Sunday, March 30, 2008

Completion: Strengthening Families Together - Halifax

Participants and facilitators celebrate completion of Strengthening Families Together in Halifax on March 27th, 2008. The next ten-week session of Strengthening Families Together begins at 6:00 pm on Thursday, April 17th, 2008, at Cole Harbour Place in Dartmouth (click here for more information).

Click on the photograph to enlarge it.

Delivery of Strengthening Families Together by the SSNS is conducted in collaboration with Capital District Community Mental Health Services and is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from AstraZeneca Canada, and funding from Mental Health Services, Nova Scotia Department of Health.

Photograph by Dachia Joudrey.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Brief Psychotic Disorder

As the name suggests, brief psychotic disorder is a short-term illness with psychotic symptoms. The symptoms often come on suddenly, but last for less than one month, after which the person usually recovers completely. There are three basic forms of brief psychotic disorder:
  • Brief psychotic disorder with obvious stressor (also called brief reactive psychosis): This type, also called brief reactive psychosis, occurs shortly after and often in response to a trauma or major stress, such as the death of a love one, an accident or assault, or a natural disaster. Most cases of brief psychotic disorder occur as a reaction to a very disturbing event.

  • Brief psychotic disorder without obvious stressor: With this type, there is no apparent trauma or stress that triggers the illness.

  • Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset: This type occurs in women, usually within 4 weeks of having a baby.
For the complete article, click here.

Shift: What's the Story - Reporting on mental health and suicide

From Shift...:
This handbook is packed with useful facts, figures and contacts. It is designed to help you do your job when covering these stories, whether you’re a print, broadcast or magazine journalist.

The handbook also contains tips on how best to avoid causing needless offence - or worse - to your many readers and viewers affected by mental health problems. They apply whether you are covering a murder, a suicide or in fact wherever mental health crops up in the news, which can be pretty much anywhere. Our aim is to help you cover these stories properly and, at the same time, improve public understanding and avoid adding to the problems faced by people with mental health problems.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Genetic Link to Schizophrenia Discovered

From National Public Radio:

All Things Considered, March 27, 2008 · Researchers have found that people with schizophrenia are far more likely than other people to have a certain type of error in their genes. Scientists believe the finding will help them develop new treatments for schizophrenia and identify young people at high risk of developing the disorder.

To listen to the broadcast, click here.

Also see:

Disruption of Normal Gene Sequence May Lead to Schizophrenia

Study Ties Genetic Variations to Schizophrenia
The new analysis, to be published Friday in the journal Science, detected extremely rare and unknown mutations that turned up three to four times as often in people with schizophrenia as in those without it.

A New, Genetic Model for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Linked to Rare, Often Unique Genetic Glitches

Genetic Disturbance Linked to Schizophrenia

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A disorder in disguise

Poor grades, irritability, suspicion. What distinguishes the beginnings of schizophrenia from normal adolescent turmoil? New research identifies key warning signs, Tralee Pearce reports

To read this article published in the March 25th edition of The Globe and Mail, click here.

Also see:

Scientists Can Predict Psychotic Illness In Up To 80 Percent Of High-risk Youth

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rights of mentally ill youth must be a national priority

From the March 20th edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Dr. Stan Kutcher, Dr. Simon Davidson and Dr. Ian Manion

According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders contribute almost one-third of the global burden of disease during adolescent years. In Canada, between 15 and 20 per cent of youth suffer from a mental disorder that would benefit from appropriate care. Early and effective identification and intervention for young people suffering from mental illness is essential because as many as half of all lifetime cases onset before 14 years of age and 75 per cent by age 24. Although effective treatments for many of these disorders are known, they are often not provided to young people who need them.

Furthermore, there may be insufficient attention being paid to fundamental human rights of some young people who are suffering from mental disorders. According to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child – 1959 (to which Canada is a signatory), "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." This declaration goes on to state that "the child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition."

The UN resolution [Principles for the] Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care, 1991, states: "All persons with a mental illness, or who are being treated as such persons, shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person."

The Canada Health Act (1985) similarly seeks to protect and promote the physical and mental well-being of all Canadians. The rights to protect young people with mental disorders are in place, but the shortcomings fall within the enforcement and provision of these rights.

