Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mouse model of schizophrenia is developed

From United Press International:
BALTIMORE, July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have genetically engineered the first mouse model of both the anatomical and behavioral defects involved in schizophrenia.

Johns Hopkins University researchers said their new mouse model is based on a genetic change relevant to the disease.

Dr. Akira Sawa, an associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, and his colleagues said they took advantage of the recent discovery of a major risk factor for the disease -- the DISC1 gene -- that makes a protein that helps nerve cells assume their proper positions in the brain.

The researchers generated mice that make an incomplete, shortened form of the DISC1 protein in addition to the regular type. That short form of the protein attaches to the full-length one, disrupting its normal duties.

As the mice mature, they display behaviors that parallel those observed in schizophrenic patients.

Sawa said the new mouse model will help in exploring how external factors, such as stress or viruses, might worsen symptoms.

"The animals can also be bred with other strains of genetically engineered mice to try to pinpoint additional schizophrenia genes," he said.

The study is reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photograph by Rasbak.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

24/7 help with mental health crisis

From the June 22nd issue of Capital Health Update:

Beginning June 24, immediate mental health crisis support will be available 24 hours a day, every day.

Hundreds of people have called the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team each month since the integrated service opened in June 2006. The number of people seeking help from the team is higher than expected and growing.

This is what prompted the IWK Health Centre to increase its funding to the service, which will enable the team to support people 24 hours a day by telephone. Until now, telephone crisis support was available from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily, leaving a four-hour gap in service. (Mobile support continues to be available in areas of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.)

“The early morning hours can be an essential time to offer follow-up services for people who have called us the night before,” says Mary Pyche, service co-ordinator. “Operating 24/7 provides the opportunity for us to continue to support a person in crisis regardless of the time of day.”

At the heart of the team of mental health professionals and dedicated police officers who are the crisis service is the ability to support people in the moment – where and when they are experiencing a crisis. The team also provides follow-up support, which often includes connecting a person to other resources, and education.

The Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team began as part of the Healthy Minds Initiative and is a partnership of Capital Health, the IWK Health Centre, the Halifax Regional Police and the Nova Scotia Department of Health.

Crisis Support: 429-8167 or 1-800-429-8167

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Involuntary Commitment

From the PBS program, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. To view, including a video, click here.

Search for Schizophrenia's Roots Started at Home

Mark Moran writes in the July 6th issue of Psychiatric News:
A brother's concern for a sister with schizophrenia drew him into a research career whose fruits may eventually prevent many individuals from experiencing the ravages of this disease.
To read the full story about the life of E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., click here.

Photograph by Breton Littlehales.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A parent's question ...

From the July 19th issue of The Times:
How one can distinguish between the slightly aberrant behaviour of many adolescents and the first signs of schizophrenia or allied conditions?
For the full story, click here.

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

Photograph courtesy of The Times.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Parade of Sails - Halifax, Nova Scotia

The tall ship Prince William parades in front of the Nova Scotia Hospital today. Click the photographs to make them larger.

Pride of Baltimore II

I'm fairly certain that this is the Gorch Fock II.

All photographs by Steve A.

Researchers may have schizophrenia breakthrough

From CTV.ca (May 3, 2007):
A team of Canadian and Scottish scientists has pinpointed one of the genes that causes schizophrenia -- a breakthrough that sheds new light on how the disease can develop.

The work is to be published Thursday [May 3rd] in the journal Neuron [to view the abstract, click here].

It demonstrates for the first time that schizophrenia can be caused by a malfunctioning gene, suggesting schizophrenia is linked to depression and bipolar disorder and may have the same underlying cause.

The discovery may someday help doctors identify which patients will respond to different types of treatments.

Click on the arrow to start the video.

Many thanks to Charlie G. for help with this posting.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

the Self-Help Connection

From the Health Promotion Clearinghouse website:

Profile of the Month

July's Profile is the Self-Help Connection - It is a non-profit registered organization established in 1987 to assist Nova Scotians to take control of their health by increasing their knowledge, skills, and resources for individual and collective action. The Self-Help Connection has received national recognition as a 'Mental Health Best Practice Program' from the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Advisory Network on Mental Health for self-help and consumer initiatives.

The Consumer Initiative Centre is a program of the Self-Help Connection launched in 2002 and is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Department of Community Services.
To visit the Self-Help Connection Clearinghouse Association's website, click here.

The purpose of the Consumer Initiative Centre is to increase the capacity of persons living with, through, and beyond mental illness to help themselves and each other move forward.

