Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bazelon Center Offers Educational Institutions a Model Policy for Addressing Student Mental Health Issues

Washington DC, May 16, 2007--The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law today released a model policy to help colleges and universities develop a non-discriminatory, non-punitive approach to students in crisis because of mental health problems. The document offers a response to serious mental health problems among college and university students and schools' lack of consensus on what to do when such students are in crisis.

Supporting Students: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities was developed by Bazelon Center attorneys after consultation with mental health experts, higher education administrators, counselors and students. It is a collection of best practices that all colleges and universities can adopt.

"We want to send a clear message to students that it is safe to seek mental health services," said Bazelon Executive Director Robert Bernstein.

In the 2006 National College Health Assessment, 43.8% of the 94,806 students surveyed reported they "felt so depressed it was difficult to function" during the past year, and 9.3% that they had "seriously considered suicide" during the year. Students also named depression as one of the top ten impediments to academic performance.

Most campuses today have counseling services that are confidential and free of charge. However, when students are in crisis, particularly if they manifest self-injurious thoughts or behavior, colleges and universities often are unsure of how to address these issues. Some are concerned about potential harm and legal liability.

"Too often colleges and universities respond to students with mental illnesses in punitive ways, requiring them to leave or evicting them from school-sponsored housing," says Bazelon Center senior staff attorney Karen Bower. "Such punitive measures discourage students from seeking help and isolate them from social and professional supports at a time of crisis, increasing the risk of harm."

"While this policy is not an attempt to address the full range of activities and services that educational institutions should undertake to promote student mental health," says Bower, "it offers a fair and humane approach to dealing with students who are in crisis."

The Bazelon Center policy offers guiding principles for how to deal fairly and non-punitively with students in crisis and how to support those whose mental health problems may be interfering with their academic, extracurricular or social lives. It also lists potential approaches to various situations and examples of accommodations that schools can make to enable such students to continue their education successfully.

"We truly believe that colleges and universities can do more to promote personal and academic success for all students," said Bower.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is the leading national legal-advocacy organization representing adults and children with mental disabilities.

Pictured is Dana Bazelon, Student, Georgetown University Law Center.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Drugs in Clinical Trials for Schizophrenia

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

List created and updated by Hugo Geerts, In Silico Biosciences

The list was last updated on January 15th, 2007.

For a story relating to possible generic production of olanzapine in Canada, click here.

Molecular structure of olanzapine

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mental health courts gain popularity across Canada

Crown Attorney Ruth Peters Wakeham and Newfoundland Provincial Court judge David Orr in a Mental Health Court in St. John’s.

Photo by Joe Gibbons

Donalee Moulton writes in the June 1st, 2007, edition of The Lawyers Weekly:

In Nova Scotia, no formal investigation into the issue is underway, but the establishment of a mental health court is clearly being bandied about. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society devoted the most recent issue of its monthly newsletter to the topic. In that issue, Frank Hoskins, chief Crown attorney for the Halifax Region and Special Prosecutions, noted that, “Currently, Nova Scotia has an Adult Diversion Program, which is a post-charge, pre-trial option to the criminal justice system. A pre-charge option is worthy of consideration as it would create another viable alternative to deal with minor offences.

“In cases where it’s more appropriate,” he added, “this would enable specifically trained police officers to divert an accused away from the criminal justice system. More serious offences could be directed to the mental health court where judges and lawyers qualified or trained to deal with cases of this nature (and with ready access to the appropriate health professionals, which could include psychologists, psychiatrists and case workers) could develop and implement an appropriate treatment plan.”


... “The custodial response to people with mental health problems is an historic one,” said Archie Kaiser, a professor in the Faculty of Law and Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University.

“To incarcerate people merely because we have failed to develop appropriate supports has always been shameful,” he added. “In 2007, this is totally unacceptable.”

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Antistigma Program Shows Power of Taking Control

Actress Mariel Hemingway (left) presents a Voice Award in August 2006 to Stamp Out Stigma founder Carmen Lee for her efforts to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Photo credit: Larry Merkle

Eve Bender writes about the Stamp Out Stigma (SOS) program in the June 1st edition of Psychiatric News:

The program has also helped panelist Ina Pottorff, 47, who lives in Foster City, Calif., to understand her experiences with mental illness over the years by relaying her story to others.

Pottorff described herself as a moody teenager who was misdiagnosed with depression as an adult.

When she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with a combination of medicines, she began to become more stable.

