Sunday, December 30, 2007

Schizophrenia takes a daughter away


Even a loving family with ample financial resources is powerless against the disease.
An well-written article in the December 29th issue of the Los Angeles Times describes the heart-wrenching story of a family dealing with a daughter living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and drug addiction.

Accompanying the article are are numerous photographs and a Flash audio presentation.

To read the entire article, click here.

To access a series of articles entitled Breakdown: A Times Special Report, click here.

Photograph by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


Friday, December 28, 2007

Book explores mental illness through art

'My poetry is about living your best life'

An article from the December 28th issue of The Halifax West Clayton Park Weekly News:

By Kate Watson (email: watsons5@accesswave.ca)
Connections Clubhouse is an opportunity centre in Halifax that offers mental-health consumers a social network and an opportunity to provide leadership in the community.

Members of Connections, along with other Nova Scotian mental-health consumers, recently launched a book entitled Looking Beyond.

The book, which was produced with funds from the Nova Scotia Mental Health Foundation, contains poetry, prose and art work with a unique perspective on mental illness.

John Devlin
of Dartmouth contributed two poems, The Ghost on the Mezzanine and Enigma of the Piano.

"My poetry is a way of dealing with the images that come to mind when one is mentally ill, a way to objectify them," he said. "Hopefully, that will be interesting to other people."

Devlin says that although it's wonderful to have his work published, he writes because he enjoys expressing himself through the structure of poetry.

Laura Burke of Halifax has been writing poetry for 12 years, and she welcomed the opportunity to be published with other creative artists.

"My poetry is about living your best life," she says. "It's about finding a way towards recovery from the things that hold you back.

"I really think that this collection will be enjoyed by people who appreciate art and the written word, and that it will truly give people a chance to look beyond."

The book was edited by Teresa Brown (pictured, right), who says the project came about on the recommendation of the members of the clerical department of Connections.

Brown approached mental-health consumers across Nova Scotia and persuaded them to get involved.

"A big part of my job was chasing people to meet deadlines," she says, laughing. "But I'm very happy with the result, and I'm hopeful that there will be more collections in the future."

Looking Beyond sells for $15 and is available from Connections Clubhouse, 1221 Barrington Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B2J 1Y2, or by calling (902) 473-8692.
Photograph by Glen Canning.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

GAA star tackles mental illness in new campaign to fight stigma


A post from Independent.ie:
By Allison Bray
Thursday, December 27, 2007

FORMER GAA star Dessie Farrell is among a number of high-profile people appearing in a series of ads which began yesterday and are aimed at putting a human face on mental illness.

The former Dublin football captain and current head of the Gaelic Players Association wrote about his own battle with depression in his autobiography 'Tangled Up in Blue'.

He is now spearheading a campaign by the National Disability Authority (NDA) to help erase the stigma associated with conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.

He, along with 'Sunday Independent' journalist Carol Hunt, Bodywhys chairperson Marie Devine and chess whiz Paul Leavy, courageously reveal how they are able to lead full, productive lives despite their own personal struggles respectively with depression, anorexia and schizophrenia.

The television ads, which will air for the next fortnight, reveal the various facets of each personality -- including their roles at home and in the workplace, their likes, interests and the mental health challenges they have faced. Radio ads will begin airing tomorrow followed by billboard ads on bus shelters beginning on New Year's Day.

Ms Hunt (42) has written about her battle with post-natal depression following the birth of her two children and her ongoing battle with depression.

Susceptible

She chose to take part in the €500,000 campaign, entitled Challenging Attitudes to Mental Health, to drive home the message that anyone can be susceptible to mental illness.

"There still are a lot of people who firmly believe that any type of depression is some sort of personality weakness, which is quite amazing," she said.

Paul Leavy (26) was first diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 17 and has suffered two breakdowns. But with the help of doctors, friends and family, he now enjoys a full life as a mental health advocate for the Health Service Executive, as well as teaching chess and running a local club and coaching children's soccer.

"There's definitely a stigma attached to schizophrenia and to mental illness in general. People look at people having these mental illnesses as being 'mad, crazy, nuts, lunatics'. They don't realise that a person is a person and the illness is a part of them, it's not them as a whole. People can actually live an active, full, everyday life along with having their illness," he said.

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Disability Jimmy Devins, who launched the campaign, said the same kind of stigma exists around mental illness today as it did 20 years ago when conditions like alcoholism were seen as shameful, moral lapses, instead of diseases from which people can recover.

Yet in reality, one-in-four people will suffer from some kind of mental illness at some stage in their lives, according to the World Health Organisation and negative stereotypes will only hinder people from getting help or recovering, he said.

"No one is immune from poor mental health. Perceptions around mental illness need to be broken. Mental health is as important as physical health and I welcome this NDA campaign which will increase awareness."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

SSNS Facebook Group


The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia now has a group on Facebook. To join the group, click here.


Kurt Entsminger named executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center

National nonprofit working to secure right to treatment for the mentally ill will benefit from Entsminger's extensive legal, nonprofit expertise, consumer perspective

November 19, 2007

ARLINGTON, VA –The Board of Directors of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) selected attorney and consumer Kurt Entsminger (pictured, right) to be the organization's next executive director, only the second since the organization was formed nine years ago.

Entsminger was unanimously approved at TAC’s board meeting on November 10, 2007. He will start work January 2, 2008.

“Kurt Entsminger will be a strong leader,” said TAC president E. Fuller Torrey. “TAC has firmly established itself as the only organization willing to stand up and fight for treatment for the most seriously ill and neglected patients. Entsminger’s expertise in the nonprofit world, combined with his personal experiences with bipolar disorder, give him an unique understanding of how to position TAC for future success.”

“I believe it is time to restore common sense to a society that has literally sacrificed human sanity in the name of personal privacy,” said Entsminger, who was most recently president of the national nonprofit Care Net. “I consider it a great honor and privilege to join this effort.”

Entsminger was at Care Net for nine years, where he doubled the organization’s income and greatly expanded its impact. He is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, and spent 18 years as a trial lawyer, including serving as a partner in two law firms. He was also an Administrative Law Judge for Huntington Human Relations Commission. He has a bachelor’s in economics from West Virginia University and a law degree from West Virginia University College of Law, where he graduated first in his class.