It is a provincial program that provides peer support, computer training, entrepreneurship / employability enhancement, and assistance with personal development.

Phone 404-7800 or 1-866-765-6639 (toll-free) for more information.

Schizophrenia: Looking at the Future

A guide about staying well and getting the most out of life, for a brighter tomorrow.

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

Photo by Infrogmation.

Homelessness 'chronic' in Canada: study

From CBC.ca, June 26, 2007:
Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people, while another 1.7 million residents struggle with "housing affordability issues," says an analysis of the latest research on shelter.

In a report released Tuesday from the Calgary-based Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, journalist and author Gordon Laird argues homelessness is now chronic and is quickly becoming one of the country's defining social issues. He makes a case for a national housing strategy and a more robust income security program.

Citing statistics from a wide range of organizations, Laird says poverty is the leading cause of homelessness in Canada, not substance abuse or mental illness. "Roughly half of all Canadians live in fear of poverty, and 49 per cent polled believe they might be poverty stricken if they missed one or two paycheques," he writes.

Laird is a media fellow with the foundation, which works to influence ethical actions in politics, business, government and the community.

In his report, Laird writes that street counts of homeless people have increased dramatically — "Calgary's homeless population grew 740 per cent between 1994 and 2006."

He cites government numbers showing a cost of up to $6 billion a year to service a "core" homeless population of 150,000. That cost includes health care, criminal justice, social services and emergency shelter costs.

"The high cost of homelessness in Canada results from the role of homelessness as a proven multiplier of societal ills: malnutrition, unemployment, addiction, mental illness, family strife and lack of income security are all intensified when an individual or household becomes homeless," he writes.

The report criticizes Canada for trying to contain the growth of homelessness with temporary measures such as shelters and other crisis-based services. It cites studies that show the cost of emergency shelters is much greater than the cost of creating affordable housing and implementing rent supplements.

Laird says the former national affordable housing strategy, discontinued in 1993, created 650,000 units providing housing for more than two million Canadians. While new investments in affordable housing were made in 2005, there is no national strategy and so no guarantee the money will be well-spent, he says.

"And without a national strategy on housing and homelessness, there is much risk for repeating past mistakes and spending blindly on short-term fixes and emergency responses," writes Laird.
To view Gordon Laird's report, entitled SHELTER, click here (downloads a PDF).

Also see The True Cost of Homelessness, Gordon Laird's June 26th article in the Toronto Star.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Genetic polymorphism of the adenosine A2A receptor is associated with habitual caffeine consumption

Sound interesting? Grab a second cup of coffee and click here to find out more.

Photograph by Julius Schorzman.

Falling through the Cracks --

-- Virginia Tech and the Restructuring of College Mental Health Services

An article from the July 12th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Click here to view (downloads a PDF).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tall Ships Nova Scotia Festival 2007, July 12-25

For complete information on this event, click here.

From Wikipedia:
MGM commissioned a replica of Bounty, named Bounty II, for their 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty. This vessel was built to the original plans and in the traditional manner in a shipyard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. However, all the dimensions were increased by approximately one third to accommodate the large 70 mm cameras used. MGM kept this vessel in service. When Ted Turner bought MGM he used this vessel for entertaining. Eventually MGM donated the vessel to a charity.

Although expensive maintenance caused the vessel to lose her United States Coast Guard license for a time, Tall Ship Bounty was restored, initially at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in 2002, with restoration of the vessel's bottom planking. Moored in its winter home in St. Petersburg, Florida, it again became available for charter, excursions, sail-training, and movies (most recently in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). In April 2006, the Bounty again arrived in Boothbay Harbor for further renovation, a refurbishing of the ship's front end, and topside decking. Following this renovation, the Bounty was scheduled to repeat the famous voyage of the original Bounty.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Psychoeducation in schizophrenia

The authors of a recent paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry conclude that "the integration of psychoeducation into standard therapy for schizophrenia should become obligatory."

To read the abstract of this paper, click here.

Sympathy Through Technology

Virtual Reality Experience Mimics Schizophrenia to Teach Health Professionals About Their Patients

The virtual reality simulator Mindstorm lets viewers experience the world through the mind of an individual living with untreated schizophrenia.

For the full story from ABC News, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Drug coverage policies a prescription for disaster

From the July 4th edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
WHO WRITES your prescriptions?

By Charles Cirtwill

I always thought it was my doctor who diagnosed my problem, decided on the appropriate drug and wrote a prescription. Boy, was I wrong.

