Musings on Mental Illness
Bad week for drug giant Johnson & Johnson.
Last Wednesday one of its companies, Janssen, lost its bid to get its new schizophrenia med, Invega Sustenna, on Florida's Medicaid Preferred Drug List (PDL). Janssn had hoped that Ivega's listing on the DPL would offset some of the losses it suffered when its other big name schizophrenia drug, Ripserdal, lost its patent in December 2007.
How big were its Risperdal losses? Florida's Medicaid program spent $34.5 million on Risperdal in 2007. As generics began to hit the mark in 2008, sales dropped to $33.2 million. In 2009, sales through September were only $10 million.
Worldwide, Risperdal sales reached $4.7 billion in 2007 -- the last full year of the patent, and dropped to $3.4 billion in 2008. State officials said Invega was too expensive than alternatives.
On Friday federal prosecutors said the company paid tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks so nursing homes would put Alzheimer's patients on Risperdal and other drugs. The feds are seeking triple damages, restitution and other penalties under the federal False Claims Act and other laws.
``Kickbacks in the nursing home pharmacy context are particularly nefarious because they can result in excessive prescribing of strong drugs to patients who have little or no control over the medical care they are receiving,'' U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.
The Black Box warning on Risperdal states that Risperdal is not approved for patients with dementia-related psychosis - schizophrenia and other mental illnesses causing delusions and hallucinations.
Also on Friday, Johnson & Johnson expanded a recall of over-the-counter medications, the second time it has done so in less than a month because of a moldy smell that has made users sick. The recall now includes some batches of regular and extra-strength Tylenol children's Tylenol, eight-hour Tylenol, Tylenol arthritis, Tylenol PM, children's Motrin, Motrin IB, Benadryl Rolaids, Simply Sleep, and St. Joseph's aspirin. Both caplet and geltab products were sold in the Americas, the United Arab Emirates, and Fiji were recalled.
Federal regulators are not pleased with J & J's handling of the recall. According to regularos, J & J knew of the problem in early 2008 but made only a limited investigation. The agency said about 70 people were either sickened by the odor, or noticed it.
"McNeil should have acted faster," said Deborah Autor, the director of the FDA's Office of Compliance of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "When something smells bad, literally or figuratively, companies must aggressively investigate and take all necessary action to solve the problem."
Originally published in The Palm Beach Post
June 21, 2009
In 1957, the American Medical Association accepted alcoholism as an illness. At about the same time, alcoholism found a place in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -- the hallowed handbook that doctors use to diagnose mental illness (and that insurance companies use to deny your claim).
In other words, alcoholism is an illness. It is a mental illness. People who have alcoholism, like me, are not weak or lacking discipline. In fact, most of the alcoholics I know -- in recovery and still drinking -- are very strong and very disciplined. That's how we convince ourselves that we are in control and what makes us so annoying.
Learning that alcoholism is a legitimate illness helped me immensely. It gave me some self-esteem, hope and the final word in conversations with know-it-alls who believe we could quit drinking if we really, really tried: "Well I guess you know more than the American Medical Association because the AMA decided that alcoholism is an illness 50 years ago."
Depression is different. There are a lot of people who admit that depression is a real illness. They feign sympathy and tell you about someone else's struggle with depression. But you can tell by their zealous enthusiasm that they don't really believe it. I hate to admit this: I was among them.
I knew that Hippocrates declared depression a real illness several thousand years before the American Psychiatric Association. Folks that I admired -- Michelangelo, Eric Clapton and the guy who played Beaver's brother, Wally -- all suffered from depression. But when dealing with someone with depression, I privately thought: "Get a grip already, will ya?"
When I was diagnosed with a depression -- a major clinical depression -- what helped me more than the manuals and medical endorsements were the aw-shucks comments from friends: "I've been on antidepressants for years." Or, "Actually, I am on two antidepressants." Or, "I have to be on either antidepressants or hormones or I'm a mess." Really? Who would have guessed?
The moral is simple: Do whatever it takes to accept and forgive yourself for being mentally ill.