Entsminger said he was drawn to the empathy and compassion of the Treatment Advocacy Center. “It is my history that brought me to TAC. As a person who has lived with bipolar disorder for many years, I understand firsthand the importance of effective treatment. My hospitalization and subsequent and continuing treatment is the reason I’m well today. I come to the Treatment Advocacy Center with great respect and appreciation for its work, and a particularly strong passion for its mission. TAC is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans who continue, without treatment, to struggle with severe brain disorders.”

“The search committee recommended Entsminger without reservation and feels he is extraordinarily qualified to be a champion for those with severe mental illnesses that other organizations ignore,” said search committee co-chair and board vice chair Stephen Segal. “His unique background and passion make him worthy of being Mary Zdanowicz’ successor and building on the continued outstanding work of the staff of the Treatment Advocacy Center.”

TAC’s founding executive director Mary Zdanowicz resigned July 2007. She remains active as a member of the honorary advisory board.

“The nationwide search brought in an impressive group of candidates,” said search committee co-chair Jonathan Stanley, TAC’s assistant director. “The caliber and reach of the almost 150 applicants is reflective of TAC’s status in the broader community.”

Since it opened its doors in 1998, TAC has been involved in reforming treatment laws in 18 states, including Kendra’s Law in New York. Kendra’s Law is hailed as a national model for assisted outpatient treatment, a way to court order someone with severe mental illness who is too ill to recognize they need help into community-based treatment. The American Psychiatric Association awarded TAC its Presidential Commendation for “sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients."

The Treatment Advocacy Center (www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses. TAC promotes laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

We take no money from pharmaceutical companies. The American Psychiatric Association awarded TAC its 2006 presidential commendation for "sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients.”


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Remission and Recovery in Schizophrenia: Practitioner and Patient Perspectives


An abstract from the January 2008 edition of Schizophrenia Bulletin:
Schizophrenia remains a complex, dynamic, multi-dimensional, and poorly understood condition.

Although the concept of heterogeneity in outcome has conceptually overturned the post Kraepelinian legacy of progressive deterioration, a number of factors appear to contribute to perpetuating a pessimistic attitude toward outcome within the field. These include the limited access people with schizophrenia have to effective interventions and the phenomenon of the "clinician's illusion," which refers to the tendency of practitioners to assume that patients remain seriously ill when outside of the clinical care settings in which they are typically seen.

Longitudinal studies, however, continue to point to a large number of people who experience improvements in their condition over time. Pressure from patients and their families, who experience periods of symptomatic relief and enhanced functioning first-hand, has led to the introduction of such concepts as "remission" and being "in" recovery with schizophrenia, in addition to the conventional notion of recovering "from" schizophrenia.

These developments are consistent with recent policy initiatives by the U.S. and other governments around the world and aim to re-orient research and clinical practice from a traditional focus on effecting cure to exploring ways to encourage and assist people with schizophrenia to live meaningful lives in the face of an enduring illness.

By Larry Davidson (1,2), Timothy Schmutte (2), Thomas Dinzeo (2) and Raquel Andres-Hyman (2).

Notes
1. To whom correspondence should be addressed; tel: 203-764-7583, fax: 203-764-7595, e-mail: Larry.Davidson@Yale.edu.

2. Program for Recovery and Community Health, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Erector Square 6 West, Suite #1C, 319 Peck Street, New Haven, CT 06513
Photograph of Dr. Larry Davidson is courtesy of the Yale University School of Medicine.

Physiology of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizoaffective Disorder


An abstract from the December 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry:
Laura F. Martin, M.D., Mei-Hua Hall, M.S., Randal G. Ross, M.D., Gary Zerbe, Ph.D., Robert Freedman, M.D., and Ann Olincy, M.D.

OBJECTIVE: Endophenotypes have been proposed to identify the genetic and biological substrates of complex disorders. Three physiological inhibitory endophenotypes of large effect size in schizophrenia include suppression of P50 auditory evoked responses, inhibition of leading (small anticipatory) saccades during smooth pursuit eye movements, and cancellation of reflexive saccades in the antisaccade eye movement task. The aim of this study was to determine if the pattern of endophenotype abnormalities within individuals with schizophrenia differed from that within individuals with bipolar disorder. A second aim was to determine whether subjects with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, were neurophysiologically more similar to subjects with schizophrenia or subjects with bipolar disorder.

METHOD: Endophenotypes were recorded for subjects diagnosed with schizophrenia (N=29), bipolar disorder (DSM-IV-TR) (N=40), and schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type (N=18). Data from normal comparison subjects were used to establish normal performance.

RESULTS: Logistic regression determined that P50 ratio and frequency of leading saccades identified subjects with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with a sensitivity of 95%* and a specificity of 83%*. The schizoaffective disorder group was split, with six subjects physiologically classified as schizophrenia-like and 12 subjects as bipolar-like. Those classified as schizophrenia-like were significantly younger at illness onset and had higher symptom ratings.

CONCLUSION: A composite endophenotype of P50 ratio and frequency of leading saccades is consistent with the current clinical nosology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and parses patients with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, into two subgroups.
* Emphasis is mine.

Promotion and Prevention in Mental Health:

Strengthening Parenting and Enhancing Child Resilience

To download this report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, click here (PDF).

An overview of the report was published in the December 21st edition of Psychiatric News, to view, click here.

Mental Health Courts Bill Targets Multiple Problems

Proposed [U.S.] legislation to promote mental health courts would require the attorney general to report on the rate of serious mental illness among state, federal, and local inmates nationwide.

To read this entire article by Rich Daly, published in the December 21st issues of Psychiatric News, click here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

BMO Donates $10,000 to Strengthening Families Together Program



For Immediate Release:
December 21, 2007

VANCOUVER, BC - In their ongoing involvement in community initiatives, BMO Bank of Montreal has donated $10,000 to the BC Schizophrenia Society’s Strengthening Families Together education and support program. The Strengthening Families Together program gives families who have a mental illness the tools and coping skills to help them help their ill family member. It also provides an opportunity for families to share their feelings and find support in other people going through similar circumstances.

“BMO Bank of Montreal is pleased to provide a donation of $10,000 towards the BC Schizophrenia Society’s “Strengthening Families Together Education Program”, said Wayne Hashimoto, Personal Banking Area Manager for BMO in Richmond and Delta.