There is a critical situation of mental health care for young people in Canada, resulting from stigma, lack of easily available mental health care, lack of health providers trained in mental health competencies, complexities of addressing multiple needs of the mentally ill, and chronic underfunding of mental health services, among many other things.

Due to substantial gaps in appropriate mental health care, many young people are being placed in detention facilities simply because there is nowhere else to go. Behaviours rooted in mental disorders are being punished rather than being treated. Alarmingly, some observers have noted that youth detention centres may be the newly emerging youth mental health care system.

Identified as the "orphan of the orphan" in the Kirby Commission Report (2006), child and youth mental health care is not high on many provincial or federal government agendas. The recent establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada is a step in the right direction.

If 15 to 20 per cent of our young people suffered from cardiac disease, there would be a national campaign for the treatment of heart problems in every community. Yet, only one in five of young Canadians requiring mental health care receive it. And the provided "care" is not necessarily effective or consistent with the recognition of the human rights of those who receive it.

Clearly, the situation must change. In Canada, only four of 10 provinces have created child and youth mental health policies/plans and there is no national child and youth mental health policy. Current human resources are inadequate to meet child and youth mental health care needs, and traditional means of providing specialist care by single professionals, as compared to multidisciplinary teams, may impede accessibility to mental health care for young people.

Providers of mental health services may require upgrading of clinical training, as substantial changes in the understanding of the development and treatment of mental disorders in young people have been made in the last decade. These advancements have yet to be fully translated into treatment approaches. Although research funding into child and youth mental health care through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has increased over the last five years, enhanced and targeted funding is needed to allow for the further identification of the most effective treatments and delivery systems.

Mental health care for young Canadians is a right, not a privilege. It must be provided in a manner that is equally based on the best available scientific evidence, the developmentally unique needs of children and youth, and recognition of the principles of the human rights of the child and of those suffering with mental disorders.

It is a tragedy that young people expecting appropriate mental health care are treated in a manner that offends their basic humanity. It is a tragedy that young people suffering from mental disorders do not have the right to care provided in a way that adheres to developmental issues. And it is a tragedy that young people suffering from a mental disorder do not have the right to care based on best scientific evidence.

Children and youth must work in collaboration with their primary care givers to advocate for appropriate care and systematic change at the government level. The time for talking has passed. It is time for provincial and federal governments to do what is right by putting child and youth mental health on the federal-provincial health agenda as a national health priority.

Dr. Stan Kutcher is Sun Life Financial Chair in adolescent mental health and director, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre. Dr. Simon Davidson is executive director, planning and development, and Dr. Ian Manion is executive director, operations, at the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
Also see:
Mentally ill youth: meeting service needs

Standards for Mental Health Services in Nova Scotia. Revised and Approved March 22, 2004.

Photograph of Dr. Stan Kutcher courtesy of the IWK Health Centre.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How are the Experiences and Needs of Families of Individuals with Mental Illness Reflected in Medical Education Guidelines?

In this Special Article published in the April 2008 edition of Academic Psychiatry, Dr. Joanne Riebschleger et al. conclude:
It appears that medical education curriculum guidelines have insufficient content about families of people with mental illness. The educational experiences of psychiatrists and primary care physicians may not adequately prepare them for working with family members of their patients. It is recommended that medical education curriculum guidelines incorporate information about family stigma; family/caregiver burden; information exchange; family stress, coping, and adaptation; family support; crisis response; and multiple family group psychoeducation.
From the same issue of Academic Psychiatry, also see:

Stigma in Mental Health Care

Family-Oriented Patient Care through the Residency Training Cycle

Unawareness of Illness in Neuropsychiatric Disorders: Phenomenological Certainty versus Etiopathogenic Vagueness

An abstract from The Neuroscientist, Vol. 14, No. 2, 203-222 (2008):
Maria D. Orfei
IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy

Robert G. Robinson
Department of Psychiatry, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City

Pietro Bria
Institute of Psychiatry, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy

Carlo Caltagirone
IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy, Department of Neuroscience, University of Rome "Tor Vergata," Rome, Italy

Gianfranco Spalletta
IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy, Department of Neuroscience, University of Rome "Tor Vergata," Rome, Italy,

Awareness of illness is a form of self-knowledge concerning information about the pathological state, its functional consequence, and the way it affects the patient and his interaction with the environment. Unawareness of illness has raised much interest for its consequences on compliance with treatment, prognosis, and the patient's quality of life.