Originally published in The Palm Beach Post, Dec. 17, 2007
My Thanksgiving rush of gratitude is gone. I am locked and loaded in holiday-shopping mode. This brings
financial insecurity, which leads to jealousy, then to resentment, pity and finally... depression.
I beat myself up for thinking that I should have more money so I can buy nicer gifts. I covet the gifts in other shoppers' carts and the perfect Christmas they are going to have opening all those perfectly wrapped gifts while listening to Bing Crosby with their Hallmark families, perfectly posed in the portrait on their
Then, there are those hopelessly romantic, thoughtful, gorgeous guys bearing rocks in those blasted diamond commercials. And how about those I'm-a-better-mommy-than-you magazines in the grocery checkout, with covers of a perfectthree-story gingerbread house with curtains and a chimney that puffs powdered sugar smoke?
You see where I am going here? This is how depression thinks. This is the logic of a depressed mind.
Cigarette smoke can trigger an asthma attack, cold weather can aggravate arthritis and sick thinking fuels my depression. It's as if depression is an opportunistic virus just waiting for a chink in my immune system.
This year, things are going to change. Instead of focusing on what I don't have in common with people, I am going to look for what we do have in common during the holidays. Even if it is just as simple as acknowledging that we both have eggnog in our shopping carts or that our feet hurt,although she is in Coach loafers and I am in Hush Puppies.
I am going to identify rather than compare: "Don't these trees smell great?" instead of brooding over my little Charlie Brown tree and their 16-footer. "It just doesn't seem like Christmas without snow," instead of "I bet you're leaving for Aspen on the 26th." I haven't yet figured out how to identify with anyone on the diamond front.
I have spent a lot of time comparing myself to others. I am hard-wired to find our differences. It fuels my
depression. It makes me feel "less than." I slide into the victim role and isolate. If you have depression, isolation and loneliness are the enemy. I don't think this will be difficult. When you think about it, we have a lot in common. I mean, aren't we all sick of that Feliz Navidad song by now?
AVOID TEMPTATION OF DRINKING AWAY HOLIDAY STRESS
originally published in The Palm Beach Post, December 23, 2007
Here is the perfect cocktail for depression. Stress, financial insecurity, family gatherings, that Feliz Navidad song playing endlessly in your head ... and alcohol.
Welcome to the holidays. If you have depression you know you are just a few digs-from-the-in-laws away from losing it. Smothered by the goodwill and cheer we are supposed to feel, we sink. We drink. I used to take the edge off with spiked eggnog or champagne. I thought it would help me get that holiday spirit. It seemed to work for a few minutes. Then I plunged ever deeper and drank even more thinking it might make me feel better again.
I emerged from the New Year's holiday emotionally and physically hung-over. I beat up myself for the 5 pounds I had gained and the imminent bills. By February I was a wreck. Valentine's Day brought me to tears. Then I learned that I had been fertilizing my depression with alcohol. I did not know that alcohol is a depressant. Yes, alcohol does blunt the effects of stress hormones, but only for awhile.
Then it lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that act as messengers, transmitting nerve impulses in the brain. Imbalances lead to depression.
Sure there are antidepressants that can restore the balance of these neurotransmitters. But if you are taking an antidepressant and you continue drinking, your antidepressant cannot do its job. You become more depressed, you have wasted a bunch of money and you will begin that endless cycle of trying to self-medicate your depression with alcohol.
Before you head out to the next holiday party, read the label on your antidepressant bottle. If it says "do not drink alcohol," then don't. Remember, your in-laws will soon leave. You can lose that 5 pounds. However, if you slip into depression and can't work, those bills will not get paid.
Besides, there are a lot of benefits to not drinking over the holidays. You'll feel better. You'll sleep better. You'll have the patience to assemble complex toys. And you'll have a trove of memorable embarrassing moments about your favorite relatives to share at your next family gathering.
What was I thinking? Among the gifts mentioned below, you may also want to consider giving my new book, Hoping for a happy ending: A journalist's story of depression, bipolar and alcoholism. This is a collection of my award-winning columns published weekly in The Palm Beach Post.