“We are especially pleased that these funds will be used to help reach families who are challenged by this serious mental illness through a 10-week education course at locations throughout the province”, added Mr. Hashimoto.

The mission of the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) is to improve the quality of life for people affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy, and research. Schizophrenia affects 40,000 BC residents and costs Canadians an estimated seven billion dollars a year.

“It has been shown time and time again that when there is a strong support system from family members of a mentally ill person, the individuals chances of recovery are significantly improved. This generous funding from BMO Bank Of Montreal will help ensure that families have the education and support programs in place to help them support their loved one and also let them know they are not alone,” commented the Society’s Executive Director, Gary Glacken.

For more information on schizophrenia, psychosis, or BC Schizophrenia Society’s programs and services, please visit www.bcss.org.

Contact
Nadine Saunders, Director of Development & Marketing; (604) 270-7841, Ext. 28

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Duty to Accommodate Mental Health Disability Upheld by Landmark Ontario Human Rights Decision

Toronto (December 18, 2007) - A recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision in the case of Lane v. ADGA Group Consultants Inc. of Ottawa has upheld the right of persons with a mental health disability to be appropriately accommodated in the workplace under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

Click here to read the entire press release.

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team



For a document containing information on the role Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team, click here.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Personal Blogs on Coping With Schizophrenia


Rim Collection
Painted with Luv- (Sometimes)

From Schizophrenia Daily News Blog, December 13, 2007:
Personal Blogs on Coping With Schizophrenia

We encourage personal chronicles of schizophrenia through blogs or vlogs. The following are descriptions of a couple of personal blogs focused on the authors' experiences with schizophrenia:

This first blog, titled Stiffen The Sinews, is the journal of a young woman who [lives with] schizophrenia. On it, she chronicles her experiences in living with and managing her illness. Many of her postings concern the symptoms of her illness and how she copes with them. Here's an excerpt from one of her postings:

I've Grown
I read my first post this morning, correcting the mistakes, and I've realized that I am able to react differently to my psychosis. It used the be that the only way I could set myself straight was by confirming to others the truth of what was really happening. But now, I recognize my symptoms for what they are and I am emotionally able to refute them! I know that my medication has something to do with it, and I am extremely grateful...My next attempt at overcoming my disease is socialization. I always hallucinate in public...

The next blog, titled Bonkers Bob schizophrenia blog, is the blog of a 26-year-old man residing in the UK. His blog features information about his experiences with his illness. He emphasizes staying well, stating that prior to treatment he had spent more than one and a half years in psychiatric wards. Now he sticks to treatment and attempts to live a low-stress life. Here's an excerpt from his blog:

The thrill of being Jesus
I’ve been thinking recently about what my life was like before I decided to ‘get with the program’ and comply with treatment. To an outside observer my life is much better than when I was non-complient, I’ve developed my portfolio of graphic design to a point where I stand a good chance of landing a job in a competitive industry and been able to function at a high level and cope very well with living on my own. But part of me misses the thrill and inflated self esteem of when I’m losing touch with reality and I think I’m part of some cosmic battle and believe I’ve got miraculous powers, all of my most memorable experiences have been when I’ve been psychotic, both positive and negative...I think I’ve come to the realisation that whilst being Jesus is exciting and a massive boost to the ol’ self esteem, it comes at a high price and I’m much better building on my normal low self esteem, then my mind won’t need to be Jesus to cope with life…

…the question is how do I do that?

See also Kristin Bell's Video Blogs:
Kristin's New Video Blog - A Personal View on Schizophrenia
Kristin Bell: A Chronicle of Living With Schizophrenia

If you have a personal schizophrenia-focused blog or vlog you would like us to announce, please e-mail us at szwebmaster@yahoo.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Keep Tasers holstered unless absolutely needed — watchdog


Mounties too often using device on people who pose little threat

An article published in the December 13th edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Below is a quote from the article:
B.C. Civil Liberties Association president Jason Gratl, who advocates a moratorium on Tasers, said the RCMP must craft a policy for at-risk groups who are more prone to be jolted by police before they continue using the devices.

"The mentally ill, drug addicts, people with significant health problems, are more likely to be Tasered. Those groups are at risk. And we don’t know enough about how the Taser works on those groups to design a policy that keeps them safe."

For the Executive Summary of the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP's report, click here.

To access the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP's website, click here.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

News from the Lunenburg County Chapter of the SSNS


In partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Health, Mental Health Services, The LCC-SSNS showed the movie Canvas at the Empire Studio 7 in Bridgewater on Monday, November 26th. Many thanks to Steve Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, for all of his work to bring this wonderful movie to our community, and to the Nova Scotia Department of Health for their generous support.

The LCC-SSNS's Annual Christmas Bake Sale was held at the Bridgewater Mall on Thursday, November 29th, 2007 (see photograph, below). Thanks to all of our volunteers for their donations of baked goods, knitting, etc., and their time working at the sale and to those in the community who supported our sale. It was a terrific success!


Richard Balser (below) proudly displays original artwork he produced during the course he is taking with support from a bursary from the LCC-SSNS.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mental health court step in right direction


An editorial from the December 11th edition of the Halifax Daily News. To read the editorial, click here.

For a related article from The Canadian Press and posted by CBC.ca, click here.


For more information on the above book, click here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Demystifying Medicine - Schizophrenia: Clinical and Basic Aspects


National Institutes of Health Videocasting

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Total Running Time: 1:55:00

To view the video, click here.





Saturday, December 8, 2007

Psychosis, Ordinary Thinking Not Distant Relatives


The community buffers a variety of aberrant beliefs along the continuum from "normal" to psychosis, but a catastrophic disruption may occur that results in serious mental illness.

To read this article by Mark Moran in the December 7th issue of Psychiatric News, click here.


Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act

The November 2007 issue of the Newsletter of the Kings County Chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia contains a number of articles relating to the new Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act, including an interview with Dr. David Mulhall, Medical Director, Annapolis Valley Health, Mental Health Services (pages 2 and 3).

To view the newsletter, click here (downloads a PDF).

Panel urged to include mentally ill person

Taser review report will be examined by experts: province

To read this article by Graham North published in the December 8th edition of the Halifax Daily News, click here.

For the press release from the Nova Scotia Department of Justice announcing the Taser review, click here.