Apparently, there are a great many people telling our doctors what they can and cannot prescribe and when. The latest group to be added to the mix is the Common Drug Review. The CDR is an inter-provincial panel that reviews drugs for purchase and use in situations where the provinces pay for drugs – i.e., for the most vulnerable among us, the elderly, those in hospital, and those unable to afford private drug plans of their own.

The CDR was intended to streamline the process of approval of drugs for purchase by governments in Canada by creating a single window for review. Unfortunately, once Health Canada certifies a drug as safe for use, it is then reviewed not only by the CDR but by the old provincial approval systems (they never went away), and in many cases by further approval committees at the health district and hospital levels, and by independent agencies that oversee drug plans for veterans, public servants and the military (among others).

The result is a great deal of duplication and a continued lack of consistent drug coverage. Veterans, politicians and public servants, for instance, have quite broad formularies (a list of drugs the specific drug plan will pay for) compared to the rest of us. Similarly, the province of Quebec will cover many drugs not available under provincial plans elsewhere in Canada.

Of the 53 drugs that were reviewed by the CDR between 2003 and 2006, 53 per cent were rejected. Quebec, which does not participate in the CDR, rejected only 38 per cent. That translates into 11 new drugs paid for by the government of Quebec that are not paid for elsewhere in Canada because of the efforts of the CDR.

Now, remember, you can pay for ALL of these drugs privately if you wish because all of them have been approved for use by Health Canada.

Yes, that means they have gone through clinical trials and have been approved as safe for human consumption and as having positive and demonstrable effects in the treatment of specific diseases. But in 53 per cent of the cases, public servants decided that the most vulnerable among us should not have access to these drugs. That decision was made because the cost of those drugs to the provincial treasury outweighed the benefit they delivered to affected patients.

Or, at least, we think that was the reason. You see, you and I have no right to know what evidence was considered, what questions were asked, what experts were consulted, or what trade-offs were made when these decisions were reached. That lack of accountability arises because, while it provides this service for the federal and provincial governments, and our tax dollars pay for it, the CDR is technically a private, not-for-profit entity and does not report to you, or to anyone, and is not covered by freedom of information laws.

Let’s be clear. These are hard decisions, decisions that have to be made. But they must be based on the best available evidence and the most accurate definition of total system cost available. They must be made promptly and in a dependable, transparent manner. They cannot be made behind closed doors or in a manner that results in their veracity being in any way in doubt. We must demonstrably account not only for the short-term savings by refusing certain drugs, but the long-term potential costs of other treatments that will be necessary in the absence of those drugs.

Consider private drug plans. Private plans make use of generic replacement stipulations, for example, that allow them to reduce costs and cover more services – a good thing. But normally, if your doctor makes the case that only the brand name medication will work for you, then they allow for that. Simply put, it is better for the insurance company to pay a higher price now rather than risk that you will get sicker and need more – and more expensive – care later on.

This is something the CDR should be considering next time the news is full of stories about bed shortages and staffing challenges: Health is an interconnected system and the cash all comes from one source. Saving on drugs today generally means more spending on doctors, nurses and hospitals tomorrow.

Charles Cirtwill is the acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a non-partisan public policy think tank based in Halifax.

Also see: Pharmacist from Dal part of intensive drug study.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Listen to the Wind

A Journey in Schizophrenia

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book are donated to the Schizophrenia Scoiety of Nova Scotia. To order Listen to the Wind, please click here.

From the Breton Books website:

A rare and fascinating book, this is Mary Ellen Tramble’s haunting, tender autobiography of her life with schizophrenia. With the power and detail of a novel, and laced with her small, strong poems, it is, as well, an extraordinary and moving work of art. “Listen to the Wind” displays the tense and terrifying sentences, the sudden self-mocking and degradation, the grand insights that take Tramble (and us) high on the ferris wheel of emotions—and then toss us overboard for the plunge [a person living with schizophrenia] knows only too well. In “Listen to the Wind,” Mary Ellen Tramble has made of her struggle a lasting piece of extraordinary writing. We can only be grateful for her determination to record, and her courage and generosity to share. “A monument to the tenacity of the human spirit in its struggle to face mysterious terrors, maintain hope and avoid despair.” — Sheldon Currie, author of “The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum” "For all of the pain and fear in ‘Listen to the Wind,’ there is also great love and beauty.” — Patrick F. Walsh, editor and author of “The History of Antigonish”

176pages . $14.95 . ISBN 1-895415-56-X . Breton Books