Throughout her life, Pottorff has been no stranger to stigma. For instance, during one of her first encounters with psychiatric emergency services at a county hospital in California, an intake nurse asked her about her educational level. Pottorff truthfully replied that she had a master's degree in criminology, and when asked about work, she told the nurse that she'd worked for the National Park Service and had been stationed at the White House.

The nurse turned around and scribbled on her chart, speaking aloud as she did, according to Pottorff.

"Thinks she was a tour guide at the White House. Is delusional," the nurse said, and took steps to have the baffled patient committed to the hospital involuntarily.

Said Pottorff, "I protested and told the nurse that I was telling the truth—that I'd show them my plaques and awards at home," but the nurse wouldn't hear of it.

These days she relays this story to audiences and usually gets a chuckle. But she also gets much more from her audiences.

"For years I thought I was the only one who was sick, who felt isolated, who couldn't get along with other people, and who could barely function," she told Psychiatric News. "Through SOS, I have learned that I am not alone."

Surprising Number of People Show Signs of Psychosis

Joan Arehart-Treichel writes in the June 1st edition of Psychiatric News:
Researchers have long known that substantial proportions of nonclinical populations have sub-threshold manifestations of depression and phobia. It is striking to find that the same is true for psychotic experiences.
For more information, click here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act to come into effect

What does it mean for Capital Health?

From the June 15th issue of Capital Health Update:
Beginning July 3, it may be easier for people who need it to receive mental health treatment. It may also be easier to impose that treatment on people whose illness lessens their decision-making ability.

Stephen Ayer, executive director, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, says the new Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act tries to balance patients’ rights with ensuring people receive the treatment they need. It replaces a section of the Hospital’s Act that predates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the most notable changes from the Hospital’s Act, the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act broadens criteria for admitting people without their consent, while introducing independent patient rights advisors. It also introduces legally binding treatment plans while encouraging community living and access to mental health services.

For Capital Health, the Act could mean greater demand for mental health inpatient acute care and more visits to emergency rooms. Debbie Phillips, bed manager, Mental Health Program, notes, however, that “over the past several months we’ve made changes to processes in the emergency services to improve flow from emergency to inpatient care. This puts us in a better position for any increased demand.”

That’s not to say there won’t be any bumps when the new Act comes into effect. “With the introduction of shorter timelines for assessments and community treatment options that many psychiatrists and staff haven’t yet worked with, there are bound to be challenges,” says Scott Theriault, clinical director. “We hope that through education and other work we’re doing, we’ll minimize these.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Insight - how is it related to mental disorder?

Professor Anthony David talks about the associations between insight and mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia.

Click here to visit the page and download the audio.

Professor David is co-editor, with Dr. Xavier Amador, of Insight and Psychosis, published in 2004.

Schizophrenia and recovery

From Schizophrenia Bulletin, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 723–734, 2005.

Click here to read the article (PDF).

No schizoaffective disorder?

An abstract from the July 2007 issue of Current Opinion in Psychiatry:

Schizoaffective disorder merges schizophrenia and bipolar disorders as one disease - there is no schizoaffective disorder.

Lake CR, Hurwitz N.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, Kansas, and Veterans Administration Medical Center, Albuquerque, NM, USA.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Schizoaffective disorder was named as a compromise diagnosis in 1933, and remains popular as judged by its place in the International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, its frequent use in clinical practice, and its extensive discussion in the literature. Some, however, have questioned the validity of schizoaffective disorder as separate from psychotic mood disorder. We examined the literature to assess the rationale for the continuation of schizoaffective disorder as a legitimate diagnostic category.

RECENT FINDINGS: The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder depends on the disease specificity of the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia; however, the psychotic symptoms for schizophrenia, traditionally held as specific, can be accounted for by psychotic bipolar. Further, the interrater reliability for diagnosing schizoaffective disorder is very low. A recent and expanding body of comparative evidence from a wide range of clinical and basic science studies, especially genetic, reveals multiple similarities between schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar.

SUMMARY: Schizoaffective disorder unifies schizophrenia and bipolar, blurring the zones of rarity between them and suggesting that schizoaffective disorder is not a separate, 'bona-fide' disease. Patients diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder likely suffer from a psychotic mood disorder. The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, which can result in substandard treatment, should be eliminated from the diagnostic nomenclature.

US mental healthcare system gets a "D" grade

Grades Reflect Choices Between Recovery, Early Death

Connecticut and Ohio lead by receiving grades of B.

Illinois, Iowa, and six other states flunk.

Per capital mental health spending ranges from $414.08 in the District of Columbia to $28.80 in New Mexico.