Photo : jasonesbain (Flickr)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Feinstein Researchers Develop New Genetic Method and Identify Novel Genes for Schizophrenia

A December 3rd press release from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research:
Scientists at the Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have identified nine genetic markers that can increase a person’s risk for schizophrenia. In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team uncovered original evidence that this disabling brain disease can be inherited in a recessive manner. A recessive trait is one that is inherited from both parents.

“If a person inherits identical copies of these markers from each parent, his or her risk for schizophrenia increases substantially,” said Todd Lencz, PhD, associate director of research at Zucker Hillside and the lead author of the study. “If these results are confirmed, they could open up new avenues for research in schizophrenia and severe mental illness,” said Anil Malhotra, MD, director of psychiatric research at Zucker Hillside and senior investigator of the study.

The scientists developed a complex mathematical approach called whole genome homozygosity association (WGHA) that provides a new way of analyzing genetic information. It enables scientists to simultaneously look at genetic information derived from the patient’s mother and father, and identify pieces of chromosomes that are identical. They tested genetic material from 178 patients and 144 controls.

It has been the prevailing view in psychiatric genetics that there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of genetic variations that could lead to schizophrenia, but each gene has a small effect. It is the wrong mix of many genes, plus unknown environmental stressors, that trigger the onset of symptoms. One in every 100 people suffer from schizophrenia, a condition marked by episodes of hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking.

The new findings suggest another scenario, at least for a subset of patients. Dr. Lencz and his colleagues identified nine regions along the chromosomes that might play a large role in triggering the disease when two identical variants are inherited. Four of these regions contain genes that have been previously associated with schizophrenia, providing validation for the technique. The remaining five regions provide an additional set of newly discovered genetic risk factors. Many genes located in these regions are involved with the structure and survival of neurons.

In genetic parlance, several of these markers demonstrated high penetrance, meaning that their effect on disease risk was large. In the study, 81 percent of the schizophrenia patients had at least one of these recessive markers, compared to only 45 percent of the normal control group. Nearly half of the patients had two or more compared to 11 percent of the controls. And while no one in the healthy group had identical chunks of chromosomes in four or more of these risk regions, subjects with more than three demonstrated a 24-fold increased risk of developing schizophrenia. “This type of analysis could greatly improve our ability to diagnose schizophrenia and clarify specific subtypes of patients,” Dr. Lencz said. “The critical next step is confirming these results in independent datasets.”

“What is most exciting is that the study implicates new genes in schizophrenia,” said David Goldman, MD, chief of laboratory of neurogenetics at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Now, they have to trace down the genes that mediate this vulnerability.” Identifying these novel genes will eventually help improve understanding of the disease and lead to the development of more effective treatments, the scientists said.

The Feinstein scientists worked in collaboration with software developers from Golden Helix, Inc. in Bozeman, MT and researchers at Harvard Medical School to develop the statistical method. The WGHA technique can now be applied to any other illness with a genetic component. Dr. Lencz and his colleagues previously published the first “whole-genome” DNA microchip study in schizophrenia.

The study was funded by a private donation from the Donald and Barbara Zucker Foundation, an award from the KeySpan Corporation, and grants from the National Institute of Mental Health; NARSAD, the Mental Health Research Association (formerly known as National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression); and the Stanley Medical Research Institute.
For a related weblog posting, click here.

Photograph courtesy of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Health professionals and the monitoring of Taser use

An article published in Psychiatric Bulletin by Anthony John O’Brien, Brian G. McKenna, and Alexander I. F. Simpson.

If you are interested in a copy of this article, contact the SSNS at ssns@ns.sympatico.ca.

Monday, December 3, 2007

'Nutrition and mental health' opens series of public talks



A December 3rd posting from the University of Cambridge:
The effect of diet and physical exercise on the mood of teenagers will come under discussion at a free public debate in Cambridge tonight.

The event in the Michaelhouse Centre, Trinity Street at 6pm will give people the chance to question expert researchers on how teenagers' diet impacts on their behaviour and mental health.

The discussion is the first in a series of free talks offering the local community the chance to learn about some of the research currently taking place at Cambridge.

The events are being organised by the Festivals and Outreach team at the University and allows an open forum for discussion between scientists, researchers and members of the public.

Tonight's discussion looks at the ‘ROOTS' project which is working with over 1200 teenagers recruited from Cambridgeshire schools to examine the factors that can affect mental health in young adults.

The event will open with a series of presentations, after which there will be a open floor discussion about the group's work and the research methods used.

Nicola Buckley, Festivals and Outreach Co-ordinator said: “This a great chance for the community to learn about research at the University. The role that diet and physical activity have to play in mental health is a fascinating one, and this evening's discussion will provide insights into how what we eat is a crucial factor in understanding conditions such as depression.”

The speakers at tonight's event are Valerie Dunn, ROOTS Project Co-ordinator at the University and Caroline Stokes, of the MRC (Medical Research Council) Human Nutrition Research Unit.

The Roots project is speaking to 14-year-olds from a range of schools in Cambridgeshire. Using a series of interviews and questionnaires with teenagers and parents, the project will look at many aspects of teenage life including family, friends, interests, mood, behaviour, nutrition and activity levels. The project will also look at hormones and genes thought to be important for good health and success during the dynamic years of adolescence.
For more details click here.

Thanks go to John Devlin for bringing this posting to my attention.

Police need mental health training, Liberals say


To read this posting on CBC.ca, click here.



Saturday, December 1, 2007

Another Assault: Mind's Campaign for Equal Access to Justice for People with Mental Health Problems



From the Mental Health Specialist Library:
Too often people with mental health problems are reluctant to report crimes.

One victim told Mind that contact with the police exposed them to yet more discrimination and vulnerability: "The system of investigation is another assault."

Mind's new research exposes shockingly high levels of bullying, harassment and exploitation experienced by people with mental health problems while living in the community.

Mind believes everyone has an equal right to personal safety, and that people experiencing mental distress have the same rights to justice as anyone else.
To download Another Assault: Mind's Campaign for Equal Access to Justice for People with Mental Health Problems, click here (PDF).

What is the outlook for the future?



From an article posted by the National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.):
The outlook for people with schizophrenia has improved over the last 30 years or so. Although there still is no cure, effective treatments have been developed, and many people with schizophrenia improve enough to lead independent, satisfying lives.