I wrote each column to the sick and suffering. When I was sick I could not read more than a few sentences at a time. I could not focus or concentrate. There was no way I could read many of the other books about depression - which usually are lengthy memoirs or scientific journals. Just trying to read one of these books or articles frustrated me only more.
My columns are brief. I use simple words and short sentences and only one topic per column. They are easy to read and digest, even for those in a deep depression.
My hope is that Hoping for a Happy Ending: A journalist's story of depression, bipolar and alcoholism will help someone, somewhere struggling with mental illness. My book is available at major on-line book retailers, including Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. And feel free to rate or write a brief review of your opinion on these book retailers' sites.
THE BEST GIFT FOR THE HOLIDAYS? YOUR FRIENDSHIP
Originally published in The Palm Beach Post, December 17, 2006
By Christine Stapleton
If you think shopping for the mother-in-law is tough, try holiday shopping for a friend in a major clinical depression. Now there's a challenge. You could buy this friend a winning lotto ticket and it would mean about as much as, well, a piece of paper with numbers on it.
Seriously, we lose interest in stuff when we're in a depression. This is a bonus for you holiday shoppers trying to save a buck. We're like a cheap date. Let me begin with what not to buy someone in a depression. Do not give us books on depression. For starters, our
attention span is so short and our thinking so jumbled that we can't read more than a few sentences. And we really don't want to read about how depressed someone else is anyway.
Next, don't buy us funny movies. I tried watching Something About Mary when I was depressed and it only made me more depressed when I couldn't laugh at Ben Stiller's zipper crisis. Don't give us anything that will remind us that It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. That means no Christmas ornaments or dreidels, no Elvis singing Blue Christmas.
Music actually hurt my ears when I was at my lowest.
Also, be careful on the food front. First, take a good look at us. Have we lost weight? Have we gained weight? If we've lost weight, food could be a good thing. But remember, fudge, pies and cookies all have lots of sugar. If we're not eating much to start with and we inhale a bunch of sugar, it's going to seriously mess with moods, kind of like it does with your annoying little nieces and nephews. If we've gained weight, and we're feeling especially rotten about our body image, giving us fudge is like putting a crack pipe in front of crackhead.
Ix-nay on the vacuum cleaner - even if it's a Dyson. Double ix-nay on sexy lingerie, as the last thing we want to dois what's involved after it's removed. Don't even think about a bottle of wine (a depressant). Or a puppy, goldfish, kitten or anything that needs to be fed or could poo on the floor.
What's left? How about this: If your friend has a pet, take the dog to the dog park or clean the litter box; if they have a car, wash it; if they wear clothes, wash them; if they don't have groceries, go to the grocery store and buy some - especially something healthy. Offer to clean the house or, if you have the dough, hire a cleaning service. Deliver dinner for a week and offer to keep them company during a meal.
Take us out for coffee - not to a hip Starbucks with funky music and funkier "baristas" - whatever the heck they are. Try a quiet little restaurant or a Dunkin Donuts. Someplace where we don't have to worry about what we look like.
Watch out for manicures or pedicures or hair appointments. We already know we look like hell and it's excruciating to go to a salon where everyone looks mah-velous. A massage would be wonderful, especially at home.
The best gift? Just be there. You don't have to say anything. In fact, it might be better if you don't say anything. Just listen and sympathize. Don't judge. Don't tell us how much we have to be grateful for this holiday season. Call us and even if we don't answer, leave a nice message. Don't let us be alone on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve or during Hanukkah. Smile at us.
Let us know that we are a gift in your life.
Originally published December 24, 2006 - The Palm Beach Post
By Christine Stapleton
Is it me, or is just about every holiday classic about depression?
At first I thought it was just George Bailey, the financially strapped father of a passel of noisy kids in It's a Wonderful Life. Then there's Scrooge and The Grinch. And what's the deal with that mother in Miracle on 34th Street?Shall I go on?