This review highlights the great complexity of this phenomenon both at phenomenological and etiopathogenic levels in stroke, traumatic brain injury, psychosis, dementias, and mood disorders. In particular, the clinical expression is characterized by failure to acknowledge being ill, misattribution of symptoms, and noncompliance with treatment. Unawareness of illness may also be linked with characteristics that are peculiar to each individual disturbance, such as symptom duration and cognitive impairment.

Despite a long-lasting interest in the clinical characteristics of unawareness, only recently has the focus of research investigated pathogenic mechanisms, with sometimes controversial results. The vast majority of studies have pointed out a remarkable involvement of the right hemisphere. Specifically, functional and structural changes of the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex and some other frontal areas have often been found to be associated with awareness deficit, as well as parieto-temporal areas and the thalamus, although to a lesser extent. These data indicate the present difficulty of localizing a specific cerebral area involved in unawareness and suggest the existence of possible brain circuits responsible for awareness.

In conclusion, phenomenological manifestations of poor awareness are well outlined in their complexity, whereas neuroanatomic and neuropsychological findings are still too vague and sparse and need further, greater efforts to be clarified.

Key Words: Unawareness • Insight • Neuropsychiatry • Dementia • Psychosis • Mood disorders

Epigenetic Changes Discovered in Major Psychosis: New clues for uncovering the mysteries of mental illness

For Immediate Release – March 11, 2008 (TORONTO): Scientists have discovered epigenetic changes (i.e. chemical changes to a gene that do not alter the DNA sequence) in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This is the first epigenome-wide investigation in psychiatric research, and this groundbreaking data may be a significant step on the journey to fully understanding major psychosis.

Dr. Arturas Petronis, senior scientist in the Krembil Family Epigenetic Laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and his team studied 12,000 locations on the genome using an epigenomic profiling technology developed at CAMH. Approximately one in every two hundred of these genes showed an epigenetic difference in the brains of psychiatric patients. Significantly, these changes were noted on genes involved in neurotransmission (the exchange of chemical messages within the brain), brain development, and other processes linked to disease origins.

Dr. Petronis explains that these epigenetic changes may be the missing link in understanding what causes an illness. “The DNA sequence of genes for someone with an illness like schizophrenia and a for someone without a mental illness often look the same; there are no visible changes that explain the cause of a disease. But we now have tools that show us changes in the second code, the epigenetic code, which may give us some very important clues for uncovering the mysteries of major psychosis and other complex non-Mendelian illnesses.”

This proof-of-principle study is the first demonstration of what CAMH epigeneticists have hypothesized for the last 10 years. “Until now, we only had theories that epigenetic changes were important to understanding what causes major psychosis,” explains Dr. Petronis. “Now we have the tools and expertise to support our theories and we can look at conducting larger studies, which will hopefully give us an even better understanding of psychiatric illnesses. And once we understand the primary molecular causes of an illness, we can advance diagnosis and treatment approaches, and possibly even prevent illness.”

The Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory is the only psychiatric epigenetics laboratory in North America, one of the few programs in North America that is exploring this field.

Visit Epigenomic Profiling Reveals DNA-Methylation Changes Associated with Major Psychosis for more information on this study in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

To arrange interviews please contact Michael Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015.


The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development, prevention and health promotion to transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.

CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

News from the Lunenburg County Chapter of the SSNS

Linda May Dagley (below) gave a very informative talk on nutrition and how good nutrition impacts our mental health at our March meeting.

At the monthly Support Meeting in February, members of the Lunenburg County Chapter in Bridgewater received an art lesson from Janet Mason (pictured below), a marine artist who does Lunenburg artworks in oil, acrylic and watercolors.

Since 1976, Janet has dedicated herself to Nova Scotia paintings. Janet shared her joy of painting and how art is a form of therapy for many who live with mental illness.

Educational Bursary won by Sherry Veinot

Linda May Dagley presents bursary to Sherry Veinot.