This is an exciting time for schizophrenia research. The explosion of knowledge in genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral research will enable a better understanding of the causes of the disorder, how to prevent it, and how to develop better treatments to allow those with schizophrenia to achieve their full potential.
To read the complete the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

'Normal procedures' can lead to death


To read this column by David Rodenhiser (pictured, right) in the November 28th edition of the Halifax Daily News, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dealing with people in crisis



From CBC Information Morning on November 26th:
A grieving sister, and the head of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia explain how police should respond when dealing a person in a mental health crisis. Click here to listen to RealAudio file (runs 12:04).
For an interactive map of taser-related deaths in Canada, click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Court for mentally ill on way — province

Director: N.S. has ‘great need for general mental health services’

An article published in the November 24th edition of The Chronicle Herald:

By Jennifer Stweart, Court Reporter, with Dan Arsenault, Crime Reporter, and The Canadian Press

The province has committed to establishing a mental health court in Nova Scotia that would deal with mentally ill offenders.

"It’s in development," Justice Department spokeswoman Cathy MacIsaac said Friday. "I can’t really give you any further details."

The announcement came Thursday as part of the Conservatives’ throne speech. But it received little attention because of the buzz surrounding the death earlier in the day of Howard Hyde.

Officers arrested the Dartmouth man early Wednesday. He died Thursday, 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police used a stun gun to subdue him.

Mr. Hyde [lived with schizophrenia] — a perfect candidate to be dealt with in mental health court.

Dr. Scott Theriault, clinical director of forensics and specialty services for mental health, said the news has him "cautiously excited."

"In Nova Scotia, we have a great need for general mental health services," he said. "There’s no doubt that with more robust general mental health services, you would have fewer people with mental illnesses finding themselves in conflict with the law."

Ms. MacIsaac said there’s no word on when the specialized court could be up and running, or how much it will cost.

She said the department is keeping an eye on the performance of mental health courts in other areas, including Toronto and Waterloo.

Staff Sgt. Rudy Smith of Waterloo Regional Police said the court in his area has been a great success.

In operation since September 2005, the specialized court — held every Tuesday — provides more services faster, he said.

"They weren’t getting the counselling or the help they needed," Staff Sgt. Smith said of mentally ill offenders. "The whole idea is to get them as much help as possible quicker than if they’d gone through the normal process."

Joanna Blair, Mr. Hyde’s sister, was unaware Friday that other provinces have mental health courts, but said she thinks there should be improvements to the way society handles people with psychiatric problems.

"I think that in the psychotic condition (my brother) was in, . . . (he) should have been dealt with by subduing him in some manner other than a Taser gun, possibly by an injection of medication," she said. "And I say that hesitantly because I have questions about that" as well.

Ms. Blair said she thinks her brother should have been kept at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, where he could have met with a psychiatrist and been medicated before his bail hearing Thursday.

Jean Hughes, a professor at Dalhousie University who specializes in psychiatric nursing, said officers need specific training on how to deal with the mentally ill to ensure such encounters don’t escalate into violence.

She said offenders who are paranoid can be easily spooked, especially if they have had violent encounters with police in the past.

Mr. Hyde, for example, was shocked with a stun gun by police during an arrest in 2005, and his sister said he had had other altercations with police before then.

"Once you’ve had encounters where people have used violent or corrosive or intrusive means of working with you, then you learn to expect that that’s probably going to happen again," said Ms. Hughes, a former vice-president of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"For the large portion of our population, the only people you can call are police. So that puts tremendous onus on them.

"What we do know is with good training, people can learn alternative methods for de-escalating situations."

Justice system struggles to deal with mentally ill

Close co-operation urged between police and specialists in mental health

To read this November 24th article from the Ottawa Citizen, click here.

PACT model diverts mentally ill from courts

From the November 24th edition of the Halifax Daily News:
By Rachel Mendleson

If Nova Scotia is looking for a role model in psychiatric emergency response, perhaps it should consider Edmonton, Alta.

Since 2004, the city's mobile crisis teams have been equipped to respond to calls such as the one Karen Ellet placed when her common-law husband, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, assaulted her.

In addition to police and ambulance, one of four mobile teams, which consist of a uniformed officer and a mental-health professional, responds to psychiatric emergencies.

The Police And Crisis Team (PACT), keeps its own files on mental health patients, and has access to other databases, to ensure the history of the individual is known upon arriving on scene, says Tammy Dudas, regional manager of crisis and access services for Edmonton's mental health program. Being on scene allows the team to converse with the individual and help determine the appropriate course of action, she said.

She says so far, 100 per cent of the individuals PACT has brought to hospitals for acute care have been admitted.

The goal of the PACT program is to divert the mentally ill away from the criminal justice system, and toward health care, Dudas said.

But when charges are laid, PACT continues its relationship with the individual to present treatment options.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Missing Lint Cooperative Ltd.

is pleased to introduce

Mentality

A new, province wide magazine featuring the creative works of individuals living with mental illness.

We are seeking submissions for this exciting and unique project and would be pleased to consider for publication artistic works from individuals living with mental illness. Please contact us if you like to volunteer to have your work(s) published from any of the following categories:



Written

  • poetry
  • prose
  • journalism
  • essay
  • short story



Visual

  • painting
  • photography
  • digital
  • drawing
  • mixed media

For more information, contact us at:

The Missing Lint Cooperative Ltd.
648 George Street
PO Box 925
Sydney, Nova Scotia
B1P 6J1

Phone: (902) 539-6480
Fax: (902) 539-7062
e-mail: jmmissinglint@hotmail.com

Acceptance of submissions is ongoing.

Please submit written work in type, and visual art on CD (saved as TIFF format [640 x 480 and 300 dpi]) or high quality hard copy, by e-mail or regular mail. Please send a copy of original work as we are unable to return submissions.

For more information, click here and here (downloads PDF files).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Business, science groups unite to fight costly mental illness


$1B Brain Trust to fund research for prevention, treatment

From November 15th edition of The Ottawa Citizen:
By Don Butler

An alliance of North American business and science groups is proposing to create a $1-billion foundation to fund research into the cure and prevention of major mental illnesses and addictions.

Plans for the proposed non-profit corporation, known as the Brain Trust, were presented to delegates to a U.S.-Canada forum on mental health and productivity at the Canadian War Museum yesterday.

The Brain Trust will aim to raise $1 billion over 10 years from businesses and charitable foundations that don't currently support research into mental health, said Bill Wilkerson, president of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health.