How about The Littlest Angel who dies, goes to heaven and can't keep his halo on straight, can't sing on key with the seraphim and misses his dog? Or that country-western song about that little boy who wants to buy his dying momma those shoes? Then there's Elvis and Blue Christmas. Or the upbeat Do They Know It's Christmas? about people starving in Africa.
If you are in a depression today, Christmas Eve, you've got your own little holiday drama going on. But we can take a cue from these folks. We can look beyond the magic of Santa or an angel and find what lifted them out of their black holes. No, not Lexapro or Wellbutrin, although that probably would have helped.
It was gratitude.
The hardest thing to find when you're in your black hole is gratitude. Hopelessness, loneliness, remorse, self-pity and worthlessness are right down there with you, gripping your hands. But if you can find just one little speck of gratitude down there, just one little crumb, you're on your way up and out. George Bailey's gratitude came from seeing what the world would be like had he not been born. Scrooge's gratitude came in a dream, when he saw how his selfishness infected anyone who crossed his path and that he still had a chance to change. And so on.
For me, gratitude came with a beautiful teenage daughter, patient and caring friends, four paws and a wet nose, and disability insurance. So, ask yourself today, can I find one thing, one little thing on Christmas Eve, to be grateful for? Can I hang onto that gratitude right now? Can I use this one tiny morsel of gratitude to let faith and hope into my miserable life? Am I willing to do this?
I wish I could tell you there's an angel who's going to lift you out of your black hole. I wish Santa could take away your pain with a present under a beautiful tree. But that's not going to happen. This isn't the movies. It's your life. Find that one thing, and hold onto the thought of it. And if you can find nothing to be grateful for this Christmas Eve, know this: It's a privilege to talk to you each
week. And for that - for you - I am grateful.
So, I was catching up on episodes of House and came upon the one in which House decides to kick his umpteen-year-old addiction to Vicodin after he starts having hallucinations of the late Dr. Amber (a.k.k Cutthroat Bitch). House goes to his good friend - and boss - Dr. Lisa Cuddy - and asks her help. They go back to House's house and the good Dr. Cuddy watches over House as he barfs, shakes, writhes in opiate detox agony. She makes him tea. She sleeps on the floor and - viola - in the morning Dr. House is completely detoxed and he and Dr. Cuddy celebrate by ripping each other's clothes off.
Let me tell you, if opiate withdrawal was the quick and easy (and ended with a romp in hay) there would be a LOT more opiate addicts. Opiate withdrawal is NOT a one-nighter - or even a two nighter.
While I applaud the producers' efforts to show the ugly side of addiction, they should also show the ugly side of detox - really ugly side. This year's season premier, with House detoxing in a mental hospital, was more realistic than a night on the bathroom floor with Dr. Cuddy.
The good news is that many of the patents on some of the most costly and widely prescribed bipolar meds will expire in the next few years, meaning less costly generics will be available. The bad news - and it REALLY is bad news - is the prediction that "widespread generic erosion of branded atypical antipsychotics will cause the bipolar disorder drug market to decline from $6.3 billion in 2008 to approximately $5 billion in 2018," according to a Reuter's story about a study by Decision Resources, a leading research firm for pharmaceutical and healthcare issues.
In English, this means that drug makers are going to lose a bucket of money (Although their patent lawyers will get rich trying to extend the patents.) Why should we care if the pharmaceutical industry - the most profitable legal industry on the planet - loses money? Because threatening profits in the pharmaceutical industry is like poking a pit bull in the eye. They just don't like that. And we are talking about patents on popular meds such as AstraZeneca's Seroquel, Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, Bristol-Myers Squibb/Osuka's Abilify and Pfizer's Geodon.
According to an investigation by ProPublica.org and The Chicago Tribune, AstraZeneca paid a Chicago psychiatrist $500,000 to travel the country and promote its most popular antipsychotic, Seroquel despite doubts about the doctor's research. In return the doctor provided the drug-maker a vast customer base: thousands of indigent, mentally ill residents in Chicago-area nursing homes.