Winning submission by Sherry Veinot, student of the Continuing Care Assistant Course at the Nova Scotia Community College, Lunenburg Campus in Bridgewater:
On October 3, 2007 Jean Covert, Community Facilitator with The Canadian Mental Health Association and Linda May Dagley, a person living with schizophrenia spoke at a Lunch and Learn Session held at NSCC Lunenburg campus.

Jean began by telling us a little about her role as Community Facilitator with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Her objective is to promote good mental health for all people. She works directly with mental health consumers helping them to meet their challenges. She facilitates connecting with the community to provide education and promote understanding of mental health issues.

Schizophrenia is known as “youth’s greatest disabler” because it usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 25. It usually strikes males a little younger than females. About one of every 100 people develops schizophrenia. About 9,000 people in Nova Scotia have schizophrenia.

One of the misconceptions about schizophrenia is that it involves a split personality. This is not the case. Schizo does mean split but it is a split (or break) with reality. Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness. It is a serious but treatable medical condition that reflects a disturbance in brain functioning. A person must exhibit a cluster of symptoms over time to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some of the symptoms are hallucinations (hearing, seeing or smelling something that is not there), delusions (beliefs that have no basis in fact), grandiosity (exaggerated ideas of own importance often involving religion, having special powers or a special mission, or a connection to the Royal Family or some other celebrity), paranoia (thinking that someone is out to get you), social withdrawal, depression and lack of motivation. People who have schizophrenia often have a lack of insight that is an inability to recognize oneself as being ill.

Schizophrenia is related to imbalances in brain chemistry. The frontal lobe of the brain is affected. This is the part of the brain that controls judgment, social interactions and personality. Some people have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. Having a parent with the illness increases a person’s chance of having it to one in ten.

Onset of schizophrenia can be sudden or gradual. Often the gradual onset is hard to pick up on and it may take years to get a diagnosis. The earlier a diagnosis is made the greater the chance will be of successful treatment. Environmental stressors such as childhood trauma, bad parenting, street drugs and alcohol do not cause schizophrenia but they may trigger it. Equal numbers of men and women develop schizophrenia. People with the illness tend to be passive, afraid and more likely to be a victim of crime than a perpetrator.

There are many drugs used to treat schizophrenia. They are in two classes, the typical/standard drugs and atypical drugs. Some have serious side effects. Finding the right drugs for a certain individual is somewhat a process of trial and error. Even after a person is on the right drugs for them, they need to be monitored and drugs changed and adjusted as needed.

Jean closed by telling us that it is important not to define a person by their illness or disability.

The second half of the presentation consisted of Linda May Dagley telling her personal story of living with schizophrenia. Linda Gave a very heartfelt and moving talk. She talked about her childhood and her present circumstances. I learned the most from Linda. I already had a pretty good handle on the facts that Jean gave us. Linda’s story made me begin to understand schizophrenia. When she talked about her imaginary friends and the fact that she still has some of them it gave me a funny feeling of going to a place that I really can’t comprehend. Something like the feeling I get when I think about the vastness of the universe. She took us into her reality and made us feel a bit of what life is like for her. She is an amazing speaker. She spoke so well without a single note to refer to.

The Lunch and Learn for Understanding Schizophrenia was a very worthwhile event. I feel privileged to have been there for Linda’s honest sharing of her story.
Click on the photographs to enlarge them.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sex hormone 'can relieve schizophrenia'

Posted March 16th on
Hormone patches used to help older women through menopause can also radically improve the most debilitating symptoms of schizophrenia, a trial on Australian women has found.

A study to be presented at a major international women's mental health conference in Melbourne on Monday has shown for the first time that the female sex hormone, oestrogen, dramatically reduces hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder in women with the severe mental illness.
For the entire article, click here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Psychiatric Nurses' Attitudes Toward Consumer and Carer Participation in Care: Part 1—Exploring the Issues

An abstract from the November 2007 edition of Policy, Politics,& Nursing Practice:
Val Goodwin, BN Hons, RPN

Mental Health studies in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University, Melbourne

Brenda Happell, PhD, MEd, BEd, Dip Ed, RN, RPN

Central Queensland University

Consumer and carer participation in mental health delivery is now enshrined in Australian Government policy. However, strategies assisting in implementing this vision have not been explored. Nurses are crucial to the mental health workforce, both in numbers and by virtue of the therapeutic relationship. The willingness of nurses to encourage consumer and carer participation is therefore essential for implementation of this policy.