He said the Brain Trust will focus on funding research projects "with the greatest promise of finding a cure for mental illness."

One goal will be to find "the Holy Grail" of brain research -- why and how the brain responds to the social environment, producing the symptoms of mental illness.

"Now's the time for the public's imagination to be caught by another kind of climate change -- social climate change," Mr. Wilkerson said.

Business leaders are increasingly focusing on mental health issues, in part because depression is now the leading source of workplace disability.

According to figures presented at the forum, mental disorders cost Canada $35 billion a year in treatment and lost productivity -- $3 billion more than cancer.

Annual research spending on mental health in Canada is just $65 million, barely a quarter of research spending on cancer.

Health Minister Tony Clement assured delegates "there's a lot of focus on this issue" now within government. "I really want to keep the momentum going."

He said neurological disorders represent 14 per cent of the burden of disease worldwide and one in three disability claims in Canada.

Mr. Clement said the government has exclusive or predominant responsibility for mental health services to inmates, soldiers, First Nations and public servants. "As an employer, I believe we have the responsibility to lead by example," he said.

David Goldbloom, vice-chairman of the newly created Mental Health Commission of Canada, said mental disorders in the labour force have major strategic implications because the global economy is fast becoming brain-based. "We are increasingly valued for our above-the-neck capabilities."

The convergence of demand for brain skills and the rising incidence of brain disorders is "the greatest health-based threat to economic and industrial activity," he said.

Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S., said 16 per cent of people in Canada or the U.S. will suffer from mental disorders during their lifetimes, with about half of those disabled by the disease.

Unlike other chronic illnesses, mental disorders begin early in life, with onset by age 14 in half of all cases. "This is really one of the chronic diseases of young people," he said.

Depression, he said, "is a big one. This is a disease that kills." In the U.S., 30,000 depressed people commit suicide every year -- almost twice as many as are victims of homicide.

Yet depression is eminently treatable, he said, through medication or cognitive behaviour therapy. "The real crime here is we haven't been able to use them often enough and get them to the people who need them early enough."

Moya Greene, president and CEO of Canada Post, said the Crown corporation decided to champion mental health after employees selected it as their "cause of choice."

The corporation's 72,000 employees have the highest rate of absence in Canada, averaging 15 sick days a year, a third of which are due to stress or other mental conditions.

Depression and anxiety are responsible for nearly 37 per cent of Canada Post's disability claims, she said.

Ms. Greene said mental health problems cost the corporation $300 million a year, a figure she hopes to reduce to $30 million within five years by promoting a workplace culture of "tolerance, respect and support.

"This is a very, very big issue for us," she said.

Yesterday's forum was the second in a series of four. The final two will take place next year in New York and Toronto, after which Mr. Wilkerson hopes the Brain Trust will be ready for launch.
Click on the image to view an animated MRI sequence of sagittal transections through the human brain. The nose is to the left. Courtesy of Christian R. Linder.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My story dealing with schizophrenia.




Click the arrow to start the video.

"A future with hope … in a year of transition”


A Message from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada's president, Dr. Pam Forsythe

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SCC) Board of Directors realizes that the closure of the SSC office in Markham, Ontario and the ongoing changes in leadership and staff represent a significant transition for the Society. While we believe this transition period will better position the organization for optimal growth and success, we wish to recognize and address the questions that these changes may have generated among some of our stakeholders, including the members of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

It is understandable that our members, donors, sponsors and supporters would have questions about what these changes mean for the organization, for their donations, for the programs and projects they support, etc.

To that end, we have developed some key messages that we hope provide clear and consistent information that:
  • Informs our members and stakeholders about the changes underway within the organization.
  • Maintains the confidence and support of our stakeholders throughout this transitional period.
  • Ensures representatives of the organization are speaking with the same voice.
  • Reinforces our commitment to our mission statement and to individuals and families affected by schizophrenia and psychosis.
The questions to be addressed below are:
  1. When will the SSC be hiring a permanent CEO?
  2. Where and when will the SSC open a new office?
  3. How can I reach the SSC?
  4. There have been a lot of leadership and staff changes over the past few months. Why? What does it mean for the organization? Are there more changes to come?
  5. Will you continue to fundraise and offer the same materials, programs and events?
  6. What happens to the programs that are currently being run / funded?
  7. With the virtual office in Winnipeg and the eventual move to Ottawa, does that mean you won’t be doing work in areas of research and education?
  8. The SSC seems to focusing on individuals and not on families. Why?
  9. There’s been more and more emphasis on recovery. What is recovery and does it take the place of treatment? What is the SSC’s stand?
Should you have any questions about the information below, please contact me at info@schizophrenia.ca.

Sincerely,

Dr. Pam Forsythe, President
Schizophrenia Society of Canada

For the entire text of this letter, click
here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Crewe (Re), 2007 NSSC 322

IN THE MATTER OF AN APPLICATION PURSUANT TO SECTION 58(2) OF THE HOSPITALS ACT, AS AMENDED PURSUANT TO SECTION 86(13) OF THE INVOLUNTARY PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT ACT;

AND IN THE MATTER OF A DECLARATION OF CAPACITY WITH RESPECT TO BRANDON CREWE

To read the entire decision, click here (downloads a PDF).

A letter to the editor published in the November 15th edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
Need a plan

How is it that Brandon Crewe is deemed to be well enough to be in prison, but incapable of deciding whether or not his remaining testicle should be removed (Nov. 12 story)? He didn’t even know he was in hospital to have his testicle removed until hospital staff told him (while he was chained to his bed) that they didn’t need his consent. Given this scenario and the entire context of this case, it is little wonder that Justice Mona Lynch noted he was in a "fragile state." Surgery may ultimately be warranted, but the process seems to be seriously flawed.

According to research, treatment and support of inmates who are mentally ill in Canadian prisons is sub-standard, and sometimes almost non-existent. Canadian prisons have become warehouses for a growing number of mentally ill due to funding cuts and closures in community facilities. Prisons are dangerous and destructive places for people with mental illness. This research is in the hands of people who are able to make decisions to change this tragedy. We hear of the need for more money for public safety and for health care, but the link between the two is seldom discussed.