Thousands of patients are currently suing AstraZeneca, claiming that the company concealed Seroquel's link to weight-gain and diabetes (trust me, Seroquel DOES cause weight gain). According to the investigative article: "A Seroquel flier dated 1999 features a photograph of the doctor on the cover. Inside, the doctor describes one patient losing weight and no longer needing insulin shots because his diabetes had improved so much." Several years later, "the Food and Drug Administration, armed with mounting research, asked AstraZeneca to warn patients of Seroquel's diabetes risk."
And then we have a recent Wall Street Journal article that reports that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Abbott Lab's sales and marketing practices for its popular anti-seizure medication Depakote. Investigators want to know if Abbott's marketing activities "violated civil or criminal laws including the Federal False Claims Act, the Food and Drug Cosmetic Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute "in connection with Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement to third parties.""
But wait, there's more!
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that analysis of a dozen studies testing new uses for Neurontin found that when company-funded research was not favorable, the results were buried and something else positive was highlighted without disclosing the switch. Lawyers suing the drug giant obtained the records used in the study, also reported in the New England Journal Of Medicine. Neurontin sales peaked at $2.7 billion in 2004 - the same year the company paid $430 million in government fines to settle claims that it improperly marketed Neurontin - approved for treating epilepsy. Neurontin has been prescribed to treat bipolar disorder.
You might remember that back in September, Pfizer agreed to plead guilty to one felony count and pay $2.3 billion in fines to settle federal criminal and civil charges that it illegally promoted its Bextra painkiller and other drugs - including the anti-psychotic drug Geodon.
I could go on and on and on but I won't. This is enough for me.
How many headlines is it going to take? We had two massacres last week - one in an Orlando office building and the other at Fort Hood Army base - and at the core of both is mental illness. Today's New York Times has two above-the-fold front page stories on the stress of being a military psychiatrist and details of the life of Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, the Army psychiatrist charged with wounding dozens and killing 13 people, including five fellow therapists. The Times' Week In Review section features a front page story on the mental trauma of war. Jump to the Opinion page and there is a lengthy piece on how we treat combat soldiers when they come home.
According to all the news reports, Hassan spent his days listening to the atrocities of war from soldiers fresh from battle. Other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim. When he learned he would be deployed to the same battlefields where the atrocities had occurred, he snapped.
Inside the Times' A-section is the headline Lawyer Cites Mental Illness in Shooting, a story about an unemployed engineer who opened fire in the Orlando office of the firm that fired him. Jason Rodriguez wounded five people and killed Otis Beckford, 26, the father of a 7-month-old. According to news reports, Rodriguez has schizophrenia and had not been able to afford treatment after losing his job. He had become convinced that the engineering firm was somehow blocking his claim for unemployment benefits.
We need to take care of the mentally ill and those who care for them whether we like it or not. Mental illnesses are different than physical illnesses. Untreated heart disease or cancer does not alter brain chemistry in ways that make people violent. Mental illness can. Although only a very tiny percentage of people with mental illnesses become violent, their violent acts can be devastating on a massive scale.
So, can we finally admit that we have failed miserably in our attempts to understand mental illness and help those with it? Can we finally admit that we don't know what the hell we are doing and that mental illness IS different and we must help the mentally ill or pay a terrible, terrible price for ignoring them? Can we just get over ourselves and beyond the politicians and lobbyists and drop our prejudice and suck it up and say, "I want to help. Tell me what I can do."
First lady Rosalynn Carter began working on mental health care reform in 1971, when her husband, Jimmy, became governor of Georgia and when merely uttering the words "mental illness" raised eyebrows. For 38 years she has quietly been at it, guiding policy debates by bringing together stakeholders - from doctors and lawmakers to journalists and the mentally ill themselves - to brainstorm innovative initiatives in the battle against mental illness and stigma.
On Thursday the 25th annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy will begin at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Although the symposium is not open to the public, it can be viewed via live webcast and will be available after the symposium at the center's online archive.
Once again, Mrs. Carter, now 82-years-old, has pulled together an impressive list of mental health experts and policy makers and has tasked them with finding solutions to the nation's broken behavioral health care system amidst the ongoing national debate over health care.