This article presents part 1 of the findings of a qualitative study exploring nurses' opinions regarding consumer and carer participation. Data were analyzed using a content-analysis approach, assisted by the software package NVivo.

The themes explicated were as follows: Consumer and carer participation—a help or a hindrance? Encouragement—an important role for nurses; and communication—a gift of nursing.

These findings highlight the unique and important role nurses can play in encouraging participation and explore some of the issues involved if that role is to become a reality.

Key Words: carer • consumer • mental health • participation • psychiatric nurses

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jail staff knew Tasered man was mentally ill, relative says

To view this article published in the March 12th edition of The Chronicle Herald, click here.

Quoting from the article:
Liberal justice critic Michel Samson said justice officials need to act now to prevent prisoners like Mr. Hyde from dying in custody.

According to documents released to the Hyde family, doctors wanted Mr. Hyde in hospital.

"How could (that) be overlooked?" Mr. Samson said.

"Somewhere along the way, information wasn’t shared and medical advice was not followed," Mr. Samson [ said. "The minister should be calling for a review so he has all the facts in front of him and has a full understanding of why the doctor’s advice was ignored. He has a responsibility to ensure everything is done to prevent this tragedy from happening again."

Mr. Samson is worried about any appearance of bias against the mentally ill in the legal system.

"The real fear is that our justice system continues to not give appropriate consideration, not only to all accused, but certainly to accused who suffer from a mental illness," he said.

Please click on the image to magnify it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Editorial: Has Research Informed Us on the Practical Drug Treatment of Schizophrenia?

A free download of this entire editorial, posted on March 11 by Schizophrenia Bulletin Advance Access, is available by clicking here.

John M. Davis and Stefan Leucht write in their introduction:
Has the randomized controlled trial (RCT) research over the last 56 years (since antipsychotics were discovered) informed us of the central practical questions the clinician must face on how to medicate persons with schizophrenia? In this editorial, we will consider the degree to which RCT support practice in the following areas.
  1. Choice of drug and indication
  2. Dose
  3. Emergency treatment
  4. Monitoring treatment
  5. When to change drug or augment
  6. Depot medication
  7. Long-term changes and cost
  8. Progression
  9. Other considerations
Click on the image to expand it. Image courtesy of Suny Downstate Medical Center.

Family, Grits make call for inquiry into Hyde’s death after Tasering

For the full story from the March 11th edition of The Chronicle Herald, click here.

Undated photograph of Howard Hyde courtesy of his family.

Mind Foundation announces a spring competition for research grants

From the BC Schizophrenia Society:
Mind Foundation announces that it will distribute up to $60,000 in grants to research projects relevant to schizophrenia/psychosis.

Individual grants are expected to be in the range of $5,000 to $20,000.

Applications, which can be downloaded from this website, should be sent by e-mail to

The deadline for receiving applications is April 30, 2008. We aim to provide the results within six weeks thereafter.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Taser use stunningly inconsistent

Provincial review shows standard rules needed, RCMP officer says

A quote from the March 6th edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, said he was disappointed that the first phase of the report didn’t talk about mental health and Taser use. He said he hopes the expert panel will address the matter in the report’s second phase, but he wishes a member of his society had been asked to join.

"We have people who have lived through being Tasered, have lived through that experience and have things to say about that," Mr. Ayer said.

The members of the expert panel are Constance Glube, retired chief justice of Nova Scotia; Assistant Commissioner Atkins; Deputy Chief Tony Burbridge of Halifax Regional Police; Dr. Stanley Kutcher, professor of psychiatry at Dalhousie University; Christopher Murphy, chairman of Dal’s sociology department; Dr. Matthew Bowes, the chief medical examiner for Nova Scotia; and Alice Almond of the Association for Safer Cape Breton Communities.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Schizophrenia Awareness Week: Supporting Families

Thursday, 6 March 2008
Press Release: Schizophrenia Awareness Week

SF New Zealand will be celebrating Schizophrenia Awareness Week (March 10 -16), with a whole host of topical and colourful events from Invercargill to Whangarei.