The tiny window opened by The Chronicle Herald gives a glimpse into the worry and frustration experienced by Mr. Crewe, his family, medical staff, justice staff, etc. If you added up what it costs to try to deal with Mr. Crewe’s present situation, it would probably make more sense to put just a fraction of that toward a well-thought-out plan to deal with mental illness. Most importantly, people like Mr. Crewe would have the kind of care he truly needs.

Heather Johannesen, Halifax

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pat MacLean - MICA Award Acceptance Speech

The following speech was delivered on October 2nd by Maxine McCuaig in Pat's absence:

Pat is unable to be here today because she is in Toronto attending an International Conference on Schizophrenia. She has given me the following message, which I will read to you now.

She says:

It is indeed an honour for me to be receiving this award. Thank you very much.

My involvement with mental illness and with the mental health system began in 1978, when my son was diagnosed with having schizophrenia, and was admitted to the Nova Scotia Hospital. He was 17. And in the 29 years that have passed since then, I have seen many changes.

One advantage in being around for so many years is that I have seen a number of positive changes and improvements in services that affect the ability of those with schizophrenia to reclaim their lives – and to realize that, for them, recovery is possible.

For example:
  1. The arrival of new medications, with new ones yet to come, that control the positive and negative symptoms of the disorder, has brought individuals to the point where they can carry on with their lives.

  2. We now understand clearly that the sooner a person begins treatment the more likely they are to move toward recovery.

  3. I have seen the general attitude toward mental illness and to those whose lives are interrupted by mental illness improve tremendously. This has largely been brought about through discussion, interviews, and the education of the public by the media, and by groups such as the Schizophrenia Society and the Canadian Mental Health Association, as well as specific individuals, who have worked tirelessly to achieve positive results.

    Just recently, for example, CBC Radio, Toronto aired a series of programs over a period of a week that dealt with a variety of topics related to de-mystifying mental Illness. Also, our local CBC station has provided, during this year alone, many segments on local issues connected to living with a mental Illness.

  4. And now, at last, after many years and much work on part of groups and individuals we now have a Mental Health Commission of Canada, chaired by Nova Scotia's own Michael Kirby.


There is so much happening that is positive. And yet, there is still much to be done - improvements in housing, access to treatment and therapy, and expenditures to increase and improve services to all Nova Scotians.

And, in spite of new and better medications for schizophrenia, there are still many, approximately 50 percent, of those with the disorder who do not understand that they are ill, and so refuse treatment. For these seriously ill individuals we need expert counselors and psychologists who can help them attain insight into their illness, and with help, be prepared to receive treatment.

We have all learned much over the past 29 years, and now we are well positioned to move forward into the future. There can be no going back.

Once again, thank you for this award today. It is very greatly appreciated.

I am very pleased to accept this award on behalf of Pat MacLean.

Photograph of Pat MacLean delivering a report at the SSNS's 2007 Annual General Meeting taken by Bill Gard.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Advocacy Toolkit


In September 2007, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada published an Advocacy Toolkit.

To download the Advocacy Toolkit document (PDF), click here.




From Innovations to Practice



A State of the Science Conference

Monday, April 14 & Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


A posting from the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University:
This state of the science conference brings together participants from the USA, Canada and an estimated 25 nations into an exciting learning community, integrating research, practice and innovations.

Goal of Conference:

To highlight efforts and practices directed at making recovery a real possibility for the broadest group of individuals with psychiatric disabilities and to promote the mainstreaming of those practices into “everyday operations”.

Who is it for?
  • Administrators, directors of rehabilitation, behavioral health etc.
  • Individuals with mental illnesses, researchers, practitioners, families, and educators.
  • Government agencies such as Veterans Administration, Employment/Rehabilitation agencies, Offices of Mental Health. Social Services etc.
Who is presenting?

Presenters from a wide diversity of cultural backgrounds, geographic locations, and experience with mental illnesses:
  • systems leaders in transformation;
  • program innovators;
  • workforce developers;
  • leading researchers.
What are some Presentation Examples?
  • Eliminating Coercion
  • Directing Innovations
  • Global Perspectives on Rehabilitation & Recovery
  • Embedding Rehabilitation in Organizations
  • Functional Health as Foundation for Recovery
  • Working as Peers
  • Creating an Inclusive workplace
  • Reaching marginalized Groups
  • Honoring Differences
Be sure to look at the full list of presentations and registration before its too late.

All stakeholders are needed to design, reform, and rethink how we can make recovery oriented services a reality for all. We are proud to have the opportunity to host such an exciting event!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Early detection in psychosis


From the Care Improvement Partnership, National Institute for Mental Health in England. Click here to visit the website.


Schizophrenia could take Fred Frese far away, but it also gives him a niche in life


To read this article published in the November 10th edition of The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), click here.

Click here to visit the offical Fred Frese (pictured) website.






Recovering Mental Health in Scotland



From the Scottish Recovery Network:
After two years of investigation, interpretation and analysis, the eagerly awaited findings report of the Scottish Recovery Networks' narrative research project is available.

The research draws on the experience of 67 people across Scotland to highlight factors that helped and hindered their recovery from long-term mental health problems. It highlights several common elements which were found to be helpful for recovery. These included:
  • Developing a positive view of yourself and having hope for the future.
  • Having meaningful activities and purpose in your life, and having your contributions and choices in life validated and valued.
  • Having supportive relationships.
  • Having the right mix of treatments and support.
One of the things that is clear is that this is no different from what most people want in life.

The research is a major achievement for the Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) and is one of the largest qualitative narrative research studies on recovery in Scotland and worldwide.

To download the report Recovering Mental Health in Scotland, click here (large PDF).

To download individual sections the findings report Recovering Mental Health in Scotland click here.

Routes to Recovery
In addition to Recovering Mental Health in Scotland we have produced a companion resource entitled Routes to Recovery. This booklet does not aim to summarise the Narrative Research findings. It is intended to highlight some of the things that people said that they had been able to do to support their recovery. To download Routes to Recovery, click here (PDF).

Narrative Research Stories
Each participant in the narrative research project worked in conjunction with researchers to create their unique recovery story. Click here for more on how the stories were generated.

A selection of these stories have been published in a recovery booklet entitled: Journeys of Recovery, available by clicking here (large PDF).

To download the individual stories from the booklet click here.

To view other stories gathered in the narrative research project which did not feature in the Journeys of Recovery booklet then click here.

