY is the latest star to come out of the shadows and talk about his depression.

The England cricketer flew home from the World Cup after keeping his illness a secret from most of his team-mates.

Being open about this condition, Yardy, 30, has offered support to millions of people who may be suffering in silence.

In the UK, one in four of us will be affected at some point during our lifetime – but we’re not alone. Celebrities including George Michael, Uma Thurman, Dame Kelly Holmes and Dancing On Ice star Denise Welch have all spoken out about their mental illness.

Mark Davies, from the mental health charity Rethink, said: “In being honest and open about their problems celebrities show great courage and also give heart to millions of people who suffer in silence because of the fear of stigma and discrimination.

“Now it’s Michael Yardy. But many others in the public eye – such as Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell – have done the same thing.

“What they show is that mental illness is like any other illness. It can affect anyone regardless of who they are or what they do. Attitudes ARE changing as a result of their bravery.”

Mark added that it is wrong to think of the condition as not being able to handle pressure.

Here is what celebs have said about suffering depression…

 

'A curse' ... George Michael

‘A curse’ … George Michael

George Michael: “Twelve years of depression and fear and lots of other bad stuff. It was as if I had a curse on me. I couldn’t believe how much God was piling on at once.”

Uma Thurman: “My professional life was soaring but my private life was in ruins. I fell into acting and a life that didn’t give me the feeling I was doing anything substantial or meaningful.”

Robbie Williams: “It’s like the worst flu all day and you can’t kick it.”

Dame Kelly Holmes: “I became depressed and I cut myself with scissors. You feel you can’t get out of a cycle of crying, feeling like the world’s ended and that there’s nothing positive to strive for.”

 

'Life in ruins' ... Uma Thurman

‘Life in ruins’ … Uma Thurman

Gwyneth Paltrow: “I thought postpartum (postnatal) depression meant you were sobbing every day and incapable of looking after a child. I felt like a failure.”

Mel C: “There is always a fear the depression could return but I do all the right things. I try to get the right amount of sleep and I need to eat properly and exercise.”

Denise Welch: “I lost all sense of reality. I basically had a nervous breakdown. You think there is no point to life because you are no good to yourself or anyone else and that the world would be a better place without you.”

 

'Hopeless' ... Stephen Fry

‘Hopeless’ … Stephen Fry

Winona Ryder: “You have good and bad days and depression’s something that is always with you. I had no reason to be depressed. Everything was at its peak but inside I was lost.”

Jack Dee: “Depression is something that has always figured in my life but now I’m dealing with it.”

Paul Gascoigne: “Everywhere I looked life seemed to be full of problems and they were just going to go on and on. It was never going to get any better.”

 

'It's horrible' ... Gail Porter

‘It’s horrible’ … Gail Porter

Frank Bruno: “It’s like a kettle. If it’s a kettle, you turn the kettle off, you know what I mean? I wish I could put a hole in my head and let the steam come out. The steam was getting so high and the pressure was getting too much for me.”

Keisha Buchanan: “Sometimes I’d find myself bursting into tears for no reason.”

Gail Porter: “It’s horrible, horrible, horrible. It took a year and a half until I found out that I had postnatal depression.”

Stephen Fry: “I may have looked happy. Inside I was hopelessly depressed.”

Alastair Campbell: “It was the scariest time in my life but it made me stronger, more focused on the things that really mattered.”

 


To find out more about an anti-discrimination campaign run by mental health charities Rethink and Mind, visit the Time to Change Facebook page.

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March 31, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Budget Jail Officials: Mental Health Cuts Hurt Everyone

Here’s an article from the Texas Tribune about the effect on a state budget when mental health services are cut.  I don’t really understand the thinking behind cutting services for this already under-served population.  The mentally ill who are going to lose services are the very people we need to protect.  These are the ultimate victims.  They deserve protection from themselves and from others.

The article points out that with these cuts, we are slowly making the prison system the largest mental health program in the nation.  Untreated mentally ill people usually act in such a way that they become involved with the law enforcement community.  When they make really poor choices and attempt to harm themselves or others they are the most likely to end up in jail, or worse, be sent to prison.

Comparing the costs of maintaining out-patient services against the cost of maintaining the current prison system should make a decision easy.  To me it is a no-brainer.  It is better all around to treat the mentally ill at home in the community.  It is better for them, better for you and me, and better for the budget.  What’s so hard to see?

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Slashing funds for community-based mental health care will hurt taxpayers and degrade the quality of life for thousands of mentally ill Texans and their families, Harris County Jail officials told Texas budget writers today in written testimony for the Senate Finance Committee.

Current budget proposals would cut more than $1.1 billion from community-based mental health programs, and would gut some entirely.

Dr. Michael Seale, executive director for health services at the Harris County Jail and a member of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told lawmakers they would save taxpayers more money in the long run by adequately funding community-based mental health programs that help keep people out of the big house and in treatment. The average daily cost to treat someone in a community-based setting, Seale said, is about $12 daily. In prison, it costs about $137 daily to care for mentally ill inmates. “Clearly, state and local taxpayers enjoy greater safety and greater savings when state-funded mental health programs succeed,” Seale wrote.

On any given day, about one-quarter of the Harris County Jail population, about 2,400 inmates, takes prescribed psychotropic medications, making it the largest mental health institution in the state. If there are fewer community-based programs to help mentally ill Texans, more of them will land in jails that are ill-equipped and already struggling to deal with a growing special needs population. “Further erosion of state mental health funding for programs in the county will lead to more strain on law enforcement and higher bills for taxpayers,” wrote Major Mike Smith, commander of Harris County’s detention bureau.

 

Be sure to visit the original site to see other similar articles about this issue.

February 7, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , | 4 Comments