The theme of Schizophrenia Awareness Week 2008 is Supporting Families in Mental Illness, in recognition of the challenges faced by families / whanau / aiga with a relative experiencing serious mental illness.

There are thousands of New Zealand families facing the challenges of living with a family member who has a serious mental illness, often without adequate support.

“People with a mental illness are not ill in isolation and families / whanau / aiga can play a key role in their recovery process” says SF New Zealand Chief Executive Florence Leota. “When a family member develops a mental illness, families find themselves facing challenges that they have no training for and often feel isolated, overwhelmed and confused about how best to help their relative.

“There are many families that provide day-to-day care for relatives with little or no support for themselves.

“This is where SF branches across New Zealand step in’, says Ms Leota, ‘we provide information, support, education and advocacy for families/ whanau / aiga in 21 towns and cities nationwide.

“Families often feel frustrated by the lack of services for their relative, and even when services are available, the family’s crucial role in their relative’s recovery process often goes unrecognised.

“We know that if you provide families with education, information and support, that the outcomes are better for everyone.

“During Schizophrenia Awareness Week, we will celebrate the positive work carried out by our branches and applaud the wonderful support that families provide on a daily basis.

“We want to highlight the importance of supporting families and acknowledging that they can play a key role in the recovery process when a family member has a mental illness” concluded Florence Leota.

The Use of Force

SFPD has a 'beanbag gun' officers can use to subdue suspects who may be mentally ill

To read this December 2006 article from the San Francisco Chronicle, click here.

Also, from the February 6th edition of The Calgary Sun:

Inquiry calls for bean bag guns
Every car in the Calgary Police Service fleet should be armed with a bean bag gun, states the report from the fatality inquiry into the shooting death of Harjinder Singh Cheema.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Use of stun guns in N.S. reflects patchwork of standards across Canada - critic

From The Canadian Press, March 5th:
HALIFAX — The latest in a series of provincial reviews of police use of stun guns shows police departments in Nova Scotia receive "significantly" differing levels of training and follow a patchwork of rules on when to fire the weapons.

Civil liberties groups say the review adds to evidence that Canada has inconsistent training and rules for use of the 50,000-volt guns.

"There's really no standard with respect to police forces in Canada - forces are all over the map," Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said in an interview.

"It means different forces deploy in different ways, and we've seen real outcomes in terms of damage on the streets of Canada."

The Nova Scotia probe says RCMP and Correctional Services officers receive a 16-hour course, while municipal police and sheriffs in Nova Scotia are trained for eight hours.

The provincial Justice Department review also found that police use of the devices has shot up 80 per cent between 2005 and 2007 - to 182 incidents last year as police departments acquired the weapons.

The review also found big differences in procedures, including:

-Some police forces require notification of a supervisor before Tasers are fired, while others require supervisors to be informed later.

-The RCMP manual is the only one in the province that calls for special procedures when confronting a person is in excited delirium, a state of heart-pounding agitation.

-Some forces caution against using the device more than once, while others contain no reference to the topic.

Cecil Clarke, Nova Scotia's justice minister, called for the review in November following the death of a 45-year-old Dartmouth man about 30 hours after he was Tasered by Halifax police.

Howard Hyde, a man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested for spousal abuse. He had struggled with jail guards moments before his death in a Dartmouth jail.

The Nova Scotia review was one of several across Canada ordered following the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after he was Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14.

Reviews were also ordered in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and nationally by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Research Centre.

In December, the RCMP watchdog said "usage creep" of Tasers by police forces is a "major concern." It argued the weapons were often being used to subdue people who "do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death."

The commission recommended revamped Taser training and stricter reporting requirements.

There are now more than 6,500 Tasers in use across Canada by police and correctional officers.

Since 2003, about 20 Canadians have died following stun gun incidents.

The maker of the most popular brand of stun gun, Taser International, has long insisted Tasers are safe and cannot be blamed for any deaths.

In December, the Quebec government ordering police in the province to limit their use of Taser guns.

After a review in New Brunswick, officers there were told they will have to be certified in the use of Tasers once a year, up from once every three years.

Michel Samson, Nova Scotia's Liberal justice critic, said the evidence suggests the province should impose a moratorium on stun guns until the differences in procedures and training are resolved.