“Although one-quarter of Americans will have a mental illness each year, Congress hasn’t considered the mental health needs of America’s patients to the same extent it has other health problems,” says Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Dr. Thom Bornemann. “We hope this symposium, as it has done in the past, will raise awareness about the solutions available to the challenges behavioral health care patients face in getting and staying well.”
"Never make predictions, especially about the future."
I should have listened to Casey Stengel. Silly me, I thought insurance parity was going to change mental health care across the land. I was predicting that come January 1, 2010 the prejudice against mental health care would end and insurance companies would finally treat mental illness the same as physical illness. Silly me.
I talked to a psychologist last weekend who shattered that dream. He has already received paperwork from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and it sounds like he has to write a thesis on every patient before the insurance company will cover his patients' charges. He wants to be in the network because he believes the mentally ill deserve the same level of coverage as people with physical illnesses. But no way can he practice and answer every nit-picking question the insurance company wants to know about every patient who allegedly has coverage.
If there are no or very few providers you effectively have no coverage. You will be back to paying out of pocket or waiting in line for the few providers there are. Once again, the pesky insurance companies win.
What can we do? Well, for starters those of us covered under a group health care plan - and those numbers are dwindling - should read our CURRENT coverage limits.Then, call AND write your insurance company and find out how many (few) providers there are in your area. Ask a lot of questions:
1. What kinds of therapy will and will not be covered when parity goes into effect?
2. What do you consider a "fair and reasonable" charge for mental health care/treatment in my area?
3. How will you cover drug/alcohol treatment? What about long term residential treatment?
4. Do you require doctors who provide care for my physical ailments to answer as many questions about my condition and treatment as the therapist/psychologist who is treating me for mental illness?
5. What happens if there are no network mental health care providers in my area?
6. Will you cover treatment provided by an out-of-network therapist/psychologist/doctor?
If you are currently in therapy or receiving treatment for a mental illness, you may also want to ask these questions of your therapist:
1. Are you going to be a network provider for my insurance company?
2. Do you know what my insurance company considers a "fair and reasonable" charge for my therapy?
3. Will the type of therapy/treatment you give me be covered?
4. Will you file my claim?
The insurance companies need to know that WE know about the parity law and we are going to be on them like a bad rash if they try to deny us coverage. Questions, questions, questions. Phone calls and letters to the insurance company, our lawmakers and local newspaper. It is as easy to buy a pair of shoes on line as it is to email your local elected officials. Come on, do it.
We must get started on this NOW. We will not have to time, stamina or ability to do it when we or a loved one are in the throes of a mental illness. We must close the teeniest tiny loopholes that we can find now before they become bigger.
The way I see it, this is a civil rights battle. WE need to end the discrimination that insurance companies have perpetrated against the mentally ill. The parity law is a start. WE need to enforce it. No one else will.
Some things we know for sure about Courtland Smith. He was 21 years old, majoring in biology and president of the University of North Carolina chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He wanted to be a neurologist and he spent his summers working as a counselor at the camp he attended as a boy.
He went to a party at his frat house on August 22, the night he died. He drank, drove and called 911 as he speeded down the highway. We know he was on the line with the 911 dispatcher for about 15 minutes. He wasn't crying, hysterical, shouting, cussing, despondent or talking about how miserable his life was or that he couldn't take it anymore.
He slurred his words and tried to help the dispatcher locate him by telling her the exit number of off-ramps he speeded by. He mentioned he had a 9mm with him and was trying to kill himself. He said he had sent an email to his parents with "everything everyone needed to know." He could not figure out why the police could not find him - driving 95 mph down a highway at 4 am.
When police did find him, Courtland pulled over. Within seconds he was dead, shot four times by a police officer who thought Courtland was reaching for a gun. We know Courtland had a blood-alcohol level of .22 and his autopsy report initially mentioned alcoholism and depression and said that Courtland had talked of suicide before.