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A message from Senator Wilbert Keon

11 June 2007

Dear friends,

Just over one year ago, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released its final report on mental health, mental illness and addictions, Out of the Shadows at Last.

One of the key recommendations in that report was to create a national mental health commission to help ensure that mental health issues were never again driven back into the shadows.

As you may already know, in its March 2007 budget the Government of Canada provided funding for the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, as recommended in our report. The Government also named the former Chair of our Committee, the Honourable Michael Kirby, as the first Chair of the Commission.

I am writing you today to tell you about the launch of the temporary website of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The website will provide information about the Commission as it begins its activities.

As one of its first tasks, the Commission must create a Board of Directors. Members of the Board will be responsible for the work of the Commission. As recommended in our report, around two thirds of the Directors will be selected from outside of government.

From today, June 11, until July 15, 2007, the Commission is accepting applications from anyone who is interested in serving as one of the eleven non-governmental members of its Board.

I invite you to click on the link below to visit the Commission’s website to find out how to apply.

I would also like to ask you to share the link to the Commission’s website widely, so that as many people as possible can become involved in the work of the Commission. In particular, if you are able to place a link to the Commission’s website on your own webpage, or on that of your organization, it would be of great assistance.

On behalf of the Chair of our Committee, Senator Art Eggleton, and all the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, I hope you join me in wishing the Mental Health Commission of Canada every success in its important mission to help improve the lives of the many thousands of Canadians living with a mental illness.

Best regards,

Senator Wilbert Keon

Deputy Chair
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Monday, June 4, 2007

Warm and welcoming - Community Mental Health Bayers Road

From the Capital Health Website:
Gary Seymour and Wendy Miller both work at the reception desk at Community Mental Health Services, Bayers Road. Since the office’s opening on May 8, they’ve heard a lot of positive reviews about the bright and welcoming space, including “Wow. I feel like I’m at a spa.” And “This is really different.”

The warm, inviting and comfortable space was no accident. “A group of staff members took the lead on choosing colours and artwork for the walls and have done a tremendous job,” says Evelyn Pollard, service co-ordinator. “We still have work to do to make the space what we know it can be, but we are very happy with the response from clients.”

Community Mental Health Services, Bayers Road, will host an official open house in June, but in the meantime, please drop by to see the new location: Suite 109, Bayers Road Centre (entrance door between Lawtons and Fabricville).

To view photos of the new space, please click here.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Less talk, more action

From the June 1st edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
My heart goes out to the families of Glen Race and his alleged victims. I echo the call for more treatment facilities and options for persons with mental illness.

Twenty years ago, my husband, John Legge, died by drowning himself at Point Pleasant Park while an inpatient at Camp Hill Hospital (Abbie Lane Building). A few months earlier, I had taken him to the then VG Hospital for behaving in a strange and uncharacteristic manner. The doctors in the emergency department told us he was depressed and could become suicidal, but they could not keep him against his will as he was not an "imminent" danger to himself or others.

Less than half an hour after leaving the hospital, he stabbed a family friend and was shot by a Halifax police constable who was called to the scene. After a stay at the East Coast forensic facility, he was transferred to the Abbie Lane for "treatment" and remained there until his ill-fated walk to the park on May 4, 1987.

In her report following the inquiry into John’s death, Judge Sandra Oxner stated that as a society, we have an obligation to offer viable treatment for persons with mental illness before they deteriorate to the point where they come in conflict with the law. It saddens me that 20 years later, we are still "discussing" the issue. I call on the government to put its money where its mouth is and adequately fund mental health treatment programs now, before its too late for yet another family.

Donna MacEachern, Halifax

Friday, June 1, 2007

The molecular wake-up call

Alison Abbott writes in the May 24, 2007 issue of Nature:

It is 50 years since Arvid Carlsson showed dopamine to be a neurotransmitter.

Catatonic rabbits were revived by dopamine in a 1957 experiment led by Arvid Carlsson (photographs, above). In the background is an image of Arvid Carlsson's 1957 publication in the prestigious journal Nature.

Rabbit photographs by Tor Magnusson

To read about the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia, click here.

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

From Schizophrenia Daily News Blog, May 29, 2007:

There is a good review in the New York Times of the new book called "The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science" written by the Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge (who does work at Columbia University in NY). While this book is not specifically about schizophrenia - it provides hopeful stories and background information on the science of brain regeneration (called neuroplasticity) which provides hope for individuals and families that [live with] schizophrenia.