"Until we have a universal policy in place, these Tasers shouldn't be used," he said.

John Tackaberry, a spokesman for Amnesty International, also said a moratorium would be the best approach until "the highest possible standards are applied."

Warren Allmand, a former federal solicitor general and past president of the International Centre for Human Rights, has said a full, independent medical and technical review of all stun guns is needed.

Nova Scotia's justice minister said he won't be rushed into any decisions and he doesn't expect to ban the use of Tasers.

"When we go forward we'll be looking for the most effective way of using a Taser-type device," Clarke said.

A panel of external experts, including representatives from law enforcement and scientific communities, will use the review to provide recommendations to the minister.

Meanwhile, Halifax Police Chief Frank Beazley defended his department's training program as "quite adequate," even if it is shorter than the RCMP's program.

"What you have to look at is what the RCMP put in their training package," he said. "They train on Taser and then they take the second day and they do first aid, they do pepper spray use . . . Their two days is not just Taser."

He also suggested identical procedures may not be practical for police officers facing violent confrontations.

"At the end of the day, if somebody else's life is at risk, or your life is at risk, you have to make the decision. That decision will vary in each situation."

Taser is the trade name for what police usually call a "conductive energy device."

The weapon fires a probe that delivers an electrical shock for five seconds, stunning the target's neuro-muscular system and usually causing him to fall from severe pain and muscle contractions.

Justice Department releasing Taser use report

From today's The Chronicle Herald:
The Justice Department will release a report today on Taser use in the province.

It’s the first part of a review on conductive energy devices, or stun guns, started in December in response to the death of a man not long after he was Tasered.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sherri Aikenhead said the members of a new panel will be named at the event along with a timetable for the second portion of the review.

It was prompted by the case of Howard Hyde, a Dartmouth man who died in November about 30 hours after Halifax police Tasered him twice during his arrest for spousal abuse. Mr. Hyde, a schizophrenic, struggled with jail guards moments before his death.
The report is available by clicking here (downloads a PDF).

I do not agree with the use of the term "a schizophrenic" in The Chronicle Herald's article. Click here to read other's opinions on the misuse of this term.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Identification of a serotonin/glutamate receptor complex implicated in psychosis

Medical News TODAY
Article Date: 25 Feb 2008
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a new receptor complex in the brain that responds to several types of antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and also reacts to hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (molecular structure illustrated above). Stuart Sealfon, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Translational Systems Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues discovered the receptor complex, which could help provide new treatments for schizophrenia and other diseases associated with psychosis. This new study was published online in Nature.

"The psychosis associated with schizophrenia is characterized by alterations in sensory processing and perception. The discovery of this receptor complex could provide a new target for developing drugs to treat schizophrenia," said Dr. Sealfon.

The study done in mice identified that the two receptors, [for the] neurotransmitters glutamate and serotonin, interact and work as a hybrid complex. Hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, act at serotonin receptors to cause responses similar to some of the core symptoms of schizophrenia. The researchers showed that the glutamate receptor interacts with the serotonin receptor to form functional complexes in brain cortex. This receptor complex triggers unique cellular responses when targeted by hallucinogenic drugs.

Activation of the glutamate receptor blocks hallucinogen-specific signaling and changes behavioral responses in mice.

In untreated [individuals living with schizophrenia], the serotonin receptor is up-regulated and the glutamate receptor is downregulated, a pattern that could predispose to psychosis. These findings suggest that the newly identified serotonin/glutamate complex may be involved in the altered cortical processes of schizophrenia.

"The findings further our understanding of how hallucinations occur. They suggest a brain abnormality that may contribute to the abnormal brain function in schizophrenia," said Dr. Sealfon. "We can now use this information to do further study and hopefully develop more specific drug therapies for treating patients who suffer from hallucinations and psychosis."

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care. Last year, nearly 50,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients, and there were nearly 450,000 outpatient visits to the Medical Center.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized as a leader in groundbreaking clinical and basic-science research, as well as having an innovative approach to medical education. With a faculty of more than 3,400 in 38 clinical and basic science departments and centers, Mount Sinai ranks among the top 20 medical schools in receipt of National Institute of Health (NIH) grants.

Mount Sinai Medical Center
One Gustave Levy Place
New York, NY 10029
United States