We know that last week the autopsy was amended after Courtland's parents met with North Carolina's chief medical examiner. Details about alcoholism, depression and prior suicidal thoughts were stricken and replaced with this:
"He had called 911 indicating that he had a 9mm gun and was considering suicide only while he was driving," the amended report reads. "There is no evidence that prior to this he had expressed suicidal thoughts or intent."
We don't know why the state's chief medical examiner changed the original autopsy report. We don't know what happened when police stopped Courtland, although there is a videotape that a judge has ruled should not be made public. We do not know if Courtland had depression, alcoholism or had ever discussed suicide.
Was it suicide or homicide by cop? Did the fraternity break any rules? Will there by a lawsuit? We don't know.
But I know that I easily could have ended up like Courtland Smith. I was the pretty, preppy but troubled college student who drank too much, drove and tried to kill herself when she was drunk. I read about Courtland and I thought, that sounds like something I would have - could have - done. It took 20 years after college for me to admit I am an alcoholic, and another 10 years before I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar.
Why Courtland? Why not me? Was it luck, fate or God that spared me?
I don't know.
I don't get it but that's not important. A non-profit group is paying to return wounded soldiers to the battlefields where they were injured. This raised my eyebrows until I read more about it. The Troops First Foundation partnered with the USO to bring soldiers whose physical injuries had healed but mental injuries had not - back to the battlefield - if they wanted. I cannot imagine the horror of being wounded in battle and I cannot imagine wanting to go back. But for some vets it is the therapy they need to get closure for their physical and mental wounds. Six vets made the week-long trip back to Iraq and returned on Sunday: "Unless you've...been here, you'll never understand," one soldier told the Associated Press. I don't need to understand but I do need to know that the military is finally taking seriously the mental wounds that soldiers and Marines also suffer in battle.
Maybe we should be spending as much time trying to get seniors online as we do getting our teens offline. A new study found that surfing the web reduced depression in seniors. The Phoenix Center, a nonprofit that studies internet policy issues, found going online reduced depression among seniors 20 percent. Woohoo! I'm about to turn 51 and I have been sensing my mortality - or at least the arthritis in my right hand - for the last year. So, this is good news - especially for us AARP members who really enjoy shopping online. The study found that surfing the web reduces loneliness, increases interpersonal communication and helps us establish a relationship with the FedEx guy who delivers our online purchases. (I made that up.) This is a big deal. Depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65+. But only 42 percent of the elderly use the web. We could change that. The $780 billion stimulus package includes $7 billion to approve internet availability. Let's use a chunk of that to install computers in senior centers and nursing homes and then hire trainers to teach seniors how to use them.
Okay. I'm a week behind in reading the Sunday newspaper but I gotta hand it to Parade Magazine for it's September 20 cover story, Top Doctors Solve Your Medical Problems. The editors picked three of the most common maladies for the article: Cancer (of course), heart disease (good choice) and .... depression (great choice). The editors could have chosen any hot-button medical conditions - diabetes, obesity, Alzheimers - but they selected depression. For those already familiar with the disease, the author, Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor at Georgetown University, didn't break any new ground. But just the fact that the editors of Parade selected depression as one of the trinity of American health concerns IS groundbreaking. It is exactly the kind of attention that the mental health movement needs.
Not cool. Dexter, Showtime's vigilante serial killer, is doing more than the 12-steps with his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. This is a HUGE no-no in the program. We call it the 13th step - old timers preying on vulnerable newbies. Although there are no rules in 12-step programs the SUGGESTION is this: Men sponsor men and women sponsor women. My experience: nothing good comes of a romantic relationship with a sponsor - especially when it involves wild sex. So, let's give a big, sarcastic THANK YOU to the writers and producers of Dexter.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's crack down on alcoholism includes reducing the size of cans containing low-alcohol beverages from 600 ml, about the size of large - aka venti - cup of Starbucks' coffee to 330 ml - slightly smaller than a can of Coke. Seriously, does he think that is going to make a difference? Speaking as an alcoholic, I didn't give a dang what size container I drank from as long as it was not empty. Besides, who's counting? Do they have AA in Russia?