We’d like to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the individuals that took the time to come and share with us their deeply personal and unique stories, without them this research would not have been possible.

Story disclaimer


Background for Narrative Research Project

One of the key tasks of the SRN is to gather and share people’s stories of recovery, looking at what helps and hinders on the road to living a satisfying and fulfilling life.

The majority of research around mental health problems focuses on treatments and interventions, for example comparing the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs. We aim to contribute to a new evidence base; one which is more concerned with the lived experience of recovery and things that help people stay well.

During the spring of 2005 the Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) conducted 67 interviews with individuals in towns and cities across Scotland about their recovery experience. Click here for more on the research project.

'Babble test' predicts onset of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders


Source: Reuters Health
Author: Karla Gale
Date: 5 November 2007

In patients with prodromal symptoms of psychosis, extracting spurious phrases from garbled, incomprehensible voices indicates that they are at risk of developing frank schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, according to results of a multicenter study.

In previous research, "we noticed that more extended babble-induced speech illusions were elicited among patients whose illness was recent onset, compared to normal subjects and patients with established, long-standing schizophrenia," Dr. Ralph Hoffman told Reuters Health.

"We subsequently wondered if babble-induced speech illusions might also be a predictor of those high-risk patients who actually go on to develop schizophrenia," he added.

During the 'babble task,' participants listen with headphones to overlapping recordings of six speakers reading neutral texts, the investigators explain in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Patients are instructed to repeat words or phrases they believe they hear while listening to the babble, and the number of words is recorded as the length of speech illusion (LSI) score.

Dr. Hoffman, at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and associates tested their theory in a cohort of subjects with prodromal symptoms. Forty-three subjects were tested in the absence of antipsychotic medication, and a subset of the subjects were also tested during treatment with olanzapine for a year.

Twelve converted to a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder.

In the 'no medication state,' the LSI score was significantly associated with subsequent conversion (hazard ratio, 1.78, p = 0.0011). With an LSI cutoff of 4 or above, the positive predictive value was 0.80 and negative predictive value was 0.94 (p = 0.0001).

Dr. Hoffman was careful to preclude any possible clinical recommendations until after their findings are independently replicated. Still, he said, "a test that was established to be predictive at the high rate we found ... could be enormously beneficial."

Data from their preliminary study "suggest that high LSI scores in persons with prodromal symptoms would be an indication to start antipsychotic medication," Dr. Hoffman said. "In contrast, individuals with low LSI scores appear to be at much lower risk," and would not require medication.

Currently, research is dominated by expensive and complex procedures, such as brain scans and neuropsychological testing, he pointed out. "However, I believe that a very careful probing of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia could provide some simple methods for detecting underlying brain changes in their early phase, which could afford a great opportunity to shut down these (psychologically) malignant processes before they take hold."


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Austin Mardon on Schizophrenia


From Schizophrenia Daily News Blog (November 9th):

Recently we covered the award (the Order of Canada) Austin Mardon, a schizophrenia advocate and sufferer, received for, among other things, his work on improving the treatment of people who have schizophrenia. [Read About Him Receiving the Honor Here.] But what we haven't yet covered is the personal perspective Austin Mardon has on his illness and what it is that motivated him to follow the path of advocacy. Below we quote Mardon and summarize his remarkable, bold perspective on living with schizophrenia:

Mardon is an academic, author, researcher and a man who suffers from the debilitating psychiatric disorder known as schizophrenia. Despite dealing with stigma for most of his life, his story is one of triumph, which his recent honor of being awarded the Order of Canada proves. Mardon has experiences with schizophrenia from even before his own development with the illness. At age five he witnessed the diagnosis of his mother with schizophrenia. He experienced then what he continues to experience now, his mother's sometimes denial of the illness she suffers from. Perhaps partially because of her denial, Mardon insists on the importance of acceptance, stating that a lack of acceptance and insight into the illness make his peer sufferers vulnerable to repeated hospitalizations.

Mardon says this of acceptance:


"Acceptance is a fundamental ideal of many of the world's ancient philosophies and religions and can be a powerful tool. When you accept your destiny, a peace can descend on your existence. I have had to accept the limitations of my reality and work within those limitations to, as my wife says, be as happy and as healthy as I am capable of being. It might not be the life that I dreamed of, or that society or my family expected, but it has become so very fulfilling."

Mardon states further the importance of compliance with medications, saying that he remains compliant because he understands the importance of medications and the stability they provide. Yet, he doesn't deny their often unpleasant side effects. He says that the last batch of medicines he was on made him sleep 12 to 14 hours a day, and even when awake, he was in an extremely drowsy state which he attempted to deal with by drinking a lot of coffee. But he's recently switched to new medicines that give him more awake time during which he's actually "awake".

Austin Mardon's Take on Stigma

Mardon says the stigma and prejudice he experiences because of his illness are severe and that too often, when as an academic he's co-authoring papers, his fellow co-authors cut-off communication with him because they discover he has schizophrenia. Such instances make it difficult for him to be so open about his illness. But he says he feels like he owes it to his fellow sufferers to spread knowledge of schizophrenia. He says that for every negative story he reads about schizophrenia or mental illness, he wants a positive story.

The assumption from most people that his wife must also have schizophrenia (because she's married to him) is just another form of stigma they both face. His wife sees symptoms of his illness as separate from his identity and this is the message she spreads on her talks about being the wife of a schizophrenic: Symptoms of the illness should be separated "from the core of the person," she says.

Austin Mardon on His Reasons for Becoming a Schizophrenia Advocate and Methods of Dealing With Symptoms of His Illness


"My attitude is that people think that if they don't have a nice house or nice things they're not well respected, they're not worthwhile, but I don't care about that stuff. What I really care about is trying to make a contribution in some small way to society. You don't get paid for that, but my attitude in life is not defined by money..." This approach, along with the aid of medication, are what enabled him to live a "somewhat normal" life, he says "I still have the symptoms, but they're well under control, and I try to live a stress-less life. I live a very simple life."...While he experiences periods of paranoia, anxiety and fear, Mardon says he's "learned some techniques to adapt to that." He has also learned how to ignore the voices in his head, and knows how to resist the "lure" of hallucination. "The voices are kind of random, they're sometimes male voices, sometimes female voices…sometimes they make sense. It's like a conversation inside your head, but I've learned to disregard the voices, it's like white noise now, I just ignore them completely."